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?”

End of March Link Assortment

Events

April 9 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Area IF Meetup.

April 10 is the next meeting of the Seattle area IF Meetup.

ICCC, the computational creativity conference, is seeking short papers and demos. This can be a great place to send things that play with procedurality, including procedural text, art, and games — do have a look at their past contents if you’re not sure you’d be a good match. Submissions are due April 13.

Mid-March Link Assortment

Events

March 21, I’m speaking at the GDC AI summit (at a fairly silly hour of my morning, but a relatively normal time for US-based people) about the work underlying Mask of the Rose, and especially the way NPC decision-making is exposed as part of the story.

The Foundations of Digital Games conference will be September 5-8 in Athens this year; they invite papers and presentations on topics including game design and game technology, and they also accept playable games and demos to share. Their call for papers is up now: papers are due March 25, while game and demo submissions have until May 27.

The French IF Comp is ongoing, and you have until March 27 to vote on the games. If you are curious but don’t have the time or French reading skills to play, you may like these reviews in English.

March 30, I’ll be speaking as part of the University of Bedfordshire’s Beds Talks: Telling Stories event. The focus of that event is on writing rather than on games per se, so I’ll be talking about what I do from that perspective.

Spring Thing entries are due March 31 — as participating authors are probably keenly aware — but that means that for the rest of us, the new games will become available to play in early April.

April 2 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Area IF Meetup.