Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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The museum as a text adventure – Inform7 and TourML/TAP

March 2nd, 2012 by Seb Chan

Today I was sitting at WebWise 2012 listening to Rob Stein talk about TAP/TourML and he started talking about games and stories referencing Marc Reidl’s work.

It reminded me a lot of the world of interactive fiction and it got me thinking about whether it would be possible to use TourML to generate text adventures.

And then, whether long established interactive fiction authoring tools like Inform7 (used as the system behind PlayFic) could be used to author gallery tours.

Being of a generation that has fond memories of playing Infocom adventures (I vividly remember my dad buying Zork II for our Commodore 64) – there’s definitely a lot to learn about how this narrative genre works that could equally be applied to the creation and support of visitor narratives.

So I took 20 minutes to whip up a very very basic ‘playable’ text advennture rendering of the conference experience.

Go play it on PlayFic! (It obviously isn’t finished)

Here’s the source code. (contains spoilers!)

The story headline is "Adventures at WebWise". 

The story description is "A quick journey into interactive fiction inspired by Rob Stein's introduction to TAP presentation and his referencing of Marc Reidl. It raised, in my mind, that there are already robust frameworks for quickly generating interactive fiction of the sort that makes the foundation of a mobile tour - so, could TAP use the Inform7 language for advanced authoring?"

The Main Conference Room is a room. "Rows of tables, each with their own powerstrip stretch endlessly toward the speaker podium. Two projection screens show the wifi login details whilst unfashionably out of date pop music plays softly over the speaker system.

On the table nearest you is a conference pack and an abandoned Samsung Galaxy.

The foyer is to the South."

Projection screens are scenery in the Main Conference Room. Speaker system is scenery in the Main Conference Room.

Samsing Galaxy is a thing. The Samsung Galaxy is in the Main Conference Room. The description is "The Samsung Galaxy is turned off. You cannot figure out how to turn it on, and, turning it over, you realise that the battery has been removed. Helpful isn't it?"

Conference Pack is a thing. Conference pack is in the Main Conference Room. The description is  "The conference pack, like all conference packs, is looking for the recycling bin. You notice that the conference schedule has already been removed, leaving only  the wad of promotional materials."

South of the Main Conference Room is the Foyer. 

The Foyer is a room."The foyer is empty.

Lukewarm coffee drips from a boiler but there are no cups nearby. The crumbs of food that used to be here litter the floor. Obviously these places don't pay their venue staff very well. A faint waft of perfume comes from the East."

East of the Foyer is the Lifts.

Lifts is a room. "As you enter the lift lobby you notice the furthest-most door has just closed.

The whirring of motors comes from behind closed lift doors. 

Strangely, there are no lift buttons and the concierge must have gone on a break."

That doesn’t look like source code does it?

Doesn’t it look exactly like the sort of language that museum educators and curators coud quickly learn and write?

Tags:   · · 9 Comments

  • http://twitter.com/sebchan sebchan

    I’ve updated the game to add a few more rooms and a few more in jokes. Thus the source code has changed – but you get the idea.

  • http://waxy.org/ Andy Baio

    So awesome. Exactly the kind of mad experimentation I was hoping people would do with Playfic.

  • http://waxy.org/ Andy Baio

    So awesome. Exactly the kind of mad experimentation I was hoping people would do with Playfic.

  • Jonathan O’Donnell

    Love the new header graphic!

    PlayFic looks awesome.

  • http://museumbeyond.com/ Greg Landgraf

    Cool idea. Let me add that even Inform 6 was not super super hard — I made a full playable game with puzzles and everything a few years back with nothing more than a year of Java-level programming experience. While not exactly easy, it’s well within the realm of available or acquirable skills.

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  • seema

    so, how many museums took you up on interactive fiction over the last year? I am having trouble finding others who are playing around with this.

    • http://www.sebchan.com Seb Chan

      Barely any that I know of. But I do know that a fair number of folks had fun with Inform7 and rekindled their childhood memories of Zork etc.