Adventure Games and Interactive Fiction

Parser vs. Hypertext: Two Implementations of "Cloak of Darkness"

by Gamefic on October 20, 2014

Last week I updated the Gamefic repo with an SDK that can compile game code into pure JavaScript. There's a standard API that provides functions for sending player commands and receiving game data. Developers can use HTML and CSS to customize the game interface. As an experiment, I used the SDK to compile two versions of Cloak of Darkness. One uses a traditional parser-based interface. The other has a graphical interface that works completely through point-and-click. The world model and solution are functionally the same.

The graphical version required about ten additional lines of core game code. Most of the heavy lifting is managed by the multimedia and hypertext libraries, which are available as imports. There are a few more lines to assign images to entities. The rest of the differences are handled on the interface side in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I'm curious to see how feasible it is to build more ambitious point-and-click games that use a traditional parser-based game's world model and rules. One issue is how to present every necessary hypertext command without telegraphing the solution to a puzzle. The Cloak of Darkness example resolves it by hiding a crucial command behind two interface layers: you have to check your inventory to see your cloak, and you have to examine the cloak before you can drop it. This could be sufficient for a lot of basic puzzles that involve object manipulation. For puzzles that require creativity or abstract thought, a link that explicitly describes the solution might take a lot of the fun out of it.

Of course, there's a rich history of point-and-click adventures from which to draw inspiration. LucasArts, Sierra, Twine, and Choice of Games are just a small sample.

So here are some of the questions I'm pondering. How much value is there in building point-and-click interfaces for traditional text adventures? What are some interesting ways to present puzzles in hypertext? In a point-and-click game, does a traditional adventure's interactive world model provide benefits, or would most people prefer CYOA-style branching narratives?