Interactive Fiction’s Twitter Bots

Tags

, , , , ,

There are over a dozen authors of interactive fiction who have also made twitter bots. It’s a natural cross-over: in both cases you are using a machine to assist in fictive generation. Here I’ll be running through the various bots I know to have been made by IF people. Let me know if I’ve missed any out!

IF-Themed Bots

Locations, inventory lists and character names all lend themselves easily to a bot as you can easily translate content from one text medium to another.

YOU ARE CARRYING:

This bot by Andrew Vestal throws up random inventory selections from various text adventures (skewing to an older Infocom-heavy corpus). Gives a nice feel for the different games. Tweet I or Inventory to the bot and it’ll give you a customised inventory.

The Thief

Mark Sample (a writer of E-Literature) made a bot to steals items from those given inventory by You Are Carrying. Actually more interesting than that is his call for Bots of Conviction, “computer program(s) whose indictments are so specific you can’t mistake them for bullshit”.

IF Inspiration

Hugo Labrande bot draws game ideas from random IFDB tags. Because of the mixed-noun/adjective nature of tags, the grammar of its tweets often don’t work. Sometimes it spits out neat ideas, other times it’s quite amusing.

IF Clue Bot

This bot was written by David Welbourn. It generates Cluedo-style Suspect/Location/Object tweets from content drawn from 111 games.

IFDB Sommelier

Emily Short made the IFDB Sommelier. Unlike the other IF-themed bots, this one serves as outreach and suggestion. It draws up searches on the IFDB for randomly selected lists of games. The nice thing about it is it has a good chance of selecting an interesting category of games that you wouldn’t have thought of investigating.

Anagram Book Bot

Andrew Schultz’s bot tweets anagrammatic book titles from his anagram-filled game A Roiling Original.

Generated Fictions & Other Magic

While the above bots are about interactive fiction, the following bots generate fiction. The art of using bots to generate randomised stories, situations, and prompts is a natural cross-over for the IF author: in both cases you are using a machine to assist in fictive generation. There’s some considerable skill overlap as well, indeed several text games have generated aspects (recently, the Harbour Master’s conversations in The Baker of Shireton, and the FAQ in Laid Off From the Synesthesia Factory come to mind).

Several of the following bots are generated using Kate Compton’s Tracery which is a tool for writing generative grammars. It powers cheapbotsdonequick (run by George Buckenham who made Hefty Seamstress a collaboratively made cybertext for creating bacronyms).

All Alike

Bridging my two categories is Caelyn Sandel’s All Alike, which generates intriguing location descriptions for interactive fictions, often with directions or nearby objects.

Omens and Portents

A tracery bot made by Bruno Dias, it tweets omens in the format Sign: Meaning. Sometimes arresting, it tweets twice a day which is a good decision for the corpus size. (Plus, no one wants to be inundated with ill omens.)

Casebook Generator

Made by the Laura Michet who as well as twines made the intriguing verifiedfacts.org. This bot generates a Sherlock Holmes-style detective story title. Always in the format of The [case/matter/etc] [of the/in] [thing/place/situation]. The format invites interpreting the titles into little mini stories. The corpus is huge and very thematically on-point.

Writing Prompts

Generates story ideas with a reasonable variety of formats. Some of the formats tend to generate more compelling ideas than others. This is also made by Laura Michet, who has made a number of bots (I also quite like her generator of X-Files plots).

dreamy bot

As the name suggests, dreamy bot generates random dreams. Made by &IF regular juxi. It has a wide corpus with a broad range of forms. Guaranteed to be dream-like every time.

City Exploration Bot

Verity Virtue’s city exploration bot generates scenes glimpsed while travelling an imaginary city. Well conceived, it creates evocative prompts.

Lil Spellbook

Harry Giles has made a number of bot-poems now. They explained the process in a handy article on the subject. Lil Spellbook creates magical spells and rituals with a friendly, self-help bent. Harry has written extensively on bot poetics and presents a range of poetry bots worth investigating.

Man Plots

Sam Kabo Ashwell made a bot using cheapbotsdonequick which generates hypermasculine plot summaries. They all follow an identical format, not fully utilising the strengths of Tracery, but as it’s the same joke repeated it probably doesn’t need obfuscating with different phrasings.

Genuine D&D Facts

My first bot was made to tweet just-about-believable Dungeons and Dragons facts. It follows a too-simple format of [According to source],[class/monster/race][dubious fact]. I made it using google sheets as a first experiment in bot making. I need to prune out the more boring facts in the corpus and add more sources of rumours.

Unlikely Powers

Unlikely Powers is a bot which I’ll continue to improve. It was inspired by the odd mishmash powers of the Worm web serial and the absurd specificity of abilities in Superhero League of Hoboken (Steve Meretzky’s best game). The bot generates unlikely superpowers every 3 hours. The corpus isn’t small, but could be broader, and some of the templates have become a little stale (I’m fed up of seeing You can [power] by [squeezing an appendage] but other people seem to retweet those ones more often).

Other Visions

The beauty of bots is that they admit a huge range of variations. Here are some more non-fictional bots made by IF people.

Yayfrens Bot

Made by Caelyn Sandel and Carolyn VanEseltine, Yayfrens tweets friendly, caring messages of support.

Acrostic Pi

Jason ‘Jmac’ McIntosh made Acrostic Pi which renders the number π as an acrostic, retweeting other people’s tweets that start with each of the numbers. At the time of writing, it just went past the 28,000th digit.

Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

My latest bot. Just tweets a random line from Voltaire’s philosophical dictionary. As the dictionary was already quite aphoristic in style, I thought it might translate well into the bot treatment.

Ingsoc Party Slogans

Leonard Richardson (who made Robot Finds Kitten and Guess the Verb!) has made a huge number of twitter bots. I particularly like Ingsoc Party Slogans for its elegance of execution. You’ll need to click through to see what I mean.

An Algorithm

Finally, Nick Montfort has made dozens of computational poems. An Algorithm isn’t the most interesting of these (I really like Upstart) but it is the one he’s made for twitter. This is an algorithm that tweets about itself.

Eidolon — A. D. Jansen

Tags

, ,

Well behind schedule, this is the first of the 42 IFComp 2014 entries I intend to review. A lot of reviews are written as a sort of consumer advice or summary of the work. I’m not really interested in that. I’m going to assume that you’ve played Eidolon by A.D. Jansen or are at least interested in reading a review as if you had read it. Here I’m looking mostly at how well its interactive elements function, though there is certainly more I’d like to say about its literary qualities.
Continue reading

Line-by-line Breakdown of Kristen Stewart’s My Heart is a Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole

Tags

, , , ,

These are some notes towards an interpretation of My Heart is a Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole by Kristen Stewart. At first it seems quite oblique, but I think cumulatively the poem is about how she is isolated with and alienated from the person she loves: she looks for signs of affection, knowing she can’t hold on to them: they pore out her porous heart, and yet she is drunk on these tiny morsels. This is what it is to love the man who says he is a rock, an island.

Image

//My Heart is a Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole//
Wiffle balls are light and perforated. This image of the pierced heart that cannot hold its blood (feelings?) is the key to this poem. The freedom pole is the cohering image for the second part of the poem, and represents isolation-as-freedom.

//I reared digital moonlight//
She cultivated a habit of staying inside, at night or in day with curtains drawn, in the glare of a screen. More figuratively, she has isolated herself, but superficially she is in company. On the internet we are all together, alone.

//You read its clock, scrawled neon across that black//
Following the image, ‘You’ read the clock on the laptop, it was obvious what time it was. To the recipient of the poem it was clear what she was like.

//Kismetly … ubiquitously crest fallen//
She (or is it ‘you’? does this modify the previous or the next line?) felt disappointed, but more than that, that her disappointment permeated everything and was inevitable. In second reading, it’s obvious now that the initial sentence that emerged in her mind was ‘kismetly crest fallen’, which is perhaps too alliterative for the sentiment. The jarring ‘ubiquitously’ breaks this up, the dissonance of structure reinforcing the mood of the line.

//Thrown down to strafe your foothills//
This is a nice extended metaphor: she has fallen off the crest, and is side-stepping in the foothill below ‘your’ great heights.

//…I’ll suck the bones pretty.//
She’ll try to make the most out of the poor situation but she know’s its impossible. You literally can’t suck bones pretty.

//Your nature perforated the abrasive organ pumps//
The discrete pumpings of an organ (the heart) are abrasive and perforated: it hurts for her heart to beat and each beat is made weaker/futile by your presence.

//Spray painted everything known to man,//
The blood sprays out the perforated heart, coating everything. This is spray which has painted, not a spray-painting. Stewart again re-enlivens a dead metaphor.

//Stream rushed through and all out into
Something /
Her life-blood (cleverly never directly alluded to but implied by the unifying heart metaphor), pumps into the wiffle ball heart and streams out into a known unknown.

/Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck
Through our windows boarded up//
So, the light outside starts to break in and disturb the self-imposed darkness. (This being stuck inside thing is the second unifying metaphor)

//He hit your flint face and it sparked.//
So, the ‘sun’ was a metaphor for another man, who starts to impose on this unhealthy relationship. He strikes the ‘you’ sparking (great imagery here) something…

//And I bellowed and you parked//
She’s perturbed by the fighting (which might or might not be figurative) and ‘you’ held your ground.

//We reached Marfa.//
A town in Texas, in the middle of a desert. While this town was probably chosen because she was writing this poem during a road trip, the town itself is another metaphor for the freedom pole.

//One honest day up on this freedom pole//
Calls to mind the Simeon stylites on their poles in the desert. Freedom as isolation. Marfa in the desert, together alone.

//Devils not done digging
He’s speaking in tongues all along the pan handle//
Despite (or because of) isolating themselves further, their relationship continues to be racked with misunderstandings.

//And this pining erosion is getting dust in
My eyes//
This erosion of their relationship is painful but also makes it harder for her to see the situation clearly.

//And I’m drunk on your morsels//
But she’s still in thrall to him: drunk on even the tiny morsels of attention/love/??? that he gives her or that she reads into what he says.

//And so I look down the line//
And so she doesn’t seek an alternative to this life she’s found herself in

//Your every twitch hand drum salute
Salutes mine …//
She looks to his tiny movements for a sign of affirmation

 

[edit. 17.02.14 – realised I’d spelt her name wrong! Sorry!]

Their angelic understanding — Porpentine

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Their angelic understanding is a strong title and the title of a work is the first thing you notice. Some titles are easily forgotten, you have to look at the spine or the executable to remind yourself. A good title is memorable and also relevant to the core theme of the work. Final Girl was about the Final Girl of horror movie analysis, Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House included all those things but it was really about loss, Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder was, suitable enough about the Captain’s plunder. We’d expect Their angelic understanding to be about someone with angelic understanding, and that the specific nature of this understanding to be integral to the story.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.