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. However, it managed to amuse some players, who had a nice time with the game.

Other sources affirm that the genuine influence in the Spanish Interactive Fiction Scene were the copies of the mythical "Hobbit" created by Melbourne House, mentioned by many IF writers. This gives the impression that Yenght wouldn't be more than another obstacle in the development of the scene up until 1986, year in which the next text adventure was released (with the exception of "Alicia en el País de las Maravillas"[1] --Alice in Wonderland--, distributed in 1985 by the very well known magazine Microhobby).

Therefore, the two greatest foundations to the genre in its beginnings would have been: the software company Dinamic and the magazine editor Hobby Press through its magazines MicroHobby and MicroManía. Dinamic founded a specific label (the label AD, "Aventuras Dinamic" --Dinamic Adventures) for publishing interactive fiction games created by small homegrown companies and those created by Aventuras AD, a company from Valencia, Spain, that soon would stand out over the rest.

The games published at that time had a wide variety of genres and styles, from adaptations of classical novels as "Don Quijote de la Mancha" to contemporary literary adaptations like Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's "Los pájaros de Bangkok" ("The Birds from Bangkok") and his main character detective Pepe Carvalho. Parodies of Star Wars like "La guerra de las vajillas" ("Crockery Wars") 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 of the Spanish Scene started in 1988 with the publishing of "La Aventura Original" ("The Original Adventure"), the first release of Aventuras AD, which was a free and shorter adaptation of "Adventure", that combined some of the original puzzles with a tweak. The game was a sale success and its massive distribution managed an increase of the IF fans.

Another important reason of the popularity of text adventures in Spain was the availability of the parser PAWS. While Quill could only be obtained in English, Tim Gilberts was hired by Aventuras AD to, together launch, a translated version of PAWS that was sold to the Spanish hobbyists to write their own games. This originated an important blossoming of fan-made games. Special attention to years 1988 and 1989 due to a national text adventure writing contest hold by the most popular Spectrum magazine in Spain-- MicroHobby. MicroHobby as well included two permanent sections in every issue dedicated to text adventures, written by Andrés Samudio (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 a sale success. Until the decline of the 8 bits market in 1992 the titles published by the company were:

  • La Aventura Original (Original Adventure 1988). Free adaptation of "Adventure" by Crowther and Woods. It showed pictures in almost every location. One of the differences with the original game is that it starts outside and forces the player to find a way to open a gate to enter the cave (contained in the second part of the adventure -- in the side B of the tape). Also in this version, instead of starting with everyday elements and introducing the supernatural little by little, we could find an elf and a dwarf in the first section of the game.
  • Jabato (1989). Based upon a character of a comic strip, this game was set during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Its main novelty was that it allowed the player to play with 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. According to many opinions, the company's best game. 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 an hiatus in the production of the "Ci-u-Than" trilogy. This sci-fi game had some experimental design quite controversial at the time (the high number of acronyms made it a difficult game to play). 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 the trilogy, the company's most complete game to many people, with lots of NPC and rich settings. It was published the most difficult moment for the company and also for Dinamic, due to the crisis of the 8 bit computers and the arrival of point and click adventures.

All Aventuras AD games had very similar attributes. They were split in two halves loaded independently. At the beginning of the second part it was necessary to write a password obtained at the end of the first part. Pictures were present in almost every location. They were written with a parser called DAAD (an evolution from PAWS and SWAN tailored for the company) which allowed to export the games to all of the current 8 and 16 bit platforms. The 16 bit versions of the games were usually longer and had some harder puzzles.

For some time it was said that Aventuras AD would start writing point and click adventures, but they never managed to do that. Their activity from that point on, would be focused upon the amateur clubs, quite active fan clubs which were born at that time. All games distributed by AD showed some ads promoting amateur clubs, which of course helped on its take-off.

The two most important amateur clubs were CAAD, founded in Valencia in 1988 by Juanjo Muñoz, and Year Zero Club, founded in Vigo in 1991, being its 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, the first golden age of the Spanish text adventures, could easily reach 300 titles, thanks to amateur game realeses. From 1992 the hobbyist activity slow down significantly, and soon afterwards, paper fanzines stopped being published.

Internet and the Second Golden Age (1997-Present)

Some years later, the arrival of Internet connections to home computers gave birth to a second golden age, in which the fans could participate through mail lists, an IRC channel and several web pages like CAAD webpage as a reference. CAAD webpage was born in 1997 and started with little resources and the mission of rescue the information that appeared in the paper fanzines and backup old text adventures in files that worked on emulators. A newsgroup was open, imitating the English-spoken ones, but was soon invaded by spam and questions about point and click adventures, instead a mail list was used hosted in Yahoogroups.

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

At the end of 1999 the first short interactive fiction competition started for games created with a severe limit of just one location and three objects, though this rule was removed in other editions. It supposed the take-off of this second golden age and a it was a great success. On March 2000 a second edition took place. The organization of several similar competitions, the IRC channel and mail list, helped to renew the interest of fans in the genre. Some of the editions of the competition had theme variations: comedy interactive fiction, experimental interactive fiction (called "nanos"), Tolkien-themed interactive fiction, etc.

Eight editions of these competitions took place from 1999 to 2002 raising the production of games to almost 50 per year. Starting on 2001 and for some years there was 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, 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 for 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.

On 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 big amount of documentation, utilities and games, has had a huge acceptance in the Spanish community.

Some months later, on June of 1999, the author of SINTAC published the first version of another parser called Visual SINTAC. This parser only appeared on 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.

On 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, CAAD Fanzine and Forums

On 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, on October of 2000, another e-zine called SPAC appeared (originally inspired by the SPAG e-zine), with a monthly periodicity.

In 2004, the CAAD forums were created almost at the same time than the remodelling of the CAAD's webpage, allowing a better classification of subjects, and giving also much more agility to the community. The mail lists are still active, but with a lot smaller 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 is 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") had a collection of newer interactive fiction (from year 2000 and on) with Windows individual installers. Both pages were not updated since 2008.

Outstanding Works