Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

IFComp 2015: The War of the Willows   4 comments

By Adam Bredenberg. Played to completion (?) with Python 2.7.


SO WE ARE FATED DEATH BY WILLOWS:

We broke with ancient covenant,
grew unthoughtful and wicked,
fell away from worship of our ancestors,
incurred their sudden and mighty wrath.
Their bodies came alive again,
monstrous, hungering for blood,
and we are entirely without hope.

The War of the Willows pits the player in single combat against a tree.

More specifically you get a choice of desire (survival/forgiveness/love/power), recipient of sacrifices (Nyeru/Hobark/Athena/geneus/Vordak) and luck charm (rose/coin/star/locket). Then you enter battle with the choice to strike, advance, retreat, evade, or pray to one’s god.

That’s everything. It’s hence a mini-strategy game nearly like one of the BASIC type-ins of the 70s.

At a mechanical level I found it both too complex and too simple.

It’s too complex in that I didn’t understand all the moving pieces, and especially didn’t understand choices like what advantages a rose has over a star. There was no ratiocrination or planning or tactics. It’s too simple in that even without those things I was able to defeat the living willow in combat with no thoughtfulness at all: just attack, advance, attack, and so forth.

I’m guessing there’s many elements going on “under the hood” but they weren’t transparent enough for the player to use them in play nor complicated enough to stymie a player using a “button mashing technique” in combat.

Despite all that, The War of the Willows has something novel going for it: everything is in poetry form. This has shown up in the competition before; see Graham Nelson’s Shakespeare team-up The Tempest from 1997 or Valentine Kopteltsev’s underrated work A Night Guest from 2001.

In the best places the poetry has a gritty feel, like a a lost companion volume to Beowulf.

A black bull and a red bull,
three calves and a white goat,
burnt live upon Lebanon cedar.
White-green flash of copper powder —
the King of Fire accepts his offering.

Unfortunately the author seems to be running on gut instinct rather than any careful thematic or rhythmic control, because the words occasionally run amuck.

Came they upon the library
ripped each book to shreds,
slept that night in the confetti.

Ancient … confetti? Also, the second and third lines drop like weights and either need rephrasing or some sort of connective word.

Branches enwrap you like muscular snakes,
threatening to bind you entirely
as willow-whips lash your face.
You wriggle between them,
fighting for freedom.

The above stanza comes across more as a sentence with line breaks than a poem. (This is, admittedly, an accusation that can be leveled at much of modern poetry. However, The War of the Willows does not seem to be shooting for modern.)

Still, everything is well-fashioned enough to reward close reading (which I might get to after I finish reviewing the 1000+ games for this competition and my eyes stop bleeding and oh god make the pain stop).

Burned its bones to boil water,
looked from the parapet window
as the great ranks of them
tore stones from the walls,
disassembled the gate
of our last redoubt,
with a cool, solid fury,
fields pink to the sunset
with the arcs of their flowers.

My question mark next to “finished” on the top of this post indicates I’m not sure if I got an optimal ending. The willows still won even after I won the battle. I am suspecting there is a trick I missed (perhaps involving a well-timed prayer) but I wasn’t able to nudge anything out. If someone wants to provide a hint in the comments I’d be appreciative.

Posted November 4, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Poetry

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Renga in Four Parts now playable online   1 comment

rengainfourpartsonline

This was released last year, but I gather most people don’t want to download an interpreter just to try interactive poetry.

You can play, online in your browser, right now (just click on the image below).

rengaimage2

Thanks to Juhana Leinonen! (Also, you can find everything else in Hugo as well.)

Posted April 2, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Poetry

Roasted Misfits   Leave a comment

I made something for the limit-yourself-to-300-words Twiny Jam.

It is poetry.

I didn’t think I could do much else in 300 words.

Click here to try it out.

roastedmisfits

Posted March 28, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Poetry

Renga in Four Parts (Public release)   1 comment

It’s done, or at least I’m calling it done, which is how all these things go, I suppose–

Download Renga in Four Parts here

You’ll need a Hugo interpreter: Hugo interpreters for various platforms. Alternately, you can use an interpreter which runs multiple formats, like Gargoyle.

What should I type? It’s up to you. You can type particular words that occur in the text, or words that are implied. You can be entirely experiential and use word-association. Keep in mind that what you type is much a part of the poem as the verse.

>kite
Hovering, unobtrusive
watching over
the grey-sanded beach

Enjoy!

Posted April 8, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Poetry

Renga in Four Parts (IF Demo Fair version)   3 comments

I’ve already brought it up on a comment thread here and elsewhere, so I might as well make an official link:

Download for Renga in Four Parts

It is in Hugo (any multi-format interpreter like Gargoyle also ought to work).

This is not a “demo” — it is as long as it is going to be and was actually made shorter in initial testing — but more of an “open beta”. If you try it at this stage I have one request: please send a transcript (email address in the about text of the poem).

Here’s the “author notes” from the fair:

Not-frequently asked
Questions about
Renga in Four Parts

So what’s all this then? It’s interactive poetry. Back in 2005 I was theorizing about categories of interactive fiction (like “Hypertext” versus “Gamebook”), and ended up with an empty gap on my chart along the “high freedom of input, user does not control a character in the story” category. The closest I could come up with was Andrew Plotkin’s Space Under the Window, which referenced itself as interactive poetry (even though it wasn’t, strictly speaking, poetry). I thought – why not actual poetry?

So I’ve been puttering with this for 6 years. There were all sorts of bad ideas along the way but the IF Demo Fair gave me a chance to bring my experiment to a finish. Hence: the renga (“linked poem”) you are about to experience.

If this is haiku, where’s the 5-7-5 syllable thing? Japanese poets do not count “syllables”, they count onji, which means “sound symbol” and is not the same thing as an English syllable. In translation to get equivalent sound duration something close to 2-3-2 is a more accurate way to fit English, but even that is only a loose suggestion:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound
— Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

In modern practice poets throw out syllable counts altogether and focus on rhythm in a limited space.

What should I type? It’s up to you. You can type particular words that occur in the text, or words that are implied. You can be entirely experiential and use word-association. Keep in mind that what you type is much a part of the poem as the verse.

>kite
Hovering, unobtrusive
watching over
the grey-sanded beach

Enjoy, and thanks for trying!

Posted March 22, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Poetry