Key & Compass Blog

July 9, 2021

New walkthroughs for July 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — davidwelbourn @ 11:49 am

On Friday, July 9, 2021, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below and at IFDB! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works of interactive fiction at Patreon and Ko-fi.

(Yes, this is much earlier in the month than usual. I’m moving at the end of the month, and I don’t even have a new place to move to yet, so I wanted to get the month’s batch of walkthroughs out as early as I could so I’d have the rest of the month free for home-hunting and box-packing. Hopefully, I’ll find a new place and get back up and running without too much of a break, but it’s also possible I’ll fall off the grid and won’t be anywhere for a while. Wish me luck!)

Grooverland (2021) by Mathbrush

In this large fantasy puzzle game based on the works of Chandler Groover, you play as Lily Lee. It’s your 11th birthday and you’re the Queen of Grooverland for a day! The amusement park has set up several surprises just for you, and they’ve also given you a quest: find all the pieces of your regalia before sunset for your coronation in the Queen’s Castle. The Mirrored Queen and the Scarlet Empress are waiting for you.

This game was an entry in ParserComp 2021 where it took NTH place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and maps

The Planet of the Infinite Minds (2000) by Alfredo Garcia

In this whimsical puzzlefest where science is magic, you play as a librarian leaving the funfair. There, a gypsy girl tells you a crackpot story about you both being Jah-cuez-ah, or the Infinite Minds, aliens who can do anything. But after an unconvincing demonstration of her power, she leaves and locks you inside her caravan! Bother. This is going to be an adventure, isn’t it?

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2000 where it took 19th place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and maps

Jon Doe – Wildcard Nucleus (2019) by Olaf Nowacki

In this homage to James Bond, you play as Jon Doe, an MI5 operative. Your new assignment is to investigate the suspicious death of Edulard, an elderly scientist at Wildcard Inc and a secret informant. Your leads are the scarred and monocle-wearing Adolf von Bolzplatz, who is Wildcard’s CEO, and Edulard’s beautiful daughter, Valerie, who is engaged to Bolzplatz.

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2019 where it tied for 51st place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and maps

Martha’s Big Date (2008) by Mary Potts

This game is based on a fanfiction series written for Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. You play as Martha Jeraldine Kent, teenaged daughter of Superman, and you need to get ready for your big date with Troy.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Charming (2018) by Kaylah Facey

In this game, you play as a young witch practicing for her coming of age test in the Pentacle Chamber. Unfortunately, your ventus spell became a tornado and smashed up most of the room! How can you, the worst witch in West Witchington, fix the mess — and learn the required spells for the test — before midnight?

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2018 where it took 24th place. At the 2018 XYZZY Awards, it was a finalist in the Best Individual NPC category (for Arthur the cat).

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

In The House of Professor Evil: The HAM HOUSE (2006-2008) by S. John Ross

In this small silly game, you play as someone who wants to escape the house of Professor Evil, who now lies dead on the floor. He planned to make a ham rule the universe, but forget about him. You crave ham. How long has it been since you ate a really good ham?

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

A Pilgrim (2020) by Caleb Wilson (as “Abandoned Pools”)

In this tiny spooky game, you play as Absalome Pilcrow, an ancient of Panzitoum. You’re exhausted from a long day of walking and stop in a grove of poison pine. Perhaps you can sleep in the low building just off the path to the north.

This story was entered in the La Petite Mort English division of Ectocomp 2020 where it took 2nd place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

A Quiet Evening at Home (2010) by Ruth Alfasso (writing as Anonymous)

In this slice of life, you play as a homeowner returning home after a day of work. You have an urgent need to use the bathroom at first, but the rest of your evening is more relaxing. Exercise your hamster, make dinner, take out the trash, play with your laptop, then go to bed.

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2010 where it took 25th place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Journey from an Islet (2001) by Mario Becroft

In this small game, you play as an adventurer. You have traveled long and far and have now fallen onto an island in the darkness before dawn. How will you escape from there and continue your journey?

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2001 where it took 12th place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

June 28, 2021

New walkthroughs for June 2021

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — Tags: , — davidwelbourn @ 2:31 pm

On Thursday June 24, 2021, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below and at IFDB! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works of interactive fiction at Patreon and Ko-fi.

The Impossible Bottle (2020) by Linus Åkesson

In this amusing but very puzzling game, you play as 6-year-old Emma Small. Dad’s making dinner and wants you to pick up your toys and find some things for the table before the Taylors arrive. But when you go to fetch the tablecloth, you instead find a handkerchief. What’s going on?

This game was written in Dialog and was an entry in IF Comp 2020 where it tied for 1st place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Poppet (2019) by Bitter Karella

In this fantasy game, you play as a rag doll named Poppet. You wake in absolute darkness which alarms you. You should be in Polly’s bed, ready to protect her, and you should never have slept. And you soon discover the house is in a severe state of decay. What happened? Where is Polly and her family? How long did you sleep?

This game was written in Quest and was an entry in IF Comp 2019 where it took 9th place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

An Escape to Remember (2006) by the IF Whispers Team

In this multi-authored game, you play as an secret agent of some sort, holed up in this hotel suite for weeks, hoping that Maurice’s insider is for real. Then you hear the signal: a gong ringing three times. It’s time to move.

This game was created for IF Whispers 2 and is a collaborative ‘Chinese Whispers’ a.k.a. ‘Telephone’ style interactive fiction piece, written in Inform 7 by fourteen authors each of whom only saw the preceding section of the the game.

IFDB | My walkthrough and maps

Stuff of Legend (2020) by Lance Campbell

In this pleasant comedy, you play as Ichabod Stuff, and after a very bad day, you are now the former village idiot of Swineford. Dejected, you walk home to the Jackson farm. You need to find a new job. After discussing some ideas with Annabelle, you decide to become a knight.

This game was an entry in IF Comp 2020 where it tied for 8th place.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Mean Mother Trucker (2021) by Bitter Karella

In this comedic classic puzzlefest, you play as “Big Ester” Gruberman, a mean mother trucker. You’ve parked your truck in Desecration, Nevada, the last stop north of The Devil’s Taint, an infamous highway that snakes through the treacherous Spiketop Mountains. But before you make that dangerous run, there’s someone here you need to see.

This game was an entry in the Main Festival of Spring Thing 2021 where it was awarded three Audience Choice ribbons: Funniest, Best LGBT Characters, and Best Classic Puzzlefest.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

So I Was Short Of Cash And Took On A Quest (2021) by Anssi Räisänen

In this short game, you play as a new secret agent who, lured by the promise of easy money, agreed to deliver a very confidential envelope to someone in an upper-class house. So far, you’ve snuck into the kitchen via a side window. You don’t know who you’re looking for, but you were told further instructions can be found inside the house.

This game was a participant in the Back Garden division of Spring Thing 2021 where it was awarded two Audience Choice ribbons: Best-Smelling Chicken and Most Fun.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Take the Dog Out (2021) by Ell

In this short slice-of-life game, you play as a young woman in her home. You need to take your dog, Muffin, for a walk in the park. Now where did you put her leash?

This game was entered in the Main Festival division of Spring Thing 2021 where it was awarded three Audience Choice ribbons: Best Lil Fluffy Wuffy Dog, Most Lighthearted Game, and Best Short Game.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

Quite Queer Night Near (2019) by Andrew Schultz

In this small surreal wordplay game, you play as someone who foolishly ate some Far Fight Marmite and, as a result, you were carried away to a Blight Blear Bight Bier. It’s really scary! Craft alliterative phrases that rhyme with other alliterative phrases to win your way back to safety and sensibility.

This game was an entry in the La Petite Mort English division of Ectocomp 2019 where it took 8th place. It’s also a sequel of sorts to Very Vile Fairy File which uses the same sort of wordplay.

IFDB | My walkthrough and map

September 20, 2020

The Thinger Project

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — Tags: , — davidwelbourn @ 12:24 pm

Goodness, I haven’t posted here in two years? I’m just not very good at keeping a blog, am I? I think it’s partly my being busy with other stuff, partly not knowing what to say, and partly never really getting comfortable with blogware. WordPress is always going to be a stranger to me. Sorry about that.

There are other things I want to talk about, but this post is about my Thinger project, which is a spin-off from my Responser project.

As you might know, my Responser project began as just a webpage where I collected responses to the magic word XYZZY in interactive fiction games. Curious readers wanted to see responses to PLUGH and PLOVER as well, so I made those pages too, and then I got curious myself about other commands like SING and PRAY which tend to be used in similar ways.

I’ve also, over the years, attempted to catalog status line styles, classify room names, track which games used which extensions, compare how things are coded differently in various authoring systems, and other esoteric ways of looking at or dissecting IF. So I suppose a project where I collect object descriptions was inevitable.

So, yes, Thinger is about the responses in works of IF where you EXAMINE something. It’s utterly ridiculously time-consuming to find and extract these text segments in the first place, but it also becomes less clear as I get more data on how to organize and present the data. It’s a work-in-progress, y’know?

You can visit at any time to view the current status of the project. There’s quite a few categories of objects to look at now, and I’m always adding both more categories and more examples. I also have a small handful of super-categories for organizing the categories themselves. I recently implemented a way for a category to belong to more than one super-category; for example: pianos are listed under both fixtures and musical instruments.

For the most part, Thinger is heavily biased towards sampling works of IF that I’ve also written walkthroughs for. It’s just a lot simpler for me to work with those works, and believe me, that’s already a large (and growing) corpus to keep me busy.

And what’s the point of the Thinger project? I really don’t know. I find the mix of viewpoints side-by-side fascinating. Like, you look at a ladder. What does the author feel they need to tell you about it? What the ladder’s made of? How long it is? How sturdy or safe it is? Where it leads to? Or is there something else that needs to be said? Or perhaps we don’t care and it’s just a generic ladder. Right now, Thinger is just a curious museum of oddities and mundane-ities.

I think, though, at some point, I will want to start analyzing what sorts of information is conveyed by descriptions, and which sorts of info are associated with specific objects. For example, an author might feel it’s relevant to say who owns a goblet or a bed, but not who owns a boulder. And maybe I’ll try my hand at a description generator tool someday. But when will I have the time to do that? How do I have the time to do any of this?

I’m babbling. Time to stop the post here. Thanks for reading.

August 26, 2018

Code Compare page update

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — davidwelbourn @ 8:26 am

Hey. I’ve finally got around to updating my page called Code Compare: a comparison of interactive fiction authoring systems, which is one of my more obscure side projects in IF territory. Uh, and by updating, I mean I’ve reformatted the entire page into something far simpler to read from the bizarre mess it was originally in. Now it looks like a series of short wiki articles. It’s much better now.

Unfortunately, the page is still woefully out of date as far as raw information goes. I started the page before Inform 7 was even invented, so there’s precious little here about it. And I’ve got nothing about ADRIFT, ALAN 3, Quest, Twine, or Javascript yet either. So much to research!

But not now. Reformatting this page took over a week to do (the original format really was an unholy mess) and I really really must get back to publishing more walkthroughs (did you know I have a Patreon?) and playing the recent Introcomp 2018 entries.

July 9, 2017

Scans! Scans! Scans!

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — davidwelbourn @ 3:18 am


So, remember this image from GET LAMP by Jason Scott where I’m, like, holding all these binders of IF notes? Were any of you curious what all they could possibly contain? Well, I’m going to do my best to try to let you all see ’em all, if you want to.

Now that I have a scanner (which is already complaining of all the work I’m forcing it to do), I am compiling an index of my handwritten IF notes at You’ll get to see my penmanship from literally decades of IF playing. Written on whatever piece of paper was closest to me at the time. It’ll be like opening a time capsule or something. Explore the weird civilization that is me.

New game: Four Days of Summer

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — davidwelbourn @ 2:52 am

Small cover

I recently ran something called Speed-IF Potato Peeler on ifMud, and for it, I actually managed to write my first new game in ages: Four Days of Summer. It’s also my first published game in Inform 7. It’s a very silly game with 8 locations and I shamelessly put myself into the game as your sidekick NPC. So, brace yourself, dahlinks, there’s gonna be several references to other IF games in the game.

Now, I’ve uploaded a file to the IF Archive, but I need to wait for that to get processed and moved to their games/mini-comps/speed-if folder before I can properly add the game to IFDB and IFWiki. In the meantime, feel free to grab a copy of my game from my own site: That will include the .gblorb storyfile and the cover art .png file.

Assuming I get feedback after I create the IFDB page, I’ll probably be motivated to update the game to be a bit more juicy, more easy, and more forgiving. Even though I don’t think it’s that difficult a game now, I can tell that I’ve failed to provide sufficient direction in a few places. And currently, you can’t ask me about anything (because conversation is hard) and I likewise shied away from adding any events in the game. So once there’s a version 2, then I’ll likely release the source code for it. Because why not. It’s fun to peek behind the curtains. And maybe someone will tell me how to code things better.

October 14, 2016

Works of Interactive Fiction

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — davidwelbourn @ 9:30 am

Goodness. Has it really been eight months since my last blog post? I really don’t like blogging, do I? I guess I’ve been doing it in my head instead of forcing myself to visit the WordPress site.

Anyway, something new to look at, my new Works of Interactive Fiction webpage at my Key & Compass website. This new page is a work-in-progress and another one of those will-never-really-be-finished pages I seem to be fond of making. On this page, I list several works that I’ve played and have either made walkthroughs for or plan to, and that I’ve also written up a short blurb as part of the walkthrough markups. So, what I did was, I wrote a Perl program to run through all my markups and extract the “about” blurbs and generate this new page so people could browse the works that way.

The page still needs work. The header is dull and there’s no footer yet. Tags are incomplete and I’d like to use them as filters. I’d also like to add some sort options too. Add an option to show/hide authors. And, uh, I have no idea yet how this is gonna scale as time goes on.

I’m also trying to, uh, count all the rooms/locations in all the applicable works. And, uh, y’know, there’s no standard way to count those things in IF. But I figure that’s what my next blog post can be about. 🔑️

February 22, 2016

Affordances: Diary and Status commands

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — Tags: — davidwelbourn @ 12:02 am

This is the fourth in a series of planned posts about affordances in parser-based interactive fiction. Affordances are features that enhance the playing experience in some way, perhaps by making the work of IF less tedious, less frustrating, easier to play, more attractive, more interesting, or more fun. Affordances may be said to improve the play value of a game; reviewers will often point to these positive features as reasons why they liked a particular game.

I wish to talk today about another non-standardized affordance which I will call diary or status commands. I’m talking about commands like NOTES, DIARY, STATUS, GOALS, SPELLS, DIAGNOSE, STATS, MEMORY, WEALTH, HEALTH, MANUAL, RECORDINGS, HISTORY, etc. Some games might even have more than one such command; for example, Hadean Lands has FACTS, FORMULAE, RITUALS, and ROOMS. (There’s a lot to keep track of in that game.) Sometimes instead of a specialized command, there’s an in-game object such as a notebook, diary, journal, or to-do list which automatically updates itself and which the player can examine when they need to.

To my mind, these commands and notebooks are mostly the same sort of thing: an in-game affordance where the game is doing the note-taking so the player doesn’t have to. Which, of course, is wonderful. Now, I have to say that I’ve been playing IF since the seventies and I like making walkthroughs later on so I want my own notes regardless, but I realize that a lot of other players just don’t find note-taking all that fun. So why not have the computer do all that work?

I notice that except for DIAGNOSE, all of these specialized commands are nouns instead of verbs the way most commands are. Isn’t that interesting? All these notes are things that the player consults. If they were objects in your inventory, you’d just EXAMINE them like normal objects, I think. And a player wouldn’t have to learn these new commands by typing ABOUT; they could find out as soon as they typed “I” during normal play. So, I’m gonna ask: why aren’t these diary things in your inventory? Is it just because we think of these notes as meta, a feature of the game outside the game world, something for the player to look at but not the player character?

If we can get past the idea that diary and status information is meta, we can add these virtual notebooks to the PC’s inventory, effectively letting INVENTORY be the command that lists all our current resources, not just our current physical possessions. This almost already happens, sorta:

  • When DIAGNOSE, a standard command in early cave-crawls, went into decline, we started to see health information moved into one of three places: the response to INVENTORY, the response to EXAMINE ME, or the game’s status bar.
  • Sometimes the difference between INVENTORY and EXAMINE ME gets blurred; some games even treat them as the same command whose response combines info about the PC’s appearance, self-assessment, health, and possessions together into one report.
  • In the game Darkiss Chapter 1, the inventory response has three sections, “You are carrying:”, “You are wearing:”, and “You also have:”. This last section is used for intangibles: a magic formula that the male protagonist has learned, and a curse that he may also acquire. Neither of these are lists of notes, I admit, but they’re definitely status changes, and that’s pretty close to what I’m talking about.

So that’s my big idea: turn non-standard diary and status commands into standard (though intangible) inventory objects. If it bothers you to force the player to type X GOALS instead of GOALS, feel free to add another affordance: make the verb EXAMINE (X) the default optional verb for normal objects the same way that GO is the default optional verb for directions.

As always, please feel free to add your comments below.

February 16, 2016

Affordances: GO TO

Filed under: Interactive Fiction — Tags: — davidwelbourn @ 9:21 pm

This is the third in a series of planned posts about affordances in parser-based interactive fiction. Affordances are features that enhance the playing experience in some way, perhaps by making the work of IF less tedious, less frustrating, easier to play, more attractive, more interesting, or more fun. Affordances may be said to improve the play value of a game; reviewers will often point to these positive features as reasons why they liked a particular game.

Today’s affordance is the GO TO command which can come in three main flavours:

  • GO TO location, to move the player character quickly to the named location.
  • GO TO someone, to move the player character quickly to the named character’s location.
  • GO TO something, to move the player character quickly to the named thing’s location.

There are a few syntax variations you might come across, such as FIND as a synonym for GO TO, or just typing a location’s name as a command in itself to go there. The game On The Farm used the XYZZY command to display a numbered menu of location names, which the player could then enter a number to go directly to the associated location.

I think GO TO is a wonderful command to have available in a game, especially when the game’s geography is quite large, or even in a not-so-large game geography that the player is traversing quite often. I very much enjoyed being able to zip around the marcher in Hadean Lands which had the most powerful implementation of GO TO that I’ve ever seen, whose main limitation was that only “important” locations could be targeted, so something like GO TO LAB HALL NORTHWEST wasn’t supported. I also noticed that when a character or thing is targeted, the PC would attempt to go to the target’s last known location (instead of the target’s current location) because the target might’ve moved since they last saw it. But these are quite reasonable restrictions, and I hope other authors will be inspired by Hadean Lands to try providing GO TO in their own works.

As might be obvious, all this wonderfulness doesn’t come cheap; the author has to put a lot of effort into getting this affordance to work. And Hadean Lands had the advantage that the game was essentially without time: there was almost no every-turn machinery to worry about (what’s called daemons and fuses in earlier games), so the PC could be teleported across the map once the game had determined that the player knew how to remove any barriers between the two locations. Of course, the game still needs to carry out any necessary intermediate steps like obtaining the appropriate key for a locked door in the way, for example, so yes, it’s still complicated, but at least the game doesn’t need to invisibly march the PC like a puppet through every intermediate location to get it all done.

Unfortunately, the large-geography games where GO TO would be the most useful are also likely to be the same games where lots of things are happening every turn, whether it’s NPCs wandering around, ice melting, candles burning, or birdcages floating downriver. The game Nightfall tried to implement a GO TO command, but because so many other things were going on, the game would only move the PC just one location at a time en route to the destination, and then the player would have to type CONTINUE (or C) on subsequent turns to continue the journey. And that game ran slowly. I don’t know for sure what made the game run so slow, maybe it was the pathfinding, but it serves to show that GO TO has its problems.

Still, if you’re writing a game where the player is running around the place a lot and the NPCs don’t move much and game-time isn’t that important, say something like Koustrea’s Contentment, consider adding GO TO to your game. Unless the whole idea makes you want to curl up into a little ball and hide from the world, in which case, forget I said anything.

Do you have an anecdote to share about the GO TO command? Please tell me in the comments below. Thanks.

February 13, 2016

Affordances: GO BACK

Filed under: Interactive Fiction, Uncategorized — Tags: — davidwelbourn @ 3:56 am

This is the second in a series of planned posts about affordances in parser-based interactive fiction. Affordances are features that enhance the playing experience in some way, perhaps by making the work of IF less tedious, less frustrating, easier to play, more attractive, more interesting, or more fun. Affordances may be said to improve the play value of a game; reviewers will often point to these positive features as reasons why they liked a particular game.

Have you ever used the command “GO BACK” in a work of interactive fiction? Here’s what it can mean:

  • GO BACK can mean go back to your previous location, assuming the travel route you took from there to your current location isn’t one-way. This is the usage I wish to discuss.
  • GO BACK can also mean go back towards the beginning of the story, as opposed to GO FORWARD meaning to go towards the story’s conclusion. This is the usage in Gun Mute, for example, whose geography is topologically linear and whose story is strongly goal oriented.
  • GO BACK can also mean to go back relative to the way the player character is facing, so if the player is facing north, “GO BACK” means to turn around and go south. This usage is very very rare in IF; I can’t remember any works that use the relative directions FORWARD, LEFT, RIGHT, and BACK this way.

GO BACK in the first usage is an affordance because it gives the player an extra way to help them navigate through the game’s geography. But although it was used in the very earliest text adventures, the command has all but faded away into obscurity today. So I’m curious, what happened to this lost affordance? Why was it added in the first place, and why did it disappear? I have some guesses on the last question:

  • It was too much effort for the author for too little gain for the player. Although I don’t think it’s a difficult affordance to add, really. The game just has to remember whenever the player changes locations what the last location was and whether or not the mode of travel is reversible or not.
  • Players just didn’t use it. Once you start navigating with compass directions, you don’t suddenly start thinking of relative directions. “BACK” just isn’t part of the compass.
  • It was eclipsed by UNDO, a far more powerful tool for retracing one’s steps in a game.

I’m inclined to think it was a combination of all these factors, especially UNDO, that contributed to the demise of GO BACK as an affordance. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Are we missing something by not having GO BACK? One early game, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, used GO BACK in a puzzle. A sign quoting MGM’s The Wizard of Oz told players: “I’D GO BACK IF I WERE YOU”, and if you typed GO BACK at that location, you’d end up somewhere you couldn’t reach any other way. Which was kinda cool to figure out, but probably isn’t enough to ask other authors to add GO BACK as an affordance in their games.

Hm. What about games where UNDO is disabled? Would GO BACK be a welcome addition then? Ummm… I don’t know. Maybe? You’d have to tell players that the command was there, and even if they knew, would they use it?

I have more questions than answers about this one. Players, would you use GO BACK in a game? (Assume you can abbreviate the command to BACK or B.) Or should the command remain in the dustbin of history? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Older Posts »

Blog at