History of Interactive Fiction in Spain

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This article is a translation from the Aventura conversacional article on Spanish Wikipedia. As such, it is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License, that is, "gives readers the same rights to [...] modify a work and requires all copies and derivatives to be available under the same license."

History of Interactive Fiction in Spain

Background (1984-1988)

While in England and the United States, Interactive Fiction started to appear at the end of the 1970s and beginnings of the 1980s, in Spain it is not until 1984 that appears the first text adventures. Dinamic, a recently born company at that time, but destined to become the most important one in Spain, premiered with two computer programs: Artist, a drawing application, and Yenght, the first Spanish interactive fiction work. It was written in compiled BASIC and assembler for the Spectrum 48K and included brief descriptions and several bugs. It also had some sudden deaths. Anyhow, it managed to amuse some players, who had a nice time with the game.

Other sources opine that the genuine influence were the copies of the mythical "Hobbit" by Melbourne House, mentioned by many IF writers, so this gives the impression that Yenght wouldn't be more than another obstacle in its development, because it wouldn't be until 1986 that another text adventure appeared (with the exception of "Alicia en el País de las Maravillas", distributed by a magazine, the mythical Microhobby, in 1985).

Those would be two of the greatest supports to the genre in its beginnings: the software company Dinamic and the magazine editor Hobby Press through its magazines MicroHobby and MicroMania. Dinamic founded a specific label (the AD label, "Adventures Dinamic") for publishing interactive fiction, with games created by small homegrown companies and those created by Adventures AD, a company from Valencia that soon would stand out over the rest. The games published at that time had a wide variety of genres and styles, from classical adaptations as "Don Quijote de la Mancha" to literary adaptations like "The birds from Bangkok" ("Los pájaros de Bangkok") with detective Pepe Carvalho by the writer Manuel Vazquez Montalban, or parodies of Star Wars like "The Crockery Wars" ("La guerra de las vajillas"), or even sci-fi games like "Megacorp". Interestingly enough, the other biggest game company in Spain, Topo Soft, never published a single text adventure in its whole existence.

Aventuras AD and the First Golden Age (1988-1992)

The real take-off started in 1988 with the publishing of "The Original Adventure" ("La Aventura Original"), the first launch of Aventuras AD, which was a free adaptation of "Adventure", combining the puzzles of the original game with some tweakings. The game was a sale success, and its massive distribution managed an increase of the hobbyists.

The other important seed of the popularity of text adventures in Spain was the availability of the parser PAWS. Quill could only be obtained in English, but Tim Gilberts was hired by Aventuras AD, and together they launched a translated version of PAWS, sold to the Spanish hobbyists, so they could write their own games. It originated an important raise in them, being years 1988 and 1989 the most popular, due to the call for a national text adventure writing contest by the most popular Spectrum magazine in Spain, MicroHobby, which included two permanent sections in every issue dedicated to text adventures, written by Andrés Samudio, the founder of AD.

Aventuras AD could be seen, in some ways, as the "Spanish Infocom". Between 1988 and 1992, Aventuras AD would sell six different titles, each one of them a sale success, until the decline of the 8 bits market in 1992:

  • La Aventura Original (The Original Adventure 1988). Free adaptation of "Adventure" by Crowther and Woods. It showed pictures in almost every location, and changed the original game by starting the game outside the cave, and forcing the player to find a way to open a grate and enter the cave (in the second part of the adventure - B side of the tape). Instead of starting with everyday elements and introducing the supernatural little by little, this version had an elf and a dwarf in the first section of the game.
  • Jabato (1989). Based upon a character from a comic book, this game was set during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Its main novelty was that it allowed to play several characters simultaneously, who travelled through Europe and Africa.
  • Cozumel (1990). The first title of the "Ci-u-Than Trilogy", set in the Caribbean during the first half of the 20th century. Their best game, according to many opinions. The explorer Doc Monro gets marooned in Cozumel island's coast, where he lives great adventures.
  • La Aventura Espacial (Space Adventure 1990). It was written during a hiatus in the production of the "Ci-u-Than" trilogy. With a sci-fi setting, it had some experimental touch. It also allowed to control more than one character.
  • Los Templos Sagrados (The Sacred Temples 1991). Second part of the "Ci-u-Than" trilogy. A game of transition, full of puzzles, also set in the caribbean rainforest.
  • Chichén Itzá (1992). Third part of their trilogy, their most complete game to many people, with lots of NPC and settings. The most difficult moment arrived for the company, and also for Dinamic, due to the crisis of the 8 bit computers and the arrival of graphic adventures.

All Aventuras AD games had very similar attributes. They had two loads, and at the beginning of the second one it was necessary to write a password you obtained at the end of the first part. Pictures were present in almost every location. They were written with a parser called DAAD, which allowed to export the games to all the 8 and 16 bit platforms at that time. The 16 bit games were usually longer and had some harder puzzles.

For some time it was said that Aventuras AD would start writing graphic adventures, but they never managed it. The activity from that point would be focused upon the amateur clubs, which were born at that time, and also quite active. In all games distributed by AD they showed also an advertisement promoting an amateur club, which of course helped in its take-off.

The two most important ones were CAAD, founded in Valencia in 1988 by Juanjo Muñoz, and Year Zero Club, founded in Vigo in 1991, being the most important member Fran Morell. These clubs had almost one thousand members, and lots of interesting articles in their fanzines. They also had advertisements and lists of homemade low-prize text adventures. The production of interactive fiction between 1986 and 1992, first golden age of the Spanish text adventures, could easily reach 300 titles, due to the amateur games. From 1992 the hobbyist activity fell significantly, and soon afterwards, paper fanzines stopped being published.

Internet and the Second Golden Age (1997-)

Some years later, the arrival of Internet gave birth to a second golden age, in which the aficionados could participate through mail lists, several web pages like CAAD webpage as a reference, and an IRC channel. The CAAD webpage was born in 1997, with little resources at the beginning, and a labour of retrieval of the information appearing in the paper fanzines and the old text adventures being turned into emulator files. A newsgroup was tried to be made, just like the English-spoken ones, but it was soon invaded by Spam and questions about graphic adventures, so finally the mail list was used instead, currently in Yahoogroups.

In 1997, the two existing clubs organized a text adventure competition, in which less than twelve adventures were entered. In 1998, CAAD repeated the competition, and obtained the participation of 9 text adventures, though the genre was still in crisis, and a winner was not voted until 3 years later.

At the ending of 1999 the first brief interactive fiction competition appeared, which supposed the take-off of this second golden age. It had a lot of success, and in May of 2000 a second edition took place. The organisation of several other competitions like these (in the first competition a severe limit of just one location and three objects was established, though it was removed in other editions) helped to rebirth the interest of aficionados, who became again interested in the genre also with the help of the IRC channel and the mail list. Some of these competitions had some variations: comedy interactive fiction, experimental interactive fiction (called "nanos"), Tolkien-themed interactive fiction... From 1999 to 2002 eight of these competitions have taken place, raising the year production to almost 50 games. From 2001 there's also an Annual Competition, the Premios Hispanos (Hispanic Prizes).

Authoring Systems

Besides writing interactive fiction works, the spanish community has also built some new parsers or authoring systems to develop their own text adventures.

Halfway through 1992, the first spanish parser for PC was published: SINTAC, which was based upon PAWS, and written by Javier San José ("JSJ"). Initially distributed with a shareware license, and becoming freeware some time later, it had a good user base, until the project was abandoned in 2000.

A short time later, by the ends of 1992, the second spanish authoring system for PC, CAECHO? was finished by Juan Antonio Paz Salgado (Mel Hython) and some other contributors. CAECHO? supposed a deep separation from PAWS, since it had a fully structured programming language, very much different to the 'condition lists' from PAWS. CAECHO? was simultaneously published in PC and AMIGA.

During those times, many other authoring systems, more or less related to PAWS, appeared for PC or for some of the other usual computers at that time. NMP, another "PAWS-like", was also very well known.

In october of 1998 José Luis Díaz ("Zak McKraken") published InformATE (Inform Ahora Totalmente en Español - Inform Now Completely in Spanish), a spanish library for Inform (based upon Inform v6.30). The library, with a healthy amount of documentation, utilities and games, has had a huge acceptance in the spanish community.

Some months later, in june of 1999, the author of SINTAC publishes the first version of another parser called Visual SINTAC. This parser only appeared in Windows environments, and it would be the first spanish parser to provide a complete GUI as a help to the programmer. Currently this project is also abandoned in behalf of more modern parsers, with a bigger amount of users.

In January of 2005, Uto, Yokiyoki and Baltasar published the 4th Beta of Superglus, a parser based upon NMP, which generated games for Glulx, and is also currently widely used by the community.

Present Time: CAAD, SPAC Fanzine and Forums

In june of 2000 the people in charge of CAAD decide to continue with the publication of the fanzine, this time in PDF format for web distribution. Seven issues were written in total, until december of 2000. Almost at the same time, in october of 2000, another ezine called SPAC appears (originally inspired by the SPAG ezine), with a monthly periodicity, which is still being published at this moment, and with a very good health, thanks to a more and more active community.

In 2004, the forums are created almost at the same time than the remodelling of the CAAD's webpage, allowing for a better clasification of the subjects, and giving also much more agility to the community. The mail lists are still active, but with a lot lesser message volume than before.

Since 2007 WikiCAAD, the spanish IF wiki, is quickly becoming a mayor documentation source on the spanish IF community, history, works and resources.

Another interesting initiative of the last years was a classic text adventures retrieval project, called Proyecto Base, which has managed to obtain more than a hundred classical spanish adventures in very little time (for the ZX Spectrum computer). Also, the "Almacén de la Aventura" ("The Adventure Warehouse") has an increasing collection of newer interactive fiction (from year 2000 and on) with Windows individual installers.

At this moment, more and more spanish-spoken people all over the world (in Chile, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru...) are becoming interested with this genre.

Outstanding Works