Chris Klimas talks a bit about Twine, his program for making hypertext games, and the early days of IF.
What drew you to interactive fiction back in the ‘90s? What was the scene like back then?
I was intrigued by playing IF while I was growing up in the 80s — mainly the Infocom games. I think what I liked most about it was the feeling that the world of an IF game was so vast. I was pretty awful at the puzzles, so my experience of playing was an overwhelming sense there was all this content just out of reach. In a way, the content of the games existed more in my imagination than actual code. But that, to me, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Anyway, once I got access to the Internet a decade later, I somehow found my way to ftp.gmd.de — the predecessor ofifarchive.org — and from there I found Inform, and fell a little bit in love with it. I liked the idea of building the vast world people chipped away at puzzles to reach. Of course, I learned that there were a whole other set of challenges once you’re on the other side.
By the time I started tinkering with IF, the community had at least established itself, though it grew a lot while I participated in it. Even so, it was not tremendously big, but there was a sense of progress to it, and room for enormous experimentation. The day before the IF Comp felt like Christmas Eve.
There was also an air of mystery to it, same as with any online interaction back then. You didn’t really know exactly who it was behind the newsgroups posts or the ifMUD accounts. It was a smidge surreal, meeting many of these folks many years later at the IF suite at PAX East 2010, and discovering they really were living breathing human beings and not eldritch presences on the net.