Hello! This is my copy of the transcript from Ian Finley's interview, held on 4 April 1998. This took place at the ifMUD. Although I was unable to participate, I instructed my MUD client to record the proceedings. And here they are.

You may skip forward to the start of the interview if you wish. I've included some of the pre-interview chatter for your pleasure.

zarf has arrived.
zarf says, "Hm."
zarf asks, "What's this redshift doing in my soup?"
Saudade exclaims, "Hi!"
zarf has left.
Guest dropped boomerang.
DorianX has arrived.
DorianX says, "sup all"
Saudade says, "Hi, reading help files. :)"
Dilbon has arrived.
DorianX asks, "What's everyone doing here?"
Barabbas says, "idling"
Dilbon says, "Oh."
DorianX asks, "Seen the storyharp ad?"
DorianX says, "Idiot wants $79 for it"
DorianX says, "I'll have to write my own"
Barabbas asks (to dorianx), "what is storyharp?"
DorianX says, "Audio adventure engine"
DorianX says, "uses MS Agent"
DorianX says, "Hm... I notice a very strong anti-piracy csentiment on this newsgroup. Strange."
DorianX says, "Wow"
DorianX says, "everything runs faster and smoother since I moved my swap file off my win95 partition"
DorianX says, "oy. Quiet here"
Saudade dropped Thank you card for Ian.
Saudade says, "Sorry Dorian, takes me forever to do this stuff. :)"
Saudade got weevle.
Saudade got boomerang.
Saudade is eaten by the Bookworms.
DorianX says, "sokay"
DorianX asks (to saudade), "Is the card open to public sinage?"
Guest says, "Yes, I'm gone, but also here as guest"
DorianX closes his eyes, and paws back through that again
Guest says, "Sorry again, but I've had trouble figuring out my own coming and going messages, so I'm experimenting."
DorianX says, "ah"
Guest says, "So please do sign the card. :)"
Dilbon says, "What card+"
Dilbon asks, "Erm. Was this forum thingy today?"
Guest says, "Yes. 1 PM pacific"
Dilbon says, "Right."
DorianX asks, "When's that?"
Dilbon says, "And I missed it. I can't remember what I was doing."
Dilbon asks, "Erm. It's not happened yet?"
Guest says, "No no no, hasn't happened yet"
Dilbon says, "Oh. Right."
DorianX asks, "THree hours from now, yes?"
Guest says, "more or less"
Guest says, "less"
Dilbon asks, "So 2,5 hours then?"
Guest says, "yup"
DorianX says, "for values of , appriaching ."
DorianX says, "actually, I don't get why europe switches , and ."
DorianX says, "(in numbers)"
DorianX says, "seems to me that the decimal mark ( do they call it a point over there?) is a bigger separation that nte thousand separator"
Dilbon says, "I don't use a thousand separator."
DorianX says, "nor I, usually"
DorianX says, "I would just think a full stop makes morse sense at the decimal"
DorianX says, "more"
Saudade has arrived.
Saudade has left.
Saudade has arrived.
Saudade says, "okay, well, apparently I can't put a visible sign at the landing"
Saudade says, "Later."
Saudade has disconnected.
Saudade is eaten by the Bookworms.
Guest has disconnected.
Guest goes home.
Barabbas has disconnected.
Barabbas disappears in a puff of logic.
Dilbon has left.
DorianX has left.
Dilbon has arrived.
Dilbon peers intently at markm.
Dilbon has left.
Dilbon has arrived.
Dilbon has left.
Guest has arrived.
mkimball has arrived.
Adam has arrived.
Dilbon has arrived.
Saudade has arrived.
DorianX has arrived.
DorianX bows to the crowd
Saudade waves to DX
zarf has arrived.
zarf says, "Hm."
IF has arrived.
zarf says, "Yo."
Saudade says, "Hi, Ian! :)"
IF asks, "hello all, am I on time then?"
Saudade says, "Yup."
zarf says, "Or, in a sense, a week late."
IF raspberries Zarf
Torbjorn has arrived.
inky materializes.
Saudade orders a double mocha.
inky says, "(not started yet, right?)"
Saudade says, "Nope."
IF Saudade No, I'm just a very fast typist


And thus starts the interview...


IF straightens his vest and the green carnation, wanting to look his best
Saudade whips out a little pocket mirror, raises her eyebrows, trying to look like Geraldo
zarf reflexively hefts a chair, then catches himself.
inky reads his book and tries to wake up more
IF idly juggles balls of light, amazed at his ability to simply materialize objects
zarf scratches his third elbow.
DorianX juggles his invisible balls, amazed at his ability to bs objects into existance.
Saudade wonders where zarf's 3rd elbow is located
inky asks, "if you could materialize objects, you'd give yourself an extra elbow??"
DorianX says (to saudade), "you don't want to know"
IF would prefer not to know
Saudade says (to DX), ":)"
Adam is getting 'New Year's Eve' flashbacks.
IF looks worriedly at Adam and decides to avoid his parties at all costs.
DorianX warns IF that Mr. T occasionaly comes by and eats unsuspecting balls
Saudade says, "Ahem."
JasonMel has arrived.
(From inky) Cinderella cries!
Adam says (to IF), "Not a party. A story with that title."
(From Saudade) A voice rises up over the din in the noisy bar.
Adam says (to IF), "A bunch of people stuck on a piece of graph paper, with the ability to make objects from nothing, using it to make saxophones."
Adam says, "The MSTing of it is on my homepage. I'll shut up now."
Saudade says, "Welcome to the IF Writer's Forum. "
Saudade says, "My name is Lelah Conrad, Saudade on the Mud. I'm a newbie to IF writing but have played IF off and on since the early 80's. I'd like to learn more about the challenges and pleasures of writing IF, so thought speaking with various authors might help. "
Saudade says, "Today's guest is Ian Finley, author of Babel, which placed second in the 1997 IF Competition, and also won the 1997 Xyzzy Award for Best Story."
Saudade says, "Today's guest is Ian Finley, author of Babel, which placed second in the 1997 IF Competition, and also won the 1997 Xyzzy Award for Best Story."
Saudade says, "Rats. Sorry."
DorianX cheers
Saudade says, "Today's guest is Ian Finley, author of Babel, which placed second in the 1997 IF Competition, and also won the 1997 Xyzzy Award for Best Story."
Saudade says, "Today's guest is Ian Finley, author of Babel, which place 2nd in the 1997 IF Competition, and won the 1997 Xyzzy Award for Best Story."
Saudade laughs
Saudade actually hiccuped.
Saudade says, "A couple of ground rules are in place for this afternoon's presentation: Please don't talk during the interview or questions. We'd like to stay focused, and we'd like to keep this session to about an hour. If you must talk, please whisper. Please feel free to emote, though. It adds a sense of audience presence and participation."
Saudade says, "The last part of the interview will be for your questions. If an answer of Ian's ends with 3 dots (ellipses) that means wait for a second until he finishes. During the question period, please raise your hand and asked to be called on. That way, Ian can keep track somewhat of who wants to speak, and chaos will not break lose. We'll plan to end the formal session at 2 PM Pacific, though Ian is of course welcome to entertain questions and discussion for as long as he cares to."
Saudade says, "And of course, the Bar and Grill is open till all hours ...."
Saudade exclaims, "If my connection crashes, I will get back as quickly as I can, and I apologize ahead ot time for it. Any dumb questions, inaccuracy, or clumsiness in this interview is solely my responsibility and should not be attributed to the management of the Carousel Room Bar and Grill!"
(From Saudade) A spotlight cuts through the shadows, then settles on the young man being carded at the bar. Looks like he might be willing to chat a bit...
IF blushes and giggles tipsily
Saudade says, "Ian just turned 18, and is a senior in high school. His plans once"
Saudade says, "Hmmm"
Saudade says, "His plans once"
Saudade says, "Well, he's very smart, and is an actor, a member of a touring group."
Saudade says, "He'll be attending college in LA this fall."
IF says, "So much for the miracle of Cut and Paste"
IF wipes the grin off his face
Saudade asks, "Sorry, something's wrong with my buffer or ?"
Saudade says, "I'll go manual"
Saudade asks, "You mentioned in the SPAG interview that finding Deadline, Enchanter, and Zork in the 5th grade started you down the road to an interest in IF. Can you tell us what exactly it is about Infocom games in particular that you think hooks people on IF?"
IF says, "It's the possibilities that arise I think. The ability to do whatever you like in the world. Sure, you actually can't do most actions, but you can try them at least."
Ellison has arrived.
IF says, "I remeber with Zork spending hours after recess thinking of all the things I wanted to try..."
IF says, "I wanted to cross the mountains and find a village, because maybe there'd be a locksmith for the jeweled egg, things like that..."
IF says, "I was amazed at the WORLD that was there, seemingly so in depth. Of course, I began to want to make my own."
Saudade asks, "You are probably one of the youngest people to be seriously writing IF right now -- do you think your age has affected your writing, either for good or for ill?"
IF says, "Oh, it is definitely a drawback, for several reasons. For one, you can write best about what you know best, and I'm too young to know much..."
IF says, "THis is very obvious in Babel, since I've never even been in a medical or research facility. The second version is much better because I had the help of Mary Kuhner, a real research scientist to help me where I lacked knowledge..."
IF says, "Further, writing ability grows with age, exponentially in fact. My writing of this year is ten times better than last, and a hundred better than my sophmore year. But obviously, it's not as good as it will be..."
IF says, "Because of this, to turn out a decent piece of writing, revision was an absolute must. Each description in the game, even the smallest thing had at least one thorough revision, and the longer scenes averaged about 5-7 revisions in the process."
Saudade says, "Can you tell us something about the development of Babel: where the idea for the story came from, for example, and why you created those four particular scientists as characters? "
IF says, "I start every story with ideas. The germ for Babel came from what I saw was a drawback in another fine game: The Light: Shelby's Addendum, having to do with PC knowledge..."
IF says, "The story was set in an odd world, where you didn't know what was going on. In the end, it turned out that your character knew just what was going on with the world, but didn't bother to tell you, the player, till the end. I found this grossly unfair and misleading..."
IF says, "So I toyed with how to make the PC knowledge basically equivalent to the player knowledge of the world. Hence the amnesia..."
sherbert has arrived.
IF says, "So..."
IF says, "Sorry, one second..."
IF says, "I also had certain images in mind from the begining. The glass and steel atrium gallery, the central junction, the feeling of distrubing revelation; all these were present from the begining, though at that point neither plot nor characters had emerged."
Saudade says, "In the SPAG interview you mentioned that you think of your game as more literature than puzzles. However, for inept puzzle solvers like me, the game was really quite a challenge. Lots of locked doors and operating gizmos. How do you respond to that? Specifically, . . ."
Saudade asks, "I w as wondering if those roadblocks were in a sense a way to build a desire for the flowing text portions?"
IF says, "The puzzles were there to force immersion, if that makes sense. I'm not good at puzzles, but I know that when I'm presented with one, I want to get past it, it create a desire."
mamster has arrived.
IF says, "Also..."
IF says, "I wanted certain things to come first, story-wise, so the puzzles were a way of herding the player. Not very nice or elegant, but a common IF convention."
Saudade asks, "Many of us appreciated the way Babel used the flashback technique to develop the story, which added novel-like content to the game. I know you discussed it before, but since it was so central to the game and added so much interest, I thought I'd ask how you feel about it now, and would you use it again?"
IF says, "Characters are the heart of a story, and, as it stands, any means of interacting with characters so far developed in IF weakens them..."
Saudade says, "I didn't quite understand that, Ian."
IF says, "So, preventing character interaction helped solidify the characters. A balance of course had to be struck, otherwise it would simply be a matter of reading screen after screen of text, and what would be the point of that..."
IF says, "As characters are now, you might "Ask Tommy about Mom," and Tommy would say "I don't know about Mom." BAM Suspension of disbelief is shot out of the water."
(From mamster) Suspension of disbelief cries!
IF says, "As a technique, I'm not sure I'll use flashback again, I'm experimenting with different ways..."
Torbjorn has disconnected.
Torbjorn goes home.
Saudade asks, "Ah, so eventually the interactivity breaks down, you are saying?"
IF says, "In my next game, I'm using a CYOA method, which restircts the player's options, rather than the NPC's reactions."
IF says, "Yes."
Saudade asks, "Is that more of a multiple-choice type system?"
IF says, "And when characters are so vital, such a breakdown ruins the overall effect."
IF says, "Yeah, somthing like the Monkey Island system, but done a bit differently."
IF says, "It creates litterally hundreds of different paths though..."
IF says, "So the game, from start to finish would be playable in about 10 minutes, but could be replayed hundreds of times."
Saudade asks, "Could you talk about the theme of the story a bit, which is a sort of standard one contrasting scientific and religious beliefs?"
IF says, "It's a theme I first toyed with in a short story and play I wrote in eighth grade in fact, "Omega-Sigma," which was also set at an Arctic research station, which of course was the seed for Babel station..."
IF says, "It's a tricky debate, because I'm much on David's "push forward," side of the matter, but the other argument is valid as well. During the creation of Babel was when the first sheep was cloned, and therefor the matter became that much more relevant."
Saudade asks, "How so?"
Saudade asks, "Concerns about human cloning?"
IF says, "Suddenly there was a real threat that science was posing: The possibility of cloning humans. Suddenly, the world became devided into those who were for it and those against it. My own high school, a very religious institution, became hot with the debate."
mamster has disconnected.
mamster heads back to Jolly Roger's.
Saudade says, "Hmmm."
Saudade asks, "What advice do you have for others, newbies in particular, about becoming productive, creative IF writers?"
IF says, "Just jump in. And plan ;) I know, I sound like I'm contradicting myself, but not really..."
IF says, "If you think of a story, go for it. Make a map, program a room, take notes. Just get started, and it doesn't matter if it's crap, you can always go back and make it better. The important thing is to get going, the momentum will help you..."
JasonMel has disconnected.
JasonMel has connected.
IF says, "Babel, to begin with, was not much better than most of the competition games, but it's revision made it shine a bit. The point is, the game was written, then polished."
Saudade asks, "Are you working on another game right now? If so, can you tell us anything about it?"
IF says, "Oh, and Beta-test, Beta-Test, BETA-TEST ;)"
IF says, "My next game "8:00 at Andies Bar and Grill" is an experimental work, entierly based on conversation, both with others and internal dialogue..."
Saudade nods
IF says, "It revolves around a handful of characters in a bar at the same time, and allows you to play any of them, to see the events of the evening through their different eyes..."
Saudade looks around warily at all the characters in this bar.
IF says, "I'm enjoying writing this one, because it's a very serious piece, and the characters have the potential to be wonderful. A special thanks as well to Neil Brown..."
IF says, "He gave me the courage, by his example on r.a.i-f and his game to include a gay couple in my game, which is, obviously, pretty important to me."
Saudade asks, "Release date any time soon?"
IF says, "Before Avalon ;)"
Adam exclaims, "!"
Saudade says, "Tell us a little about what you will be doing with The Young Performers."
Ellison has disconnected.
Ellison goes home.
IF says, "The Young Americans is a non-profit organization based in Cypress, California. They train for 16 hours each weekend, and tour across the nation, bringing music and it's important lessons to schools across America."
HairBrain has arrived.
Saudade asks, "Sounds fun. Do you sing, or play, or what?"
Paul_O'Brian has arrived.
IF says, "I am a pianist, violinist, dancer, and above all TENOR ;) I was one of only 45 chosen from across the country to come and join them this year."
Paul_O'Brian says, "sit"
DorianX has disconnected.
DorianX Whips out his Portable Portal Projector and fires it skyward. In a burst of CGI, an exit to his home appears, through which he exits.
Paul_O'Brian exclaims, "D'oh!"
Saudade asks, "What would you like to have accomplished in the next five years?"
DorianX has arrived.
DorianX says (to hb), "dunno"
DorianX appologizes for the outburst
IF says, "I hope to have a degree in performing arts and be performing regularly, if not profitably ;)"
Saudade says, "Thanks, Ian. "
Saudade says, "This would be a good time for questions, but first..."
Saudade says, "Here are a few of the questions from the Questions for Ian Finley book..."
Saudade asks, "mamster: Have you ever had amnesia yourself?"
IF says, "Not that I recall."
zarf rolls his eyes.
Saudade asks, "markm: What made you choose TADS over the other authoring systems?"
IF says, "Ease of use, and great documentation. I'm not a very good programmer"
Saudade asks, "inky: Where *do* you get those crazy ideas, Mr. Finley?"
inky cheers.
IF asks, "Sometimes I forget my medication, what can I say?"
Saudade asks, "inky: How much and what kind of advance planning did you do before you started coding?"
IF says, "Varies. My current game I just jumped right in, after thinking up the characters and system. Another, future project I've already started on however I have 10 pages of notes on and haven't programmed a thing."
Saudade asks, "Ivan: have you ever seen Ice Station Zebra?"
IF says, "No I haven't, though I've heard it mentioned in relation to Babel, so I suppose I aught."
Saudade says, "Audience, you may signal your questions now. You may need to stretch a bit first though."
IF cracks his back and sits gracefully
Saudade touches floor, one two one two
zarf blinks.
sherbert raises her hand
IF asks, "Sherbert?"
sherbert asks (to IF), "what was your first game like?"
IF says, "Babel WAS my first game ;)"
sherbert blinks
Saudade says, "Wow."
IF asks, "Anyone else??"
zarf raises hand
IF asks, "Zarf?"
zarf asks, "If you were to rewrite Babel from scratch, putting in as much time and effort as you did the first time -- obviously this is hypothetical :-) -- what would you do differently?"
IF says, "Do things right the first time. I built Babel from the inside out, starting with the opening halls, and programming as I went along, adding the more complex things as I went. As the structure changed in this time, I had to go back and change a lot, and, lacking much coding knowledge, many things are programmed poorly. Knowing what I do now, I could avoid that."
zarf says, "Can you give an example?""
IF says, "The bulkheads. Each bulkhead, though operating basically the same, is programmed differently. Also, at the begining, I was wary of using the built in TADS classes, so I programmed everything by hand. This was especially horrendous in the programming of the liquids."
inky says, "(eeeagh, liquids)"
Paul_O'Brian peers intently at markm.
inky raises his hand.
Saudade asks, "What's hard about liquids, may I ask?"
zarf peers intently at markm.
IF says, "The liquids were horrible. The dish of water in the cage made me want to die. You could, theoretically take an infinite amount of water, dump it on the ground, and all the containers and...stay away from liquids at all costs, unless you have someone elses class or library to help you."
IF asks, "Inky?"
Spatch has arrived.
inky asks, "how important would you say being able to program is to writing good IF?"
inky says, "(er, that's "interactive fiction", not you) :)"
IF says, "Well, I can hardly program at all, and I made Babel, you can judge. You just need to accept what you can and can't do, and stick to those limitations. If you want something complex, you've got to take the time to learn how to do it, which, belive me, can be a huge amount of time."
IF says, "However, the most important thing is the writing."
IF says, "And, if you're as bad as I am, make sure you beta-test for a long time (I did for over two months, plus the after competition changes)"
sherbert raises her hand
Saudade is practically an ANTI programmer
IF asks, "sherbert?"
sherbert asks, "Is it possible to write a scary IF storyline?"
IF says, "Yes, but it is hard. The idea behind Babel was to make it a scary game, but the best I could do with it is slight unease. Unease is quite possible however in a game. Suspended, Theater, even Mercy and parts of So Far made me turn on all the lights in the room."
DorianX raises hand
IF asks, "Dorian?"
DorianX asks, "You've mentioned your own limited programming skills. Where do you think you are now in terms of programming ability, relative to where you were when you started Babel?"
IF says, "Ten times better. I'm using classes, and daemons, can now make liquids and containers without giving myself a gastric disorder."
Saudade laughs
IF says, "The best way to learn to program is to program, it's a very tutorial based learning set."
sherbert raises her hand
IF asks, "sherbert?"
sherbert asks, "how did you start to learn to program? I mean, what did you use as references and and starting points?"
IF says, "I started with AGT, which seemed horribly, horribly confusing, but I tried anyway, and it wouldn't run on my computer. Then I got TADS and read the whole manual, which really isn't that hard. Then I programmed two rooms. Then some objects in the rooms. Then another room. Then, dare I think it, a door...and I went from there, constantly checking back in the manual. The TADS manual in HTML is great because I can use the FIND feature in netscape to find whatever topic I'm looking for, and the hyperlinks are very valuable."
Saudade sticks her hand up
IF asks, "Saudade?"
Saudade asks, "Some people feel that sometimes characters seem to take on a life of their own. Have you experienced this?"
IF says, "Oh, Lord yes. The revision of Babel made it what it is, but it was hell because it was like butchering my children. The characters had very definite personalities, even if they only came across as sterotypes through my writing, and they were very hard to contain at times."
DorianX raises his hand, again.
IF asks, "Dorian?"
DorianX asks, "I'm roughly a year older than you, and I started my current project about a year and a half ago. How did you manage to devote enough time to finish Babel so quickly, given the sort of gymnastics life generally puts one through at this age?"
Saudade turns grayer by the minute.
IF says, "I had a total of nine months from when I first started to completion. Of that, six months were devoted to writing, the rest to testing..."
sherbert has disconnected.
sherbert goes home.
Saudade asks, "How much time, daily?"
IF says, "Well, it was in spurts..."
IF says, "Some days I would spend 5 hours, then not do anything for a week. I would often go nearly a month without doing anything..."
IF says, "Several times I dropped the project entierly, then picked it back up again, making some changes to ease it."
HairBrain flails an appendage.
IF says, "Looking back, it was a HUGE task, but I cut it into segments and only allowed myself to focus on one part at a time, which helped things."
IF asks, "HairBrain?"
sherbert has arrived.
HairBrain asks, "You already said you programmed it as you went, but in what, if any, way was the story and/or the way it is presented in Babel drawn out before you started?"
Caoif has arrived.
Caoif has left.
HairBrain adds, "Ie, did you just think of a character who would wake up in a research complex with amnesia first or whatever..."
IF says, "I had most of it figured out at the begining, and made a chronological list of all the scenes. As things went on I had to change the order of them, add some and take others out, but the story, in it's essence was in my head after I'd programmed the first couple of rooms. It was, however, quite different from the final project."
Caoif has arrived.
Caoif drops the monkey butler as it squirms out of his arms.
sherbert raises her hand
Caoif exclaims, "Hello!"
IF says, "I knew there would be an awakening, and a moment of realization, and an unpleasant end. From that I got characters, and moved from there."
IF asks, "Sherbert?"
Caoif orders the monkey butler, "be quite quiet" The monkey butler complies.
sherbert asks, "How many licks DOES it take to get to the tootsie roll centerof a tootsie pop?"
IF says, "Hmm...that reminds me, I'm hungry..."
IF licks sherbert
sherbert exclaims, "ACK!"
sherbert smiles
Saudade says, "Ian, thanks for coming..."
mef has arrived.
DorianX finds that rather foreward behavior
Saudade says, "There is a card for you to pick up in here."
IF asks, "Thank you for having me. May I get a transcript of this session?"
IF got Thank you card for Ian.
Saudade says, "Hopefully I am transcripting, and will send it to you."
DorianX was scripting till his hard drive crashed
IF says, "Thanks so much, it's been a lovely afternoon."
Saudade says, "Thanks to everybody for coming! Lucien Smith will be next guest, end of April sometime."
IF exclaims, "See you all around!"
inky claps.
zarf claps
sherbert cheers
Spatch whistles randomly.
inky says, "(I'm pretty sure markm is recording all this)"
Saudade exclaims (to inky), "Great!"
mef kicks himself for arriving at the end, but cheers wistfully nonetheless...
DorianX applauds. Unfortunately, he isn't very good at it
Paul_O'Brian cheers
HairBrain applauds.
Saudade beams and claps
IF tidies up his hair, straightens his tail coat, and dissappears in a flurry of rose petals
IF has disconnected.
IF goes home.

Thanks for reading this far.