[This is a generic set of instructions. As such, not all of these instructions will apply to all interactive fiction--there are exceptions to every rule. However, this page should help you get started in almost any work of IF. You should also grab the IF for Beginners postcard.]
In interactive fiction you play the main character. You type commands which determine the actions of the character and the flow of the story.
Each piece of interactive fiction presents locations, items, characters and events. You move about, exploring and learning. As you do so, you will encounter puzzles which impede your progress. Part of the fun of interactive fiction is solving these puzzles. Some puzzles will require you to use items in unusual ways; some will require you to get other characters to do things for you.
Time passes only when you enter a command. While the computer is waiting at the input prompt (>), nothing happens. If you want to let more time pass without doing something, you can command your character to WAIT.
In many games, you can get more information about that specific game by typing ABOUT, INFO, or HELP.
You can save a snapshot of the game in progress to a file at any time. That way, if you are later killed or find that you have rendered the game unsolvable, you can backtrack. Saving the game also allows you to play the game over more than one session.
To save the game, type SAVE at any prompt. The game will ask you for the name of the file to which the game should be saved. By specifying different file names, you can save the game at many different points.
When you are ready to pick back up where you left off, type RESTORE at a prompt, then enter the name of the file to which you previously saved the game.
You enter commands in more-or-less plain English at the input prompt. Most of your commands to the game will be imperatives, sentences which could begin with "I want to...". You can use words such as "the" and "an" in your sentence, but they are not necessary.
Games are divided into different locations, commonly called rooms. When you first enter a room, the game will describe your surroundings. To take another look at the room, type (appropriately enough) LOOK. You can reach most anything described in a room, so you won't need to move around within a room.
The room description will tell you what directions you can go. To move from one room to another, type the direction in which you wish to travel. Common directions are NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST, NORTHEAST, SOUTHEAST, NORTHWEST, SOUTHWEST, UP, and DOWN. These can be abbreviated to N, S, E, W, NE, SE, NW, SW, U, and D.
You will find various items throughout the game. To do something with an item, tell the game what you wish to do in simple sentences. For example, if you find a wallet, you could OPEN THE WALLET or EMPTY THE WALLET. To pick up items, use the command TAKE (or GET).
Occasionally items which are listed in room descriptions cannot be referred to in commands. For example, a room description may say, "Rain pours down from the sky." If the game doesn't know the word "sky" you can assume that it isn't important to the game and is in the room description only to make it more interesting.
Some example commands:
You can perform a command on multiple objects by separating them by commas or the word AND.
You can use the word ALL to apply a command to all applicable objects. To exclude certain words, use EXCEPT right after ALL.
The words IT and THEM refer to the last object or objects used in a command.
Notice that the last two examples contained multiple commands. You can include several commands on one line by separating them with periods, the word THEN, or a comma followed by the word AND.
>GET ALL. GO NORTH
>GET ON THE HARLEY THEN START IT
>CLIMB THE LADDER, AND THEN OPEN THE WINDOW
Sometimes you will type a command which leaves out some information. The game will try to figure out what you mean. If there is only one object which makes sense with your command, the game will assume that you meant that object and go from there. For example,
If there is more than one object which makes sense, the game will ask you which object you meant. You can answer by typing the missing information at the next prompt.
What do you want to tie the rope to?
You loop the rope around the post and tie a passable square knot in it.
From time to time you will meet other people and creatures. You will be unable to converse with the people in plain English; instead, a more constrained system of communication is used. There are four common ways to talk to characters:
Ask them about an object.
Show them an object.
Tell them about an object.
FREDDY, HELLO is not an actual command, but is phrased like one. (Note that not all games implement this command, but it's worth knowing about just in case.) Notice that you can give characters more than one command on a line. Most characters will be less than responsive to commands.
This year's organizer is Stephen Granade.