Bad Machine is codework that works. It presents a surface of text that blends English with structures and tropes from programming languages, database queries and reports, error messages, and other forms of machine communication. But it is also a functioning interactive fiction, capable of accepting commands and being figured out by the assiduous reader. The machinery of program and language is at work here, as those who are up to the challenge of Bad Machine can discover.
To Begin ...
Mac: Download and install Spatterlight if you do not already have a TADS runtime. Download and unzip bmch.zip and open the resulting file bmch.gam in your TADS runtime.
Windows: Download and install Gargoyle if you do not already have a TADS runtime. Download and unzip bmch.zip and open the resulting file bmch.gam in your TADS runtime.
Author description: Bad Machine is a text-based work of interactive fiction, set in an unusual future. The protagonist is a member of a collective of mechanical entities completely controlled by a central Queen — but as the game opens an unexpected failure in the protagonist's internal programming offers some chance at autonomy. This piece makes extensive use of unusual text presentation to show the protagonist's non-standard viewpoint. Learning to understand the text is a large part of the playing experience.
Instructions: When prompted with "?", type simple commands to control your character, such as "look" to look around and "examine" followed by the name of an object to be examined. Typing the names of directions, such as "north", "east," and "south," can move the character. Bad Machine uses many specialized commands. An explanation of these can be produced by typing "help" within the piece.
Previous publication: Bad Machine was published by Shiovitz and made available on the IF Archive, http://www.ifarchive.org/ in 1999. A web version, suitable for short-term play, is available on Shiovitz's site, http://www.drizzle.com/~dans/if/jetty/bmch.html and on Poems that Go, http://www.poemsthatgo.com/gallery/fall2003/bmch/.
Shiovitz's work (the file bmch.gam) is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. The Mac OS X Spatterlight interpreter is available under the GNU Public License. According to the readme file the Windows Gargoyle interpreter "is free software, and uses many components by various authors. The components are covered by their respective copyrights and licenses."