Tag Archives: Interactive Fiction

IFComp 2008: The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom

(This is an Interactive Fiction Competition review .)

This one’s a mystery.

The Ngah Angah etc. is an ALAN game. It’s a little-used system. In the folder is a game file, and a tantalizing jpeg showing some sort of hieroglyphs. I opened the file in Spatterlight, the Swiss army knife of MacOS interactive fiction interpreters, and got this:

As you enter the twilight zone of Adventures, you stumble and fall to your knees. In front of you, you can vaguely see the outlines of an Adventure that never was.

SYSTEM ERROR: Checksum error in Acode (.a3c) file (0x22aac5 instead of 0x22aa94).

Apparently it’s not just me.

So… is this a joke? We get a couple every year. But the 120k game file seemed big for two paragraphs. On a whim I opened it in TextWrangler… and it turns out that ALAN games don’t encrypt their text at all. And so I can confirm that, no, this is not a joke. It’s an intended game involving a secret valley, tests of some kind, butterflies, tigers, and warriors who seem to want to kill the player. There appear to be multiple solutions to at least one puzzle, and some intriguing images, like this:

“Now, let the second test begin,” he says without further ado. He sounds his gong and the three men suddenly give out a shout and spread their cloaks wide open. From the inside of their cloaks, hundreds of black, brown and grey butterflies take flight and fill the air!

And this:

Diridu gives a shout and the tiger makes a leap. Running in the air, it rises higher to the sky and heads out of the valley between two high mountain peaks. You feel the rush of a cold evening wind against your face as you cling to the fine animal’s fur.

It’s also an intended game that was clearly not beta tested at all. As a result, nobody’s going to play it. And that’s a shame.

Here’s a prediction: the number one lesson of this year’s competition will be the same as last year’s. You want to write interactive fiction? Beta test your game.

IFComp 2008

The 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition has begun. This is a competition held every year for the makers of text adventures–the kind of games Infocom published back in the 1980s. Interactive fiction games are still being written by hobbyists, and since the days of Zork the best of them have taken the genre into new and strange territory.

I reviewed most of the 2007 games on this blog, and I plan to do the same again this year. Last year’s introductory post explains why I find this stuff interesting, and makes an equally good introduction now. The first reviews will probably appear in a week or two.