Status report: my #GlassBeadGame #InteractiveFiction

I’ve been working on an interactive fiction for a few weeks, a fairly
ambitious project for the down time on my book. It’s a kind of
interactive poem, or rather an “interactive bead game”,

I plan to enter it in next year’s IFComp. It has no real chance of
winning, although it might have had a shot at the IF Art Show if that
were still running.

Therefore, I’m going to be pretty open about the development process,
won’t enter the game in the competition under a pseudonym, will
release the source code of the game afterwards under a
free/open-source software license, and so on. I won’t, however, spoil
any puzzles.

The game takes place on a glass bead game abacus in the form of a tesseract.

It’s a hybrid of a four-dimensional Hipbone game and a Kenning Riddle Game.

The Kenning Riddle Game means mainly guessing what kennings mean. I
can post more details later.

You can “zoom in” and enter the abacus, travelling along the wires
(edges) from bead to bead (vertex to vertex), as if they were rooms in
an ordinary text adventure. Each bead/room contains a kind of
interactive still life that is a clue to a kenning riddle. When you
guess what the kenning means, you have solved that room. When you
solve all 16 rooms in the tesseract, you have won the game, and are
free to wander around and see all the text and contemplate the

Unlike a typical Hipbone game, every connection among the beads will
be meaningful, and because the board is four-dimensional, there are an
unusually high number of connections (four per bead).

I’ve already built a model of tesseract using Zome, and painstakingly
labelled each vertex with the name of the kenning, using paper clips,
index card scraps, and packing tape. It looks somewhat like this, but

If you get bored with solving puzzles and just want to wander around
contemplating things, or you’ve already solved all the kenning riddles
and don’t want to solve them again, there will be a magic word
(probably — what else? — “xyzzy”) that will autosolve all the
puzzles and let you see the game in the solved state.

I’ve been writing a mock transcript of the game before I code it, on
the advice of someone who’s written some really successful IF really

This was something I used to do for an unbelievably cool English class
in college (independent study with Stuart Moulthrop) back before
either Inform or TADS existed and the best tool I had available was
HyperCard — which was not up to the task of implementing a text
adventure, unfortunately. However, this time I’m implementing the text
in Inform 7, and I already have a pretty clear idea of how to do it.

Oh, and the very first thing I did for this game was to code the bare
rooms, with interconnections, in Inform. There are 16 rooms with 32
passages among them. They all have names like North East Up Ana and
South West Down Kata. To get from the former to the latter, you type:

> go south
> go west
> go down
> go kata

in any combination. Since these rooms are maximally far apart, you can
get from any one room to any other in at most four moves.

For the curious, “ana” and “kata” are the names of the
four-dimensional directions, along the w axis. (Think “anabolism” and

So, so far I have

1. A list of rooms and some room content
2. A marked-up, 3D model of the tesseract that’s the game’s map
3. A partial mock transcript of the game
4. A playable (though really dull) draft game that enables you to
traverse the tesseract in simulated 4D.

That is all.