Interactive Fiction on the iPad w/iDOS

Two things came into my life around the same time — a rekindled interest in Text Adventures/Interactive Fiction, and the iPad. Over the past month or two, I’ve been searching for a way to connect the two. While the iPad’s virtual keyboard (similar to the iPhone’s, but obviously bigger) isn’t designed for banging (touching?) out novels on, it’s certainly adequate for typing text into a work of Interactive Fiction. The portability of the iPad is a plus, too.

As I mentioned in my previous post (edit: HERE), iDOS (formerly DosPad) officially hit the App Store this week. iDOS is a port of the popular DOS emulator DosBox for iOS. It runs on the iPhone and iTouch, and contains a few additional features for iPad users. iDOS only lasted for a few hours in Apple’s App Store before it got yanked, but if your iOS device is jailbroken, you can download iDOS via Cydia, directly from the developer’s site.

There are a few works of Interactive Fiction (and Choose Your Own Adventure-style) available for iOS, and thanks to Parchment I have been able to enjoy several IF games on my iPad via the web, but that leaves a whole lot of games unplayable. Like games written in Hugo, which my friend Robb Sherwin primarily uses.

A few minutes of searching turned up a DOS-friendly version of Hugo. It doesn’t display the pictures and music like the Windows-based Hugo interpreter I’ve been using, but it does work. iDOS may have some performance issues when it comes to emulating graphic-intensive DOS programs with the iPad’s processor, but it seems to have no problem running DOS-based game interpreters.

Click to Enlarge

This is a screenshot of Robb Sherwin’s “A Crimson Spring”, written in Hugo, running on the iPad.

In the big scheme of things, running old DOS-based interpreters on new hardware via emulation is probably a step in the wrong direction. Ultimately I would like to see web-based interpreters for all the major IF languages. (And no, before you ask; coding such a solution is way beyond my skill set.) I think platform-agnostic interpreters would help widen the acceptance of Interactive Fiction. In a world where essentially everybody and everything connects to the web, it makes sense to put your game there.

Until that happens, we are occasionally left with coming up with alternative solutions, which sometimes means forcefully shoehorning old games onto new devices. iDOS lets me do that.

(Note: I write a lot of these the night before they hit the site. Because of that, there is always a possibility that, due to conky scripts and janky timers, blog posts could appear out of order, causing the appearance of an odd ripple in the space/time continuum when I refer to other posts that (A) haven’t appeared on the site yet, but (B) hopefully fill by the time you read it. While writing them, I am often forced to refer to things in past tense that haven’t appeared on the site yet. When it all works, it’s a beautiful thing; when it doesn’t, I appear kooky. Here’s to everything working!)

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One Response to “Interactive Fiction on the iPad w/iDOS”

  1. Irfon-Kim Ahmad Says:

    It won’t help with Hugo, but iFrotz is free for iPad and plays loads of interactive fiction games, including many modern ones, if you’re worried about going in the right/wrong direction.

    I don’t really agree about putting everything on the web, simply because I’m not always connected to the web, and there seems little point in maintaining a constant web connection, using up data and power, to perform a task which gains little or nothing from being online, and likely even performs better offline.