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I See No [X] Here!
by The Phantom Websurfer
©2004 Bard and Cubist -- all rights reserved

The title of this installment of Random Access is a reference to 'interactive fiction', IF for short, also known as 'text adventures'. IF is a particular kind of computer game. The idea is that the machine describes a situation; you type in commands (stuff like 'take key', 'examine birdcage', 'give bronze sword to dwarf', etc) which tell the machine how you're responding to that situation; the machine describes how the situation has changed as a result of your command. As you might have expected, getting a computer to comprehend standard English and formulate sensible replies is a non-trivial problem. IF games tend to solve it, in part, by explicitly dealing with a limited subset of the language, and providing generic "eh? huh?"-type replies for everything else. Such as You can't do that for any verb the machine doesn't recognize, or I see no [name of object] here when you want a closer look at any noun the machine doesn't recognize. The worst examples of IF are ghastly, but the best can provide an entertainment experience not achievable through any other medium.

A maze of twisty little passages, all alike

Baf's Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive gets top marks for truth in labeling. This site is an archive of virtually all works of IF written in the last several years, a large percentage of which have reviews, quality ratings, and difficulty ratings. All of the archived items can be downloaded legitimately. You can search the archive by author (i.e., who wrote whichever IF game), by publisher (when applicable), by genre, by either flavor of rating, and by title. In addition, there are some helpful links to other IF-related resources on the net. Note that while a number of IF games do have transformation content, the Guide doesn't provide any convenient, standardized way of identifying them -- you'll just have to read the reviews, or perhaps try them and see.

The name of this site, once again, is Baf's Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive.

Which waters do you mean?

This one is a bit of a spoof. It's ostensibly the transcript of an IF game session... but the IF game in question doesn't actually exist! What it really is, is a well-known story translated from its original format into the IF idiom. Familiarity with IF is helpful, but it's funny enough for IF newbies just because.

Wonder and marvel at The Creation.

If you know of any sites whose subject matter renders them suitable for inclusion in TSAT, send us the URL!

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