Adventures in Interactive Fiction

Success is North of Failure

Mapping out the story

So I am taking the disciplined approach – or at least what I consider to be the disciplined approach – and starting this process by really solidifying my story.  The real reason I think of this as “disciplined”, of course, is because it’s hard.  It’s easy to say “I want to write a story about a chicken who crosses the road, and in so doing, gets to the other side.”  The hard part, naturally, is telling the story in a way that anyone wants to read.

Part of my challenge is that instead of knowing from the start that I wanted to tell the story of a chicken who crosses the road to get to the other side, I began with the notion of a chicken who had already crossed the road and started telling the story backwards.  Why is he on this side of the road?  How did he get there – did he walk?  Fly?  Get kicked?  If he walked, what events might have prompted the journey? Was he laughed out of Poulet Prep for not knowing the difference between sorghum and barley?  What meaningful experiences did he have at Poulet Prep?  How were those experiences shaped by previous events in his life?  As I pick my way backwards, I discover that I am not telling a story so much as discovering one.  I knew from the start how the story ended; it’s discovering how it got there that has been the most fun.

And so, as I drive back and forth to work every day, I unfold the story, prodding at the corners, smoothing out the creases, poking into crevices.  I watch the characters walk backwards through their play, knowing where they’re headed, wondering where they’ve been.  Sometimes they back into the wrong sorts of corners, into pasts that don’t make sense, or histories that I simply don’t like.  And now that the story has pretty much been laid out in my mind, I find myself rather surprised at what I’ve ended up with.  Now begins the process of folding it all up again, and if you’ve ever tried to refold a map, you know how challenging that is.

So that’s where I am.  The story has finally been decided on, and now starts the next hard part – turning it into a work of IF.  With the story written, I guess the next step is figuring out where the game is in all of it, which challenges naturally translate into puzzle elements, how to use gameplay to help the player unfold the story, and of course… how to make them want to play it in the first place.

So that’s my open question for today: what’s your approach?  Do you start with an idea of the challenges you want the player to face, and then figure out how to build a story around them?  Do you think of interesting mechanics and try to work them into puzzles?  Or do you start with your story, and figure out a way to turn them into a game?


February 16, 2012 Posted by | Game Progress, Storytelling | Leave a comment

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, wherever you may be

As I dip my toe again into the waters of IF, I am struck by how much things have changed since my last foray.  I guess 4 years of absence will do that to you.  My comprehensive list of bookmarks is reduced to a collection of mostly broken links, favorite resources seem to have dried up, the newsgroup seems vastly different than I remember it, and my knowledge of any recent games is minimal… It seems I have some catching up to do!

Anyway, on to my progress…

Continue reading

February 10, 2012 Posted by | Game Progress, IF Community, Newsgroup | , , , , | 2 Comments

New game in progress

I’m very, very hesitant to actually post this, because then it means I’m accountable (even if only in my head) but over the last few weeks, this game has been forming itself in my head, dominating my thoughts as I drive to work.  As I tell myself the story and explore the nooks and crannies, I realize that I have to at least try to get this down.  So here we go again, years after my last attempt.

What am I doing differently this time around?  Well, for starters, I am taking a different approach to the overall process.  Last time, I started with a sort of half-cobbled story idea and a few puzzle ideas that I wanted to incorporate, and started with the implementation before having a clear plan.  This time, I have a fully formed plot, a very clear sense of the geography, detailed thoughts about key events and turning points, and a few set puzzles that play into it.  My plan now is to actually flesh out the plot into a narrative, and then mapping out the corresponding locations and events.  I think having a clear design will make implementation easier this time around.  Well… we’ll see, won’t we?

Wish me luck!

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments