Seltani Jam

At a recentish Oxford/London IF Meetup, some participants expressed an interest in writing for, and playing with, Seltani.

If you’re not familiar with it, Seltani is Andrew Plotkin’s multiplayer choice-based narrative platform. It lets players explore a shared environment, view each others’ actions, and change the world in ways that will affect others — in some respects like a MUD — but unlike a MUD, it’s navigated through clickable links.

Seltani is themed around the worldbuilding of Myst — hence the names and a lot of the imagery of Seltani’s hub space. But there’s nothing to force you to write your individual contribution to be Myst-related at all, and various experimenters have done Seltani projects with a different focus and feel entirely. Jason McIntosh’s Barbetween, for instance, is an evocative art installation piece about making contact with the emotions of strangers.

So the Meetup is hosting a jam. On September 19, we’ll get together and play some Seltani games together — starting with any new games that have been submitted for our consideration.

If we don’t get a lot of contributions, that’s fine, and we’ll play some of Seltani’s existing content together. But if you’re interested in building a Seltani game and then seeing it actually experienced by a multiplayer crew, this is one way of doing that. (The meetup page will let you sign up for the Zoom call and the other interaction here.)

Below the fold, a little guidance on getting started with a new Seltani writing account, and a few other links.

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Mid-January Link Assortment


Narrascope.jpegJanuary 17 is the deadline for proposals for Narrascope 2020.

January 19 is the next meeting of the Seattle/Tacoma Interactive Fiction Meetup, playing Matt Wigdahl’s Aotearoa in honor of its 10th anniversary.

January 21 is the next Boston Interactive Fiction Meetup, in room 14E-304 at MIT.

The Oxford/London IF Meetup next convenes January 29, when I will be talking about (and leading some workshoppy exercises around) storylet-based narrative design.

January 31Feb 3, Ryan Veeder is running the first of three events in his Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction. This one is a short jam for Inform 7 games. There are a number of rules about how to participate, so please do check out the fine print.

February 1 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Interactive Fiction Meetup.

February 8 will be the next meeting of the Baltimore/DC Interactive Fiction Meetup, discussing Mike Spivey’s Sugarlawn.

February 15-16, Rob Sherman is running an interactive fiction masterclass at the British library. This is a paying event; tickets here.

Screen Shot 2020-01-14 at 6.19.15 PMMarch 20-22 in Toronto is Breakout Con, a conference on boardgames and tabletop RPGs. Some great narrative designers are scheduled in as guests.

NarraScope will be May 29-31, in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.


The Gaming Like It’s 1924 jam runs through the end of the month, and celebrates works that recently entered the public domain. There’s a whole list of possibilities in there that you might enjoy.

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If you plan to enter Spring Thing 2020, you have until March 1, 2020 to declare your intent to enter. Spring Thing is a long-running competition for interactive fiction that welcomes longer games than IF Comp can accommodate, and features a “back garden” section for games that are unfinished, commercial, experimental, or where the author just wants to opt out of the competitive aspect of the competition. The games themselves will be due March 29.


Here is a detailed flowchart of Bandersnatch, worked out by Vladimir Panteleev. If you’re curious about how it’s structured, this piece has you covered.

download.pngThe finalists for the Independent Games Festival were recently announced, with the awards scheduled to take place at GDC on March 18. Andrew Plotkin has been on the judging panel for a number of years, and shares his thoughts about some of the nominees here.

This video has some interesting design insight about Disco Elysium. I am told. I haven’t actually watched the video all the way through myself, because I haven’t played the game yet, because I need to borrow a Windows machine. That’s all being looked into and taken care of. I hear the video’s interesting, though.


YarnSpinner is a tool, in line with Twine or ink, that can be used to write and manage branching dialogue for games. It has now had a 1.0 release, and is available for free, though users are encouraged to support its Patreon.


GDC 2019 Previews

GDC is coming up, and I will be there! If you’d like to speak, please do get in touch. (And if you’re interested in learning more about Character Engine from me or one of the rest of the Spirit team, please drop me a line about that too.)

Also, if you’re an IF person coming to GDC for the first time, I’ve written previously about GDC survival strategies (scroll down), and most of the advice there still holds. This year, there is also a GDC 101 event for people who are attending their first conference.

I am one of the advisors for the AI summit this year, so I’ll be in that room pretty constantly Monday/Tuesday, and especially: participating in the Ethics panel and the AI Devs Rant session, as well as MCing the Experimental AI Workshop. I’m very excited about that session, as we’re bringing together some exciting projects from several different corners.

Below the fold I’ve pulled out my picks of things that might interest readers of this blog. As usual, there are too many talks I wish I could go to, many of them scheduled opposite one another, so I’m going to have to rely on the Vault for a few things…

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Oxford / London IF Meetup in 2018

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We’re putting together a cool selection of craft and design talks as well as tool workshops for next year — starting with a talk on story and mechanics from me in January, and a workshop on using ink with Unity in February. I’ve also got some very cool speakers who have expressed interest in joining us later in the year, covering a range of choice and parser IF, commercial and hobbyist work.

That’s all possible in part because we have a new, regular venue: Karlien Van Den Beukel is kindly hosting us at London South Bank University, which means we can afford to do more London events in 2018.

Work has me traveling a lot these days, so I am looking for support in a couple of areas to keep Meetups running regularly.

– volunteer co-hosts for London events in 2018 (multiple). Co-hosts promise to come to one or more specific events, do announcements, introduce the speaker, close the meeting again afterward, usher folks on to the pub at the end, and be on hand in case any issues arise. This is a limited time expenditure (mainly the event itself, and you can volunteer for as few as one). But it is a position of trust — please volunteer only if you’re committed, and willing to chat with me first about how we keep Meetups safe and welcoming.

– volunteer A/V assistant. I get requests to record our talks and make them available to people beyond London, but I don’t have equipment or experience with this. If we have someone who can take responsibility for recording and uploading talks, I’ll figure out which of our speakers are open to having their presentations captured.

– workshop presenter on an IF tool (other than ink and Tracery) in Oxford. Time of year is open, but I’m looking especially at early March, May or October, as students would be around. I’m in conversations with an Oxford maker-space that might host. This role pays an honorarium; if you’re new to running tool workshops, I’m also happy to offer coaching and suggestions.

If any of that sounds like you, please drop me a line at

IF and Other Media

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June 14, the Oxford/London IF Meetup had talks from three speakers. First up was Tory Hoke of Sub-Q Magazine, who Skyped in from Los Angeles to talk about the process of founding and edition for Sub-Q. She gave us some background on how she got started, how she decided on the pay rate they currently use at Sub-Q, and a bit about the collaborative process.

Next we heard from Derek Moody, whose whodunnitmanor project is designed to facilitate multi-player mystery games, where the author has created clues and information for each player to discover at each turn. Different characters have different expertise, as one might expect in a mystery dinner party set-up, and they can decide what to share with one another during any given turn. When the players think they’ve figured out who is guilty, they can vote — which makes this partly a game of persuasion, like Werewolf, in which the guilty party is trying to pass off attention to everyone else.

Moody also talked about how his system is designed to support players who might not feel sure what they want to do, and how automated features take over if a player disconnects or skips out on the game — always issues in a multiplayer IF context.

Both Derek and Tory are currently seeking writers.

Finally, we heard from Nathan Penlington about his Choose Your Own Documentary project. Penlington is a collector of CYOA-style books — his blog documents many choice-based artifacts of all kinds — and at one point he bought numbers 1-106 of the original CYOA series in a single lot on eBay. When his set arrived, he found that the books contained notes from a Terence Prendergast, and several handwritten diary pages. He became fascinated with the question of what had happened to Terence and where he was now, so he made a documentary about the process of trying to track Terence down. The documentary itself was then performed in front of a live audience equipped with voting clickers so that they could respond to choice points in the story. So, to recap: Choose Your Own Documentary is a choice-based performance that is itself about the Choose Your Own Adventure series, as well as several people who became fascinated with them.

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Notes on New and experimental IF Tools

Last night the Oxford/London IF Meetup had a session on three tools, and I promised to write up some notes for the benefit of the people who weren’t able to attend.

inkle’s ink, the open-source, Unity-compatible language used by inkle for 80 Days and other projects. If you’re curious about ink and missed the session, there’s always Joe Humfrey’s GDC talk on the subject; but Jon also talked to us about The Intercept, the new free and open source ink/Unity game.

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Jon was a bit apologetic about the fact that there is currently no specialist ink runner, meaning that if you want to create (say) an ink entry to IF Comp, you will need to use Unity to build standalone apps. But to me, this is also partly a selling point, in the sense that ink is designed to build custom, professional-looking apps and doesn’t constrain the author to something a bit bland.

Doing this doesn’t have to mean figuring everything out from scratch. What I hadn’t realized about The Intercept until that conversation — and it’s very useful to know — is that the whole Unity project is open-source, not just the ink script that goes into the game. This means that if you want to build an ink/Unity game of your own but you have very little Unity experience, you could download the whole thing and then copy or gradually adapt The Intercept‘s look and feel. (Also worth saying: a personal Unity license is free if you’re not making significant money from your projects.)

Edited to add: on Twitter, I learned about the existence of Blot, a rough and ready alternative Unity project using ink that has fewer genre-specific features than The Intercept. So you have options, even!

Personally I’ve found working with an existing Unity project to mod it into something of my own to be a great route into learning how Unity works, because it means I don’t have to tackle understanding every type of asset at once. So if you’re in the same boat, that might be a way to get an ink game functioning, and then later you could start to figure out things like changing the fonts and presentation. (If you want to! Because it’s open source, you could just keep the way it looks, too.)

Indeed, you may want to play The Intercept even if you have no interest in using ink yourself: it is a short piece, short enough to play through (if not necessarily win) in 5-10 minutes, and it makes interesting use of the conversational options, as in the above example. Especially early in the game, we’re offered the chance to lie without really knowing ourselves what the truth is; and I found myself hesitating over whether I wanted to take the course that seemed safest or whether I wanted to steer towards the option that might reveal most about the story. Did I trust the protagonist, or not?

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