Tour Bibliotekh

An interactive bucharesque

Copyright 2020 by Andrew Plotkin – release 5

This work was created in the (endless) summer of 2020 for the Italo Calvino game jam, “If on a summer’s night a game designer...

Thanks to Roger, Hugh, Lance, and others for early feedback and bug reports. Thanks to David Goldfarb for corrections and suggestions on the literature.

To set some expectations

This is not a puzzle game and it has no victory condition. It is an environment in which you are welcome to wander. There are secrets to discover, but (for once) my intent is not to challenge your discovery skills.

(If you find yourself just looking around and wondering what to do, here is a hint: Ernq gur svir abgrf. Gura sbyybj gur fhttrfgvba nobhg gur Pnyivab obbx. Then use what you find.) (You can tell this isn’t a puzzle game because I am willing to give hints!)

About the space

The library is of course my real live library as of late August, 2020. I moved to a new house in 2019, but it took me until 2020 to acquire all the bookshelves I wanted. The books sat morosely in boxes for an entire year! Happily, Ikea delivers even during plague times.

(If you want a more data-oriented catalog of my collection, here is a card catalog. Note that the library room does not include programming manuals, game studies texts, CYOA books, or other indicia of the game-design lifestyle. Those live in my office. Oh, and cookbooks in the kitchen.)

(And then there are ebooks. I have a lot of ebooks – about 10% of my collection at this point. I will neither make an argument about that nor listen to one. In my last apartment, the library room was much smaller; I ran out of space. Now it’s COVID time and I don’t browse in bookstores any more. The future has yet to be determined.)

Anyway. Once I had this playground constructed and shelved, I was so pleased that I had to photo-blog the whole thing. But flat photographs couldn’t really capture the space, could they? So I figured out how to make an anamorphic panning environment – that staple of late-90s adventure games.

The connection to adventure games feels very right, of course. Every library is a maze and a house of portals. Plenty of games before and after Myst have traded on those assocations. I wanted to make them a little bit real in my home. I hope this site makes them a little bit real for you too.

Technical notes

The environment is built using Pannellum, an open-source package for viewing 3D panoramas in a web browser. I took the photos using an Insta360 ONE camera. That’s an old model (2017), which is why the photos are pretty low-resolution and funky when you zoom in. Sorry. I could buy a newer model and reshoot, but then I’d have to reposition all the hotspots.

Speaking of which: You’ll note that the book and note hotspots get a little distorted as you pan around. They track the environment pretty well, but not perfectly. Pannellum didn’t support this at all (it wants all hotspots to be circular) so I added a small hack to skew them. (See this fork.) The math is dart-throwing experimentation; please be impressed that it works at all.

The fonts are Forum (title) and Crimson Text (body).