Epic Poetry
and also
A work of Interactive Fiction
and also
A Text Adventure Game
I have always been interested in
adventure games. I’ve enjoyed playing some of the very best over the last decade. Here are one half dozen titles of what I think are the very best:
The Myst series
Full Throttle and Grim Fandango (both written by Tim Schafer)
Syberia I and II (written by Benoit Sokal)
The Longest Journey
Circle of Blood
In January 2007, I became curious if text adventure games still existed. I soon discovered a website:

…that not only hosted text adventure games, but also developed game writing software. I was intrigued, so I gave it a shot. I had written a short story called “
Something ‘bout a Hex” in October 2004. It is a short autobiographical essay. It seemed like a good fit to be adapted into a text adventure. I completed the project later that February, and the game is available to play online.
I took 18 months off from gaming, and felt the urge to write again in the summer of 2008. I wanted to improve my game writing, as well as focus on adapting a popular work of fiction. My inspiration came from the film “
No Country For Old Men”, by The Coen Brothers. I saw the movie, than I read Cormac McCarthys book of the same title. What I discovered was that The Coen Brothers did a faithful adaptation of the original material. In fact, there are many instances where dialogue is lifted right off the pages, and critical plot sequences remain in order. There was only slight editing; much of what was excluded I didn’t think would have made a smooth transition to the big screen. If anything, I felt that I already had read the book, and was a little disappointed!
My goal was to write a game which complimented a story in such a way, that each stood on their own, while also becoming a strong recommendation for the other.

My first candidate was a short photo-essay I penned in 1997 called “
Praise Jebus” but I soon dismissed the idea because I didn’t think that story stood the test of time. I would have to make many edits, which is a compromise I didn’t want to undertake. I needed a stronger story; also if it was going to be an adaptation, I needed to know the author to get permission.
I was familiar with Lawrence Johns’ epic poem “
Love and Hate” which I read in 2007. The lines had a colorful and musical quality about them, but perhaps not strong enough as a narrative to hold interest as an adventure game. Then I took up reading his second book, “Beyond Exile” which told of a personal journey.
The book was published in the spring of 2008, but in the fall of 2007, Larry had emailed me a manuscript with a rough title called “American Exile” which was stored on my computer, right alongside the adventure gaming software. I started to read this rough draft, but something was wrong. Sitting in front of the computer and scrolling down reading the epic poem was simply not enjoyable. I saw Larry soon afterward, and confessed that I would prefer reading the final copy when it was printed as a book.

It was all exactly there.

I had the means to transform the author’s rough draft, in the form of a Microsoft Word file, into a text adventure game. I was able to actually cut and paste text from the Word file into the adventure game software.
So what do I call it? Is it an adventure game? Interactive Fiction? Epic Poetry? I guess all of the above. I wanted it to look a lot like Larry's book. I wanted it to lean closer to a poetry audience than the adventure game community.

Now that my work is complete and I look at the end result, I see an interactive experience, an enjoyable one that users can have sitting right in front of their computer. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, cue up some of your favorite music and begin to experience “Beyond Exile”
> look at erin




Her Red King

Is approaching the end of his reign

> look at frank

You are various characters in this story. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when you go on stage. Most adventure games allow you to create your own character and be part of the storyline. Here, all the roles are cast…but you get to fill the actors shoes, often with only a brief exposure to these characters motives.

Lets say, you are watching your favorite film…lets use “
Five Easy Pieces” for this example…and the director says CUT…he sends the lead actor Jack Nicholson off-stage and summons you to the curtain! Now YOU have to play his role – WWJD in this case – to continue the story. At some point, the director says, “Cut, not bad rookie,” then you return to your seat as Mr. Nicholson finishes his part
There are over 250 images used in “Beyond Exile” and they are of a grainy and surreal quality. I consider them to be snapshots from the attic. A collection of memories that, when sorted in the right order, become the writers inspiration for this story
SO why does “Beyond Exile” fit so well into the text adventure genre? Well, simply put it is a great story. It could very well be a good campfire or bedtime story. All good storytelling goes through translation from tribe to tribe, family to family. A good story can transcend words to music, art, painting, photography; and all forms of the printed word: poems, plays, short stories, film treatments, television screenplays…the possibilities are endless…so why not an adventure game?
What specifically in “Beyond Exile” as a story, made for such a good adaptation? Have you ever read The Odyssey? Or have you ever seen any of the contemporary adaptations of it? I return again to The Coen Brothers, and their motion picture “
O, brother, where art thou?” for further evidence. “Beyond Exile” is a long journey that takes our hero across four continents and thousands of miles. The appeal of most great journeys is not the pot of gold at the end, but what takes place in the struggle to reach your destination.
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