myth, aesthetic and experience in The Moonlit Tower

There are many, many creative and cleaver things that one can do with E-lit in its various forms. My particular favorite happens to be text adventures. While hypertext fiction allows the reader to take particular actions, and make decisions to progress through the narrative. Such stories do not allow the player to truly interact with the world of the story.  Text adventures do. In a text adventure the player can interact with the world and the objects that populate it. In one text adventure I played a year or so ago (who’s name now escapes me) the player could only carry one item at a time. This was meant to make the adventure more difficult as the player had to remember where he dropped what pieces of gear and back track to find them as he or she needed them.  All well and good, but in practice such things get tedious and annoying quickly. However, through a stroke of luck or an act of mercy, there was a chest in one of the rooms of the adventure that wasn’t properly tied down by the game code.  This was great because the player could pick up the chest. More importantly the player could put their gear in the chest and carry it all around with them (you could also use the chest as a bludgeoning weapon against skeletons. An image that always makes me chuckle when I imagine it).  It is these kinds of situations and logic puzzles that make text adventures so much fun to engage.

Now for this blog post I decided to delve into a text adventure called The Moonlit Tower by Yoon Ha Lee.  Lee wrote Tower using Inform 6 a programing language designed for writing interactive fiction.  Tower is a piece of interactive fiction with an eastern aesthetic and rich symbolism that servers to guide the player through the narrative.

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This first passage establishes the player within the world, a tower of some sort where light and shadow are battling one another for dominance. The player knows nothing about the character and the only immediately apparent object in the room is half of a porcelain mask.

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after searching the room and taking the mask, the player’s only option is to descend the stairs.  At the bottom of the stairs the player arrives in a room called the shadow armory. In this room there are series of actions the player can take that reveal more of the worlds aesthetics and begin to reveal details about the character and his world before the tower. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the piece, so you should check it out to learn more about the narrative of the game.  As a piece of interactive fiction though, I think this Tower does a good job keeping the player interested in the world of the tower with its cryptic hints about the characters past, the pieces of mythology it reveals and the sheer number of possible ways the player can attempt to interact with the world itself. Several of the story’s pieces of descriptive text also raise questions about the nature of reality and some objects are not entirely what they seem. Although I am not entirely sure that’s a theme of the piece itself, it is interesting because Text Adventures tend to be immersive emulations that, like most games, attempt to mimic some sort of reality. At any rate, check it out and shoot me a comment I’d love to discuss it further with you. There is a lot about The Moonlit Tower that I simply cannot discuss without ruining the experience, and doing so would be a tragedy.

  2 comments for “myth, aesthetic and experience in The Moonlit Tower

  1. scolliga
    February 2, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    In terms of mechanics and general setting, this is comparable to “Colossal Cave Adventure” and “Zork”, but this is still a unique experience. You pointed out briefly how part of the game deals with finding out more about your past as you play, and that’s an excellent example of the characterization going on here. The other 2 titles I just mentioned were lacking in that department, focusing more on the puzzle solving and nearly endless directions in which the map of the story could extend. “Moonlit Tower” benefits from keeping its map a little more contained, letting the player explore interactively while still focusing on the story at hand and, as you pointed out, the mythology of the world immediately around you. Basically, this felt more like you were actively taking a role in a story, rather than using a vessel to carry out decisions you make in the world of that particular work.

  2. Gracie Draper
    February 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    This does sound similar to the Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork, however I think this one is more complicated from my understanding. Like a novel it only gives you pieces of the character at a time and it seems to have endless pathways. My big question for you is whether you see some IF pieces as superior compared to others and why? I am considerably inexperienced with IF and while I find all types enjoyable I am not clear on what the criteria are and if there is a certain way to judge one piece over another. I think it is important to start with a mostly blanknslate to help the reader build an understanding of the world and characters along the way, much like well written fiction (no great novel lays out everything for you right at the start, but instead drops hints and pieces along the way). And where do we draw the line between text adventure and video game? Or is text adventure a form of video game?

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