Fiction is a Three-Edged Sword

Fiction, interactive fiction and narrative


2 Comments

The final 5%

If you watched the remake of Battlestar Galactica, you’ll know that after two or three years of escaping murderous robots with LED eyes and their sleazy-nightclub-owner-type owners, the last surviving humans were faced with the terrible threat of the Final Five. Five last Cylons who could yet destroy everything. Hard to pin down, hard to defeat, hard to negotiate with…

It’s something that anyone who’s worked on long projects can sympathise with. Projects can be easy or hard, but every project ends with that final 5%: the final 5% that nearly kills you.

Continue reading


3 Comments

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?)

Continue reading


6 Comments

Adventures in Time and Space: linearity and variability in interactive narrative

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work with choice-based stories. I haven’t played a new IF work in a long time – but this weekend I picked up Emily Short’s brief-but-beautiful Speed IF Indigo and it got me thinking about what I mean when I say “interactive fiction”.

(This isn’t really an article about that game, incidentally, which you should try out; rather, Indigo was such a very clean example of what text IF does well that it got me thinking.)

Continue reading


3 Comments

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.

Continue reading


16 Comments

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.

Continue reading


11 Comments

Friend or foe?

Narrative games are full of binary choices, and the most common is “friend or foe?” Will you be nice to the NPC, or will you be nasty? Save the baby or burn down the farm? RPG games often have a stack of these choices, several hundred across the course of 20 hours play, and they use them to collect data on what kind of character you’re playing as.

Unfortunately they don’t do anything very good with the numbers. Here’s a suggestion for something better.

Continue reading


3 Comments

An exposition about exposition

Starting on a new project has got me thinking about how games handle the business of exposition.

All stories need some exposition, and generally is serves to enrich the world and setting and save your from reader from the curse of generica. In a game, your exposition has also got to tell the player what to do next – usually in no uncertain terms – and how to set about it.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 717 other followers