If you're new to Interactive Fiction (IF) sometimes it's a little daunting to get started. You've downloaded an interpreter, found some games you want to play, but once you're staring at the command prompt what should you do? This article provides a short overview of how Interactive Fiction works and some commands you can try out. I've also included some links below to point you in the right direction.
Typically the goal of Interactive Fiction is to explore an environment and uncover elements that define a story. It might be a simple quest where you must gather hidden treasures. Or it could be a complex mystery where you must find motive, means and other evidence to arrest a murderer. Generally speaking there are a wide range of common commands you can type to move things forward. Different games will use different commands and part of the fun (or frustration) can be in making yourself understood. Here are a few typical commands you can try out.
North South East West Up Down
Enter Look Examine Search Eat Drink
Open Close Wait Use Move Inventory
Get Drop Tell Ask Turn Lock...
Out of game commands:
Save Restore Hint Help Undo Quit
The most common commands can usually be shortened to single letters, for example N, S, E, W for directional commands, I for Inventory, X for Examine etc.
Many Interactive Fiction games have puzzles that may require some clever thinking to move forward. So if you get stuck, try coming up with creative uses of some of the objects you find. And be sure to Examine everything. Many games have built-in hint systems that you will give you help when needed.
Given the thousands of different games out there, there are some for every taste and style. Some are more puzzle-driven, others story driven, and still others may come across as experimental art forms. So the best thing to do is try a few different games and see what you like.
The good folks at the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction have assembled a post-card sized IF command reference card shown above. It's also available as a PDF. A longer guide has been created by Graham Nelson, the genius behind the Inform programming language.
Read this article to learn more about finding IF games to play.
- People's Republic of IF: Cheat Sheet (PDF)
- Brass Lantern: Beginner's Guide to IF, Beginner Resources
- Inform: Introduction to IF (PDF), Recommended Games, Interpreters
- Wikipedia: Colossal Cave, Infocom, Zork, Interactive Fiction
- iFiction: Online Infocom Games, Scott Adams Games, Adventure