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For other meanings of Time, see Time (disambiguation).

Time is an important consideration of IF environments, Even in games in which the time of day never changes, time can still be important in terms of the occurence of daemons, the solving of timed puzzles and so forth.

Real Time, Game Time

In IF, the relation of fictional time to real-world time is generally similar to that in other textual media. The fictional time can be made asynchronous both by the author - who can hurry up the action or slow it down to a crawl - and by the audience, who can read quickly or slowly, take breaks and so forth. The passage of time in the real world has no effect on the game world. Although this is the norm in the vast majority of games, most authoring systems are capable of checking real-world time and influencing the game-world accordingly, and some may advance time without waiting for input either in a single scene or throughout. These are called Real-Time IF. For example, Mr. Remote Mom (Lenny Pitts; 2000; TADS) uses real-time to model interactions with a toaster in the few minutes before a bus leaves.


The usual constant of time within the IF world is the turn. Some systems assume by default that a single action takes up one minute of game-world time, but few games treat this as an absolute constant. In addition to free actions, many common actions - picking an object up, for instance - would take little more than a second. Basic IF libraries are not designed to be particularly exact about time; for instance, in many systems the command DROP CLOTHES will, if the clothes are worn, redirect to remove the clothes first and then drop them within a single turn; typing out REMOVE CLOTHES. DROP CLOTHES would take more time for the same actions.

Because actions in IF are usually discrete - you cannot order an IF PC to scratch his butt and play the tambourine at the same time - this can lead to potentially mimesis-damaging situations, particularly in the context of timed puzzles. If a player runs out of time in which to perform several actions which in the real world would be simultaeneous, the mechanics of the game become more prominent.


Many games, such as Christminster (Gareth Rees; 1995; Z-code) and Anchorhead (Michael Gentry; 1998; Z-code) advance time only when particular puzzles or plot elements have been dealt with. Until the correct conditions have been met, time does not advance. As with most triggers, this device will usually be transparent to the player. In fact, it is often better that the player does work this out, so that they don't expect the sun to rise if they type WAIT enough.