I’ve been meaning to write something deliberate and detailed about the May 3 Penguicon talk, “Rule-Based Programming in Interactive Fiction,” by Andrew Plotkin (a.k.a. Zarf). And I’m still waiting to do that. I didn’t want to wait any longer to mention the talk on here, though, since it is presented very well in its Web version and will be useful for many people. It’s an intriguing discussion of the other major idea behind Inform 7 – the one that isn’t “natural language” programming. The discussion of how to code interactive fiction is one I’ve been mulling over as I continue to work on Curveship. I think providing first-class representations of actions is very helpful in dealing with some of the problems Zarf addresses, although it doesn’t solve everything by itself. And I think that having representations, within actions, of atomic events (such as exerting force on something and thereby touching it) deals with another of the problems that Zarf mentioned. But I’ll have to leave the extended discussion of that for another post.
The First International Conference on Computational Creativity will be taking place in Portugal on January 7-9 2010. ICCC-X will follow on a decade of smaller-scale workshops and symposia. The call for papers lists the deadline of September 26 (extended 5 days) for papers, and promises:
The conference will include traditional paper presentations, will showcase the application of computational creativity to the sciences, creative industries and arts, and will incorporate a “show and tell” session, which will be devoted to demonstrations of computational systems exhibiting behaviour which would be deemed creative in humans.
Note also that contributions are solicited in several areas, including “specific applications to music, language and the arts, to architecture and design, to scientific discovery, to education and to entertainment.”
Chris Klimas, the hypertext and IF author who runs Gimcrack’d, has just released free versions of Twine for Mac and Windows, along with documentation and several screencasts that explain how the system works and a command-line tool, called “twee,” for working with stories in Twine’s format. Twine is a system for constructing interactive stories using a visual map, not unlike Eastgate Systems’ Storyspace. While it lacks the august heritage of that piece of software, Twine is freely available and free to use for any purpose, even commercially.
When Twine build a story for publication or for the author’s examination, it does this in HTML/CSS. That means that readers won’t need any special software to explore stories written in Twine. Lots of text formatting can be done without getting into HTML and CSS, although authors are welcome to get into it as deeply as they like. The system supports some sophisticated presentation capabilities, including a stretchtext mode. It’s not quite a guard field, but the “choice” macro locks off certain options when others have been taken. Under the hood of Twine is TiddlyWiki, a personal Wiki took for the Web. This handy personal notebook system has been reshaped for interactive narrative rather than productivity, though, and pretty thoughtfully.
Having just started up Twine and fiddled with it a bit, I’m impressed at how easy it is to use, even if one doesn’t read the documentation or watch the screencasts first. It seemed at first that there would be no way link two different occurrences of a word to two different texts, but after a quick bit of reading I was able to figure out how to change [[word]] to [[word|word2]] in one place and give one of the links a different internal name. I’m looking forward to using Twine (and probably twee) further. It could be useful for doing a small project – perhaps a collaboration? – and it might work well as an option for students, too.