Interacting with the Text

The classic IF interface is command-based textual feedback loop. The computer displays a few lines or paragraphs of text; the interactor types a command; the computer describes what happens next.

While a hypertext short story involves some degree of interaction from the reader, who clicks on one of the links that the author has provided, and thus moves the narrative to another chunk of text. But text-based IF actually requires the interactor to write part of the narrative.

Talented IF authors, who predict a wide range of reader responses to a given situation, can create the illusion of a great deal of almost infinite freedom, within the confines of a finite computer program. IF stories typically have a single "optimal" end, which makes a wide range of actions lead simply to narrative dead ends (e.g. "You have died"); nevertheless, exploration, experimentation, and interaction with believable characters fills in the gaps while the plot is stalled.

"Adventure" transcript 1-0

Welcome to Adventure!


The Interactive Original
By Will Crowther (1973) and Don Woods (1977)

Reconstructed in three steps by:
Donald Ekman, David M. Baggett (1993) and Graham Nelson (1994)
[In memoriam Stephen Bishop (1820?-1857): GN]
Release 5 / Serial number 961209 / Inform v6.05 Library 6/2
Standard interpreter 1.0

At End Of Road

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.


Many people who are new to IF report feeling disoriented and frustrated. They look for a menu from which to choose an action, or row of icons on which to click. "What am I supposed to do?" they ask, seeing only a few lines of text and a blinking cursor.

Classic IF involves solving puzzles through exploration and experimentation.

IF was born in the mid 70s. Anybody who used a computer at all back then was probably a full-time computer expert (or else a devoted hobbyist). To these technically-minded people, it was a simple matter to memorize the commands necessary to get their work done (such as the DOS command "mv *.txt ../backup" ). If they couldn't remember a particular command, they might hack away, trying variations of commands that worked before, and studying the computer's error messages for clues.  The interface -- which seems so alien to many who rely upon a mouse and pointer -- was already very familiar to the original users.

Dennis G. Jerz
2000 -- first posted
18 Feb 2002 -- last modified