March 29, 2006

E-FEST 3: Virtual, Textual Caves

by Nick Montfort · , 1:33 am

In my presentation at E-FEST 2006 (official blog) I showed some ways that an early virtual cave, the interactive fiction Adventure, can – when implemented in an IF system that separates simulation from narration and uses text generation – be varied in narrative ways. But I also got yet another chance to check out the virtual, textual Cave at Brown that has been the locus for 3D literary work by Talan Memmott, John Cayley, William Gillespie, Noah, and many others, in Robert Coover’s cave writing workshops.

I got to see version 2 of William’s Word Museum, developed with David Dao. I was very impressed, even more than I’d thought I be when I saw William’s plans for the project and the documentation of it. It consists of great virtual concrete, is very visually pleasing, and uses text that is viewable, symmetrically, from many angles to show the letter-level potential of language in 3D space. I was struck with the desire to develop a low-budget, perhaps cassette-based, audio tour for the piece. While I will probably not fulfill that desire, I hope that some video documentation of the project will be made available so that the project can reach a larger audience.

I also saw the new editor that allows writers to use the 3D space in the ways that Screen did without redoing the programming. While I’m not adverse to programming and don’t like for it to be inappropriately tucked away, there is something to be said for high-level access to the Cave. It’s also very useful to have the ability to re-use work that has been done, and to have a “sketchpad” that allows existing techniques to be quickly put in place. The work that had been done using this editor was good, but I’m also looking forward to seeing of some work that begins in this system ends up being interestingly developed and augmented .

Finally, I saw Screen for the third time in the Cave, having seen video documentation of it several times, too. Getting the chance to see that again reinforced that Noah’s collaboration holds up to repeated readings. I appreciate the final moment of that piece more and more after getting to experience it several times. It certainly shows that writing in the Cave can offer more than poles in your face.