Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wikileaks Stories

Just a heads-up that Wikileaks Stories is looking for games of all shapes and sizes that are inspired by revelations from the eponymous "unexpected outbreak of governmental transparency" (as one might call it).

There's already at least one text adventure in the works, as well as a planned contribution by Molleindustria.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Rogue of the Multiverse

Taking second place in the 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition...

Rogue of the Multiverse
A runaway adventure, careering through time and space.

Welcome to Dryzandia, convict 76954. Oh, you're a human? We don't get many of your kind around here, and when we do they don't last for long.

Escape? To where? There's nothing out there but barren wasteland and a saurian civilisation that'll eat you alive. But... every so often one of you alien inmates gets selected for some government programme or something. I don't know what they do there, but it can't be worse than this place... Can it?


-Download the latest version (zipped) [Mirror] [Random mirror]
-Download the original competition version [Random mirror]


-The latest version includes a Windows executable version that you can just double-click to run.
-Linux and Mac users can play the game by running the included .t3 file with an interpreter from this page.
-If you're not sure how to play, enter the commands ABOUT or INSTRUCTIONS.
-If you get stuck, just enter HINT.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ready to Cram

In addition to fixing the bugs and small annoyances that I know of, I've also made the following changes: the full score option at the end will do something a little different (I'll let you find out what for yourselves) and examining yourself will list any body parts that are injured (just like in real life).

Now I just need to give it a once over and pluck up the courage to cram it into the intertubes.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Checks and Embellishment

I have met my deadline, in that I've fixed the bugs I know about and have a page ready to publish and link to the little sidebar image on the right.

But before that I want to play through the game to be reasonably sure I haven't broken anything. And I also want to add something that's been bugging me: a more flavourful response to FULL SCORE at the end of the game. Watch this space.

(One of the more dreary activities I engaged in was sifting through the different creature and structure types to make sure I've caught all the instances of objects with text copied and pasted from other objects. The worst part was finding the odd piece of prose I really liked and then realising that the chances of any given player encountering it are minimal.)

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Oh Right

I keep getting distracted, so I've resolved that this weekend is when I'll finish a bug-fixed version of Rogue of the Multiverse and give it a proper release page.

Or your money back.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Rogue of the Multiverse: What was I thinking?

One of the interesting parts of the IFComp experience is reading a couple of dozen reviews that speculate on your design decisions, and having to remain silent. It suddenly makes you feel all bottled up, even if you don't normally go into the design of your games publicly. So I guess that's why you now get a post about why I did what.

I'm posting this before my more general release post on the game because it will be full to the brim with spoilers and I'd therefore like it to appear further back in the Crowchives (that is what they are called). It goes without saying that if you haven't played the game, don't read this post. Although, I suppose if you're not planning on playing the game, it can't hurt - and it might even change your mind. Okay, let's get started.

The Title

I guess I have an interesting relationship with titles. A lot of people think Dead Like Ants is a weird title. I like it. Rogue of the Multiverse, on the other hand, well, it's a title alright, but I probably could have done better. My main inspiration was looking up synonyms of “thief” in a thesaurus, and picking the one that sounded the least criminal.

I was also kind of thinking about roguelikes – which, when I play them, amount to brief excursions to randomly generated worlds that quickly dismember and then kill me. I wouldn't claim that RotM is a roguelike, even partially, but it may to a slight extent mirror the experience of a typical roguelike protagonist.

Why IFComp?

If you've ever seen me express an opinion in discussions revolving around IFComp, you might have been surprised to see me actually enter the event. In a nutshell, I think there's too many rules for my liking, and, at least until recently, IF authors have been too reticent to release games outside the competition. I've always maintained that it's entirely possible to get your games noticed outside “the comp”, where they'll have a much more organic relationship with their audience – and with the growth of the IFDB and, I think this view is now much more widely accepted than it was two or three years ago.

But, having said that... well, the thing is that the audience you get probably won't actually be in the traditional IF community, or at least that's how it's always seemed to me. It's always felt like there's an internal core, a caramel centre if you will, of IF players for whom IFComp is Interactive Fiction, and anything outside the competition never gets on their radar.

So the past year it's been on my mind to enter a small game in the competition just as a way of saying “Hi” to those folks.

The Two Projects and the Seven Dwarves

This past year I've worked on quite a few disparate projects. First is what I maintain is a really cool idea, but which, after prototyping, I'm convinced requires a rethink and possibly a complete change of format. Graduating from that, I was struck with inspiration for how to tell the story of these two characters who have been haunting me for a couple of years now. At this point I have now defined a mostly complete plan for their game, and just need to find the time and energy to make the damn thing (it would probably be my biggest project yet, in terms of breadth and length). And then I'm working on ideas in Flash, and also prototyping little random ideas that crop up.

Which is all great, but by this point it's August and I have nothing for IFComp.

“Hang on a minute lads...”

I don't know where the idea for Rogue of the Multiverse came from. In my memory the development period is just a blur of frantic work on the game eating up all my spare time, hopeless longing for its completion, and eye strain. Most projects warrant a little page in my diary at the start of their development with a brief sentence explaining my initial idea: “Entirely keyword IF”, for example, or “An ant climbing a tree.” But Rogue of the Multiverse just leaps straight into scribbled to-do lists, interspersed with random lines of dialogue and actions I suspected might break the game.

Did RotM lose anything by being developed so quickly? Inescapably, yes. But did it lose anything good? No, not so much.

The Missions

I saw the missions as being the core of the game, but, unfortunately, always in pretty much the same guise they're in now – a guise which almost every reviewer saw as simplistic and not especially fun.

Given more time, I would only have made a greater variety of worlds. Post-apocalyptic ones were high on my list, along with a city being attacked by a giant monster, and an ocean environment. I also didn't get around to adding any instant-death worlds – volcanoes, gas giants, monsters' stomachs, that sort of thing. I would have eventually implemented “story worlds” with specific maps and gameplay (one of my first and favourite ideas would have been called “Chimp World”), but, crucially, only appearing in between “normal” missions.

I am pleased that at least one reviewer enjoyed these missions the way they were intended – as a simple, shallow and silly adventure through worlds where merely encountering an octopode in a corset is supposed to be satisfying without trying to interact with her, but for the most part I agree that the gameplay of moving to grid co-ordinates while being dismembered isn't good enough to support itself for long.

I had – and have – a lot of ideas for how Rogue of the Multiverse could be a larger game, but they all revolve around the player taking more missions, rather than making the missions themselves more interesting, which I think has to come first. I think the fix that people really had in mind was much more richly implemented mission environments, but that, well, that's kind of not what I was going for.

Bigger or Deeper?

A few reviewers tried to guess what my intent was with the missions, and the game in general. Was I parodying dungeon-grinding RPGs? Was I trying to present a cut-down, all-action game? Well, I did have an intent, and it was this: to argue that an IF game can be shallow and still be fun.

There's a pretty universal ethic in the IF community that deep implementation is good, and shallow implementation is bad. It's not just that the deeply implemented game says, “The feather has an iridescent sheen.” where the shallow game says, “You see no feather here.” It's that the ideal is the command “>PUT FORK IN TOASTER” should prompt a witty response about electrocution.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If a game can do that, it's great. But I also strongly believe that those IF games that, whatever literary genre they may belong to, are all ultimately of the “find object, use verb with object” genre should not hold a monopoly. There can and should also be text games that focus on action, or choice, or exploration, or resource management, or calculated risk taking, or other things that nobody has thought of yet.

Rogue of the Multiverse attempts to show that a limited game can still be one with a strong character, cool stuff to do and a memorable world. It tries to find ways to allow a player access to a broad spectrum of things without implementing any of it especially deeply. Is it successful at this? Well, the mileage varies between players, but I think it at least shows that this isn't a fruitless route to take.

Brevity and focused interaction are, I believe, a viable alternative to encouraging players to expect the game to respond to any syntactically correct command.

Dr. Sliss and "Friend"

Dr. Sliss has proven to be a bit of a Marmite character. Some people love her. Some people hate her. Nobody seems ambivalent or on the fence. I'm really happy with that.

The character who is a problem is the player character. I had hoped that players would project themselves into the role, but there aren't enough opportunities for the player to express themselves, so it doesn't work out. Getting to choose your outfit is cool, but pyjamas are not a meaningful personality trait.

The Distinct Object

Large and primitive bipeds with long tails and stubby proto-feathers.

You see no feathers here.

Well, I don't like that. But having written almost a hundred different types of object and creature to randomly appear on mission worlds, implementing their constituent components as well seems like a Sisyphean task of the “take a flying leap” variety.

So, the message “you see no distinct feathers here” was born. Probably not the best one I could have come up with, but the idea was to set expectations. “Yes,” this message tries to say, “if you see an object in the text, you should be able to interact with it. But not at too fine a level of detail.”

Did it work that way? No, probably not. But I still think it's less jarring than the original.

The Bugs

Inevitably, there are bugs in the finished version. And it really irks me. At least two mission objects include incorrect text. It's also possible to completely derail the game at one point. Otherwise, though, I think it's mostly solid.

The Future

What next for Rogue of the Multiverse? Well, given that I've been meaning to release a new version of Snowblind Aces for so long that I've forgotten why I thought it was necessary, I wouldn't hold your breath. A new version of RotM that fixes the most basic issues I've seen, and includes a Windows executable version is probably the best you'll get.

Still, the idea of coming up with better mission gameplay and expanding the game to involve alternate routes - including autonomy from or antagonism with Dr. Sliss – well, I find the notion theoretically appealing. On the other hand, if you want me to forget about a game and start focusing on other projects, a great way to do that is by making me keep silent about it for six weeks. And all I really wanted out of this was to make a small game and enter it in IFComp – on which count, mission well and truly accomplished.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

No, Really

I am writing up a post on Rogue of the Multiverse. But first I need to pour out a lot of words - and then, preferably, to delete half of them.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


The results are out: Rogue of the Multiverse came second in IFComp.

Now that the rule of author silence during the competition no longer applies, I suppose there's quite a bit I should post about: a proper release post for the game and an image in the sidebar, for example, and a discussion of my design decisions. I'd also like to post about some of my favourite entries to the competition. And a new release of the game with some bug fixes and a Windows executable version is probably in order.

Before I get around to all that, though, I'd just like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who played and rated my game, whatever rating you gave it, and to all those who posted reviews online. Please treat yourselves to a banana.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Some Relevant Images

All images public domain.
Bee image released into the public domain by Ferry Schneider.
Sad face released into the public domain by Harlekin96.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Well Then

So I found an object that responds to (and, half the time, refers to itself by) the wrong name. I'm too nervous to upload a new version now, especially because my Internet connection has suddenly decided to become extra flaky. It'll have to stay.

I really need to just walk away from the thing now. It is what it is. My testers did a fantastic job in a short timespan, but by its very nature this is a game where no-one (myself included) has yet experienced every situation the player can encounter.

So my game may be a little rough around the edges, but I like to think it has a strong personality and a sturdy constitution. It may not be a work of interactive literature, or a head-scratching puzzler, but it has something entertaining to offer you, and I hope you'll all enjoy delving in and discovering it for yourself.

Check the IFComp website on Friday, and, at some point, in some time zone, my entry should be available there for download. During the competition, I won't be able to discuss the game publicly, but there'll be an email link in the game and on the IFComp site if you want to contact me about it.

Thanks all.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Done. I hope.

My last tester found a couple of small issues that I almost didn't think were worth updating my version on the comp site, until I noticed that as part of my own testing I'd actually removed the fix for the worst bug in the game found by a previous tester.  D'oh.

But, what's there now is what's there. I have to stop working on it at some point before the deadline, so, well, here goes nothing.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Finish line in sight...

I've uploaded a tentative final version to the IFComp site, and passed the game along to my trusted final tester...

Come Thursday, the deadline passes...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Finishing Up

I've still got reports from a couple of testers to go, but nothing left on my list to do.

Today I created a little PDF "feelie" to go with the game.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Nothing to Report

Made a couple of small additions.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Hints are finished. Hopefully there are no major issues left to be found by my last few testers.

Starting to feel, dangerously, like I can relax.

La La La

A few more bugs fixed. I also got started on the hint system. More than half done, but obviously not going to be finished tonight.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I was hoping to have a night off, but many of my testers got back with timely bug reports and I had a long list of things to fix instead. On the plus-side, I'm now more confident this thing will offer at least some entertainment.


Tonight I resolved not to go to bed until I'd completed all the work on my list.

Now very tired, but ready to embark on the second phase of testing the shit out of this thing.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

So Close

By my reckoning I must have defined over a hundred objects these past couple of days. I'm now pretty exhausted.

Left on my list: one small part of the game, and a few things that don't work as nicely as they should.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day On

At least some of it. I suspect I could have this thing in a reasonable state of completion if I put in a proper day's work on it tomorrow.

And since I've got less than two weeks left, that would probably be a good idea.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Day Off

Spent half an hour killing a few little bugs and rough patches.

Now going to take a day off from this thing.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Still Progressing...

Finally adding content to the thing that needs content, automated something else for the player and implemented something I missed right at the start of the game.


Wasn't able to work on the thing much today. Sort of finally in a good position to start adding that damn content. Still need to finish the ending. I think finally getting this thing onto the final stretch is going to have to wait for the weekend, but I'm going to start soliciting testing and feedback now...

Actually, right now I'm going to crawl into bed.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


I wasn't looking forward to finding a way to disallow this particular set of actions. And then I realised: actually, just allow the action and have the relevant character say something about it.

If you know what I mean.

Which you don't.

Uh-oh, it's zero hour. I made a concerted effort today to implement all the scenery I needed to. I've also done a bit of work on that vaunted mid-game content.

I still need to add a lot more content, and finish off the epilogues. And there's some stuff that can wait, like the hint system.

But what I have by tomorrow evening should be very testable. If you're one of my regulars, expect me to hit you up with an email tomorrow to check you're alive/available.

Monday, 13 September 2010


So tired. Cannot wait until I'm not working on this thing anymore.

It's now possible to play the game through from beginning to end. Probably. I haven't actually tried it. And there's a lot of unimplemented stuff left in the final act.

Still, I guess all that's left at this point is scenery and content. And Wednesday I'll release a private beta to my poor, poor volunteers. It may have some bits missing, but hopefully it'll be enough for testing and development to both progress.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Phew, I can't even remember everything I got done today.

All that's left now is:

1. Fully implementing the third act (there's some gaps at the moment, so you can't play the game all the way through).

2. Adding all that mysterious "content" I keep mentioning but never explaining (I finished off one minor kind today).

3. Miscellaneous bits and bobs - a few rooms with missing scenery, some stupid actions that succeed, the hints system etc. etc.

I've certainly achieved way more than I expected. I'm not sure I'll meet my self-imposed beta deadline, but unless my testers discover Serious Problems, I should have something to release in the comp.


Saturday, 11 September 2010


Implemented the game's other major NPC and an important widget.

Now all that's left is to add the content that will make the main gameplay/puzzle/thing interesting, put the logic and scenes in place to reach the endgame and, well, implement the endgame.

That'll take no time at all, I'm sure.


Friday, 10 September 2010


Did a little work on the endgame, didn't finish anything.

Alternating between extreme optimism and pessimism when it comes to the deadline.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


I've drawn a line under the game's first act. I've also finally planned out the third and final act. The second act still has a couple of big things outstanding including all that content I mentioned.

I am making huge leaps and bounds with this game, but I'm starting to think I may not meet my deadline. Hopefully the weekend will give me the time I need to make even more progress.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


Worked on a smattering of small features today - which means I added a lot of ticks to my to-do list, without gaining the satisfaction of feeling I finished anything important.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Okay, I've completed the highest priority aspects of the second most important gameplay mechanic (such as there is gameplay). (The first most important bit is already kind of complete, but kind of also waiting for me to generate shit-tonnes of content for it.) I also implemented a piece of labour-saving automation for the player that's been bugging me.

Looking at my list, the "must-have" items are looking more and more doable within a short time-scale, while the "would-like-to-have" items are seeming a bit too optimistic. (And there are few things so outlandish and involved I didn't even bother to put them on the list.)

Although, actually, some of these lowest priority items are the kind of things you see in a game, go "Wow! Look at that!" and then completely forget about (or get annoyed at the unexpected complexities they add). Sometimes working to a tight deadline is just what you need to make you cut out unnecessary crap.

Monday, 6 September 2010


I've got all the main locations in place now, and I've polished off the direction system (something I came up with for another project and am rather fond of).

I did perhaps spend a little too long writing random chatter for an NPC and implementing a useless widget for one room.

Next I'll work on this thing that I won't tell you what it is.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

5 days done, 9 to go...

Well, I now have a roadmap of features to tick off. There's over twenty things I still need to add, where "thing" can mean something relatively simple - or something relatively... not simple.

So, time to schedule work and prioritise.

There's a first time for everything, it seems.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

IFComp Go, Go, Go!

Last minute idea, last minute sign-up!

I've got just over four weeks. I'll be beta-testing whatever I've got after two weeks.

That doesn't sound like long, but two weeks is all the time I had for development and testing for Snowblind Aces, and 168 times longer than I had for Six-Chamber Champion. Also.. this is kind of not going to be a standard text adventure.

But... it's also going to be the most text adventure-ish game I've made.

I'd say more, but I think part of the fun of IFComp is being (pleasantly?) surprised by the games on release day.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


I've been quiet lately, partly because I've not been sure which of the several projects I've toyed with was going to get done, also partly because I was hoping to have something I could chuck at IFComp. That ship has now sailed, but on the plus side I now have a plan laid out for a complete project. Nothing too ground-breaking, but probably something that falls under, "If you liked my other stuff, you'll like this."

Now, the other project I've hinted at in previous posts (which isn't the one I have nicely planned out)... I've had a tussle with it in TADS, but I'm now considering developing it in Flash instead. Imagine Poizoned Mind, but with more plot and less jokes - and in your browser.

I also started prototyping a small game featuring Nate and Ivy, but I've run into a wall in terms of TADS and its ability to work well with keywords. Their further adventures are kind of on hold until I can either wrestle TADS into submission, get my head around Inform or come up with a system of my own... But rest assured that I will be going back to them - I mean, I've barely started foreshadowing their secret arch nemesis!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Starting out...

A bunch of demos have been released as part of Introcomp, the IF competition that's looking for "the beginning bits of the best IF game ever."

As for me, well, I'm working on something. I'm just not sure what.

Monday, 17 May 2010

"Good Morning, Mr. Phelps."

I gave myself a schedule for this thing. I'm not running behind, yet, but I'm worrying about scale.

What I want to do this week is to get the structure of the game in place, from start to finish. This is actually my normal modus operandi, and, without going into why I did something different this time, I think getting this done will do a lot to take the pressure off.

With the skeleton down and sorted, it's just a case of fleshing it out, and if things don't get fleshed out as much as they could do, well, no biggy. But right now I'm slogging along at a slow pace and looking at a finish line that's a lot further away than I want it to be.

So this is my short term aim. Although there's a million-and-one other things I need to worry about as well.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

You didn't hear this from me, but I'm starting to make progress on something.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


The XYZZY Awards ceremony was held yesterday. I didn't win anything, but Walker & Silhouette was nominated for Best Writing and Best Player Character (Ivy), and Dead Like Ants was nominated for best NPCs.

You can see all the nominees and winners at the IFWiki page.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Six-Chamber Champion and the 371-in-1 Pirate Kart

For some reason I decided to do the 371-in-1 Klik & Play Pirate Kart II: Klik Harder event this weekend - at least for just the one game. The idea is definitely for quantity over quality, and games must be completed within two hours - so I just knocked up this short game of chance.

It's far from perfect, but in any case, you can find two hours of my hard work at the page for my entry here.

I've also got a zip containing an updated version - and a .t3 version for you non-Windows types - here.

And finally, why not check out the other entries tagged with Interactive Fiction?

Version 2 - fixed a few typos and bugs.
Version 3 - gave the thing a general polish, changed some things that were bugging me, anticipated a couple of silly actions.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


Issue 57 of SPAG is out here. There's a nice review of Walker & Silhouette right at the bottom.

For the record, I haven't played King of Shreds and Patches yet, and I now might understand why some people were able to figure out the 'murder weapon' in W&S so easily...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Still Alive

Hi there. I suppose I've kind of taken the past month off, but I'm starting to gather together my plans and get cracking again. I've got a couple of different collaborations on the horizon, as well as two ideas for IF games that I finally want to try and get done. Looking further ahead, I do intend to go back to Ivy and Nate - but I want to work on other stuff first, to prevent W&S burnout.

And in the short term, there have been some interesting text games by other people over the past couple of months that I want to mention here, as soon as I find the time and energy to sit down and play them.