Sunday, 21 December 2014

AIF Hall of Fame - Past winners

Just a reminder that voting for the AIF Hall of Fame 2014 will close at 1200 GMT 31 December. Things are still pretty tight, so your vote could be decisive.

Vote here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-TcL4QM8rdwMnkyZPCM5xaQTtnccgWVh0WJ8RJ5okX8/viewform

However, in case you’re not sure what the Badman Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award (to give it its proper name) is all about, I thought it might be worthwhile to review some of the past winners.

2002 – Badman
Back in 1991, Badman wrote an AGT game called X-Trek, which was basically the starting point for AIF as we know it. Consequently, when the first Erins were held in 2002 he was given the award that bears his name.

2003 – Choices
Choices wrote two very well received games, Rogue Cop and Dear Brian (the latter with Christopher Cole). However, his most influential work was probably a series of library extensions for TADS that cemented that system’s popularity with the AIF community.

2004 – NewKid
NewKid was probably the first superstar AIF author. Having started his career with a TNG game (as was the style at the time), he established himself as a top author with Ideal High School, which was the first ‘big’ AIF game to be written in TADS and won an Erin for Best New Age Game in 2002. NewKid would follow that up with Generic New York Apartment, which was the first AIF game to seriously employ multimedia. In 2005 he returned to AIF with Ideal Pacific Coast University, which won five Erins

2005 – Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole is one of AIF’s most prolific authors, best known for romps like Gamma Girls, the Camp Windy Lake series, Mount Voluptuous, and Pool Party (the latter with A.Bomire). He also organised the very first Minicomp, way back in 2003.

2006 – Scarlet Herring
Scarlet Herring only wrote one AIF game (1996’s Moist) but it turned out to be a very important game as it established many elements and mechanics (most notably the arousal system for sex scenes) that would be standard in AIF for years to come.

2006 – A.Bomire
Another prolific author (Tomorrow Never Comes is a personal favourite of mine), and winner of the very first Minicomp. He would organise his own in 2004, and join with Christopher Cole in 2005 to organize the CCAB Comp. On top of that he managed to find time to be a regular contributor to Inside Erin (the AIF newsletter) and do an awful lot of beta-testing.

2007 – BBBen
The iron man of AIF. His first game was The Sleep Over (which would spawn the hugely popular Crossworlds series) way back in 2003, and he’s still going today, releasing Super Pervert Action: Crisis in 2014. Another regular contributor to Inside Erin, he also organised the Erins in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

2009 – GoblinBoy
Undoubtedly the most popular AIF author of all time. He won the Erin for Best New Author in 2006 with a nearly unanimous vote and just got better from there. Probably best known for School Dreams Forever (SD3), which set new standards with its extensive use of graphics and non-linear gameplay.

[Let me know if I missed anything. I was going by ifwiki and my memory, so mistakes are quite possible]

Saturday, 13 December 2014

AIF Hall of Fame 2014 - Vote now!

For those who don't know, the Erins (the annual community-voted awards, which haven't been held since 2009 due to lack of games) included a write-in category called the Badman Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award, where people who'd made outstanding contributions to AIF or the community in general could be nominated. The person with the most nominations received the award, which was effectively a Hall of Fame since it could only be won once.

The cessation of the Erins meant that a number of deserving people never got recognised for their hard work, and this is my attempt to rectify that.

Vote here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-TcL4QM8rdwMnkyZPCM5xaQTtnccgWVh0WJ8RJ5okX8/viewform

The Badman Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the most influential figure in the AIF community, someone who has helped direct and shape it into what it has become today. This can be anyone, it doesn't have to be an author, and it relates to everything they've done for the community (rather than just what they've done this year).

Previous winners are Badman (2002), Choices (2003), NewKid (2004), Christopher Cole (2005), A. Bomire and Scarlett Herring (2006), BBBen (2007), and GoblinBoy (2009), so they are not eligible for this year's award. As the organiser of this year's voting, ExLibris is also not eligible.

Voting will close at 1200 GMT 31 December 2014. All going well, the results should be announced on New Year's Day here and on the AIFCentral subreddit.

If you want to campaign for someone, feel free to do so in the comments below.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Beach Fishing

After I made a post asking how to design an AIF game with more female agency in it, several commenters said that it's easy to write a female sex romp. I disagree, but the commenters seemed pretty sure of themselves.

To find out if I was mistaken, I decided I would start writing one. That's the quickest way to find out. Sex romps aren't my strong suit. Everyone complains that my AIF games have poor descriptions and weak sex scenes. A female sex romp has lots of men needing sexy descriptions and lots of sex.

I don't have much implemented yet. I only have one sex scene so far. The game will be called Beach Fishing. It is about a woman named Madison fishing for cock at a beach resort. I'm still figuring out how the puzzles and challenges could work.

I'm also trying out a new sex engine. I love how that sounds, sex engine, ha! In the mini-comp, I tried cramming a standard parser AIF sex engine into Twine. Snowstorm did something similar too. All the normal AIF sex interactions were listed in a long Twine menu and you chose what you wanted to do. Having all the sex options in a big list just didn't feel right. The interface dominated the sex. It didn't feel sexy. It was also limited because your sex partner couldn't make sexual moves themselves. I feel this feature is important in a female sex romp because I want to let the protagonist be able to lie back passively and let the man do the work if that's how she wants her sex. It's regressive but I think some players like the idea of letting an experienced man guide her and pleasure her so that should be an option.

I've decided on a sex format where if you don't do anything, the sex scene will unfold by itself. The man will initiate all the sex moves. But you can click on words in the scene to take control and direct the sex scene in a different direction. It feels more Twine like. I'm not sure if it feels sexy though.

This is just a fun experiment. I likely won't finish it. I'll just continue until I get bored. Hopefully, I will find something interesting about how hard it is to write female sex romps along the way.

Monday, 13 October 2014

How I try to develop sexually appealing characters in AIF

This is not a 'how to' guide. I'm saying that upfront because I'm not so conceited as to think I know the 'proper' way to write anything about anything in any format. There are lots of ways to write. Instead, these are just some thoughts I wanted to share about the kind of elements I consider and the thinking process when writing the female characters in AIF games I've developed. A lot of this is stuff you've probably noticed if you've played my games. Maybe you'll have something to say about the method? Maybe you do things differently, or you would do things differently if you were to write a game? Maybe you think I should do things differently? It seems like a discussion that I'd be interested in, at least.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

October Open Thread: Relationships

No posts in September, so I thought I'd kick off October with a nice Open Thread:

"Does anyone else have any comments on relationship building during your AIF games? Like it, leave it?"
~Blue Satyr, Fetishes and Kinks thread

Let's talk about relationships in AIF. I think most AIF can be split into two categories when it comes to sex: romps and relationships (many games fall somewhere in between, of course). Romps mainly focus on sex, with maybe some puzzles to get to the 'action', while relationships focus upon building a sense of 'character' about the designated lust object. This sense of character can come in multiple different ways, making the relationship believable (giving a reason the two characters wish to have sex), giving depth to the DLO (making the player care more about them beyond their just being sexy), and creating a sense of build/courtship (having the relationship develop over time). I'm sure there are many more examples, those are just a few off the top of my head.

There are really a lot of different ways that this topic could go and I don't want to limit people, but here are a few suggestions:
How important is developing a relationship with girls in a game to its overall enjoyability?
What detracts from relationship building in a game?
What is an example of a game that did relationships well?
What is your overall favorite relationship in AIF?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Female Agency in AIF

I sometimes have ideas for AIF stories that involve a woman protagonist. When I try designing a game around these stories, I often have problems with not enough female agency. I cannot think of enough interesting choices or challenges in the game for the protagonist to make for an interesting game. Does anyone have any tips or ideas on how to build good AIF games with woman protagonists?

I may simply suffer from poor imagination but I've noticed that even women writers of AIF often choose to write from the male perspective. Do I just need to get over some cultural hang-ups? Can normal male-perspective games simply be rewritten from a female-perspective? The idea of a female-perspective sex romp where a woman has sex with anything that moves doesn't sound like it would have enough interesting choices and challenges to me, but maybe I'm not thinking about it hard enough. Am I simply locked into the standard stereotypical thinking that men need to convince women to have sex, but women have no problem convincing men to have sex? A game about sexy cheerleaders visiting a bible camp might work, but it would be outside my comfort zone.

Do AIF games written with a woman protagonist need different challenges and plotlines than AIF games written with a man protagonist? Would these games work better if they focus on women wanting sex but not too much? If they focus on women pleasing their partners so they won't leave for a more promiscuous partner? Are these very retrograde ideas for a modern story?

Would it be better to deemphasize the sex entirely? AIF games with a male protagonist often focus on having as much sex in the most extreme way with as many women as possible. The challenge is in figuring out how to satisfy some minimal needs of the women so that they have sex with the male protagonist. Would a better game design be to still have a lot of sex, but the sex shouldn't form the primary goals and challenges of the game? The woman protagonist would spend the game solving non-sex related goals and challenges, and sex would happen along the way? Is that the best way to handle a woman protagonist in an AIF game? On an unrelated aside, would this also be a good design for an AIF game involving a married couple?

I don't want to offend anyone. And I'm worried that even discussing this topic will lead to lots of unhelpful comments. But I would find it useful if others could make suggestions on how to handle female agency in AIF games.

p.s. If people don't like this post, say so in the comments, and I will remove it.

Friday, 22 August 2014

August Open Thread: Twine

A few people on this blog have noted the growing use of Twine, mainly based off the mini-comp entries. Thus I feel like the obvious topic for discussion is what are the pros and cons of Twine as an engine. I'm primarily focusing on it from the author's perspective, as in what the reasons to use it/not use it compared to other platforms, but player perception is obviously an important part of that.

I looked at Twine awhile back, didn't like it because I didn't think it did enough, and then started playing around with it again based on the mini-comp usage and was impressed with how much could be done. While it comes off as a 'simple' engine for CYOA games, I think you could make many AIF games that are out there via Twine.

So why should, or should not, authors use Twine?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

AIF Minicomp - Where to now?

Cross-posted from Overanalysing AIF

Fully half of the entries in this year's Minicomp were made with Twine, confirming that CYOA is now a feature of the AIF landscape. That alone would mean that the Minicomp rules have to be revised, since they were written with only traditional text parser systems in mind. However, as the deadline approached this year, there was also discussion on aifarchive around relaxing the size restrictions. It came to naught, as it was obviously too late to change anything for this year's Minicomp, and will now probably be forgotten about until the deadline for next year's Minicomp is fast approaching. Unless, that is, we start having a robust discussion about the rules now, which is what this post is intended to stimulate.

Let's begin by really playing devil's advocate and asking if the Minicomp should be continued at all. That's not a facetious question, as the Minicomp doesn't provide many concrete benefits to the community. For example, if you compare the total number of games released in the years before and after the Minicomp started, it's pretty clear that the Minicomp has not led to an increase in the overall number of games. It's also clear that the Minicomp isn't doing much to nurture new authors, as only one person who's made their debut in the Minicomp has gone on to release a full-length game. By way of contrast, look at the reception Palmer's Emily demo got. Would it have received the same amount of attention (which led to Emily: Sister Attraction being the most anticipated game of 2014) if it had been entered in the Minicomp and been forced to share the spotlight with several other games? I'm inclined to doubt it. The same goes for Karrek's Study Date, which could have been squeezed into the Minicomp restrictions with a little effort. The counter-argument is that the Minicomp's status as an 'event' has the power to motivate people to try to create games, and there is the possibility that its removal would have a demoralising effect, leading to even fewer games.

If you agree that the Minicomp should continue, the question becomes what should its purpose be? Should it be primarily a competition, with honour and glory to the victor? Is it supposed to encourage new authors? Is it primarily for the enjoyment of players? I get the impression that the current Minicomp is trying to be all of those things simultaneously, which might explain why it's not particularly successful at any of them. Either way, the biggest problem that needs to be addressed is probably the severe drop in participation after 2009 (38 entries in 2006-9, compared with 19 entries for 2010-3). The 2014 Minicomp bucked that trend somewhat, but I'm not sure how comparable it is with past years due to the presence of Twine games for the first time, and because the numbers were padded by the inclusion of incomplete games. Interestingly, the decline more or less coincides with the last time the Minicomp rules were modified (to increase the maximum number of rooms and characters, and to allow discussion during the voting period). It's hard to believe that increased discussion could discourage people from making games, but it's a lot easier to imagine that increasing the maximum size of games has made it more difficult for authors (especially new authors) to complete their entries before the deadline. There have certainly been a number of games in recent years that have had to forgo testing in order to meet the deadline. So there's an argument to be made against the restrictions being relaxed even further.

During the pre-Minicomp discussion, both BBBen and Purple Dragon said that the Minicomp needed some restrictions to stop people entering games of the scale of PAC. That seems a little disingenuous to me since no one was suggesting that there should be no restrictions at all, and even raising or removing the room limit (which was suggested) wouldn't have that effect. More pertinently, they also stated that the intention of the restrictions was to encourage small, self-contained games. If that's the case, then you'd have to say that the current rules haven't been very successful. The prototypical Minicomp game (setup -> obstacle -> reward) still gets made, but they're frequently overshadowed by games that have subverted the rules in ways that allow more content. That's true even of the very first Minicomp, where the winning entry included a combat system and limited graphics. The fact that it's experienced authors who are better able to subvert the rules in this way (and thus more likely to end up dominating any discussion) may also discourage new authors from entering.

The problem with imposing size limits is that there isn't a simple way to measure the size of AIF games. Back in the early days of IF, size was equated with the number of rooms (for example, Level 9 boasted that Snowball had 7,000 rooms, even though 6,800 of them were a colour-coded maze with minimal description). However, in a character-oriented genre like AIF, the number of rooms is a bit meaningless. It's even worse for CYOA games, especially since Once Upon A Dream (written by the person organising the Minicomp at the time) established the precedent that CYOA sequences don't count as rooms. The actual size of AIF games is more closely connected with the number of characters, but it's possible to create a large game even with only two sexually interactive characters and a handful of rooms (as GoblinBoy proved with Second Guest and In Darkness).

For those reasons, I think it makes sense to think of game size in terms of scenes. If you accept that, then the most straightforward way to limit the Minicomp to smaller games would be to restrict entries to one sex scene (in one location with two participants), period. For the avoidance of doubt, anything involving physical contact (including masturbation), even if it's non-interactive, would count as a sex scene. While that probably sounds draconian, it's a standard that the vast majority of past entries would meet. Unfortunately, the minority of games that would have failed that test includes many of the most popular entries, meaning that players would lose out (assuming that those games wouldn't have been made otherwise, which is debatable). It's also true that authors would probably find ways to subvert even this restriction. For example by making the 'sex scene' as large as possible (The Snowstorm from this year's Minicomp is an example of how that could be done), or by having a greater proportion of non-sexual content (although I suspect that audiences would react negatively if the imbalance was too great). However, it would still be more of a limit than the current rules, meaning that the playing field would be more level if that's a consideration. It would also be simpler than the current rules, which is desirable given that nearly every Minicomp I can remember has been preceded by people asking what is and isn't allowed. Finally, it's a restriction that could be applied to CYOA games with equal fairness.

But what if your aim is to nurture new authors? This is not something that the Minicomp has done well in the past, which I suspect is due to the limited amount of feedback that new authors get in the Minicomp. Back when there was no discussion during the voting period they would be lucky to get any. But even though discussion is now allowed, it generally focuses on one or two games (which are more likely to have been written by experienced authors), while the weaker games in the competition (which are more likely to have been written by new authors) get ignored. Since feedback is the only reward that authors receive, it stands to reason that less feedback leads to less desire to write another game. It also can't be very encouraging for new authors who have spent months working on their games to be forced out of the spotlight by a game that a more experienced author whipped up in less than a week. The only way to stop that from happening would be to limit the Minicomp to 'new' authors (i.e. excluding anyone who has released a non-Minicomp game or, less restrictively, excluding anyone who has won the Minicomp in the past). After all, if you're capable of making a complete game in a week then presumably you're capable of doing so at any time and don't need to prove yourself in a Minicomp. Unfortunately, that would have the undoubted effect of reducing the number of entries even further. It could also make the Minicomp less attractive to new authors by turning it into a tallest dwarf contest.

A lot of the issues around 'fairness' could be eliminated simply by removing the voting element of the Minicomp, and making it more of a 'game jam' kind of event (perhaps with a different theme every year). However, I suspect that would lead to the Minicomp losing some of its lustre as an event. Saying that everyone's a winner just for taking part is all very well, but it's not the best motivation. It also wouldn't have much effect on the actual prize that authors receive (feedback).

If you are going to have voting, should it be broken up into different categories? Back when no discussion was allowed, it would be useful for authors to know where their games were weakest and/or strongest since they probably wouldn't get any other feedback. These days, authors theoretically get feedback during the voting period, which should give them (again, theoretically) more detailed and useful information. Having multiple categories can also make it difficult to calculate the overall 'winner', as we saw with this year's Minicomp. Another issue to consider is that the growing popularity of CYOA systems means that ranking games is no longer an apples to apples comparison. What makes a Twine game technically more impressive than a TADS game (or vice versa), for example? Having either a single vote or ranking the games in order of preference would simplify matters greatly. Making voting a simpler process could also have the effect of increasing the number of votes, which I would see as a plus since voting is a gateway to participation in the larger community (or at least it was for me).

When I started writing this post I was in favour of relaxing the Minicomp restrictions somewhat. But, as sometimes happens, the act of writing about it has forced me to consider my reasoning more closely, with the result that I've completely reversed my position and now think that the rules should be more restrictive. Admittedly, part of why I've reached that conclusion is the conviction that authors are better off releasing games outside the Minicomp, but limiting games to a single sex scene should have the effect of making them more focused and more in line with what was originally intended. It would also result in smaller games, which should theoretically result in greater participation since more authors would complete their games before the deadline.

Anyhow, my opinions probably shouldn't be given a great deal of weight, since it's highly unlikely that I will ever run or enter the Minicomp. What I hope that this post will do is stimulate discussion. There's a tendency on the part of the community to forget about the Minicomp for eleven months of the year, with the result that any changes are either made unilaterally by the organizer or, more often, not made at all. What should happen (if the community were more engaged) is that any changes should be hashed out well in advance, so that authors can make their plans accordingly.

Over to you.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

July Open Thread: Summary

“Not to beat the horse too badly, but as others have said I think it should be up to the author. As this is all for-fun as opposed to for-profit, there isn't a need to try and please the majority.” SpikeTheGoat
“As an author I am always fascinated to know what other people like and don't like in their AIF.” Blue Satyr

When we do open threads that ask for general opinions (which have been most of them) people seem to split into two camps: A) let authors design what they want and B) let’s get a general feel for the community.

I think I speak for camp B when I say, this, nor none of the other open threads, is meant to serve as guideline or restriction for what authors should/have to design. I understand that it easily can seem that way given the rankings and strong opinions, but the idea isn’t to put peer pressure on designers, but to help those designers who want to know more about their audience opinion and/or just find the topic interesting.

I wanted to lead off with that because I’m now going to give an overview of how things came out once I added the rankings together. This isn’t meant to be a list of ‘here is what to include’, just a general summary for those who are interested.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

AIF Minicomp 2014 is now live!

Reposted from aifarchive:

Sorry about the delay folks, been busy like usual.  Well, when all was said and done there were 8 entries this year and here they are (in alphabetical order):

- Amy the Slut by Lost Trout (Twine)
- Dinner Plans by AOneHitWonder (Adrift)
- Friday Afternoon by Shannon O'Donnelly (Twine)
- Fucking Monster Bash by Hanon Ondricek (Inform7/Glulxe)
- Lark Rise by Dr. Realgood (TADS)
- One Last Pay Day by Louys Bilitis (TADS)
- Slim Spady Detective - The Case of the Missing Box by nowherecity24 (Twine)
- The Snowstorm by Anna Nee Moss (Twine)

You can download the games here:


The voting will start in a couple of days.  I wanted to have it ready when I released the games, but I don't have it done yet and I didn't want to make you all wait any longer.  I was expecting 3 or 4 games so I had planned on just doing the voting in a poll like last year.  But with 8 games it seems like we should do a full round of voting.  I'll let you know when it's ready.  It should only be a couple of days so that should give you all time to play through them all.  When it's ready you can vote here:

Thanks to all the authors who submitted games and to everyone who downloads them and votes.

Okay, that's it, go play them.  Go...go...

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

July Open Thread: Fetishes and Kinks

Note on Open Threads: This might be the last monthly thread I post here as there seems to be a general desire to move away from the blog format to reddit. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it going over there or not as this is the last of the original ideas for threads I had. I could probably come up with some more if people have enjoyed the monthly topics.

Topic: Sex in AIF? What fetishes, kinks, and situations do we need more of? There have been some discussions on how to write sex scenes, how much build up there should be, etc., but what I’m looking for here is when a sex scene happens what type of content do you want to see in that scene?

I’ve constructed a list based off story tags used by asstr and adultfanfic; if there is something I didn’t mention that you want to call attention to please do. I’m leaving out the more obscure concepts and things that are fairly universal (oral, regular intercourse, etc).

Monday, 30 June 2014

This month in AIF (June 2014)

Rather a short post this month. The AIF Central subreddit is now open for business, and will hopefully become the destination for AIF news, since it's far more accessible to new posters than either Yahoo! or this blog. It also has the advantage of broadening AIF's profile, which has already resulted in the 'discovery' of a new game. So if you want to publicise a newly released game, gain feedback for something or if you just have a random thought you want to discuss, I encourage you to make use of the subreddit.
 
With the subreddit becoming the major AIF news source, it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to write monthly summaries any more, especially since they're generally out of date by the time I write them. A case in point is the release of Super PAC, which is June's main piece of news and happened three and a half weeks ago as I write this.
 
So, unless someone else decides that they want to take over the job, this is going to be the last monthly summary. Likewise, I'm not going to be automatically setting up posts to announce the release of new games either, although I certainly will on request.
 
ttfn

Monday, 23 June 2014

June Open Thread: Immersion


Does a game allow you to feel like you are the character? Should that even matter?

I’ve seen a few references on this blog to ‘immersion’ and it isn’t something I had previously thought about a lot as it doesn’t really matter that much to me. So I’m curious what other’s take on it is. To be clear (as there are multiple ways immersion could be defined, but I’m trying to stick with the context I’ve seen it in), I see immersion as does the player feel like they are the main character.

I don’t have a problem with immersion, but I also don’t find it necessary. If I don’t identify with the character at all it doesn’t really matter. Whether I feel like I am the character or if I am just guiding someone else doesn’t really matter.

So:
How much does immersion matter to you?
What are some good examples?
What are some bad examples?

Monday, 9 June 2014

BBBen Game Design

This post was originally supposed to be part a general progress report, but I spent so much time talking about BBBen's game design that I’m separating it into its own post. I’m not discussing any of the content of his games, just the game design he used for PAC and PAF and ways in which it can be expanded/improved.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

AIF comes to reddit

Courtesy of jordanb716, we now have an AIF subreddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/AIFCentral/. Hopefully that should overcome the major weaknesses of the blog system, which is that if you want to post something gaining author access is pretty time consuming (since I have to manually approve everyone).

The AIF Central blog will still be here for longer and more detailed posts, but an AIF subreddit should make it easier to quickly share news.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Super PAC released!

Super Pervert Action: Crisis has been released! You can get the game here: http://bbben.aifcommunity.org/

More info about the game below.

Where we are

AIF Central has been chugging along for almost five months now, so it's probably as good a time as any to take a pause, see how everything is working, and decide on our next destination.

The blog has been averaging over five hundred pageviews a day, which isn't too shabby all things considered. However, the number of new posts has dropped off considerably. That's not too surprising given that most of the original authors also have blogs and/or games of their own to worry about. The bigger problem is that no new authors have come on board after the initial flurry, for which I have to take the blame for not spending more time publicising AIF Central and generally trying to drum up interest. Unfortunately I've had less and less free time to spend on AIF, and what time I do have is mostly spent playtesting (and more recently, actually playing, which is nice).

Anyhow, there are at least three places where we could go from here.

1. AIF Central continues on as a collaborative blog, hosting articles about AIF and stimulating discussion. Ideally that would happen under a new editor who has more time to devote to making it a success.

2. AIF Central changes course and becomes primarily a site for AIF news, such as new game announcements, and so on. I think there would be a demand for this as the changes Yahoo! have instituted (particularly requiring a cell phone number for new accounts) means that there are more people who are unable or unwilling to subscribe to aifarchive (the traditional source of news). Again, this would probably require a new editor who has enough free time to stay on top of everything (i.e. check the various news sources, blogs, etc.)

3. We conclude that AIF Central was an experiment worth conducting but is no substitute for an actual website with functioning forums, etc.

4. Your suggestion here.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The month in AIF (May 2014)

May was an unusually busy month in the world of AIF. Both Emily: Sister Attraction by Palmer and the final version of Magician's Nephew by Mr Flibble were released, to widespread acclamation.

Emily was initially released as a demo last year, and Palmer has done a good job of both maintaining the level of interest that the demo generated and delivering on it with the finished product, which is probably the best incest-themed game in AIF history so far. Of course it doesn't hurt that Emily makes extensive use of graphics alongside a strong story.

Emily: Sister Attraction is for ADRIFT 5 and is available from http://palmeraif.weebly.com/games.html

Magician's Nephew was released as an open beta almost a year ago. The final version squashes a lot of bugs and adds some extra content for the ending. Perhaps because a lot of people had already played the beta, the final version didn't really receive the reception that it's ambition deserved, but it's an excellent and involving game and I encourage you to seek it out if you haven't already played it.

Magician's Nephew is for Inform 7 and is currently only available from the aifarchive Yahoo! group (where Mr Flibble has also kindly uploaded the source code).

On top of that, towards the end of the month two other authors announced that they had games ready for beta testing. One of them, Minterlint, has set up a blog to chronicle his game's development. Additionally, the first chapter of Pervert Action: Origins by EFon, a three chapter CYOA prequel to BBBen's Pervert Action series, was released and can be found here.


In other news, this year's AIF Minicomp was formally announced. The deadline this year is July 14, 2014. Full rules can be found here.

As usual, if there are any news items we've missed, let us know via email or the comments below.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Exciting News About I7

What piece of news caused me to literally choke on a biscuit this afternoon?

Why the release of a new version of Inform 7, of course!

Monday, 12 May 2014

AIF Minicomp 2014

AIF Minicomp 2014 is go!

Reposted from the Yahoo! aifarchive group:

Well, it seems like we might have some interest in the comp after all so let's go ahead and do it.  We'll make the deadline July 14th, which gives all would-be authors exactly 2 months to get their games ready.  The full rules for the comp are listed below.  You can also read them on the 2014 mini-comp page I just added to the newsletter website here.

Emily: Sister Attraction by Palmer

Emily: Sister Attraction by Palmer has just been released. It's a dialogue driven and linear game, with dynamic content and plenty of pictures. The story revolves around the increasingly passionate relationship between the player character and his sister Emily, as well as their love for each other.

It can be downloaded from the author's website.

If you wish to give the author feedback, the discussion thread at his website is here.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Magician's Nephew by Mister Flibble

The full version of Magician's Nephew by Mister Flibble was released today (7 May 2014).

You might remember Magician's Nephew from the demo that was released last year, now the full version is finally here!

The player takes on the role of Peter, who chucks in his job as an accountant (and his forthcoming marriage) in favour of becoming a stage magician.

Available from https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/aifarchive/files/Inform%20Games/

Requires an Inform 7 compatible interpreter, such as Windows Frotz or Windows Glulxe for Windows, or Zoom for Mac OS X and Unix

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

May Open Thread: Hottest Sex Scenes

I am a little behind on the open thread summaries and posts I usually write, but while I was reviewing last month's open thread a question/survey/list came to mind: what is the hottest sex scene(s) you've ever played?

There are a lot of lists out there for best game and even best sex in game, but I want to focus on best scene, not the entire game (I suspect that this has been done before, but I am unaware of when). I'm not looking for technical merit or innovation, simply what sex scenes have you played that had the most impact on you (could be scene hit a particular fetish, was well written, or for an unknown reason it was just hot).

Feel free to give your top pick or a list, explanations or not, totally up to you, not asking for a formal 'vote' on best ever, just your personal take.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

This month in AIF (April 2014)

April is over (in my part of the world at least) and it was another quiet month for the AIF community, with no games being released. That's not to say that there's been no activity, as to my knowledge there are at least four games currently in testing. However, I'd counsel caution to anyone hoping for a deluge of games in May. Beta testing always takes longer than you think (at least if it's done right), and real life has a way of intervening.

We're also heading into what used to be Minicomp season, although the Minicomp has been held later and later in recent years. No official announcement has yet been made, but if you were intending to enter the Minicomp this year, now would be an excellent time to start work on your entry (if you haven't already).

Elsewhere in the wider world of AIF, over at Shark's Lagoon BobbyTally has released a demo of Room 112, a dating game that he's developing. Unlike most dating games, rather than being predominantly HTML, it's written in JavaScript. Graphically it's quite impressive, although I'm not sure how many university students dress up in a halter top and tie for a study session. English isn't the author's first language so some of the writing is a bit wonky, but if that doesn't bother you I'd encourage you to check it out (http://www.the-new-lagoon.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3207) and give BobbyTally your feedback.

Did anything AIF-related happen in April that we've missed? If so, leave a comment below.

If you have something to say that won't fit in a comment box (or two), why not email editor.aifblog@gmail.com and ask for author access?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Super PAC development

I thought I would post a little bit of a preview for Super PAC here (as I'm having trouble posting pictures on my own site right now) and also maybe reflect a little on the process of developing Super PAC.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Development Diary: Friends and Yearnings

Update 1 (4/11/2014):

I've decided to write the story using Twine. After seeing mustcontainanumber's Test Lab, I realized that it's possible to write AIF in Twine that feel like traditional IF. Twine recently added using variables as links which makes this much easier. I tried writing an initial draft of the beginning section in Twine and the result feels like a menu-based IF. I like it. I might rerelease Nat Dewey using a similar interface.

Monday, 7 April 2014

April Open Thread: Rub/Luck/ Fuck; any other options and/or how could it be better?

AIF has gone through a lot of changes and improvements over the years. Images, better engines, improvements in stories, but one of the (almost) constants has been the sex scenes. You rub the appropriate body parts, then lick them, then fuck (or suck, depending upon the body part). They don’t always need to be done in that order, sometimes the order will play into how each action is described, there may be multiple descriptions (orgasms), and authors may add in other actions (spanking) or body parts (hair). The steps of the sex scene are one of the most constant and similar activities between AIF games.

So, is there anything better that could be done? Cut scenes are an option (the entire sex scene described in one go), but from what I’ve seen in the past people find them less than ideal. Is there a different method that could be tried?

I’ll be upfront that this is one of my least favorite aspects of AIF; in many games I just enter all of the commands in a single go and then go back and read the text. I realize that I might be of the minority opinion here, so if you think the current system is great, but that the content could be improved, feel free to chime in with those ideas.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

This month in AIF (March 2014)

There were no new AIF games released in March. However, truemechasonic did release his patch for SD3, which is an impressive piece of work, technically speaking.

Additionally, AnotherWannabe has been quite busy this month, releasing a new version of his AIF Toolkit extension for Inform 7 and overseeing the first major piece of AIF market research: the Big AIF Survey.

As far as this blog goes, there were ten new posts and the blog as a whole got 20,472 pageviews. BBBen's Overlooked AIF Games series continues its popularity, with the March iteration getting more than a thousand pageviews.

If there's anything else newsworthy that we've missed, please leave a comment below. And if you'd like author access, send an email to editor.aifblog@gmail.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Open Thread Summary: We Need More … Depth

This topic exploded quickly with comments, but kind of slowed down as it became clear there was pretty overwhelming consensus on what was wanted. Depth was the clear favorite, though it comes in a couple of different types.

I’m going to outline a few of the ideas suggested, though for anyone who hasn’t checked it out, the original thread has lot of great ideas not covered here.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Big AIF Survey's Big Analysis

Thanks to everyone who responded to the Big AIF survey. Based on some of the responses I've done a brief follow-up survey that you can answer here. This is the accompanying big analysis.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Big AIF Survey on Interactivity

I have made what I am dubbing the Big AIF Survey on Interactivity. It asks questions like: what are your favorite features in an interactive sex scene? What are your least favorite? What level of interactivity to you typically expect?

The survey is not very long. It should take less than 5 minutes. Go ahead and access it here.

By answering it, you help me (and possibly other AIF authors) know where they should invest their time and effort. It's definitely worth your time, too.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Overlooked AIF Games 3

Here's another Overlooked AIF article, so you don't have to wait any longer to find out what to play! This time I've included four because one of them is... well, you'll see. Let's get on with the show!

Monday, 10 March 2014

AIF Toolkit v0.6.1 (UPDATE 03/22/2014)

(I know this is only relevant for a narrow portion of the AIF audience, so from now on I'll only post major updates as separate blog posts. Minor updates will be added as edits to the original post. You can follow my blog (see sidebar) for more consistent updates.)

The AIF Toolkit is an AIF authoring system for Inform 7. Click below for more details.


March Open Thread: We Need More of …

According to AIF List, there have been 354 AIF games made going back to the 80s. In addition, there are a lot of games that border/included in AIF territory such as RAGs and some commercial releases (ExLibris has an informative post all about this). What gems, what great ideas have you seen in that long history of AIF games? What lessons from the past (whether thirty years ago or just weeks) do you believe deserve more recognition? Now is the time to call attention to those ideas.

Note this isn’t a thread for Overlooked AIF titles; BBBen is already covering that. I think it would be helpful if we could discuss specific concepts, design ideas, plot points, or other elements that you wish were done more frequently. It could be a setting (fantasy, modern, school), a particular type of character (sister, teacher, wife), a way the sex scenes were written, a goal in the game, or any other element that when you played the game made you say, "That was a great idea, we should have more of that". This way authors can look to some prior works for good ideas, and maybe the community can help find you games that already exist that have the elements you are looking for.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Open Thread: Development Diaries

I was going to email the Editor with this, but I figure other people in the community might have some thoughts. There are so far two development diaries and I have a few questions/thoughts about what policies should generally guide not just them but future entries as well.

Animations in AIF

by BBBen

Kenji and Ami from Pervert Action: Future. I wish I'd
done better with the lighting in this shot, but never mind.
I'd like to briefly discuss 3D animations, as opposed to still pictures. I am (I believe) the only author to have released an "AIF game" containing animated shots; namely Pervert Action: Future. It's actually surprised me that nobody else has attempted this, although I suppose there aren't many active AIF authors making games with pictures in the first place.

It kind of feels to me like this article should be longer and more complex than it is, engaging with more of the topic, but as there hasn't been any real discussion of the topic in the community before I don't quite know what people want to talk about.

Therefore this is almost an 'open thread', but with some more of my random thoughts about the process running ahead of it.



Sunday, 2 March 2014

Open Thread Summary: What Went Wrong?

I have to admit, I was a bit worried about the Open Thread experiment, but I think it went quite well with (currently) 31 comments. Thanks to everyone who contributed

Here is a summary of many of the pitfalls and problems authors have encountered. I tried to cover as many of the ideas as possible and some of the categories are almost duplicates of others, but I’d rather go for broadness then precision here.

Hopefully this list can help both new and established authors when they set out to start games. If there is anything anyone would like to add, please feel free to comment and I will update the post with suggestions.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

This month in AIF (February 2014)

February saw the release of 2014's first AIF game, Study Date by Karrek. It's been very postively received so in the unlikely event that you haven't played it yet, I encourage you to check it out. The game is being discussed (including links to the latest version) at the following locations:
http://adultinteractivefiction.blogspot.com/2014/02/study-date-v09-by-karrek.html
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/aifarchive/conversations/topics/21443
http://www.the-new-lagoon.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3155

Archer Fifteen has also announced that he has a new game in development, X-Men: Amnesia. You can find all the details at http://adultinteractivefiction.blogspot.com/2014/02/development-diary-x-men-amnesia.html. THK has also released an updated version of his 2012 game Another Friday Party 2.

On the technical side of things, Another Wannabe has released a new version of his AIF Toolkit extension for Inform 7. Details can be found at http://adultinteractivefiction.blogspot.com/2014/02/aif-toolkit-v052.html.

As far as this blog goes, there were thirteen posts in February, and the blog got 25,918 pageviews. Overlooked AIF Games 2 and the Study Date thread led the charge with more than a thousand pageviews each. 

If there's anything else newsworthy that we've missed, please leave a comment below. And if you'd like author access, send an email to editor.aifblog@gmail.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Open thread: Offbeatr

Probably most people are familiar by now with crowdfunding initiatives, most notably Kickstarter. There's actually a site called Offbeatr.com that focuses on adult projects, including instances of adult, freeware games that have been crowdfunded through the site. A third Legend of Queen Opala game appears to be approaching full funding within days of starting, despite setting an ambitious $30k target.

I would assume that the AIF community by itself is not likely so big (or at least so engaged) as to support such a funding model, and simple "donation" systems have never really worked out for AIF. Nonetheless big AIF projects are getting bigger (and rarer), and things may be changing in adult game freeware, so I wonder if Offbeatr will ever be relevant to AIF. What do you think?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Development Diary: X-Men: Amnesia

“I always feel these types of games are risky, simply because you are using characters with well-established personalities. You run the risk of completely butchering them for fans of the series (such as myself), or not defining them well enough for people who are not fans.” ~A. Bomire in a review of X-Men: First Day at the Institute

The above is some great advice that I am now going to mostly ignore and desperately hope does not come back to bite me in the ass. This is an announcement for a game I’ve been working on to take place in the Marvel universe featuring the X-Men.

Update 3-3-2014: I'm releasing version 0.1 of the game. Note the version number, very far away from anything that resembles a complete game. You can explore the map and see the first few scenes which might give a clearer indication of what I'm going for than my text explanation. If you are looking for a game or any adult content this won't satisfy you. If you want to see the design and where this game is going then a quick little run through might be interesting. It is probably filled with typos and stilted writing, but I'm more worried about just getting the concept down at the moment.
Upload link via Mega

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Study Date v0.9 by Karrek

Reposted from aifarchive on behalf of Karrek

"So I've just completed my first AIF game: Study Date.

"You play as a teenager whose parents have gone out of town, and you've managed to convince the girl you've had a crush on for forever to come over to study.

"The current version is 0.9. It should be content complete (though if you find any missing or placeholder descriptions please PM me to let me know) and mostly bug free, but it's possible there are still a few things I've missed. It can be downloaded from the files section under Inform.

"If you find any bugs or anything that looks incomplete please let me know by e-mailing me at this e-mail, which is also included in the Read Me.

"There are still a few things I'd like to add, specifically more alternate descriptions of the various actions and conversation topics, but I've gotten to the point where it feels complete, and if I hold it back until everything's perfect I'll never release it.

"Enjoy, everyone!"


Sunday, 16 February 2014

AIF Toolkit v0.5.2

AIF Toolkit v0.5.2 is released. For those of you that don't know, AIF Toolkit is a set of AIF extensions for Inform 7. It's a minor patch but should be backwards compatible. Download it here.

Click below for the list of changes.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Overlooked AIF Games 2


by BBBen

I've got another three overlooked AIF games for you. I guess in some ways this is a bit like an AIF book club, but generally these games aren't going to be anything like novel-length, and I'll always be trying to bring to your attention some things you may not have ever played (or even heard of). The first two in particular lean toward the 'sexually fantastic', while the third is actually the only notable example of AIF 'modding' by someone other than the original author. It's interesting that I actually made these selections and wrote up the article before the recent discussion of modding over on the AIF Archive, but I guess that just makes it timely to post this!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Author Resources

This post is intended to be a list of online resources that might be of use to authors of AIF. Please leave a comment or email editor.aifblog@gmail.com if there is something you think should be added, or if you have any other feedback.

Beta Testing Pool

As part of our commitment to encouraging more and better AIF games, we have set up a list of people who are willing to volunteer to beta test games.

Friday, 7 February 2014

What is AIF?

The traditional answer to the above question has been that AIF is any text adventure that contains explicit (and preferably interactive) content. Such games are the subject of the vast majority of the discussion at the aifarchive Yahoo! group, for example. However, the problem with that definition is that text adventures are a medium rather than a genre. For example, the very first adult text adventure was Softporn Adventure (1981), published by Sierra with a cover that featured legendary game designer Roberta Williams enjoying some naked hot-tubbing with two other women.

Softporn Adventure cover, featuring Roberta Williams
Copyright 1981 Sierra On-Line

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Some questions to players about images in AIF

This isn't so much an article as an attempt to start a discussion that will hopefully give me some necessary player data. I have been wondering about these issues as I have few means to gather player metrics, etc. beyond feedback and beta testing.

Monday, 3 February 2014

February Open Thread: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

A stack of notes, an array of beautiful characters, a fully laid out map, exciting plot twists, hot sex scenes, and hours upon hours of work; and then you realize your AIF game just doesn’t work and you have to toss pretty much everything. I’ve been in this spot before, a started/half-finished AIF that after a lot of work I realize just won’t work. Time is spent salvaging what you can, but then you make the decision you have to start back at square one.

Authors, even those who might never have had any published, what are the pitfalls that have sent otherwise promising designs down in flames? What would you do differently if you could do it all over? What are the great ideas that live only on your hard drive because they were impossible to bring to fruition? Let’s air them out so other authors can learn from our mistakes.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The month in AIF (January 2014)

January was a fairly quiet month for AIF. Two games (Magician's Nephew by Mr Flibble, and Emily: Sister Attraction by Palmer) are in beta testing. Two other games (Erin's Rescue by Scion of Eros, and Friends and Yearnings by Lost Trout) have been announced.

As far as this blog goes, there were ten posts in January, getting 6814 pageviews. There have been some discussions on the open thread regarding what this blog should be called, and what it should look like. At the moment "AIF Central" seems to be the most popular title. If you have any suggestions, head over there and leave a comment.

If there's anything else newsworthy that we've missed, please leave a comment below. And if you'd like author access, send an email to editor.aifblog@gmail.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

AIF Player's Guide

The somewhat peculiar vocabulary and syntax understood by the text parser has its origins in the commercial text adventures of the early 80s. These games were designed to run on as little as 16k of memory, so unsurprisingly they were only able to understand a limited number of words. Things have improved since, and today's text parsers are able to recognise comparatively complex sentences. However, the core vocabulary has remained the same and most AIF games assume that the player is already familiar with it. Obviously that isn't going to be the case for people new to AIF, which is why this guide has been written. 

AIF FAQ

If there's a question you think should be answered here, or if you have any other feedback, please leave a comment.

1. What is AIF?
AIF stands for Adult Interactive Fiction. Interactive fiction is a fancy name for the text adventures that were popular in the early 1980s. Thus, the term adult interactive fiction is used to describe text adventures that include interactive and explicit sex scenes.

1(a). What is a text adventure exactly?
In a text adventure the game world is described to the player primarily through text. The player then describes what he wants the character he controls to do, again through text.

Friday, 31 January 2014

The Open Thread About Open Threads

We've had an awesome array of posts in just the short time this blog has been open. To keep the discussion moving forward, and allow it to expand into some areas that might be hard for a single author to write about, I'm going to be adding some open threads to encourage discussion. This way we can get fans, prospective/new writers, and established writers discussing ideas (hopefully).

In each thread I'll start with a short introduction about an AIF related issue and then leave it open to comments. I'll also likely post the first comment if it is an issue about which I have something to say. If things go well, multiple people will chime in with their thoughts and we can work on/with each others ideas. After the post has been up for awhile, I might summarize the various ideas presented into a post of their own.

While I already have quite a few open thread ideas jotted down, I might limit myself to doing it as a monthly occurrence. I'd rather let the issues sit and be discussed instead of rushing through topics.

Other than just communicating this idea, I'm throwing the floor open to general discussion. Are there any improvements you think can be made to the blog? Are there any type of topics you want to see discussed? Just want to talk about how awesome AIF is? The floor is yours if you want it.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Inform 7 for AIF pt. 1: The Logic of I7

Though I'd like to write a tutorial for writing AIF with I7, this starts off as sort of an essay/rant that only relates peripherally to AIF, so bear with me.

Why I Use Inform 7

Inform 7 is a programming system that uses natural language. You can download Inform 7 here.

I've always liked programming but I've never been particularly good at it. I7 is the only programming language I've mastered to a degree (that is, I'm better than the majority of its users, but not quite as good as those people who really get dirty into I6). When I reflect on why, I think it's partly because I'm a language oriented person. Some people can look at E=MC^2 and think, "Oh, energy and matter are the same thing how interesting." Others, like me, need to be illustrated with lavishly complex examples before it "clicks". It's not because I'm less smart (at least, I hope so), but it simply needs to be spelled out for me: "The amount of energy in the universe is equal to the mass of the universe times the speed of light squared." Oh, right.

So, basically, Inform 7 allows me the use of the verbal part of my noggin, because my math side is shriveled and decaying.


First impressions last

by BBBen

First impressions are a major factor in whether an AIF game is a success with the audience. When a player first starts up a game they are extremely easy to put off. It will be rare that a player sits down with any dedication at all to really stick with a free porn game and see it through to the end. They'll almost always be thinking, "I'll give this a try for a minute and see if it interests me." Therefore you need to get them interested in that first minute or two and not push them away. This might be the most under-appreciated element of good AIF game design.

Show some leg

You don't need to do a full sex scene right away, but you want to signal to the audience that this is a sexy game. That's what they're there for. Even if you feel the main appeal of your game will ultimately be the story and characters, you need to accept that initially your audience primarily wants some sex. You can draw them in to your writing gradually as you go, and you don't have to make an out-and-out sex romp, you just need to get the player's engine running.


This early 'showing some leg' doesn't actually have to take any particularly specific form. Maybe you've got a shortish game and all you do is show an attractive character and maybe hint at what kind of sex might be coming up (like if you feature a dominatrix in some capacity at the beginning, you are probably going to have an S&M scene later). Judge based on how you want to pace the sexual content throughout your game - how much do you think you would want early in the game if you still haven't made up your mind to keep playing?


It's probably also best not to have the early sexual content be completely satisfying. If the player is... erm... "satisfied" then they will probably stop playing, at least for a while. Oh, and it's better to have no sex at the beginning rather than boring sex - if you don't have anything good to include then don't include it, because like I say, this is your first impression.


Establish the look of your characters

This is strongly connected to the above principal of 'show some leg' and is probably generally good writing practice anyway, but it is particularly important for AIF.

A surprising number of authors fail to strongly establish the physical descriptions of their characters early in the game. This is always one of the first things I look for - do the characters interest me physically? Not to put to fine a point on it, is this girl hot? This is offset somewhat if you are using graphics, because I might be able to just look and see for myself, but in that case you must a) make sure the pictures do a good job of establishing the look of the character, and b) still make sure you describe them clearly anyway.

When painting a picture for the reader throughout the game you want them to automatically have a sense of what your characters look like. Personality is a more subtle thing and can be built over time. It's worth mentioning here that you should consistently reinforce the description of the character throughout the game as well, don't just describe them once and forget about it. There's more about this in the discussion below in the comments section.


Don't overload your intro with exposition, back-story or just too much text

Try to get into the flow of the game as quickly as possible. You have time to flesh out your setting and characters - the player doesn't assume they know everything when they first start typing commands. You'll find opportunities to introduce stuff - exposition and back-story will most likely come out organically as you write. You don't need to tell the player right away that the PC was a star high school baseball pitcher if they're going to be throwing a baseball a short way into the game. You can just tell them when it comes up.

It can even be a good way to give your audience a nice early surprise; let them think your game is doing one thing, then after a little while reveal what's really happening - but only when you have to. Say the game starts in the middle of a dinner party, everyone is being polite and you have an attractive date that you would like to impress. The player doesn't need to know right away that you're also having an affair with a married person at the same party - they can find that out when the two characters briefly get some time alone and the married person suddenly jumps them.

You don't want to leave the exposition until really late, either. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the only case I can think of where a major, out of the blue plot change is revealed at the end and it still works (What? The Ark really does have magic powers?) If you can, try to move early exposition into small early scenes instead.


Give your player some freedom or control early

Further to the last point: the player doesn't want to be reading a lot of text the moment they get into the game. They want to be in control - they want to be playing the game as soon as possible. Not reading the game. This means a bit of interactivity. Some of this interactivity can, (and probably should) be introductions to game mechanics (explored more below), but you also should give your players some meaningful interaction. Some kind of puzzle or some kind of choice early on is a very good thing.

Maybe the choice is "do you want to be respectful of this nice girl, or be smooth to the easy girl?" Or maybe it's "do you want a bit of money or a chance to see a naughty picture?" Or perhaps it's an interesting little puzzle where you can get a cool bonus if you complete it quickly. Just give your player some agency and the chance to do something other than just 'push the story button' to watch your story play out. If this means introducing some small extra bonus content on top of your story to have some kind of reward to dole out, then you might have to do that.


Teach the player the basics of how your game plays

It's important that your players understand roughly what is expected of them. You don't have to start at the absolute basics for most AIF games, although if you think you might be attracting first time AIF players then it's actually not a terrible idea to let them know about movement commands and 'x' for examine, etc. What's important for most AIF games are certain things like what conversation system you're using ("ask", "greet", "talk to"?) and how important it is. Are you using any unusual game mechanics? That kind of thing.

And try to demonstrate their use by actually having the player use it in some simple situation. I'm sure you've seen this kind of thing done in game design before - big professional games do it all the time these days. "Here's a log in your path - press space bar to jump over it." It's in some ways a tedious trope but AIF is a niche form of game design that many players will not know very well, and thus you need to do a little bit of hand-holding.

Broader acceptance of this kind of stuff might actually help the community as a whole by making the genre a bit more widely accessible.


Give your players a goal

It might be obvious enough to you what the player should do next, but it may not be obvious to them. Sticking players in a room and assuming they'll go out and explore may have worked fairly well in many good games before, but that does not make it good practice. If you want your game to be well received give your player a reasonably clear goal at the start. It doesn't have to be the player's end goal. In fact if it is then you've probably just had to unload a wall of text on them to explain the entire plot at the start. Instead, give them a simple goal explained by the circumstances.

I much prefer it if not very much is expected of me at this point. That is, I don't have to efficiently discover some item hidden in my bedroom within the first four turns of the game or miss out on later content. What makes a good opener is an early setup that fulfills several of the tasks described here at once: say in a superhero game, if you start out in a very easy battle you could give the player a goal (defeat your enemy) introduce some basic gameplay mechanics, give your player some limited control (maybe they could choose whether to save a bystander or arrest the bad guy at the end of the fight?) and explain quite a bit of the story concept just by implication, without having to write a long passage about the fact that you have superpowers, blah, blah.


Have unanswered questions

This is a well established writing principle. You want the early part of your story to be simple and leave the audience with the impression that they'd like to work out what's going on. This isn't rocket science: a man walks into a room, where his workmate is working away at his desks. He asks a few boring questions about how his work is going, how his wife is, etc. Then he pulls out a gun and shoots his workmate dead. Why did he do that? Read on to find out...

It's best if you don't answer those questions right away, either. This gives a story a "page turner" quality. It really doesn't have to be that intense, either. If you've played Pervert Action: Future (sorry to cite my own games, it's all I can think of right now) then you'll know I start off with a bit of a prologue about Kenji being recruited for a mysterious "unit program", and then the opening scene has he and his friend Ami setting off on a shuttle ride to the space station. I was trying to set up a bunch of little hooks here: why has Kenji been recruited and why is he so special? What is this "unit program"? What is this space station going to be like? Can Kenji get anywhere with this cold but sexy military woman? And so on.

In some respects this principle is actually slightly less important in writing AIF than in writing, say, a novel. The reason is that as I stated above, the player is initially mostly there for the sex. So long as the game looks like it's going to have some hot action the player may well be fine getting through a relatively slow start to a story (Crossworlds, I'm looking at you). But it nonetheless still helps, and it's worth respecting this basic element of writing craft.


Conclusions

I think there are quite a number of AIF games out there that have not been accorded their due because they don't grab players from the start. I've also been frustrated before by games that I wanted to enjoy, but which made me struggle through them at the beginning. While good games in AIF have consistently bent or broken these guidelines I don't think that means they are unimportant - just that we don't have much of an 'industry standard' and players interested in AIF will endure a slow opening for the chance to enjoy an AIF game.

To emphasise the point, here's another article by ExLibris on the topic of the importance of how your game opens. He explores some other stuff like spelling errors in the opening (that is important), the title and what the player will do when first starting a game, so it's worth a read.


Is a first impression as important as I think it is? Did I leave anything out? Can you suggest good examples of games that demonstrate the principles listed above?

Monday, 27 January 2014

3D images in AIF games – Yes? No? Maybe?

by BBBen

NOTE: This article still feels like a bit of a draft version to me, but I wanted to get it out there before the conversation had completely dried up.

Minami from Pervert Action: Future. I didn't want to use images
from someone else's game to illustrate the article without their
permission, so here's one from my game.

My attitude toward 3D design programs such as Daz Studio and Poser is a complex one. On the one hand I really like the purity of a text-based AIF; we're adults, we don't need illustrations in our novels, do we? At the same time I have to admit some hypocrisy on this as I used Daz Studio for Pervert Action: Future, and I really couldn't imagine the game without it. 

When playing a game with 3D pictures I sometimes find them distracting, and if I don't like what the author has tried to do with the pics then I will be turned off a game I might otherwise have liked. Still, the pictures do seem to be popular in the community, which has really responded to the emergence of 3D pictures in games.

The first appearance of 3D images in our community was when ~3~ started doing his "O Erin" comic strip. At the time many of us were blown away that it could be done, and it wasn't until some time later when Goblinboy started using it that I realised that it was not a total from-scratch 3D design system, and was not just something experts would use. I've been interested to see that though images are slowly becoming more common, we haven't had a total explosion and take-over... at least not yet. Maybe that's partly because we've been getting only a modest number of releases, and many of them are mini-comp entries.

Using a 3D image program

Some people probably have the impression that using Daz is either really easy or really hard. I'd say it comes in somewhere between those two poles. The most problematic things are the initial learning curve (you'll need to practice and play around with it for a while, emulating what others have done before you start to churn out anything good) and also the need to acquire content. As an aside, if you're looking to side-step the issue altogether and use some easier and cheaper alternatives to this kind of image designer, check out some suggestions in this post.

Without good content you can't do anything, and getting it can be expensive. That alone could prevent it being used by just everyone, although it is possible (naturally) to pirate most of what you'd want (I'm not advocating that approach). There are sales, and it helps if the kind of stuff you want is not particularly new or popular, as it's likely to be cheaper. Being a little clever and restrained in what you actually show will also help you get past the hurdle of not being able to get what you want for pictures. I was also able to be patient, as it was quite a while between first taking an interest in Daz for my project and actually needing to use it to make pictures. Furthermore there are some great websites that offer a lot of free stuff; the best is probably sharecg, which contains loads of content. Oh, one other thing: the program Daz Studio Pro is actually free (they make their money on selling the content).

I've found the most time consuming part of making 3D pictures is designing the characters. Once you have the characters done it's relatively easy to just pose them in new positions. It does depend, however, on how ambitious you are. If you aren't willing to get in there and tamper with the posing, the subtleties of facial expressions and such things as props, lighting effects and camera angles then you will not produce good pictures. You'll sometimes need to go back and try an idea over again, or scrap it altogether if you can't get it right or if the content you've got just isn't going to look right. You'll also need a decent sense of visual composition.

An issue I haven't run into much, but one that can be a big deal if you're making animations or have an old computer, is rendering time. When I'm generating a lot of frames with complex lighting and shadows sometimes I just have to walk away from my computer and let it do its thing for half and hour. My computer is reasonably powerful (if a couple of years old now) so if you don't have something with a good graphics processor you may find rendering is very slow. Incidentally, I'll do a separate post on the subject of animations.

Another thing I've discovered is that Daz is almost never the last stop for a picture. Photoshop (or some equivalent) is an essential second stage for picture design. That means that there's a second learning curve if you don't know Photoshop, and of course you will have to acquire the program, which is another significant expense (I lucked out there – already had a registered copy). Rather than buying Photoshop you may prefer to use one of the free alternatives out there; I have heard good things about GIMP. You can make pictures without Photoshop, I suppose, but that will mean that you can't do a lot of cool stuff. Perhaps more importantly, 3D images often have flaws in them when you render them, such as a body part clipping through a piece of clothing or a weird-looking part of a pose that you need to include in the frame in order to get the good bit in. In these situations Photoshop is one answer, as it allows you to correct mistakes that you just can't fix conveniently in Daz Studio or Poser. Tools such as smudge, blur and clone stamp are of tremendous utility for that kind of correction.

Evaluating 3D images in AIF

I've seen a lot of 3D pictures out there in recent years, and I have to say I don't like very many of them. It seems to me as if most people using the system for porn are unimaginative in their picture composition, use often mediocre or inconsistent content (and they mostly use the same stuff as everyone else) and aren't particularly meticulous in the design process. Now, I grant you, looking back on the images in PAF I already see them as underdeveloped, and I feel like I could do a much better job on them now. Some shots I still quite like, but generally the work is quite unskilled. That's fine, as it was my first shot with the software, although I should point out that creating that stuff wasn't especially easy or quick – there was quite a learning curve involved.

I really hope new authors don't all feel the need or even necessarily the desire to use Daz or other 3D image programs to make pictures for their games. I accept that things are drifting that way and that by making PAF with pictures I've furthered the trend, but I still hope that it won't go too far. At the least keeping the tight multimedia restrictions in the mini-comp seems like a good idea to me. This is fundamentally a writing community and you can't tell me that there isn't something kind of awesome about being able to entertain and enthrall people with just words to fire their imaginations. Remember that as an AIF writer fundamentally words are your medium, and they still do most of the work in a game.

And another thing! With words you aren't limited in the way you are with 3D design programs. You aren't restricted to only showing the stuff that's available in Daz Studio content; with writing, as Neil Gaimen points out, there are no rules. You can write whatever the hell you want, so long as it's good, and as a consequence you can do some amazing things. I'd strongly recommend that even if you plan to use 3D images you should write first, then see what you can illustrate. You might want to adjust what you have later, or just design the ideas but not actually write the prose until you've done the pictures, but I really don't think you should start by looking at Daz and then write what you see. Let your imagination create the game, then try to illustrate what you see in your head. Yes, it's harder that way, but your games will be better. Of course, you can go back and tweak things later if your images are good and you can come up with something cool from Daz that you hadn't thought of before – it may well stimulate your imagination – but don't let your writing suffer from using 3D design programs or your game will probably suck.

Well, that's my appraisal. I hope I didn't sound too arrogant or superior in my judgements of 3D image use on the Internet – I know I don't personally have a long track record on the issue and as I say, I think I can do better than I have done. It just seems to me that AIF is faced with a situation similar to what we've seen with other technical developments such as new IF platforms before; namely that a lot of people are going to use the new medium poorly. 

This is an issue of a lot of interest to the community these days so go ahead and comment below. Are all games going to have images in the future? Should the mini-comp ban pictures outright? Are images a great thing or a terrible thing for AIF? Are the increased demands on authors reducing the output of new games?