Saturday, April 30, 2011

To the person who found this blog using the search terms 'game,' 'underpants,' and 'grandmas.'

Shame on you...

... that's grammatically incorrect, it should have been 'grandma's.' Unless a game with just one pair of old lady undies isn't enough for you? o.O

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Are IF Games?

So the more observant may have noticed that I've started linking to related works in the genre at the bottom of each post.  Well done.  Being observant is a pretty important skill, especially if the Zombie Apocalypse ever does come.*

The first will usually be fiction of some kind.  The second Interactive Fiction, or IF.  There are dozens of**  'What's IF?' essays on the internet already, so we hardly need another one.  Well, tough.

What's IF?

Feel free to skip this paragraph if you aren't over 30 and mildly geeky.
IF is an abbreviation of Interactive Fiction.**  Those of you over the age of 30 or so may remember them from the first time around.  You know, that time before computers had much in the way of graphics.  Infocom, one of the biggest games company coined the name, Interactive Fiction.  Before that they were called Text Adventures.  But, by whatever name you knew it you'd remember this input.

> N
Go North

*Insert fantastic description and fantabulous adventure here.*  You may slay a troll***, or find the meaning of life.****  Your aim may be to save the world, or conquer it.  You will get the girl.*****

What's more many of the best of these games are free, and available right now.  Many of the best games are speculative fiction.  So, you may ask, why haven't I heard of them?******  Well, because they're text based (I'm guessing) and in this age of photo-realism in games, text based games are thought of as old fashioned and uninteresting - kind of like Grandma's underwear.*******  But I'm here to introduce you to the best.  The silky black bras, garter-belt, boxer shorts, crotchless panties, hell, even grandma's panties if that's your thing (whatever floats your boat) of the gaming world.

Yes, it's text based.  But reading text (ie novels, short stories, poetry) didn't stop when TV was invented.  Of course there's more to IF than just reading text.  IF is a form of collaborative story-telling.  You and the creator tell the story together.  You decide what happens next - like Choose Your Own Adventure books (now called 'gaming books', but with more choice, and you know, one of those plot thingies.  You know, a story. Actually, multiple plots/stories, depending on your choices.

OK, you've sold me, how do I do this?

How to Play IF

The way I recommend is to begin playing one of the games with an in-built tutorial.  That way you get tips as you play.  Click the cheat-card >.> to go to the download page for a PDF that should give you the basic commands to get you started.

Of the games with an in-built tutorial my favourite is Bronze, a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast.  But Aotearoa is another (easier) choice for beginners (I haven't played it yet, but it sounds great).  You can get started straight away by clicking 'play online' (top right corner) or you can download the game to your computer (the Bronze.zblorb file just below it).

Now this game (zblorb) file is like an mp3 file, in that it's useless without a program to play it.  For mp3 files you might use Winamp or Windows Media Player in Windows, itunes on the mac, etc.  So, like you use a media player to play mp3 files, you use an interpreter to play zblorb files.  There is a list of all the interpreters but to make things easier I will recommend one for each system.  Windows users should use Gluxe********.  Mac users should use Zoom.  As should Linux users: Zoom.  Once you have the interpreter on your system use it to open Bronze (or whichever game/storyfile you wish to play).  In Windows you would do this by right clicking on the file, and using the 'open with' entry and choosing Gluxe.

There, the game is running.  As the cheat-sheet says typing about or help is a good way to get started.  If you do play Bronze or Aotearoa then the game will take it from here, and give you directions.  Good-luck!  If you get stuck please feel free to comment here, or contact the good folks over on the Interactive Fiction forums.  Good-luck!


Em Short has created a good IF how-to which can be found here. If my introduction doesn't work for you, please check it out.

*  I imagine it would also be useful in case of other kinds of apocalypse.~

**  Well yes, I know I've told you that already.  Be patient, it'll get better.

***  Dragons, or zombies, or some poor sod that doesn't deserve it.

****  Not always 42.

*****  Or guy, or otherworldly being.

******  Or you may very well be thinking, well, yes, of course (you idiot Tamsyn).  I've been playing Interactive Fiction for years.

*******  At least I hope you find Grandma's undies uninteresting.  You dirty, dirty man/woman/other.

********  Or another operating system.  Ha, just joking.~~

~  Although, I guess, only limited (survival orientated) usefulness if your observation is along the lines of 'Is that a missile headed this way?  Oh look, it has a nuclear warhead.'

~~  Wait, no I'm not.  =p

Friday, April 15, 2011

Walking Dead is a TV Show* About Zombies

The TV show still hasn't got a release date for Australia, despite the first season finished in it's overseas markets, and the DVD released.  It shouldn't be too long now though.**

The pacing for Walking Dead is fantabulous.  Of course the content is too, but it is the timing of events, scene changes, exposition, flashback, that maintains the tension. While the zombies are amazingly realistic and chilling, the 'point' of the show is the character interaction, the 'drama,' and that too is wrenching and beautiful.  A great TV show if you're not into zombies, an amazing one if you are.  Please let this come to Australia soon.  And if it does, please watch it.

Related Book:  Would have to be The Walking Dead comic collection by Robert Kirkman and Artist Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
Related IF Game:  Divis Mortis by Lynnea Dally.

*  Don't hurt me.  For fans of the comic I do realise that, first and foremost, it was a comic book, but I haven't read it (yet) and so can not comment.  I don't read many comics, but considering the awards and positive reviews this one's received I may make an exception.  What's putting me off is how scary it's meant to be.

**  I'm not sure what the delay was, people seem to blaming, by turns, AMC (the original network), Fox, and The Walking Dead creators.  I'm not sure that's fair though.  It may bet the Australian networks.  They have been burnt a little lately with the whole simultaneous release thing - remember Fringe?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'Things We Didn't See Coming' is not a book about Zombies

Why would I even think that?  I have been a little obsessed by Zombies lately.*  But where that thought came from I don't know.  I do know asking that question got me a funny look from my Uni tutor.**  I think it may also have added to my reputation as 'that woman obsessed with science fiction'.

Possibly something I came across while googling the book before reading.***  Maybe my brain read apocalyptic as zombie apocalypse.  Easy mistake to make.

So we've discussed what 'Things We Didn't See Coming' isn't. What is it?  It straddles a lot of lines: both short story collection and novel, both science fiction and literature, post-apocalyptic and yet these apocalypses**** are never mentioned.

The book is a series of short stories in the life of (presumably) the same man.  They are told in chronological order, but with large gaps in between.  We get snippets of his life, and the catastrophes are never mentioned, just the consequences.  This technique allows Amsterdam to concentrate on high drama, high impact events, and also leads the reader (or me at least) to wonder about the catastrophes.  Which, I think, leads to greater impact.  But Things We Didn't See Coming is a story about this man, his choices (good and bad), his personality, his relationships.

Bah, sorry if the overview sounds dry.  The book certainly isn't, it's fresh and powerful, and well worth a read by any fans of genre, literary, and a good human story.

Every week I will include one book, and one IF (Interactive Fiction) game related to the topic of discussion.  Of course it goes without saying^ that I will choose only the best.

Related Book: Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
Related IF Game:  Suspended - Michael Berlyn

*  I even began playing a zombie apocalypse RPG game recently (yes, I am that geeky) as me (well, an idealised, D20 version of me).  Surprisingly I survived the first day.  Unsurprisingly I lost interest in being me and my character has probably been either consumed or is wandering the apocalyptic wastes of Adelaide~ murmuring *brains* quietly to herself.  There's probably a very apt parallel with my education, and the fact that I'm procrastinating right now.  But I don't see it.

**  Yes we get to read science fiction for class.  Of course it's not called science-fiction, but given the more respectable title of 'speculative fiction'.  My vocal and somewhat derogatory opinion on this may have something to my reputation.

***  Otherwise known as procrastination.

****  There are some things that just shouldn't exist in plural form.~~  Apocalypses (apocalypti?) is one of those things.  One end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it isn't enough?


No, really?  You're footnoting your footnotes?
Yes.  You may see why I struggle so much footnoting assignments.  That little voice that tells other people 'that's enough now' - I don't have that.

~  Some may say 'what's the difference.  A barren, Adelaide full of Zombies...*insert generic Adelaide joke here*'
To them I say 'Really?  That jokes not old yet?'  *Insert witty retort here, with a scathing and insightful comment about *insert home town.*

~~  I'm sure someone wittier than me could come up with many.  Russell Brand, for one, though I think even one is really pushing the limits of allowability.

^  Okay, well, I guess it doesn't, since it appears I said it.

Happy Yuri Gagarin Day!

Okay, so I'm a couple of days late, but I wanted to do something special for my first post - and what could be more special than the 50th anniversary of the first man in space?

Yeah, that's what I thought.  Yuri Gagarin - a true hero. 

I really liked the style of the Google logo, and when looking for old sci-fi stuff to put on my blog I came across this.  Mindblowing!  And perfect for the spec-fic blog I've been thinking about starting.  So thank-you.*

I can't help but think that the Google kids were inspired by him.  I certainly was.**

So...What's this blog all about anyway?***

Glad you asked.  It is (or it will be) a blog on Speculative Fiction.****  What's happening locally (Adelaide / South Australia / Australia).  Some insights from a geek and (wannabe) writer, and possibly even some humour (you're laughing with me right)?

*  The layout may change, I've tried looking for Gennady Golobokov, but my lack of any Russian ability is hindering me, so if anyone has any advice, I'll be thankful.

**  'inspired by' sounds so much nicer than 'ripped off').

*** Or: wow, you sure do rabbit on don't you - what's all that got to do with spec-fic?

****  Speculative Fiction - - I use it as a over-reaching term to refer to science-fiction, fantasy, gothic, horror, etc.