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September 2011

My Top 10 in IF


There's a thread on the intfiction forum regarding the creation of a top 50 list for Interactive Fiction.  Ok, fair 'nuff...  I'm in.  I've probably played fewer IF games than many hardcore fans, so I've limited myself to a top 10 list.  It's not the most varied list around, reflecting my own personal bias towards old school Infocom games and mystery stories.  Still, maybe you'll find a few reasons to try out these games on IFDB.

  • The Witness 
    This is my all-time favorite interactive fiction story and really one of the first that I was able to solve without too many hints.  It's definitely old-school with all the good and bad of what was state of the art Infocom in the 1980s. It also included great "feelies" in the package.  My own work-in-progress game "The Z-Machine Matter" has a modest tip of the hat to The Witness and other IF mystery games.    
  • Border Zone
    Another great Infocom title, Border Zone was an espionage story that took place in 3 acts with a real-time clock.  It's tricky, but a fun story where you have to move quickly.  Definitely gets your heart racing!  I was finally able to pick up a copy on eBay many years after having lost my earlier version in misguided spring cleaning years ago.  What memories this game had for me!
  • Trinity
    While I never finished Trinity, I still think it is one of the coolest concepts for a game.  Great historical story telling that goes into a while other level of mythology working on multiple levels.  Also included a very cool comic book and great props.
  • An Act of Murder
    This is a great short "who done it" mystery by Chris Huang.  This was one of the games that got me back into Interactive Fiction after a long absence.  It's very approachable and does a great job of creating a randomized mystery story.  Huang's story is also an inspiration to my own game.
  • Photopia
    While Photopia is more story than game, it's an excellent example of a more experimental style of IF that is actually interesting and moving.  Definitely worth trying out.  Extremely compelling writing.
  • Lord Bellwater's Secret
    This is a short one-room mystery.  While it has some quirks and some puzzles that are not completely logical, it's still a pretty darned good piece of entertainment.  The writing is strong and there's some good surprises for such a tight-knit game.  
  • Spider & Web
    An intriguing piece of IF with some interesting narrative techniques and solid writing by Andrew Plotkin. It might take you a few attempts for the game to pull you in, but once it does, it's a compelling story.
  • The King of Shreds and Patches
    Admittedly, I'm late to this game, trying it for the first time with the recently released Kindle version.  I could use Zoom on my Mac, but I really wanted to see whether IF could work well on the Kindle.  I'm just blown away at what a great job Jimmy Maher has done exploiting the Kindle UI.  This truly captures what an interactive novel should feel like.  Elizabethan stories are not usually my cup of tea, but this is so well done I'm willing to stretch a bit.  If you have a Kindle, how can you not try this out?  

  • Make it Good
    This is the most awesome post-Infocom detective mystery story out there.  It's truly an epic piece of work taking Jon Ingold several years to deliver this story.  But it was worth it.
  • Lost Pig
    Despite the fact that it's not a mystery story, this is a fun game with a helluva great narrative voice.  It's fun, it's entertaining and it's not crazy hard.

More Z-Machine Matter Graphics

Maybe I've gotten a little carried away now on the graphics front when I should be more worried about finishing the game.  Nonetheless, here's a cover for the user manual of The Z-Machine matter rendered in the style of a 1950's pulp detective magazine.  I created this many months ago while the project was in the early stages.  But I haven't gotten around to adding it to the manual.


I thought the style of the graphics fit well with the whole retro / Infocom style.  The stories are tongue-in-cheek and centered around Johnny Dollar's role as an insurance detective.  I'll add this to a future revision of the manual.

Henning Mankell: Best In Swedish Crime Writing


I was first introduced to Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series of novels when I worked for MySQL and was traveling frequently to Sweden on business.  I was looking for an author that would give me a better understanding of the Scandinavian psyche.  I'm not sure that Henning Mankell's outlook on Swedish society is completely accurate, but his books are brilliant nonetheless.

There are a dozen books in the series.  Each book centers around a fairly brutal crime or series of crimes and the mid-40's out-of-shape Kurt Wallander who investigates the case.  I have read about half of the series so far, with a couple of more titles sitting in my closet waiting until my next trip to Europe.  Each one has been a tense, dark and intriguing book.  That said, you might not want to read all of them back to back, lest you end up as depressed as the main character.

There's also Swedish television and film versions of these books and a recent BBC series starring Kenneth Brannagh.