Notes on Interactive Fiction

I suppose, technically, this isn’t programming help. Rather help in planning and designing IF games in general, and if you agree with some of the thoughts here before any programming starts. I’ll start this off with some of the things I’ve come across, and bookmarked, but would welcome anyone to add articles that they’ve come across and seem to ring true.

First up, a couple of articles from the TADS 3 documentation (TADS is an IF engine similar to Inform, but with arguably a better object-oriented design. It’s my go-to reference for how modelling has been solved in IF before):

IF Design in Theory - covers the basic problems inherent in IF, how and why you should make your game consistent, and how to avoid “guess the verb” and similar problems.

IF Design in Practice - covers ideas for planning, plotting, and characters. Towards the end it gets into some TADS specific code, but the important ideas are all before that.

Next, some ideas for transformational IF (arguably WG is a type of transformation). These come from TF Games Site where there are boards that occasionally discuss game design (as well as how to use specific engines). They are coloured by the site’s general focus on gender change and (to a lesser extent) bimbos, but I think the ideas are still applicable. I can’t seem to find the threads I cut these from, probably because the boards got changed, but here you go:


  1. Never ever NEVER EVER NEVER EVER assume that a player will “know something”
    that hasn’t been made available to them within the game itself. “Trivia puzzles”
    all too often rely on what the author thinks is “common knowledge;” common
    knowledge, though, varies from region to region, culture to culture, interest
    group to interest group.

  2. Don’t be afraid to make the really devilishly hard puzzles optional. Some
    people just aren’t big on puzzles; that doesn’t have to stop them from enjoying
    the game. Give bonuses to the people that solve the puzzle, additional endings
    or content, sure - but keep the “main path” restricted to the easier variety.
    This way, if you absolutely feel like you have to use the wickedly cruel puzzle
    types, you’re not causing half your audience to throw up their hands in
    frustration and delete your game.


I also like puzzles that punish you if you’re stupid. It needn’t be a game
over (in fact, I’d rather it not be, unless it’s really obviously very stupid),
but trying to attack the tough after you’ve been turned into a weak girl
should leave you with some sort of negative result. Like, maybe he decides
to steal your cash. You’ll of course have options to get cash some other way…

I really like it when a puzzle has multiple solutions with slightly different
outcomes, like in many RPGs. If you have to get past a guard, you could maybe
knock him out with that pipe over there. Or you could seduce him, and lock him
to something with his handcuffs. And there’s always that unlocked second floor

TG Me:

Things especially good for TF/TG games:

Having to assume some particular form (physical tf) or mindset (mental tf)
to get past or accomplish something! This would be very good in any tf game.

Similar to that, items which allow you to TF and are like keys because the
abilities they give let you get past things or enter new areas.

Having to tf monsters, enemies, or other characters (mental or physical) to
get past them, or to get them to to do what you need them to do. Or maybe
even just to distract another character: Want to sneak into the warlock’s
headquarters (and he’s basically immune to magic because he’s so proficient
in it)? Make his second in command a hot woman and that might distract him
for a while.

Obstacles that will always let you past, but will tf you if you don’t have
the proper protection/cure.

And hey, maybe there’s some obstacles that you have to run past and get TF’ed
temporarily in order to get other items you need. But then maybe you need to
get the TF undone before you use those items, or you’re in trouble…

Having to be in a certain form/mindset in order to to see or interact with
certain things. In other words, having your perception change with some forms
could make figuring out the right form for this situation become the puzzle,
even after all forms are available.

Looking forward to other contributions!

A couple more links, if people are interested, from the IFWiki:

Theoy - ideas about IF, and various observed patterns and classifications
Craft - how-to articles, things to avoid, interviews about how games were made