Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

IF and AI?

I took a long sojourn into the history of interactive fiction (IF) with my launching pad being the stunning revelations unearthed by Andy Balo over at waxy in regards to the never-completed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure sequel. But after reading that, and poking around the archives and playing a few great examples of IF, I started wondering why more hasn’t been done to advance the interface of these games? Why not incoporate more AI?

From what I can gather, all these old text adventure games are mostly written in something called Z-code and generally speaking, the only way to access most of them is through a Java applet on the web or one of several free downloadable interpreters; unfortunately, all of which choose to exactly emulate the old terminal style screens.  On large screens, it’s terribly unpleasant to read.  So, my first thought was, why hasn’t the interface been updated to take advantage of the slick typography of modern computers?  I think people would take more interest in some of the newer, award-winning fiction created, if this were the case.

And the other thing that I found frustrating is that the commands and command structure hasn’t changed the least in 20 years.  My Master Shake bot on AIM can do more with regular English than any of these games.1 Every time I said “look calendar” and the program responded “I don’t know what you mean,” I found myself wondering, why not?   In fact, my bot knows a few things about people and places from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force world.  I don’t think it’s hard at all to see that interactive fiction could be greatly improved with some simple AI.  I’m going to take a shot at an interactive short story using just ALICE.  I think with the right variables (and Jquery interface), it will be possible to build a much smarter interactive fiction.

  1. You can see for yourself and talk to him on AIM at mast3rshak3bot. 

« Previously: