1: Summary
2: What is interactive fiction
3: How do I play
4: How do I download and
    run games
5: Choose platform
6: Download games
7: Download interpreters

Appendix A: Glossary
Appendix B: Links
Appendix C: Credits
Appendix D: Copyright
Appendix E: About
Appendix F: Guestbook

A Beginner's Guide to Playing Interactive Fiction

Step 4: How do I download and run games

Most modern IF games are written using a specialized software called an "IF authoring system". There are several systems capable of producing good games, given the right author, but this far two of the systems account for almost all of the high quality games.

When the author compiles the game, the output is a "story file". If the game includes multimedia, there may be additional files for that as well. Now here's the good part: All these files are platform independent. This means that you can download and play a story on your Windows 98 PC, then send that story to a friend who has a Mac. Or a Linux machine. Or whatever. The key to platform independence is called "interpreters" -- programs that know the game format and can show you and let you interact with the story. To make it easier, this guide will help you find the interpreters you need to play the most widely used game formats, Zcode and TADS2, plus some others which are gaining in popularity.

Each game format usually needs its own interpreter, although there are some interpreters that understand several different game formats. Some interpreters need to be installed into your system. Others you just need to copy into your system, and then drag a story file and drop it onto the interpreter, or start the interpreter from the command line. There are usually instructions included in the distribution packages of the interpreters.

Games that include several files are normally packed up into one archive, to make distribution easier. This will usually be a zip-archive, and it can be unpacked using WinZip, PKZip or just about any archiving software that handles multiple formats. Just remember, if you download a game whose filename ends with ".zip", you have to unpack it before you can play.

It's now time to move on to Step 5: Choose platform