Ideal IF playing "workflow" (how to actually play IF)

I haven’t been playing a lot of IF for a few years. When I do, it’s either in very deliberate, intense bursts, or else in short casual sessions in the browser (for Twine games or very short Inform games in Parchment).

While my interest in everything comes and goes, I don’t think my problem playing IF is very much due to being bored with it or not liking it anymore.

I used to read fantasy books voraciously as a teenager, and while I may have gotten bored with them, I still often try to pick up a book that I’ve been thinking about reading since my teenage fandom years but never got around to reading. The problem is, reading thick doorstopper books doesn’t fit in to my routine anymore, so I go through them slowly, only really finishing a couple books a year.

The same is really true for other kinds of games that I’ve been interested in—MUDs, MMORPGs. I don’t play most kinds of graphical PC games anymore because installing them and setting them up take too much time and effort, and then playing them would require intense focus and a lot of time to justify the time and effort spent getting them to work.

I don’t really play IF anymore because I can’t find a “workflow” – playflow? – that fits my hardware and my lifestyle well enough. My laptop dual boots Manjaro Linux and Windows Vista, and I have all the traditional interpreter programs installed on the Vista side. (I think the IF playing experience on Linux has always been less than optimal, much like the experience in the browser for parser games.) I don’t use the Vista partition often, and when I do all my games (not just the IF ones) are competing for my brief time and wandering attention.

So, I’m obviously just complaining about the way that life is for everyone. How do you find time to play IF without having herculean discipline?

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First off: I play IF when I feel like playing IF.

I’m the guy trying to play through a huge collection, remember. If I want to play IF just for something to do, but I’m tired, and it’s been a long day, I’m very likely to be frustrated by games I might otherwise enjoy. If I feel like reading a book instead, I do that. If I feel like playing a graphic adventure or an action game (or, very recently, logic grid puzzles - they’re insanely addictive and, sometimes, furstratingly difficult), I do that. If I feel like playing IF, I do that.

This has to do with investment, just as you say. There are so many games! If I find myself frustrated by a game early on, I have to be somewhat fresh, otherwise I’ll go “You know what, why should I spend any more time with this? I’m clearly not enjoying it.” If I’m fresh, then maybe I’ll be willing to stick with the game a little while longer, and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Or maybe I’ll just delete it all the more vehemently, but anyway, I gave it a chance.

Finding the time to play… well, I’m also the guy who bought the iPod Touch because iFrotz seemed to be the very best portable IF terp out there. On an informal level, I still think that and have never regretted my decision. To me, the very best IF playing experience is on the go. I have no time - nor the disposition, these days - to be chained to the desktop playing a game that requires my mind to be fresh (and which, therefore, will benefit from me being able to take a walk, think about life, the universe and everything, and suddenly have a bright idea for solving a puzzle, taking out my iPod, and trying it out).

I’ve got a reputation for being unpleasantly loud about usability. I don’t give a damn about that reputation, because a) it’s true, and b) I’m loud because the higher a game ranks in usability, the higher the chances are I’ll be able to play that game. Downloadable internet games with save-game functionalities I can actually play.

My personal experience, therefore - to make a long story short - would be to invest in a portable device capable of playing IF. If those Window Phones can run the same programs as a Windows machine (which I’m not sure of), you’re pretty much set. Personally, I love me my iPod Touch.

I only dislike Apple’s policies - some of which totally disallow emulators. I could be playing Spectrum, Commodore and Apple II text adventures on my iPod Touch… sigh…

I’m terrible about playing modern IF. New comp games just go into a big “mean to play these” folder which I never try too hard to play just because I’m not very confident the current scene and I see entirely eye-to-eye. I have at least one game I offered to betatest that seems like it’ll be great, but I keep prioritizing my time with various projects (although damn, I wish I had remembered that game last night when I was looking for something to do).

Recently, I’ve actually had the most success playing IF with some Legend games in DOSbox. While not exactly aesthetically-pleasing, hey, at least DOSbox on Linux should give you the same experience as on Windows. Maybe use the opportunity to freshen up on some old classics?

I’d also throw out that we could do our own IF book club here where we all try to play a game and post our thoughts on it here, but that has never worked when we tried it on joltcountry and was only a little more successful on the ifMUD. Still, if someone throws out a game I’m halfway interested in, sure, I’ll give it a shot.

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I relate to a lot of that. Thanks for the reply.

As a matter of fact, I do have a Windows Phone. It’s my first time having a smartphone, and it seems pretty locked down. I did find a Zcode interpreter in the phone’s app store, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t bought it yet. I plan to try it, though, definitely.

In general, the Windows phone isn’t a revolutionary change for me from using a querty-keypad Java-based phone, but I gave up trying to play Zcode cames with Jzip or whatever that simple J2ME interpreter was called.

I’ve use DOSbox for retrogaming. The aesthetic experience of playing old games is perfectly acceptable, at least when the old games were well designed in their own context and for their own native screen resolutions. I find that playing the Zork series in DOSbox is a similar experience to playing non-IF games in DOSbox for me. It’s usually not much about nostalgia to me. (The games I’m nostalgic for are the Apogee and Epic MegaGames platformers and scrolling airplane shooters.) When something was made really well in the past, it’s entirely possible that some specific aspects of its greatness might not have been surpassed in modern versions of the same kind of thing, so it makes perfect sense to look back to what was really good in its context. You just have to be able to get out of the context of 2016 and smart-touchscreen-highres-everything—which is easy for me, because I often feel I can’t keep up.

I’m usually too slow to take part in that kind of thing, but when I like to think about stuff and write about the connections and meanings that I find. That’s why I like writing reviews, but it’s a slow process.

I think IF is interconnected with other things in its context fairly heavily, or at least in the retrogame context of the old classics. I think it’s easy to get burned out with IF if it doesn’t have much of a context, because then it’s just something that you have to put in the effort to pay attention to.

— (Random thought of the morning.)

Bah. That’s a real shame.

We have the tehcnology to play IF on the go, even emulated IF. Unfortunately, we also have an app-based system that encourages everyone to appify every game and discourages everyone from having, using or creating emulators. I know why this is, of course - why sell the emulator once when you can sell each game individually and make a lot more money? - but I still don’t like it.

Regarding J2ME, I can attest that ZaxMidlet is very good, with limitations/issues. Those limitations/issues are mostly alleviated/fixed in JFrotz, I understand, but my old qwerty-keyboard phone couldn’t handle JFrotz. If yours can, give it a go.

If JFrotz is the one you meant by JZip, may I ask why you gave up on it? ZaxMidlet seemed very capable and acceptable to me, and I find it hard to believe that JFrotz would have gone a step backwards from ZaxMidlet.

ZaxMiddlet is the version that I left off using. If JFrotz is the better one, I must have been using an outdated version of ZaxMiddlet initially, because after trying a new interpreter the experience was much better, very nearly playable except for some annoyances and the game-breaking problem of not reliably and universally save and restore. At least, I can’t save and restore without mashing the “Yes” button on the security screen that says, “This application accesses data on your phone. Continue?” I would be pressing the button upwards of 20 times, and then when it finally went to the file select menu I would accidentally choose the first option because I’d been jamming the button. Then I would have to start over again. Sometimes, it seemed like it would never load the file no matter how many times I pushed the button. I tried to figure what was happening, but I’m not even sure if my save files were being written correctly.

ZaxMiddlet’s input is acceptably good. Unfortunately it doesn’t recognize my keypad’s backspace button, so I had to be carefully typing commands. Surprisingly, the return button did work to submit the command, so it was almost the traditional keyboard experience. Aesthetically, it looks fine—more or less like a DOS Infocom interpreter.

I think I really needed to root my phone. I’m not a hardcore super-user, but I like to use things well and thoroughly, and I would have rooted the phone if I knew how. There was no specific information about my model. The hackers are only interested in jailbreaking smart-things.

that’s been my relation to IF for more than a decade now. It’s definitely one of those things that has clicked with me, but my time for it often gets buried behind other activities.

my playflow is often too slow: I play the first few rooms to get the hang of it, I don’t deliberately attempt to examine or collect everything in sight just for the sake of it. In games like Curses or Varicella, I’m yet to reach a proper end, having gone through several casual playthoughs through the years. I’d say it’s even a necessity in such games, to see outcomes from unsuccessful attempts.

But I have in mind all the connecting pieces from previous plays for everytime I come back. I don’t really enjoy going from old save files because I need to remember where was I and all a save file gives you is a blank cursor. guess it’s about time I should combine that with a transcript, huh? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

anyway, I would say I’ve had far more progress with IF ever since I began playing them on smartphone. I know it sounds bizarre for a keyboard-heavy genre but if you think about it, you type more on the likes of whatsapp than in IF. and it’s of the same kind: short text messages. I believe playing these sitting by a desk glued to a monitor just isn’t my ideal for fun. And I can play on bus or subway or whenever a solution appears clear on my mind.

Absolutely. I spent several iterations of Varicella in a single room gathering information to be used in later attempts.

I prefer to play IF in solitude with a real keyboard, space to draw a map, and no pants.

Do you believe pantless IF playing to be key for success?


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Quoted for truth. <this post is over 20 characters>

Like pretty much anything else in life, one’s approach (let’s call it style of play) should depend upon one’s goals. “Looking for an hour’s entertaining diversion” is different from “I want to write a review of this piece” is different from “I want to study some technique used by the author so I can adapt it for use in my own project.”

Whenever I try a new text game, I spend a minute or two testing whether the author has modified the default responses to basic commands. I’ve found this is generally a reliable indicator of quality, and thus an indicator of whether the title is something worth exploring. The first thing I usually type is “x me.” If I see:

Good looking, as ever.

in response, that’s almost enough to make me stop immediately unless there are extenuating circumstances.