Mid-June Link Assortment

Events

Games may be submitted for ParserComp, a jam for parser-based interactive fiction, through June 30; then there will be a judging window July 1 – July 31, where players can try all the games and weigh in on their favourites.

July 2, the San Francisco Bay IF Meetup gets together.

July 10, 2-4 PM PDT, is the next session of the Seattle/Tacoma IF group. It will meet via Discord, and will feature a discussion on working with the Dialog development system.

Narrascope registrations are now open for July 30-31: the event is low-cost and remote, and features speakers on many aspects of interactive narrative.

Crowdfunding

The book version of Aaron Reed’s 50 Years of Text Games series is live on Kickstarter, and has handily blown away its funding goals – but there’s still time to opt in if you’re interested. The book comes in several different formats, all of them expanding on the basic text available on Aaron’s Substack – everything from digital and PDF editions to fancy collector sets with add-on feelies.

Also upcoming, Wade Clarke will be kickstarting a game in the Andromeda series – an SF interactive series with a number of well-regarded previous entries.

End of May Link Assortment

Events

June 4 is the next meeting of the SF Bay IF Meetup.

June 5 is the next meeting of the Seattle IF group, 2-4 PM PDT.

Narrascope registrations are now open for July 30-31: the event is low-cost and remote, and features speakers on many aspects of interactive narrative.

Releases

Hannah Nicklin’s Writing for Games is now available:

Focussing on the independent videogames sector, this book provides readers with a vocabulary to articulate and build their games writing practice; whether studying games or coming to games from another storytelling discipline. Writing for Games offers resources for communication, collaboration, reflection, and advocacy, inviting the reader to situate their practice in a centuries-long heritage of storytelling, as well as considering the material affordances of videogames, and the practical realities of working in game development processes.

The book version of Aaron Reed’s 50 Years of Text Games series is coming to Kickstarter – you can sign up to be notified of the launch.

Also upcoming, Wade Clarke will be kickstarting a game in the Andromeda series – an SF interactive series with a number of well-regarded previous entries.

Generative Projects

Lynn Cherny’s newsletter Things I Think Are Awesome continues to be a great resource on generative art and text projects right now – and there’s a lot going on in that space.

Lynn was kind enough to hook me up with an invite to Midjourney, which I’ve been enjoying greatly. Here, for instance, is what it offered for “allegorical figure representing fermentation, wine, beer, effervescence, yeast, bread”:


Volunteers Wanted

Spring Thing is seeking a new volunteer organiser. The Thing has been running for many years now, and is a respected second competition for the IF community, after the yearly IF Comp.

End of April Link Assortment

Events

May 1 (tomorrow!) the London IF Meetup plays Spring Thing games together, 2 PM-5 PM British time.

May 4, the Unnamed IF Book Club meets, also discussing Spring Thing games – though very possibly a different set of them. There are lots of entries this year.

LudoNarraCon, May 5-9, is an event running on Steam focused on narrative-rich games. It showcases various games and demos, and features a line-up of talks and panels.

May 7 is the next meeting of the SF Bay IF Meetup.

Spring Thing is running through May 10, so if you’d like to play and nominate games for ribbons, that’s the place to look. Many folks on the intfiction forum have also been posting reviews, if you’d like to see how other players are approaching the work.

May 15, Ryan Veeder, Lance Campbell, and Polyducks are speaking to the Seattle IF Meetup.

Inform

Inform is now available in a new version in open source; the source is available to read here. This version does not offer huge feature changes at the front end, but it does offer enormous changes under the surface – specifically, that Inform can now compile with other outputs, for instance turning an Inform program into C code.

Andrew Plotkin has some notes on the compilation process.

If you’d like to try playing with it without compiling it yourself, it is available online at Borogove; the traditional apps for Mac, Windows, and Linux are scheduled to be available in mid-May.

Talks and Podcasts

Jude Kampfner interviews different creators about their processes on Creative Confidential; recently she spoke with Matthew Seiji Burns about the thinking behind the visual novel Eliza, which tells a story of an AI-driven therapist.

“The Future of Games is Fan Fiction”: Jake Forbes talks about fan culture and writing games for people from underserved audiences, and the strengths of fan fiction.

Books, Upcoming

Neither of these is available yet, but I’m looking forward to both.

Aaron Reed is working on a book version of his 50 Years of Text Games series; if you’re interested in following that and being notified in time to join in crowdfunding, I recommend following his substack.

Cover art for Hannah Nicklin's book Writing for Games: Theory and Practice.

Meanwhile, Hannah Nicklin’s forthcoming book Writing for Games: Theory and Practice becomes available for pre-order May 3, and starts shipping after May 24.

While I’ve not yet read the book, I’ve seen a few excerpts, and have also very much appreciated some standalone workshops Hannah has shared, especially one about writing dialogue. I routinely refer people to the resources there – so I’m looking forward to seeing the book.

Mid-April Link Assortment

Events

ParserComp 2022 is soliciting games that use keyboard input:

ParserComp defines a parser game as one where the primary input method is the keyboard, commands are typed in, the computer uses a parser engine to understand commands and then outputs text to screen describing the results.

Games for ParserComp may be submitted from May 1 to June 30.

May 7 is the next meeting of the SF Bay IF Meetup.

The annual Spring Thing festival is now open, meaning that you can play the games and submit ribbon nominations. Nominations will close May 10.

Articles and Videos

AI and Games has a great video on the making of Oskar Stålberg’s procedural toy/game Townscaper and the wave function collapse approach that supported the design.

What does your narrative system need to do?

This is a question that comes up very frequently in the narrative design conversations. This post is a tour of some possible answers.

Select or Generate Content

Content selection systems choose what piece of content to show the player next. They often function on the level of scenes or individual lines or barks in a more freeform story. 

I’m saying least about this one, not because it’s boring, but because it’s a field already under constant and extensive discussion. A majority of conversations about “procedural narrative” are looking at these possibilities.

Manage Player Options

Gating, filtering, and locking systems determine which specific actions are or could be available to the player right now, or that help the player surface possible options to take next if they have a very large possibility space of actions to work with.

They might do things like lock dialogue options or add elements to interaction menus.

  • This Inkle post goes into code-rich depth on their “conversation distributor” approach to generating choices in Overboard! The design and implementation here treats the problem as a content selection problem, but one looks at individual dialogue quips rather than larger units.
  • This post talks about Restless and its interface for accessing options; the relevant portion is towards the end of the talk.

Designers thinking about narrative consequence often think they need to deliver those consequences through content selection – “you did this thing, and therefore there’s a big consequence with story branching!” Unlocking new options is sometimes clearer to players and less expensive to build, though: “you did this thing, and therefore you have the option to take a variant approach later!”

Natural language input systems – whether a text adventure parser or an intent-recognition chatbot or voice interface – are typically trying to map the player’s freeform input to a fixed list of possible actions, or to a combination of possible actions and/or objects. (There are exceptions applying one continuous deep learning model to both understanding input and generating output, but those systems are unsurprisingly a lot harder to control.)

So the whole complex arena of understanding player expressive intent depends on also having a narrative model of what the player plausibly might intend, and what sorts of options the game is currently able to offer. (For added challenge, those two things don’t always match.)

If you’ve read much of this blog, these two categories are likely familiar. The thing I’m most interested in right now, after the fold.

Continue reading “What does your narrative system need to do?”