Sound Effects and Music in Interactive Fiction

April 7, 2009
A Visible Pattern of Sound Waves
This has recently received some debate in the newsgroup, but I felt that perhaps I could further the debate on my blog, and add my own thoughts.

Do sound effects and music belong in interactive fiction? First off, let’s separate the two. Despite both subjects being of the aural variety, they are very different. It can be argued that sound effects make the experience “more real.”

> close door. (Slam!)

> jump in lake (Splash!)

> kick walter (“Oww! What the–???”)

It could then be argued that music makes the experience less real (unless the protagonist in the game has just turned on a cd player or walked into a dance club). People just don’t go about their ordinary (or extraordinary) lives with a personal soundtrack playing.

Some people feel that sound is jarring, and depletes the “immersion factor” of IF. IF is another form of literature, after all. Audio books aside, literature doesn’t make noise.

Simply put, I find it entertaining. I could do with or without graphics, but for some reason, I just love sound. It takes IF up a notch. You didn’t just read about killing that ogre, you heard it’s death cry. Or there’s an avalanche, and you can hear the din of falling rocks getting louder. Entertainment and drama can greatly benefit from sound effects if used effectively (no pun intended).  That goes for music as well. Some suspenseful music can really leave you on the edge of your seat. A light, airy tune can amuse you. A dramatic theme could tug at the heartstrings just a bit more during a sad or profound moment. Sound, in general, is something that I feature (and will continue to feature) in my games.

But what do you think? Sound effects and/or music: yea or nay? Do they enhance Interactive Fiction or detract from it? Entertaining? Or just annoying? I’m interested in hearing your views.



Having to Open Doors in IF: Bad Form?

March 9, 2009


I’ve been beta-testing Realm of Obsidian for a few weeks now, and two of my testers told me that having to open a door annoys them.

Many games allow the player to move through a door and into the next area, and the opening of the door is an automatic thing. The player doesn’t have to consider whether a door is open or closed. If it isn’t locked or barred in some way, they can just go in that direction.

In my game, you will be told that the door is closed, if trying to go in a direction where a closed door lies. My main reason for this? I have a sound that plays when a door is opened or closed. (Actually, it can be one of several sounds, depending on what door is being dealt with.) Sure, I could have the door open automatically on going north (for example), then play the sound and put the PC in the next location. But for me, there’s something special about entering the command “open door” and hearing a “creeeek” sound.

If enough people complain, I might change this. But for now, it remains. I’ll be submitting Realm of Obsidian to the Spring Thing competition with the “door issue” as is. Maybe I’ll get a point deduction of some kind, though of course, I hope not. I just don’t think it’s a big deal to type in “open door.” Any thoughts, anyone?

How Often Do You Get Laid Thanks to Your IF?

March 1, 2009

I haven’t posted in awhile, and I’m going to cheat a bit and hand the bulk of this blog over to someone else. I found this on the newsgroup (known to those familiar with it as raif). You can access newgroups through certain email programs like Outlook, or through Google Groups.

This post was in response to an attack on Adam Cadre. It made no apparent sense, seemed spawned from jealousy, and asked the question, “How often do you get laid thanks to your IF?” The post (which I will NOT reprint here) depicted IF authors as being rather unattractive and unwanted as a partner. I thought the reply below was very well said. I don’t know if the author wants their name revealed, but my thanks goes to you, if you’ve written this:

 Because a professional appreciator contributes nothing to the world.

The only way we can positively affect the world is to add to it. As I often tell people, if you want to really live, put something out there. Don’t just read a book. Passively taking in input does nothing. You must output something. Even if that something adds nothing to the world other than affecting how someone else looks at it. At least you are then contributing. Someone who hides in his room and reads every book ever written does nothing to add to life on this planet.

So we put something out there. Some of us write IF. Some of us do much more. Some of us write fiction, poetry, computer games, photograph things, write comics, cartoons, and photo stories. Some of us put that out there either on a personal web page, or in a magazine, or on our computers.

But we don’t do it “to get laid”. Not everything can achieve that, nor
should that be the only goal in life.

Hedonism may be fun, but it doesn’t affect anyone but yourself.

Affect someone else.

Do something.

Put something out there.

It’s the only reason we are here.

I think the last sentence is untrue, as well as the fact that creating something is the only way to contribute something. What about the social worker who saves lives? What about the police officer who apprehends a criminal? Those people also contribute to the world, but yes, I would like to add something – to create. That’s my thing, though I greatly appreciate the social workers and police officers (among others) of the world.

On a funny note, anyone familiar with playing IF will find this brilliant. It’s a response in the same thread:

>>I only get laid thanks to Adam Thornton’s IF. 😦

> Wow. Can you tell me the trick to that? It never works for me.

Have you tried “Want to come upstairs and see my interactive fiction?”

Yeah, she said “I only understood you as far as wanting to come.”

Which initially seemed pretty promising, but turned out to just be a
parser error.

Interactive Fiction in Widescreen?

February 19, 2009


This is a bit of irony. I just purchased a new computer system. Some specs:

Pentium Dual-Core E5200 Processor (2.5 Ghz, 2 MB cache)
4 GB of memory
500 GB hard drive
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Integrated 7.1 channel audio
18″ widescreen flat-panel monitor

What did I most look forward to doing with this computer? Why, writing and playing Interactive Fiction, of course. Which is predominantly text-based. Ha!

The thing is, I like the way IF looks on my widescreen monitor. The only noticeable difference is that text is displayed in longer lines, and more text can fit on the screen at a time, due to the fact I’m running at a higher screen resolution than before.

Oh, there’s one other difference that I’ve noticed so far. The title screen for Curses by Graham Nelson (curses.zblorb) looks reallllllly nice (see above). It actually seems as if these title screens were meant to be viewed in widescreen.

So now I’m playing IF in a widescreen format. Where are the deleted scenes and optional author commentary? 😛

Realm of Obsidian Enters Beta

February 17, 2009


That’s right, Realm of Obsidian has finally entered the beta stage. Check this page for some basic information. If you’re interested in signing up for the beta, send me an email at Beta must end before the end of March, as I will be entering the game into the Spring Thing competition.

This may just be the first game released using TAB (thinBASIC Adventure Builder). You can read more about TAB here.

This is a short entry, as I’m not really allowed to reveal any more about the game than I already have, due to competition rules.