Choose Your Own Adventure: Interactive Fiction for iPod


Text-based games for the iPod, known generally as iStories, are nothing new. Using the basic HTML support found on device’s Notes feature, some people have been putting together text-based adventures for a couple years now. Heck, even I sketched out the beginning of a story a while back, but never completed the project.

In its most basic form, the idea is to load a series of inter-connected text files into the Notes folder. A reader then selects the start file and upon finishing that section, is presented with a dilemma, forced to choose a course of action. The choice determines what happens next in the story. Through a series of choices, the reader eventually ends up at one of several possible endings. The iStories concept is very much like the Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the CYOA franchise is getting in on the action. The publisher, Chooseco, relaunched the brand in 2005, which had laid dormant since 1998. The CYOA online store is offering a free download of an iPod Choose Your Own Adventure story, The Abominable Snowman, based on the first title of the relaunched series.

After playing around with the story for a while, I gotta say that it’s a pretty sophisticated release. This game isn’t just a bunch of text files. It takes advantage of the “museum mode” found on recent generation iPods to integrate images and sound into the storytelling.

The Abominable Snowman comes as a 20ish MB download that includes an installer program. When run, the installer copies all the text files to an iPod. It then opens iTunes and adds the 137 associated mp3 files to the iTunes library and finishes by syncing the library with the iPod.

The way the story works once copied to the iPod is rather ingenious. While technically, one can simply read the story, the text can also be read to you by the author, R.A. Montgomery, who is also the creator of the series. At key moments in the plot, the narration stops and the reader is presented with a “click for image” link, which loads a silent mp3 that has album art attached, presenting a visual to accompany the story.

Of course, the Choose Your Own Adventure series is aimed at children. This is by no means high literary art. But it does push the limit of what an iPod can do and that’s pretty cool.

The Abominable Snowman is free for “beta testers” through Jan. 25. Compatible with 3rd-generation iPods and later. Use of images requires iPods that support album art.

Choose Your Own Adventure image on iPod
An image from Abominable Snowman on iPod.

iPod security note: Owner Info.txt

owner info on ipod

Hopefully your day-that-happened-to-be-Christmas was full of family togetherness, holiday cheer, and of course, lucrative acquisitions. And once again Apple’s iPod dominated the retail scene. While sales figures aren’t out yet, I think there’s a strong possiblity that a new iPod was among those acquisitions ilounge claims more ipods sold in 2006 than 2001-2005 combined.

So, in the interest to providing security for all those iPods newly given and received, as well as those that have been hanging around, here’s a quick tip that will help to ensure the safety of your mp3 player in the event it becomes separated from you. It makes use of the iPod’s Notes feature and is something I’ve done with each iPod I’ve owned since I got my first one nearly five years ago has it really been five years?.

This procedure works for all iPods with a screen and the principle is simple. Drop a text file with the name Owner Info.txt into the Notes folder on your iPod. To do this, the iPod must be mounted as a drive on your desktop, which you can do by selecting Enable Disk Use from iTunes.

On Windows, use Notepad to create the file. By default, it saves a text file format, which is required for the note to work. On Mac OS X, use TextEdit, but make sure you must select Make Plain Text from the Format menu before saving.

Inside this text file, type a short message about to whom the iPod belongs and ways to contact you: email, phone, website, instant messenger, etc. You can even include a physical address in hopes that some kind soul will mail it back to you or drop it off in person. In this case, it may be wiser to use a work address or P.O. box if you have one; you probably don’t want any nefarious types knowing where you live.

click to see full size.

When you’re finished with your message, save it with the filename Owner Info.txt into the Notes folder. On your iPod, browse to Extra > Notes > Owner Info.txt and you’ll see your message displayed on screen. Should you lose your iPod, the person who finds it can read your message and contact you to return it.

If you ever sell or give your iPod away, make sure you change or remove the file.


Of course, this isn’t a fool-proof suggestion. It’s primarily designed to help honest people return a lost iPod and, to a certain extent, help buyers of second-hand iPods identify stolen property. If any would-be thieves are savvy enough, they can easily delete or change the Owner Info.txt. Though, once you save your file, you can always turn off Enable Disk Use to set up a roadblock. Even if someone resets the iPod by linking it to a new iTunes library, your owner message will remain intact.

Additionally, if you use a case with your iPod, drop a small slip of paper behind it with the same contact info. Then you’ll have one more avenue of protection in the event of loss or theft.

Hopefully though, the more people who do this, the more standard it will become. If this practice reaches a critical mass, like luggage tags on a suitcase, people will automatically know where to look to contact an iPod that’s lost its owner.