End of August Link Assortment

Events

In early September, inkJam will be running to encourage new games written in Ink.

Interactive Fiction Club Jam opened August 26 and is running through September 16. It’s open to IF of any genre, as long as it’s safe for work.

Meanwhile, Interactive Fiction Jam #2 is running today through the end of September. This jam welcomes several genres of story-focused game; a Halloween theme is recommended but not required. Authors may use a tool of their choice, as long as the resulting game is playable on Windows.

The SF Bay IF Meetup will convene again on September 3. This will be a hybrid event, so you can attend in person if you’re in the area – or online if you aren’t.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to submit an entry to IFComp this year, you can register your intent to participate as an author by tomorrow, September 1, and make sure you’re getting email and updates about the competition as the deadline approaches. Actual games will be due September 28.

September 18 is the next meeting of the Seattle IF group.

Releases

Cover art for Noblesse Oblige, showing art of several characters gathered in the sitting room of a manor.

Noblesse Oblige is the latest Choice of Games release from Hannah Powell-Smith, part of their ongoing Crème de la Crème universe.

Tool Releases

Inform version 10.1.1 is now available: this is the open source release of Inform, but now out of beta. This release includes updated Mac and Windows IDEs. (In other words: if you looked at the open source release in April but did not want to deal with command-line work, there is now a downloadable app for Mac and Windows, as with previous Inform releases.)

The intfiction forum also offers some discussion on particulars of using these IDEs, and (if you prefer) setting up to use Inform with VSCode and command-line compilation instead.

Meanwhile, if you’re more interested in hypertext tools, Twine has also had a new release, and is now on version 2.5. This version includes a number of bug fixes, and some feature changes to make it easier to see when there are empty passages in a project that still need filling in.

Mid-August Link Assortment

Events

The next virtual meetup of the Seattle/Tacoma IF group will be on Sunday, August 21, from 2 – 4 PM PDT via Discord. (This month they’re playing Pytho’s Mask.)

In early September, inkJam will be running to encourage new games written in Ink.

The SF Bay IF Meetup will convene again on September 3. This will be a hybrid event, so you can attend in person if you’re in the area – or online if you aren’t.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to submit an entry to IFComp this year, you can register your intent to participate as an author any time between now and September 1, and make sure you’re getting email and updates about the competition as the deadline approaches. Actual games will be due September 28.

Crowdfunding

Wade Clarke is raising funds for Andromeda Acolytes, a parser-based text adventure set in the Andromeda science fiction series.

If you’d like to check out the project before contributing, he’s got a demo playable online. My take: it’s polished, invested in its world-building, with a hard-SF flavour.

Videos

NarraScope talks are being released on YouTube, so if you missed attending, you can catch up anyway. You might for example like Aaron Reed’s keynote, Manda Whitney’s talk on narrative tabletop games based in physical objects, or Tanya X. Short’s talk on the tools used for Boyfriend Dungeon – but there are many other excellent and cool things to check out, and more coming out.

End of July Link Assortment

Events

August 6 is the next meetup of the San Francisco Bay IF Meetup, and will be conducted online.

The next virtual meetup of the Seattle/Tacoma IF group will be on Sunday, August 21, from 2 – 4 PM PDT via Discord. (This month they’re playing Pytho’s Mask.)

In early September, inkJam will be running to encourage new games written in Ink.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to submit an entry to IFComp this year, you can register your intent to participate as an author any time between now and September 1, and make sure you’re getting email and updates about the competition as the deadline approaches. Actual games will be due September 28.

Inform Evolution

Narrascope has been running yesterday and today. Yesterday, Graham Nelson gave a talk on proposals for upcoming Inform features; the ones under current development/discussion are listed on github.

Among those is a longish proposal for expanding Inform to do better dialogue handling, to which I contributed fairly extensively.

It’s designed to

  • support scripting of dialogue for both parser- and choice-based interfaces
  • dovetail with Inform’s world model, letting authors script a combination of dialogue and in-world action
  • let authors write long continuous flows of dialogue, short re-mixable chunks, or some of each
  • allow for lines that belong to specific characters but also lines that can be cast to an appropriate speaker at runtime (e.g. a line for “Any angry person”)
  • provide some affordances to support localisation and VO (assuming the author isn’t getting too procedural with the internal content of lines)

    This is a proposal at the moment rather than a finished thing, but it’s definitely slotted for development.

New Curiosities

Folly is software to let people play Z-machine parser games on a Remarkable tablet, giving their input in the form of handwritten notes with the ebook pen. There are some fun images of it in play here.

Mid-July Link Assortment

Events

ParserComp games are still available to play and vote on through July 31, and players are reviewing these games over on the intfiction forum.

Hops Ahead: The Art of Alternate Histories, Presents, and Futures is an exhibition of interactive narrative works, curated by Clara Fernández-Vara and Nick Montfort, running December 4-7 at UC Santa Cruz alongside the ICIDS conference. Now through July 31, the curators are inviting submissions of work on the themes of

  • Alternate histories, presents, and futures
  • Social connection and disconnection
  • Cultural universals and differences
  • Working across languages
  • Playful words and languages

    Accepted artwork will be displayed at the exhibit, and afterwards participants will be invited to contribute to a peer-reviewed book; there is also a small honorarium. Parser-based and hypertext interactive fiction are explicitly called out as appropriate formats to submit to this event (along with a range of others).

Narrascope will run July 30-31: the event is low-cost and remote, and features speakers on many aspects of interactive narrative.

August 6 is the next meetup of the San Francisco Bay IF Meetup, and will be conducted online.

In early September, inkJam will be running to encourage new games written in Ink.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to submit an entry to IFComp this year, you can register your intent to participate as an author any time between now and September 1, and make sure you’re getting email and updates about the competition as the deadline approaches. Actual games will be due September 28.

Podcasts

Voice actor Sarah Elmaleh talks about the work of voicing games: what the work involves from a practical perspective, the labour protections involved, what she’d advocate to game studios, the imaginative requirements of acting for a scene or environment that doesn’t exist.

This is part of Jude Kampfner’s Creative Confidential podcast – Jude talks about creative processes to a range of different people, some not related to games or IF at all, but you may also enjoy her older conversation with Matthew S. Burns.

Writing for Games: Theory & Practice (Hannah Nicklin)

Cover art for Writing for Games, showing an adventurer setting off towards a distant landscape.

Writing for Games: Theory & Practice is a new book from Hannah Nicklin, focused very specifically on the writing rather than the narrative design aspects of the field.

If the difference feels fuzzy to you, you’re not alone: many indie game roles require writers/designers to do a bit of both of those things. There’s a lot of industry conversation about determining what exactly is the difference, how we define roles in studios, what it means specifically to be a “technical narrative designer” or a “narrative systems designer”, etc.

Nicklin lays out the distinction as a difference between “storytelling through design” – what is being told through the game’s structures, ordering, roleplay, etc. – and “storytelling through words”, which includes not only dialogue but also any incidental text.

The book is also aimed at writers building indie games rather than big AAA projects, for the very sensible reasons that indie games are more of an entry point than AAA, and that they afford more freedom to work on different aspects of storytelling.

Overall, the book is readable, well-grounded, and full of practical advice and useful references. There’s enough introductory material that someone who hasn’t worked in games at all before can get started; Nicklin describes the book as representing what she might say to a mentee if she worked with them over the course of a year, and that feels about right. (It also describes the authorial voice throughout: the content is presented as advice offered to a junior, rather than, say, as a presentation of advanced methods described by one peer to another.)

Even for more experienced practitioners, though, there are a number of specific suggestions about methods – things you might like to add to your own toolkit, even if you already have a pretty developed craft.

Continue reading “Writing for Games: Theory & Practice (Hannah Nicklin)”

End of June Link Assortment, Slightly Late

Events

July 2 (tomorrow!), 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.

ParserComp games are now available to play and vote on through July 31. There’s a health supply of entries: I’ve not had a chance to try, but the list of entries includes a prequel to the Frenetic Five games from veteran IF author Neil deMause; also some novelties, such as a game called Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand in which it appears you type your input but the game’s output takes the form of hand-drawn images. Some players are reviewing these games over on the intfiction forum.

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

This is some way in the future, but in early September, inkJam will be running to encourage new games written in Ink.

Crowdfunding

The book version of Aaron Reed’s 50 Years of Text Games series is live on Kickstarter, but only for a few more days – if you’re interested, now’s the time to pick it up.

Articles and Publications

ICCC, the conference on computational creativity, ran recently; Alex Calderwood presented a paper on using large language models to help author generative Twine games, and released Spindle, a tool to do this that requires access to the OpenAI API.

This paper also draws on an older one studying how novelists work with generative AI tools, and I find these observations familiar:

Generated passages display a level of narrative coherence that allows the model to ‘yes-and’ the user’s apparent authorial intention, while still enabling a degree of defamiliarization that results from the composition of nearly appropriate text, an attribute of AI writing which has been said to be prized by writers including the novelists Robin Sloan and Sigal Samuel, who respectively envision an AI writing assistant as “less Clippy, more seance” and describe feeling “strangely moved” by AI ´writing (Calderwood et al. 2020)

Calderwood et al., 2020

Pedagogical IF

People interested in using IF in the classroom might be interested in EscapeIF and, especially, this talk on how to build content around specific learning outcomes.

EscapeIF is a non-computer system designed to be used by teachers with minimal classroom resources, but the design guidance about how to apply learning outcomes and work towards playable experiences could easily carry over to other types of interactive fiction.

Inform Prototyping

This is an older article, but I’ve recommended it in a few places recently, especially with Inform now open-source: Bruno Dias on why Inform is great specifically for prototyping.

Borogove.app makes it easier than ever to do that prototyping online and share it, as well, though if you try that, note that currently Borogove tends to let you do one project at a time.

And if this sounds fun but you want to be able to present an Inform prototype with choice-based input and/or other UI features, rather than a standard parser interface, check out Vorple.