Fiction is a Three-Edged Sword

Fiction, interactive fiction and narrative

A Colder Light


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New game: A Colder Light

A Colder Light

The last light has gone. The stars are coming out in the black sea above. Many are hidden by ice-fingered winds. My father is still not returned and the fire is almost gone.

But this is how life is: always an edge. A thin sheet on a diving-deep pool.

I hope he will return soon. I cannot summon him.

A Colder Light is now available to play online.

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A game is for life, not just for Christmas…

Merry Christmas, and if you’ve just unwrapped a new game, here’s a sobering puppy-for-life type statistic which is urban legend in the games industry, and might even be true: the majority of console games are played once.

So what? you might think. Most books are read once, most DVDs are watched once, most Christmas cakes eaten once… But I don’t mean finished, I mean played. The majority of console games are opened, installed, booted up, played for a single session (possibly of several hours), then never booted up again. Even though games can afford tens of hours of entertainment; and even though games cost four times as much as books or films.

And that isn’t true of books, or DVDs, or Christmas cake. So why the difference? Is it just because people can get stuck on games?

I don’t think so. I think it’s deeper than that. In fact, I’m not sure there is a difference between the consumption pattern for a DVD, book or a game. I think instead that the difference is in what we mean by the word finished. (And, what is inkle going to do about it?)

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inkle launches!

Time to announce my new project:

Building on my IF and Undum work, inkle will make interactive stories for mobile devices, and do so in a beautiful way.

Our first project, Frankenstein, is being published in association with award-winning London-based publiser Profile Books; and is being written by Dave Morris (author of Mirabilis) and Jamie Thomson, super-talented writers with a long history of gamebook work.

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Choice: from analogue to digital and back again

Screenshot of demoErik Temple, creator of many extensions for Inform 7 that do animations, sprites, and lots of shiny things, has a new demo up on his blog, this time demonstrating a text-game playable without typing.

It’s a really good piece of work and shows real potential for making text games accessible: teaching the syntax while letting people get on with the game. But it also highlights one of the text games major problems – there’s way too much choice.

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Gamification @ Futurebook

I’ll be talking the Futurebook conference in London on the 5th of December as part of a panel on the topic of gamification, alongside Anna Rafferty, MD of Penguin Digital and Jess Brallier of Pearson US.

It’s been hard for me to pin down exactly what I want to say. The normal rules for talking about game design don’t really apply – the audience will be publishers, editors and writers, and I think a standard design talk about risk/reward and challenge/learning might send people to sleep.

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Top 50 IF games – or 13, at least

Over on the int.fiction forum, Victor Gijsbers has started a thread asking for people’s list of the best IF games ever. It’s quite a fun trip down memory lane and makes me long for the days when text-games were an unexplored terrain rich with possibilities…

For those who are interested, here’s my list, also posted on the forum.

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Challenge, and how to avoid it

I was discussing challenge in games with a friend at work today – specifically, what to do with the player that can’t overcome it.

Interactive Fiction has long battled with the problem of stuckness, and these days it’s rare to see a polished game released without hints, walkthroughs, or such an incredibly linear storyline that pretty much anything you do will work. But could we be doing better? Consoles games increasingly are trying to resolve this problem: is there anything to learn from the experiments being done in the console world?

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Kingdom Without End

This link appeared first as a comment, then as a tweet, and finally now as a blog-post, which is all back to front. But this is archaelogy, which works downwards.

The short version is: presenting Kingdom Without End by Shannon Cochran, a multi-choice input game from 2001 about archaeology, that is perhaps the best example of CYOA written in a parser-IF style, and not only that, it’s a damn fine piece of work too.

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Choices in the context of context

I’ve written a few times already about my new, novelette-length choice-based story built in Undum. The project began life as technical experiment – a quick attempt (a bit like this one) to “do” a text-game as a multiple choice adventure. The concept was simple: the game would have locations, and objects, but streamline the usual breadth of Interactive Fiction’s parser down to just the choices that mattered for the story.

It didn’t work and I had to change the design. But I learnt a lot in the process.

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