Texty Cloak of Darkness in Prose

Below is a snippet from “Texty Cloak of Darkness,” which aims to use prose conventions to emulate game-state changes and alternate endings (in a medium designed to be linear).

Since our encounter, such as it is, has already begun, it may as well happen in a place.

The foyer of the opera house is where the game begins. This empty room has doors to the south and west, also an unusable exit to the north.

Naturally, you try going north.

“Texty Cloak of Darkness” is based on the “Cloak of Darkness” specification – a very simple pattern, designed to help programmers compare the strengths and weaknesses of various coding environments.

“Cloak of Darkness” is not going to win prizes for its prose, imagination or subtlety. Or scope: it can be played to a successful conclusion in five or six moves, so it’s not going to keep you guessing for long. (On the other hand, it may qualify as the most widely-available game in the history of the genre.) There are just three rooms and three objects.

  • The Foyer of the Opera House is where the game begins. This empty room has doors to the south and west, also an unusable exit to the north. There is nobody else around.
  • The Bar lies south of the Foyer, and is initially unlit. Trying to do anything other than return northwards results in a warning message about disturbing things in the dark.
  • On the wall of the Cloakroom, to the west of the Foyer, is fixed a small brass hook.
  • Taking an inventory of possessions reveals that the player is wearing a black velvet cloak which, upon examination, is found to be light-absorbent. The player can drop the cloak on the floor of the Cloakroom or, better, put it on the hook.
  • Returning to the Bar without the cloak reveals that the room is now lit. A message is scratched in the sawdust on the floor.
  • The message reads either “You have won” or “You have lost”, depending on how much it was disturbed by the player while the room was dark.
  • The act of reading the message ends the game.

And that’s all there is to it… Cloak of Darkness – getting started in IF.

Below is the full “Texty Cloak of Darkness,” which aims to use prose conventions to emulate game-state changes and alternate endings (in a medium designed to be linear).

Since our encounter, such as it is, has already begun, it may as well happen in a place.

The foyer of the opera house is where the game begins. This empty room has doors to the south and west, also an unusable exit to the north.

Naturally, you try going north.

Perhaps you expect, as soon as you touch the handle, to feel the door shudder, as a dark shadow just visible through the stained glass panels bolts the door from the other side. Perhaps you expect hear some cryptically intriguing taunt from the other side of it, or be able to plead with your tormentor through a keyhole, or find a some note slipped under the door. But instead, alas, you only confirm that the exit is unusable.

From force of habit, you try unlocking the door, which might make sense if you were carrying a key, which you aren’t. In fact, all you have is your cloak.

You try examining the door. Breaking the door. Caressing the door. Cursing the door. But in the end, all you learn is that the exit to the north is unusable, which is what I told you from the start.

Why did you doubt me? Are we not together, and is that not something?

There is nobody else around.

You may as well go south.

The bar lies south of the foyer, and is unlit.

In the darkness, you feel your feet walking through something soft, releasing the smell of fresh sawdust. A redecoration project? Human kitty litter, janitor pixie-dust, to facilitate the cleanup of spills of all sorts?

You cast your eyes about the room, but learn nothing.

Surely, the light spilling in from the foyer ought to be yield some details. Long after your eyes should have adjusted, you see only that the bar is unlit.

And yet I am here, with a message for you.

Anything you do, anything but stumbling back the way you came, sends your body (temple pounding, head reeling, skin tingling) a warning about disturbing things in the dark.

The door to the north isn’t worth another glance.

There’s nowhere to go but through the door to the west.

A cloakroom. Just enough light spills through from the lobby to reveal a small brass hook on the wall.

You find your hands stroking the velvet of your cloak. A quick glance confirms a suspicion. It’s darker than it should be. When you examine it closely, and remove it to hold it up to the light, the shadows seem to darken.

The cloak starts to slip from your hands to the ground, but the hook — in this stark environment, so like that one monochrome rock so prominent against the watercolor background of a Warner Brothers cartoon — affords an obvious alternative.

With the cloak hanging on the hook, with yourself unburdened of the cloak of darkness, the north door would surely still be unusable. (What would you expect?)

But that darkness in the bar, so strangely specific in this stark environment, where you do not know that I wait.

The bar is now lit. You will see a message scratched in the sawdust on the floor.

The message will read “You have won,” and our story will end.

* * *

Back in the opera house, with the same doors to the south and west, and the same unusable exit to the north, I will dash south, stumbling in the darkness.

The darkness! Of course, the cloak.

I will tear it off, the cloak of darkness, and throw it to the ground, stumbling in the sawdust, heedless of the warning about disturbing things in the dark.

I will have to pick up the cloak, first trying to drop it in the foyer, then remembering the hook — of course. I will lurch into the cloakroom, throw down the cloak, and dash back into the bar.

Now the bar will be lit, and you will be there, because of course you were always there, in the dark.

This time, you will say only, “You have lost.”