The Second Annual MetaFilter Interactive Contest April 27, 2010 8:39 PM   Subscribe

This Saturday marks the start of The Second Annual MetaFilter Interactive Fiction Contest.

Open to MeFites only and in the vein of NaNoWrMo, you have just one month to write up and program an Interactive Fiction game.

Starts: May 1st, 12:00:59 AM (PST)
Ends May 31st, 11:59:59 PM (PST)

All entries will receive a certificate of participation. The winner gets an as-yet undetermined prize.

You can register now to add your name to the list of participants. There's a page with some resources on interactive fiction and programming in Inform (the recommended IF language) as well as a page for Discussions (useful in the past for answering and discussing programming issues).

The MetaFilter Interactive Fiction Contest is not an officially sponsored or affiliated contest.
posted by Deathalicious to MetaFilter-Related at 8:39 PM (53 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

I am looking for someone willing to be a co-sponsor. Basically, someone to help send out participation certificates at the end of the contest, help with moderating the contest, and maybe pitching in a couple of bucks for the grand prize.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:41 PM on April 27, 2010

Is there a way to see the entries from last year?
posted by andoatnp at 8:59 PM on April 27, 2010

I was going to ask the same. It appears the website from last year is gone, did it ever find hosting somewhere else? I'd just kinda like to get an idea of what this is...
posted by malapropist at 9:03 PM on April 27, 2010

The database was unfortunately wiped during the server move. I'll try to get a past games page set up with links to last year's entries.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:37 PM on April 27, 2010

Just a note that the link to the Inform website in the first link is out of date. I think all the recent Inform stuff is now hosted at
posted by fearthehat at 9:45 PM on April 27, 2010

I put on my robe and wizard hat.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 AM on April 28, 2010

posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

errr Klang? That's my robe and wizard hat.
posted by Think_Long at 9:05 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I still have no coherent idea for an actual serious game, but I have lots of stupid injokey ideas for bad little games.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:09 AM on April 28, 2010

> Read post.

You read and absorb the contents of the post.
posted by Artw at 9:41 AM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

> Work

You'd rather not... Try reading another post.

You coworker coughs.

posted by boo_radley at 10:05 AM on April 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

> Read another post

It is about a subject you have fixed opinions on.

> comment on post

Isn't there something you should do first?

> Read link

Your score has increased.
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

> Flag post
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 AM on April 28, 2010

> Post meta

You have already posted a meta.

> Wait
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2010

> Think to yourself: "posting a meta" would be an awesome name for a skateboarding trick.

> Scratch face, remind self to shave tonight
posted by Think_Long at 10:36 AM on April 28, 2010

I am going to win the fuck out of this.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:58 AM on April 28, 2010

Confirming my username doesn't work.
posted by shii at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2010

Yeah mine also
posted by Damn That Television at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2010

Confirming my username doesn't work.

Huh. What happens when you try to register?
posted by Deathalicious at 11:48 AM on April 28, 2010

Registration works fine, but when you put the given code in your MeFi profile, and click the "Confirm nickname" button in the "Confirm MeFi nickname" section of the Edit Profile page on the competition site, you get
Confirmation Unsuccessful
Confirm MeFi Nickname
Sorry, the confirmation did not work. Please make sure that you have your confirmation code in your bio.

Confirm you are the MeFite you say you are by cutting and pasting the following code into your MeFi bio:
(and that's all -- there isn't any following code.) But my IF competition profile has a link to my MeFi profile, so maybe it worked after all -- is that the effect it was supposed to have (and the only effect)?
posted by Zed at 11:55 AM on April 28, 2010

The main thing is I want to make sure that someone isn't signing up as a MeFi user that they aren't, so if you choose to you can be confirmed, which simply means that your profile page contains the code it's supposed to contain.

Last year this worked automatically. Since then something's changed somewhere so that the code no longer works. I've been manually confirming users now and will try to put in a fix when I can.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2010

So is Inform's talking code any better than it was last year? Because the big thing that turned me off last year was that the game I wanted to make was really talky and there wasn't really a languge that was good for that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2010

So is Inform's talking code any better than it was last year?

Probably not. Inform has its ideas about how a story should be organized. That said, there are a number of Inform games that are entirely conversation based. It's just that instead of using trees you use states.

So for example, you could do something like:
A topic is a kind of thing. The current topic is a thing that varies. Drugs is a topic. Crime is a topic. Children is a topic.

The Interrogation Room is a room. In the Interrogation Room is a table. On the table is a gun. Instead of asking about the gun when the current topic is Drugs, say "The gun was used during a drug deal." Instead of asking about the gun when the current topic is Crime, say "The gun was used during a robbery." Instead of asking about the gun when the current topic is Children, say "What a cute squirtgun!"

I haven't tested this code so it probably would need some massaging to get it to work. For some ideas, check out the source code for Glass, in which the entire game is one conversation.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:00 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't get much (any) learning of Inform done in the last month, but I gathered a bunch of info on how to learn.

Here's the definitive site for links to Inform 7 docs.

There's supposed to be a new Inform today. "The Inform language has many restrictions removed, and becomes more expressive in talking about kinds, phrases, relations and so on."

Also check out the extensions for libraries to handle common problems. Here's a recent blog entry on recommended extensions.

On the subject of talking, Emily Short's blog has a whole category on modeling conversation flow.

The I7 Source Available tag on the Interactive Fiction DB provides dozens of examples of games whose source is available for reference.
posted by Zed at 2:03 PM on April 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

The version of Inform that was current as of yesterday was newer than last year's IF contest, and imo, much easier to use than whatever version I tried before last year's contest. When I downloaded and installed Inform7 last week to try it again, I was actually able to get a little four-room-one-puzzle game written within an hour.

Now I'm going to download today's and hope it doesn't mess with my flow. Heh.
posted by annathea at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2010

That's great, I was really bummed that I couldn't do what I wanted to last year. Maybe I'll manage it this time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on April 28, 2010

Read the following:

Hi all.

Follow all further instructions:

Go to the first line of this comment.
posted by Splunge at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2010

Splunge nooooooooooooooooo
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2010

Here's the new Inform changelog; the new Inform will take "another couple of weeks." I wouldn't count on it for the Mefi IF Comp.
posted by Zed at 7:14 AM on April 29, 2010

Man. I'd love to offer an extension or something so people can use the new system, but I think for the purposes of this exercise it's useful to have strong deadlines.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2010

(And if you want to be grateful for Mefi's moderation, check out on the Inform 7 release. Sheesh.)
posted by Zed at 9:52 AM on April 29, 2010


Good luck to all participants. If you haven't signed up yet, please do! You didn't have to sign up before May, and the site will be accepting submissions from now through May 31st.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:22 AM on May 1, 2010

> Read RSS

You learn from the Brass Lantern site that there is an informal
interactive fiction competition among an online community you frequent.

> enter competition

That's not something you can enter.

> eat competition

I don't think the competition would agree with you.
Man, I don't *really* have time for this, but I'm going to sign up anyway even though I'll probably crash and burn. I've been threatening to do something in Inform 7 ever since it came out, and a month ought to keep me from going too crazy.

My lone Inform project to date was an entry in the 2004 24 Hours of Inform comp, and although it's a bit buggy and nothing special, it was a ton of fun to write. World modeling is powerful stuff!
posted by usonian at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2010

Ooooh. Will I have time this year....?
posted by honest knave at 3:12 PM on May 3, 2010

Just a note: even if you don't have time to write a story this year, you're still welcome to join as a non-competing participant and can take place in the judging this June. The winner is based 100% on the votes of the players (or at least, that's the plan).
posted by Deathalicious at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2010

annathea: Here's a recent blog entry on recommended extensions.

"This Account Has Been Suspended"
posted by JHarris at 4:00 PM on May 3, 2010

Google cache to the rescue.
posted by Zed at 4:08 PM on May 3, 2010

I think I'll use this competition to write a game addressing the gripe I have with nearly all interactive fiction - arbitrary puzzles. I'm going to write a game where you're in an everyday situation, and you have to do what any normal person would do in that situation, and you win by doing it, with no obstacles or impossibly convenient distractions.
posted by LSK at 10:33 PM on May 4, 2010

I think I'll use this competition to write a game addressing the gripe I have with nearly all interactive fiction - arbitrary puzzles.
I have a terribly low tolerance for getting stuck in computer games (text or video-based.) As fascinated as I am by interactive fiction, I don't play a lot of it for that same reason. I played Zork for hours and hours as a kid and never got anywhere - when I read a walkthrough for the first time a couple of years ago, I didn't feel so bad:
Okay, so here you are in the cellar. It's time to pick up your first treasure, so go South, then East to the Gallery. Get the painting, then continue North to the Studio. Go up the chimney (you can only fit with the lamp and the painting), and you will be in the kitchen again. Now, go upstairs to the attic, and get the knife and rope. Come back down and go into the living room.

Open the case and put the painting inside. Then, drop the knife and get the sword. Open the trap door again, and return to the cellar.
I mean, seriously... how in the world would anyone ever figure out that sequence except by brute trial and error? What does putting the painting in the trophy case have to do with ANYTHING?

I like puzzles if they're more or less logical; a locked door that requires a key that you only find after looking in the library after getting a not-too-subtle hint about the library from a NPC or note you find somewhere. Stuff that would make sense if the story were written as a straight narrative.
posted by usonian at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

usonian, there are a number of IF authors who seem to agree with you. My introduction to the genre was Metamorphoses, a "physics puzzler" where you change the physical properties of your inventory to make it work for you--much like the challenges faced by wizards in fantasy novels, really. Actually, most of Emily Short's games would qualify, though some of these are hard.

There are also some notable IF games that don't really even have puzzles. Photopia is the canonical example.

Lost Pig is a lot like what you describe, and is hilarious. The narrative style of the game is something that couldn't really work in a graphic adventure.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

And there are certain people who enjoy "brute trial and error". The Zork games often gave clues in the form of failure messages.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:53 AM on May 6, 2010

Alright, motherfsckers. I'm like 8000 words into my entry, and just overran the maximum allowed size for a version 5 zblorb. Things are moving along...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:59 AM on May 13, 2010

give props to kaibutsu
posted by Zed at 2:46 PM on May 13, 2010

What I want to do is going to take more learning than I think I'm capable of by the deadline. So maybe I'll work on learning Inform instead and do it next year.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:29 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a few hundred words into two different ideas, one kind of ambitious and the other pointedly minimalist. I was making some good progress on the Inform docs last week but have been distracted this week; hopefully I'll have something to show by months end in any case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:53 PM on May 13, 2010

> Check Recent Activity

There are several new posts in the 'The Second Annual MetaFilter Interactive Contest' discussion.

> Check calendar

It is May 14th.  You should probably get crackin'.
posted by usonian at 8:35 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

> z

Time passes...

Oh crap! Half a month to write your entries! Get cracking peoples!

posted by Deathalicious at 7:44 PM on May 16, 2010

I found the Inform7 was really rolling off the fingertips after I spent a day trying (and failing) to implement random permutations, apparently discovering new and interesting ways to break the compiler along the way. Eventually I decided to work with just a couple (almost) static permutations instead of the fully randomized ones I had envisioned. But writing the rest of the source text was kind of a breeze after that.

The things that were causing severe compiler breakage were:
Option 1) Creating a new 'kind' with a value which is a list, and then defining a global activity that would act on that kind of thing. Here the problem seemed to be that the activity wouldn't be able to see the list properly... The activity would end up doing the job I asked it to, but the list in the thing I was acting on never actually changed. Basically, I don't know how to get scoping to work the way I want it to.

Option 2) Creating a new 'kind' with an activity attached. This I could never get to work properly at all, and is really the right way to solve the problem, I think...
posted by kaibutsu at 7:01 AM on May 17, 2010

(thanks for the props. I will put them in a room.)
posted by kaibutsu at 7:02 AM on May 17, 2010

This may do more harm than good to the motivation and deadline impaired among us, but the games you don't finish for the MeFi contest you could always enter in Introcomp.
posted by Zed at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2010

Ok, about a week left...

Two questions:
1) What are the rules on recruiting playtesters from the voting pool (ie, mefi members)?
2) Anyone wanna help playtest my entry? Drop me a memail.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:44 AM on May 23, 2010

What are the rules on recruiting playtesters from the voting pool (ie, mefi members)?

No rules! Recruit away!
posted by Deathalicious at 7:28 AM on May 23, 2010

Well, I'm throwing in the towel. I should have learned my lesson after dropping out of the RPM challenge two years in a row (and having the sense not to enter this year), but I thought I had a better shot at getting this off the ground.

Someday I hope to have the luxury of uncommitted time and energy to see things like this to completion.

***You have died***
posted by usonian at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2010

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