December, man. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not foresee having any time in the second half of December for IF-related events where you have to actually move your body to a new location in order to participate. This space left blank and possibly snowy.
Adam Strong-Morse from Choice of Games writes about how to do effective end-game structures:
An arm-and-fingers structure is a game with several different final chapters where the player’s decisions determine which final chapter they experience on a given playthrough. Most of the game is the arm, with chapter leading to chapter more or less automatically, but the structure of the end of a game is like a hand, with entirely distinct and separate fingers branching off in each direction. Kevin Gold pioneered this structure in Choice of Robots to great effect, and Lynnea Glasser also used it well in The Sea Eternal. It can maintain a manageable structure that does not require writing thousands of different branches, while still creating the feeling that the end of the game depends on the player’s choices, not just in determining a final outcome, but in determining the entire feeling and plot of the game’s climax.
No Time to Play has an article on the space between parser and choice games, and how the middle ground has opened up in interesting ways this year. I disagree with some of the article’s points — particularly about how much agency is available in Twine work, where I agree with Juhana Leinonen’s assessment the there’s typically far more narrative agency in a choice-based game than in a parser-based game — but the article makes a pitch for the newish Elm engine and makes some other suggestions you may not have seen elsewhere.
In Ben Chill’s Horrors Anonymous, you’re a therapist specializing in the problems of assorted demons, monsters, and zombies. Though inwardly impatient, you nonetheless dispense assorted advice about how to manage their new, often undead lifestyles. The end features an extensive epilogue montage sequence where you see all the various monsters carrying out the advice you gave, and how their lives turn out as a result. For my tastes, Horrors Anonymous ran a little bit long relative to the amount of joke. But if you felt there just weren’t enough puns in SCREW YOU, BEAR DAD!, you may find the extended mummy riff to your taste.
Sub-Q brings us The Tunnel from Natalia Theodoridou: a brief, bleak metaphor for the kind of depression that can’t foresee any ending.
The author deploys several clever mechanics: stretchtext in several scenes lets you access one character’s viewpoint, then another’s; some of the lettering responds to the passage of your cursor, in a way that makes sense in context; and I don’t quite want to spoil the final scene, but I like what it does. Twine and its ilk offer an impressive poetic vocabulary these days — text effects, timing, fades, wiggles and jolts for communication. Sometimes authors go way overboard with this, and I don’t always have a lot of patience with the goofier text-jiggles, but I like what Theodoridou has done here.
This Cory Doctorow piece was billed to me as a piece of interactive fiction. (The art and blurb give a pretty good sense of what it’s about: “our cars drive themselves, but we all know that software is foolproof, so what could go wrong?“) The interactivity in this case consists of periodic opinion quizzes that ask the player what they think about various ethics and policy decisions relating to self-driving cars, and at the end of the story you can sign up to get a report on what other people have also chosen. (I didn’t do that.) There’s no narrative agency over the course of the story itself.
Light as this interaction is, I think it performs an interesting function, in that it reminds the reader of the collective decisions we all have to make as a society any time we introduce significant new technology to our lives. I’m not sure whether or not it’s likely to serve as a remotely accurate view of people’s beliefs and decisions about self-driving cars, though, simply because we’re so susceptible to immediate context that I imagine the story will strongly color what people choose. It would be kind of cool if it were possible to chart a change in the reader/player’s car-related attitudes just over the course of the narrative, as a kind of meta-experiment in the mutability of human opinions. As I haven’t actually seen the poll results, though, I can’t say whether they’re considering that kind of thing.
Eaten by a Grue is a new Infocom podcast by Kevin Savetz.
Hanon Ondricek shares a postmortem of his IF Comp 2016 game Fair.
Fans of Heather Albano’s Choice of Games IF might also be interested to know that she’s kickstarting a non-interactive steampunk novel.
Meanwhile, Christopher Huang‘s Peterkin mystery Murder at the Veteran’s Club is also still collecting pre-orders at inkshares. The protagonist Peterkin also appears in Huang’s series of logic-puzzle IF, Peterkin Investigates, of which there are now three episodes.
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