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>VERBOSE -- Interactive Fiction
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Earth And Sky
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Competition Game Reviews
IF Essays

Once upon a time, back in the mid-to-late 1970s, Fiction Writing met Game Programming. A torrid affair ensued, and the blessed child of this union was Interactive Fiction. Of course, it would only come to be called Interactive Fiction (or IF, to its devotees) after it had matured a bit. Before that, it was called the text adventure. It began its life on university and government mainframes in the shape of an addictive, immersive game variously called Adventure or Colossal Cave. It soon found its way into the burgeoning personal computer market of its day, thanks to the tireless efforts of a company called Infocom. Infocom had a glorious heyday all throughout the 80s, only to crash at the end of the decade due to an ill-advised attempt at entering the business software market. However, the mid-90s saw an amazing IF Renaissance, thanks to the power of the Internet. (A wonderful irony of this is that Willie Crowther, the co-author of Colossal Cave, was also part of the team that helped build the ARPANet, precursor to today's Internet.)

The new wave of IF is centered in the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction, and that's about where I come into the picture. I was an avid Infocom gamer in my teens, and discovered the IF renaissance during grad school ('round about 1994.) Since that time, I've created four games, written dozens of reviews, and taken on the mantle of editorship at an IF-centered webzine. It's become one of my hobbies and one of my passions, and I'm proud to call myself a member of the Internet IF community. On this page, you can find information about my games, archives of all my reviews, and lots of interesting links. If you're a newcomer to IF and want to know more than the cursory outline I've given above, try Stephen Granade's Brass Lantern site for lots and lots of general info and links, and Emily Short's Recommended Playing List for a rundown of games generally considered to be good.

Oh, and why ">VERBOSE"? Well, the ">" is the standard IF prompt. As for "VERBOSE", it not only describes my writing style (as you've no doubt noticed by now), it's the first command I type in any piece of IF.

My Works

My latest IF work is a series of games that pay tribute to the Marvel superheroes I've loved all my life. The first, an 8th place finisher in the 2001 IF Competition, is called Earth And Sky, and the second one, which actually won the 2002 Comp, is helpfully dubbed Another Earth, Another Sky. The final episode is Luminous Horizon, which won the 2004 comp, but which I haven't gotten around to creating a page for yet. Sorry!

In March of 2000 I released a game called LASH. It's a major work of interactive fiction, and it was almost two years in the making. I encourage you to download it (or play it on this site, if you've got a Java-enabled browser) and tell me what you think!

The first game I ever wrote was a short fantasy game entitled Wearing the Claw. It concerns a young protagonist's quest to defeat a slowly advancing curse, and it won 8th place in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition.


SPAG stands for the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games, but it's not really a society as much as it is a webzine. The zine was named and founded by Kevin Wilson, and I edited it for six years (1999-2005). The current editor is the esteemed Jimmy Maher. Each issue features loads of reviews of interactive fiction, as well as news, interviews, and lots more.

The SPAG website also features archives of all SPAG reviews (with links to the games they discuss), every back issue of SPAG, and the SPAG FAQ. It's enough to keep any interactive fiction aficionado in bliss for days.

Competition Game Reviews

"His reviews are often better than the games they're about." -- Stephen Granade

One salient feature of the new wave in IF is the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, now in its eighth year. Competition games are usually short works, which gives authors the ability to stretch and experiment with the form. The competition has seen an incredibly wide variety of works as a result.

One thing I did for nine years is try to provide substantive feedback for competition authors in the form of reviews. Below is a list of the games I've reviewed -- click on the game's title to read the review. Note that although for voting purposes competition games are rated on an integer scale of 1 to 10, I've taken the ratings out to one decimal place for a little finer calibration.

I've linked the game title in each review header to the appropriate directory at the IF-Archive. If you're unfamiliar with IF file formats, you might take a look at Stephen Griffiths' FAQ on the subject. Also, if you're having trouble downloading these files with a web browser, remember to right-click on the file name to download it in binary format -- browsers don't typically recognize IF file types.

Finally, just for fun I've compiled a couple of plaintext listings of the competition games ordered according to the scores I gave them. One listing separates the games by year, while the other lumps them all together.

The only competition games missing from these listings should be:

  • The 1995 competition games, about which I didn't write reviews.
  • My own games Wearing the Claw, Earth And Sky, Another Earth, Another Sky, and Luminous Horizon, about which I can't be objective.
  • The excellent games Mother Loose and All Roads, for which I was a beta-tester.
  • The 1996 game Promoted!, which required the OS/2 operating system to run.
  • The 2000 games Infil-Traitor and Happy Ever After, which had known bugs that required recompilation before the games were viable.
  • The 2001 game Begegnung Am Fluss, which was in German.
  • Games written by newsgroup trolls (defined by me as people who have made multiple, unprovoked, personal attacks on newsgroup regulars), which I don't have the ability or inclination to review fairly.
  • Games from 2005 or later -- after my son was born I lost the time that used to go into these reviews.

2004 Competition Game Reviews
All Things Devours Toby Ord 9.0
Bellclap Tommy Herbert 7.8
The Big Scoop Johan Berntsson 8.7
Blink Ian Waddell 5.5
Blue Chairs Chris Klimas 9.5
Blue Sky Hans Fugal 4.1
Chronicle Play Torn Algol 4.4
A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero David Whyld 6.5
Getting Back To Sleep Patrick Evans 3.2
Goose, Egg, Badger Brian Rapp 8.8
The Great Xavio Reese Warner 6.7
I Must Play Geoff Fortytwo 7.3
Identity Dave Bernazzani 7.8
Kurusu City Kevin Venzke 7.2
A Light's Tale vbnz 4.7
Magocracy A. Joseph Rheaume 8.3
Mingsheng Deane Saunders 8.3
Murder at the Aero Club Penny Wyatt 6.0
Ninja v1.30 Paul Allen Panks 2.4
Order John Evans 4.9
The Orion Agenda Ryan Weisenberger 8.4
PTBAD 3 Xorax 2.9
The Realm Michael Sheldon 6.3
Redeye John Pitchers 4.0
Ruined Robots Nicholas, Natasha, and Gregory Dudek 1.0
Splashdown Paul J. Furio 8.0
Square Circle Eric Eve 8.1
Stack Overflow Timofei Shatrov 1.0
Sting Of The Wasp Jason Devlin 8.5
Trading Punches Sidney Merk 9.2
Typo Peter Seebach and Kevin Lynn 7.2
Who Created That Monster? N.B. Horvath 4.6
Zero One Edward Plant 2.8

2003 Competition Game Reviews
Adoo's Stinky Story B. Perry 6.8
The Adventures Of The President Of The United States Mikko Vuorinen 7.5
Amnesia crazydwarf 1.6
The Atomic Heart Stefan Blixt 4.4
Baluthar Chris Molloy Wischer 6.7
Bio David Linder 3.5
Caffeination Michael Loegering 5.5
Cerulean Stowaway Roger Descheneaux 7.0
Curse Of Manorland James King 2.0
Domicile John Evans 1.0
Episode In The Life Of An Artist Peter Eastman 8.4
The Erudition Chamber Daniel Freas 7.9
The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky Somebody 1.8
Gourmet Aaron A. Reed 6.2
Hercules' First Labor Bob Brown 3.7
Internal Documents Tom Lechner 5.3
Little Girl In The Big World Peter Wendrich 2.6
No Room Ben Heaton 6.2
A Paper Moon Andrew Krywaniuk 6.2
Rape, Pillage, Galore! Kristian Kirsfeldt 1.4
The Recruit Mike Sousa (with Robb Sherwin, Jon Ingold, and J.D. Berry) 9.3
Risorgimento Represso Michael Coyne 3.2
Sardoria Anssi Raisanen 5.3
Scavenger Quintin Stone 9.1
Shadows On The Mirror Chrysoula Tzavelas 8.0
Slouching Towards Bedlam Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto 9.6
Sophie's Adventure David Whyld 3.0
Sweet Dreams Papillon 8.2
Temple Of Kaos Peter Gambles 6.5

2002 Competition Game Reviews
Augustine Terrence V. Koch 7.4
Blade Sentinel Mihalis Georgostathis 1.0
BOFH Howard Sherman 3.4
The Case Of Samuel Gregor Stephen Hildebrand 3.7
Coffee Quest II Anonymous 3.1
Color and Number Steven Kollmansberger 6.7
Concrete Paradise Tyson Ibele 3.6
Constraints Martin Bays 9.3
Eric's Gift Joao Mendes 5.4
Evacuate Jeff Rissman 7.9
Fort Aegea Francesco Bova 8.5
Four Mile Island Chris Charla 4.1
The Granite Book James Mitchelhill 4.8
Hell: A Comedy Of Errors John Evans 1.0
Identity Thief Rob Shaw-Fuller 8.8
Jane Joseph Grzesiak 6.5
Janitor Kevin Lynn and Peter Seebach 8.2
Koan Esa Peuha 3.0
Moonbase Mike Eckardt 5.0
The Moonlit Tower Yoon Ha Lee 9.3
MythTale Temari Seikaiha 6.3
Not Much Time Tyson Ibele 5.6
Out Of the Study Anssi Raisanen 7.0
A Party To Murder David Good 4.6
Photograph Steve Evans 9.2
The PK Girl Robert Goodwin 8.4
Ramon and Jonathan Daniele A. Gewurz 4.3
Rent-a-Spy John Eriksson 6.1
Scary House Amulet! Ricardo Dague 6.4
Screen Edward Floren 8.0
Sun And Moon David Brain 7.3
The Temple Johan Berntsson 6.8
Terrible Lizards Alan and Ian Mead 2.3
Till Death Makes A Monk-fish Out Of Me! Jon Ingold and Mike Sousa 9.8
TOOKiE'S SONG Jessica Knoch 8.7
Unraveling God Todd Watson 6.9
When Help Collides! J.D. Berry 9.4

2001 Competition Game Reviews
an apple from nowhere Brendan Barnwell 7.1
Bane Of The Builders Bogdan Baliuc 5.2
The Beetmonger's Journal Scott Starkey 8.8
Best Of Three Emily Short 8.8
Carma Marnie Parker 8.9
The Cave Of Morpheus Mark Silcox 4.5
The Chasing Anssi Raisanen 7.7
The Coast House Stephen Newton and Dan Newton 7.2
Colours J. Robinson Wheeler 6.5
The Cruise Norman Perlmutter 3.8
Crusade John Gorenfeld 6.5
Elements John Evans 3.6
The Evil Sorcerer Gren Remoz 5.3
Film At Eleven Bowen Greenwood 8.9
Fine-Tuned Dennis Jerz 1.0
Fusillade Mike Duncan 5.8
Goofy Ricardo Dague 5.0
The Gostak Carl Muckenhoupt 8.1
Greyscale Daniel Freas 4.3
Heroes Sean Barrett 9.4
Invasion of the Angora-Fetish Transvestites From the Graveyards of Jupiter Morten Rasmussen 1.8
The Isolato Incident Alan DeNiro 7.5
Journey From An Islet Mario Bencroft 5.3
Jump Chris Mudd 3.1
Kallisti James Mitchelhill 6.7
The Last Just Cause Jeremy Carey-Dressler 2.4
Lovesong Mihalis "DarkAng3l" Georgostathis 2.1
Moments Out Of Time L. Ross Raszewski 5.6
Mystery Manor Mystery 2.3
The Newcomer Jason Love 1.4
A Night Guest Valentine Kopteltsev 5.3
No Time To Squeal Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin 7.4
Prized Possession Kathleen M. Fischer 6.9
Schroedinger's Cat James Willson 3.8
Shattered Memory Akbarr 4.6
Silicon Castles David Given 7.2
Stick It To The Man Brendan Barnwell 1.0
Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country Adam Thornton 9.2
Stranded Rich Cummings 5.0
Surreal Matthew Lowe 2.5
The Test Matt, Dark Baron 1.8
Timeout Stephen Hildebrand 3.0
To Otherwhere And Back Greg Ewing 7.1
Triune Papillon 7.7
2112 George K. Algire 6.6
Vicious Cycles Simon Mark 8.6
Volcano Isle Paul DeWitt 4.3
You Are Here Roy Fisher 7.2
You Were Doomed From The Start Jeremy Carey-Dressler 2.5

2000 Competition Game Reviews
Ad Verbum Nick Montfort 8.6
Aftermath Graham Sommerville 3.1
And The Waves Choke The Wind Gunther Schmidl 8.5
Asendent Sourdoh Farenheit and Kelvin Flatbred 0.8
At Wit's End Mike Sousa 8.8
Being Andrew Plotkin J. Robinson Wheeler 9.0
The Best Man Rob Menke 9.3
The Big Mama Brendan Barnwell 7.2
Castle Amnos: The First Legend John Evans 5.7
Clock Cleopatra Kozlowski 3.4
Comp00ter Game Brendan Barnwell 1.1
Cracking The Code Anonymous 1.2
A Crimson Spring Robb Sherwin 6.1
Desert Heat Papillon 5.4
Dinner With Andre Liza Daly 7.6
The Djinni Chronicles J.D. Berry 9.4
The End Means Escape Steve Kodat 7.5
Enlisted Greg Berry 6.7
Escape From Crulistan Alan Smithee 2.1
Futz Mutz Tim Simmons 2.0
Got ID? Marc Valhara 8.6
Guess The Verb! Leonard Richardson 9.7
Jarod's Journey Tim Emmerich 3.4
Kaged Ian Finley 9.6
Letters From Home Roger Firth 8.2
Little Billy Okey Ikeako 2.5
Marooned Bruce Davis 3.6
The Masque Of The Last Faeries Ian R. Ball 5.9
Masquerade Kathleen Fischer 7.3
Metamorphoses Emily Short 9.3
My Angel Jon Ingold 8.6
Nevermore Nate Cull 7.4
On The Other Side Antonio Márquez Marín 3.1
1-2-3... Chris Mudd 2.5
The Pickpocket Alex Weldon 7.8
Planet Of The Infinite Minds Alfredo Garcia 7.3
Prodly The Puffin Craig Timpany and Jim Crawford 2.8
Punk Points Jim Munroe 5.8
Rameses Stephen Bond 8.9
Return To Zork: Another Story Stefano Canelli 3.4
Shade Andrew Plotkin 9.8
Stupid Kittens Pollyanna Huffington 3.8
Threading The Labyrinth Kevin Doughty 6.0
Transfer Tod Levi 8.8
The Trip Cameron Wilkin 6.3
Unnkulia X Valentine Kopteltsev 1.8
What-IF? David Ledgard 1.1
Withdrawal Symptoms Niclas Carlsson 7.5
Wrecked Campbell Wild 4.0
YAGWAD John Kean 8.8

1999 Competition Game Reviews
Beat The Devil Robert M. Camisa 7.5
Bliss Cameron Wilkin 7.2
Calliope Jason McIntosh 6.8
Chaos Shay Caron 6.6
Chicks Dig Jerks Robb Sherwin 1.9
A Day For Soft Food Tod Levi 6.4
Death To My Enemies Jon Blask 2.0
Erehwon Rick Litherland 5.4
Exhibition Ian Finley 9.9
For a Change Dan Schmidt 8.0
Four Seconds Jason Reigstad 2.7
Guard Duty Jason F. Finx 1.2
Halothane Ravi P. Rajkumar 4.6
The HeBGB Horror! Eric Mayer 7.7
Hunter, In Darkness Andrew Plotkin 9.8
Jacks Or Better To Murder, Aces To Win J.D. Berry 7.3
King Arthur's Night Out Mikko Vuorinen 7.2
Life On Beal Street Ian Finley 6.1
Lomalow Brendan Barnwell 5.0
Lunatix: The Insanity Circle Mike Snyder 7.1
Lurk. Unite. Die. Invent. Think. Expire. Rybread Celsius 1.6
A Moment Of Hope Simmon Keith 3.8
Music Education Bill Linney 6.1
On the Farm Lenny Pitts 8.4
Only After Dark Gunther Schmidl 6.3
Outsided Chad Elliott 2.9
Pass The Banana Admiral Jota 2.5
Remembrance Casey Tait 6.7
Six Stories Neil K. Guy 9.3
Skyranch Jack Driscoll 0.9
SNOSAE R. Dale McDaniel 5.0
Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname David Fillmore 5.2
Stone Cell Steve Kodat 5.5
Strangers In The Night Rich Pizor 3.5
Thorfinn's Realm Roy Main and Robert Hall 6.4
The Water Bird Athan Skelley 4.1
Winter Wonderland Laura A. Knauth 8.7

1998 Competition Game Reviews
Acid Whiplash Rybread Celsius and Cody Sandifer 5.2
The Arrival Stephen Granade 9.6
Cattus Atrox David A. Cornelson 3.2
CC Mikko Vuorinen 7.1
The City Sam Barlow 5.5
The Commute Kevin Copeland 2.0
Downtown Tokyo. Present Day. John Kean 7.9
Enlightenment: A One Room Absurdity Taro Ogawa 8.6
Fifteen Ricardo Dague 6.2
Four In One J. Robinson Wheeler 8.7
Human Resources Stories Harry M. Hardjono 2.5
I Didn't Know You Could Yodel Michael R. Eisenman and Andrew J. Indovina 4.0
In The Spotlight John Byrd 5.1
Informatory William J. Shlaer 6.8
Lightiania Gustav Bodell 1.1
Little Blue Men Michael S. Gentry 6.3
MUSE: An Autumn Romance Christopher Huang 9.3
Persistence of Memory Jason Dyer 8.3
Photopia Adam Cadre 9.9
The Plant Michael J. Roberts 9.0
Purple Stefan Blixt 4.1
Research Dig Chris Armitage 6.2
The Ritual of Purification Jarek Sobolewski 6.9
Space Station David Ledgard 6.4
Trapped In A One-Room Dilly Laura A. Knauth 8.5
Where Evil Dwells Paul Johnson and Steve Owens 7.4

1997 Competition Game Reviews
Aunt Nancy's House Nate Schwartzman 2.9
Babel Ian Finley 9.8
A Bear's Night Out David Dyte 8.3
CASK Harry M. Hardjono 3.1
Coming Home Andrew Katz 1.2
Congratulations! Frederick J. Hirsh 3.9
Down Kent Tessman 6.3
E-MAILBOX Jay Goemmer 5.8
The Edifice Lucian Smith 9.2
The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm Und Drang Neil DeMause 7.2
Friday Afternoon Mischa Schweitzer 7.7
Glowgrass Nate Cull 9.4
A Good Breakfast Stuart Adair 5.3
Leaves Mikko Vuorinen 5.6
The Lost Spellmaker Neil James Brown 9.1
Madame L'Estrange and the Troubled Spirit Ian Ball and Marcus Young 7.1
A New Day Jonathan Fry 7.7
The Obscene Quest of Dr. Aardvarkbarf Gary Roggin 6.9
Phred Phontious and the Quest for Pizza Michael Zey 4.2
Pintown Stefan Blixt 1.5
Poor Zefron's Almanac Carl Klutzke 8.0
She's Got A Thing For A Spring Brent VanFossen 8.9
Sins Against Mimesis Adam Thornton 8.3
Sunset Over Savannah Ivan Cockrum 9.6
Sylenius Mysterium C.E. Forman 6.8
Symetry Rybread Celsius 1.4
The Tempest Graham Nelson 9.2
Temple of the Orc Mage Gary Roggin 6.0
The Town Dragon David A. Cornelson 5.4
Travels in the Land of Erden Laura A. Knauth 6.3
Unholy Grail Stuart Allen 7.0
VirtuaTech David Glasser 8.0
Zero Sum Game Cody Sandifer 5.3
Zombie! Scott W. Starkey 7.5

1996 Competition Game Reviews
Aayela Magnus Olsson 7.5
Alien Abduction? Charles Gerlach 7.8
The Curse of Eldor Stuart Allen 2.2
Don't be Late Greg Ewing 4.8
Delusions C.E. Forman 9.8
Fear Chuan-Tze Teo 8.8
The House of the Stalker Jason Clayton White 2.5
In The End Joe Mason 7.4
Kissing the Buddha's Feet Leon Lin 9.4
The Land Beyond the Picket Fence Martin Oehm 6.7
Lists and Lists Andrew Plotkin 8.0
Maiden of the Moonlight Brian P. Dean 8.3
The Meteor, The Stone, And a Long Glass of Sherbet Graham Nelson 9.3
My First Stupid Game Dan McPherson 1.6
Of Forms Unknown Chris Markwyn 1.5
Phlegm Jason Dyer 8.5
Piece of Mind Giles Boutel 5.4
Punkirita Quest One: Liquid Rybread Celsius 1.7
Ralph Miron Schmidt 8.4
Reverberations Russell Glasser 7.9
Rippled Flesh Rybread Celsius 2.0
Small World Andrew Pontious 8.8
Stargazer: An Exercise in Outfitting Jonathan Fry 6.6
Tapestry Dan Ravipinto 9.4

IF Essays

This section is kind of a catch-all spot for things I've written about IF that are neither games nor competition reviews.

Articles and Scribblings

In the spring of 1993, I was in the midst of a Master's Degree program in English Literature at CU-Boulder, taking a class in Literary Theory. At the same time, I had just rediscovered IF via the Lost Treasures of Infocom packages. For my final project in that class, I wrote a paper called Interactive Fiction and Reader-Response Criticism . That paper was missing for quite some time, since it was written on a legacy word processor and I had lost the file anyway. However, I found the hard copy in my recent move and, eager to test out the OCR capabilities of my just-purchased scanner, scanned it in, cleaned it up, and presented it here in text form. Naturally, it's not the paper I would write today, having done much more thinking and acquired much more knowledge about IF since the time I wrote it. However, it still might be interesting to some people out there.

I also wrote an essay for the long-anticipated IF Theory book called Landscape And Character In IF

I wrote an extensive review for the first book-length academic examination of interactive fiction, Nick Montfort's excellent Twisty Little Passages.

I wrote a few IF Haikus that started a fun thread on the newsgroup.


I've been interviewed a few times in various places:

  • InsideADRIFT, a fanzine for users of the ADRIFT IF development system.
  • Terra D'IF , an Italian IF zine.
  • Duncan Stevens interviewed me in SPAG #31. It's rather odd to be interviewed in one's own zine, but SPAG has a tradition of interviewing the top three finishers in the IF comp, and I won that year. However, when I won the next time, SPAG interviewed finishers 2-4.

Non-competition Game Reviews

I'm quite fond of Mark Musante's IF-Review, which is currently the only site that pays for IF reviews. I've reviewed the following games for Mark:

I wrote an advance review for The Act Of Misdirection, a comp-sized game by Callico Harrison released in early 2004.

I've been asked to serve as a judge for a variety of mini-comps:

I've beta-tested some large games, and for a couple of them, I wrote the author a long letter afterwards talking about my reactions. These letters were more or less informal reviews, but I didn't release them as reviews at the time, since there's something less than kosher about a betatester reviewing a game. Now, with the permission of the authors, I'm reprinting those letters here. Please note that they can be rather spoilery.

I've also done some reviews of graphic adventure games, though I never manage to play them until several years after they've been released, which is why I call them "Really Late Reviews." They were originally hosted on Stephen Granade's site when it was a part of About.com.

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This page has been viewed times since June 18, 2000, but tries to keep the whole thing in perspective.

>VERBOSE -- Interactive Fiction / Paul O'Brian / obrian at colorado.edu / Revised April 2006
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