If you've been following the text adventure scene for a while, chances are you've heard GMD or the Interactive Fiction Archive mentioned. You were told that the latest adventure was "on the archive," or that you needed to visit the archive to get an interpreter to play the newer text adventures. Sometimes people announce tools or games and they don't even mention the archive by name, saying instead that "the files are in /programming/tads2/examples", leaving you with no idea what they were talking about.
The text adventure community more or less expects you to figure out what the archive is and how to navigate it on your own. While this approach works, it can be extremely frustrating. This article will hopefully help you clamber up the archive learning curve. I'll be discussing what the archive is, how it is structured, and where to go to find what you're looking for. At the end of the article will be a map of the archive with most of the links from the article laid out for you.
A historical note: the archive was originally housed at GMD, the German National Research Center for Information Technology, the creation of Volker Blasius. For a long time "GMD" was synonymous with the IF Archive. However, in August of 2001, the archive moved to ifarchive.org. People still occasionally refer to the archive as "GMD" out of habit. So whenever you see "GMD" mentally replace it with "IF Archive."
What is FTP, you ask? FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and is a method for transferring files between computers. These days you can access the archive through the web, and will only need to use an FTP client if you want to upload things to the archive. Explaining all about FTP is beyond the scope of this article; for more information, read the beginner's guide to FTP at FTPPlanet.
The archive is made up of directories. The top-level directory is where you'll go if you're looking for something and don't know where it lives on the archive.
Where you go from here will depend on what you want to find. Do you want to play games? Are you interested in writing your own? Do you want to learn more about Infocom? Once you've decided what you're after, this guide can hopefully help you find it.