J. Robinson Wheeler's  Interactive Fiction
Games Theory Reviews


About Interactive Fiction

As soon as I played my first text adventure games, Adventure (also known as Colossal Cave), Zork (also known as Dungeon, in the form I played it), Aardvark, and Haunt, on my father's account on a VAX 11/780 at the University of Texas, I wanted to write them. This was a genuine craving, one that never went away even as the years rolled on, Infocom went out of business, and text games became relegated to nostalgia.

Despite this yearning, this creative itch, I never really wrote any IF games until 1996, when two things happened: I discovered the newsgroups rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction, and my brother bought the shareware version of TADS (Text Adventure Development System) by Michael J. Roberts. TADS was a specially designed programming language, library, and compiler for creating text adventure games. From the moment I first started playing with it, I took to the language like I'd taken to no other programming language in my life. I immediately understood the syntax; I fluently grasped how I could use it to achieve the effects I wanted. The very first game I started working on ended up swelling in size, becoming a repository of twelve years of built-up ideas. Eventually, I finished and released the game, First Things First, nearly five years later, in August of 2001.

Before finishing it, however, I continued to write smaller games, entering them in the annual IF Competition or in mini-competitions designed to spur authors to release more games. I taught myself to code in one of TADS's main rival languages, Inform (created by Graham Nelson so that he could write his seminal IF work, Curses), and eventually ended up winning Xyzzy Awards (given out annually in a raucous virtual ceremony on ifMUD, which serves as the IF community's chat room) for games written in both TADS and Inform.

I have also tried to give something back to the community, in the form of reviews of other authors' games, in theory and game design articles, and by helping new IF authors on the newsgroups get past the coding problems that once stymied me. If I'm not the most famous IF author, I think I can lay claim to the weird distinction of being the fastest IF author. I have a number of projects currently in development, but my authorial ambitions are starting to outstrip the ability to code them myself. Where I will actually go from here in my development as an IF author, I'm not really sure. Like a lot of people in the community, I think that it would be nice to someday figure out a way to make some money doing it, but until then, my games are available here and on the IF Archive (http://mirror.ifarchive.org) for free.

The best part of having gotten involved in the world of interactive fiction has been the fun people I've met and become good friends with. The second best part is finding out I'm actually pretty good at this thing I've always wanted to do, this bizarre combination of writing and computer programming known as IF.

---jrw 09-18-03