IF Community Links
The Annual IF Competition
The Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, which occurs each year during the fall, is probably the IF community's most anticipated event. Some of the most renowned works of the last decade were created as competition entries.
The Interactive Fiction Database is a catalog and recommendation engine for IF. IFDB aims to provide a complete catalog of bibliographic data on published IF, historical and modern, commercial and free, and also offers numerous tools for user-to-user recommendations, such as reviews, recommendation lists, collaborative filtering, and opinion polls. IFDB is set up as a Wiki-style collaboration site, encouraging community members to help build and improve the catalog and recommendations.
Baf's Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive is another good reference for players looking for games. Baf's provides short-form reviews of many of the free games on the IF Archive. Baf's reviews are written by a small group of editors, and are brief but informative and opinionated. The site also provides a variety of indices that can help you find particular kinds of games, along with search functions.
The IF Archive is the de facto distribution hub for games written by IF community members. The Archive's mission is to serve as the Internet repository of record for all things IF, past and present: games, development systems, magazine articles, and anything else of interest to IF historians, New Media scholars, and enthusiasts. If you're writing your own game, the Archive should be the first place you upload it when you're ready to publish.
Intfiction.org Web Forum
The Usenet groups (below) were for many years the main on-line meeting place for IF discussion, but the action has been gradually shifting to the Web forum at intfiction.org. This forum site has sections for the topics that come up most often - technical discussion for the various popular authoring systems, game design and IF theory, competitions, etc.
Interactive fiction has two Usenet newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction, which is concerned with the technical and artistic side of writing IF, and rec.games.int-fiction, which about playing IF. The "arts" group is the one that IF authors are usually most interested in; it's suitable for technical questions about programming, as well as discussions about game design, both practical and theoretical. The "games" group is the place to ask for hints if you're stuck playing a game.
The newsgroups used to be the main place for on-line IF discussion, but a lot of the traffic has shifted to the intfiction.org forum. The forum has been gaining ground in part because a lot of people are more comfortable with a browser-based forum than creaky old Usenet, and in part because it's not as burdened with spam and trolling as newsgroups tend to be.
Raif has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list that new users might find helpful, at http://plover.net/~textfire/raiffaq/.
ifMUD is a "multi-user dungeon" dedicated (more or less) to IF discussion. MUDs traditionally look just like text adventures in terms of their user interface, so this is a a natural fit for IF people to get together and socialize on-line.
The IF Wiki is an encyclopedia of Interactive Fiction, using the Wiki model of collaborative content creation and maintenance. The IF Wiki includes coverage of games, people in the community, competitions, authoring systems, IF news, and anything else IF-related.
Stephen Granade's Brass Lantern is a great source of IF links, how-to guides, game reviews, and thoughtful commentary on the theory and practice of interactive fiction.
Many people are surprised when they learn that something like TADS exists - i.e., an entire programming system just for writing IF. So it might be even more surprising to learn that TADS is hardly alone. There are literally dozens of other IF authoring systems out there.
For a fairly complete list of what's available, check the if-archive/programming directory on the IF Archive; at last count, it had over 50 systems available for download. Most of these have never reached critical mass in the IF community, but several are in active use. For a detailed comparative survey, take a look at Roger Firth's Cloak of Darkness. The Cloak site presents annotated example code for each of about a dozen systems, all implementing the same reference game. This puts each system to the test - first, to see whether it's capable of implementing everything in the reference game, and second, to see how its language looks in a real-world example. This is a good concrete way to compare the different systems' coding styles and ease of use.
Here are a few of the systems that are generally recognized as top-tier within the IF community.
The most popular IF system is Inform 7. Inform is comparable to TADS in terms of power and flexibility, and has the distinction that it can compile games for the venerable Z-machine interpreters that Infocom used back in the days of commercial IF. Inform 7's is quite different from TADS (and most of the other systems) in that its language is extremely English-like, rather than programming-language-like. Its intention is to make IF authoring more like writing than like programming - which makes its approach in some sense the opposite of TADS's, which starts with a modern programming language model and adapts it to IF authoring. Many people find Inform's English coding style to be uniquely approachable, and beneficial in other ways, such as readability. Inform 7 also has a number of innovations in its approach to organizing the objects and rules that define the game world. It's an impressive system that is well worth a look.
The older Inform 6 was also very popular in its day, although it's been overshadowed by Inform 7. I6 uses a fairly conventional programming language roughly in the C family.
Hugo also has capabilities similar to TADS, and emphasizes strong multimedia features and ease-of-use for the game designer.
Alan's emphasis is on ease-of-use for the game designer, but is considered to have a slight trade-off in power and flexibility.