Inform - Welcome - Introduction




A Design System for Interactive Fiction

Just as film might be called a form of literature which needs technology to be read (a cinema projector or a television set) and to be written (a camera), interactive fiction is read with the aid of a computer. On this analogy, Inform is a piece of software enabling any modern computer to be used as the camera, or the film studio, to create works of interactive fiction. To read the resulting works, you and your audience need only a simpler piece of software called an interpreter.

In this genre of fiction, the computer describes a world and the player types instructions like touch the mirror for the protagonist character to follow; the computer responds by describing the result, and so on until a story is told.

Interactive fiction emerged from the old-style "adventure game" (c.1975) and tends to be a playful genre, which must sometimes be teased out as though it were a cryptic crossword puzzle. But this doesn't prevent it from being an artistic medium, which has attracted (for instance) the former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, and the novelists Thomas M. Disch and Michael Crichton. An interactive fiction is not a child's puzzle-book, with a maze on one page and a rebus on the next, but nor is it a novel. Neither pure interaction nor pure fiction, it lies in a strange and still largely unexplored land in between.

Since its invention (by Graham Nelson in 1993), Inform has been used to design some hundreds of works of interactive fiction, in eight languages, reviewed in periodicals ranging in specialisation from XYZZYnews to The New York Times. It accounts for around ten thousand postings per year to Internet newsgroups. Commercially, Inform has been used as a multimedia games prototyping tool. Academically, it has turned up in syllabuses and seminars from computer science to theoretical architecture, and appears in books such as Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (E. J. Aarseth, Johns Hopkins Press, 1997). Having started as a revival of the then-disused Infocom adventure game format, the Z-Machine, Inform came full circle when it produced Infocom's only text game of the 1990s: Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, by Mike Berlyn and Marc Blank.

Click here for a sample of typical play.

Click here for answers to frequently asked questions.

Last updated 30 March 2002. This web site has not been fully supported since April 2008. Information may be out of date. This page was originally managed by Graham Nelson (graham at gnelson demon co uk) assisted by C Knight.