Mid-April Link Assortment


April 18 is the next (virtual) meeting of the Baltimore/DC IF Meetup, discussing Spring Thing games.

May 2 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Interactive Fiction Meetup.

logo-512.pngNarraScope was originally supposed to take place May 29-31 in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, but the event has been moved to a virtual-only model, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. You can read the official statement here.

The Oxford and London IF Meetup does not have any events currently planned. We’re looking into the possibility of an online event, perhaps where we can play some Spring Things games, but we are still working out the details.


springthing-logo.jpgSpring Thing 2020 is well underway, with seventeen games to play in the Main Festival, and three more experimental and work-in-progress entries in the Back Garden. As of April 9, ribbon nominations are open, and the winners will be announced on May 3.


Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 10.18.24 AM.png

Clockwork Bird is working on a new cyberpunk conversation game called Silicon Dreams, where you play as an android designed for the purpose of performing diagnostics on other androids. The project is still in development, and you can find out more on their Kickstarter page (and help give them some support).

I have yet to play it myself, but the game takes the form of an interrogation test: ask questions, observe your subject’s emotional responses, and uncover the truth. A free demo is available to play here.

New Releases

BAftMA.jpgDespite the slowdown in live-person events over the last month, there have been a number of intriguing new games to check out. Choice of Games recently added an interactive YA-fantasy Blackstone Academy for the Magical Arts.


The folks at Wanderword have also developed an interactive audio RPG for Amazon’s Alexa called Cursed Painting. A full version and a free demo are both available. You can check out a more detailed description here.


Articles, Posts, & Podcasts

IF author Porpentine wrote a piece of short fiction called Strange Horizons, and has posted it here.

download.jpgThe We Are Netflix Podcast discusses the behind-the-scenes world of Interactive Storytelling at Netflix, exploring Bandersnatch, the software used, and how NF might approach Interactive Storytelling in the future.

In this article, Joel Beardshaw talks about using the IF tool Twine, among others, for commercial game prototyping at Ustwo Games.

Some readers may find amusement in this old-school manual for playing text adventures from back in the day. Originally published in 1992, there’s no shortage of nostalgia––but the book is still late enough that it can call Zork 1 a “classic.”

Job Postings

Failbetter_Games_logo.pngI mentioned this last week, but just in case this will reach new potential job-seekers: my employer, Failbetter Games, is currently hiring a writer and narrative designer. We’re all working remotely right now, so we can potentially hire from outside the UK, though the ability to overlap with our core 11-4 UK hours is still needed.

The job description covers the key points.

If you’re interested in the things I typically blog about — narrative design, choice construction, structural thinking, the intersection of numbers and stories — this may be very much your kind of job. We have multiple kinds of interesting challenges to work on, a very supportive studio, and some really excellent colleagues.

If you think this might be you, please please do apply.


End of March Link Assortment


March 31 is the next meeting of the Boston Interactive Fiction Meetup, which will be conducted online.

April 4 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Interactive Fiction Meetup, now also using a virtual setup for the time being.

April 18 is the next (virtual) meeting of the Baltimore/DC IF Meetup, discussing Spring Thing games.

logo-512.pngNarraScope was originally supposed to take place May 29-31 in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, but the event has been moved to a virtual-only model, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. You can read the official statement here.

The Oxford and London IF Meetup does not have any events currently planned. We’re looking into the possibility of an online event, perhaps where we can play some Spring Things games, but we are still working out the details.


download.pngThe 2019 sub-Q Jam has announced winners of the competition, and if you haven’t already played the game, you can check them out here:

If you happen to be sitting at home looking for something to do… Spring Thing 2020 is just around the corner with new games to check out. The deadline for entries is now past, and the competition officially begins on April 2. Winners will be announced on May 3.


Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 5.36.57 PM.pngThe BAFTA Game Awards are slated for Thursday, April 2, and winners will be announced live online. Obviously there is a wide range of categories, and also a number of intriguing nominees for Narrative.

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 5.39.51 PM.pngAlthough GDC was postponed this year, the Independent Games Festival reformatted itself into a virtual livestream, and recognized a number of titles for excellence in various fields. The Grand Prize went to Adam Robinson-Yu’s A Short Hike, while inkle Studios’ Heaven’s Vault picked up an award for Excellence in Narrative. I reviewed Heaven’s Vault last summer, for anyone interested in learning more about it.

Presentations, Podcasts, Articles, etc

In this talk from the March London IF Meetup, Destina Connor of Tea-Powered Games gives an overview of narrative design in Japanese Role-playing Games.



And lastly, a recent article from Fraser Brown about the evolving gameplay at Failbetter, and what may be in store for the future.

Mid-March Link Assortment


March 21 is the next meeting of the Baltimore/DC Area IF Meetup, to discuss Barkdull and Borgard’s Black Sheep.

March 22 will be the next meeting for the Seattle/Tacoma IF Group.

April 4 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Interactive Fiction Meetup.

logo-512.pngNarraScope organizers set dates of May 29-31 for the annual conference. While NarraScope was originally supposed to take place live in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, the event has been moved to a virtual-only model, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. You can read the official statement here.

The London IF Meetup is also not doing any more in-person gatherings for the immediate future. We are looking into the possibility of an online event, perhaps where we can play some Spring Things games––we will announce more about that when we have it settled.

New Releases

Screen Shot 2020-03-13 at 6.10.00 PM.png

Sam Kabo Ashwell just posted this week about the new release of Scents & Semiosis. The game follows a perfumer with a private collection of scents, and it is up to the player to determine their meaning. The game is available here on itch.io.

New Re-Releases

download.pngA recent announcement by inkle studios has accompanied the re-release of inklewriter as an open source project. No longer in Beta and now completely free, the tool is available at its new site.

Some time has obviously passed, but for anyone looking for some background on inklewriter, I shared some of my thoughts in a write-up back in 2012.


Entries for Spring Thing 2020 are due March 29. The festival officially kicks off on April 2, and winners of the competition will be announced on May 3.


Presentations, Podcasts, Articles, etc

Here are Carl Rauscher and Chris Conley giving a talk for MAGfest on Games as Story Machines.

And in a just-recently posted article, Sophie Sampson explores the question “Can AI Help Us Write Better Stories?” with particular attention to the tool Charisma.ai from the games studio To Play For.

End of February Link Assortment (and a bit about GDC Cancellation)


March 16-20 will not be GDC this year. The event has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

(They’re talking about doing something else in the summer that will be GDC or GDC-esque, but it’s hard to know at this point what that will look like, and it’s hard to imagine it will have anything like the same scope.)

I suspect this is the right choice, but it’s also a significant loss for many people who were relying on it for various personal or business reasons.

Meanwhile, this occasion is also an opportunity for talking about and reflecting on how the advantages of GDC might be made more accessible to people from more backgrounds. Solutions that we come up with for the current situation might have some broader applications later.

So some resources:


https://gamedev.world/relief/ . Some developers have invested a lot in being able to go to GDC, and this turn of events can be really problematic for small indies or companies that are otherwise on the edge. This fundraiser looks at ways to help offset that for people.

Mental and Emotional

Take This has some advice on emotional handling if this is more distressing than you expected.

Professional Visibility for Speakers

If you’ve written a talk and now don’t have anywhere to give it, there are some conferences currently accepting pitches for events later in the year. The Nordic Game conference has its call for speakers open through March 4, for instance.

UBM has also said that they’ll be accepting recorded talks and putting them on the GDC Vault and on YouTube for free. Whether that’s a good deal for you will depend on your individual circumstances (and how hard it is for you to set up a recording that you wouldn’t find embarrassing). But it may mean that some talks are available to the general public that otherwise wouldn’t have been.

Community and Knowledge-Sharing

notGDC is an initiative that’s been around since before GDC was canceled. It’s meant as a way for people to share information and enthusiasm around games, without needing to splash out on travel. The website is still up and they are coordinating events.

In narrative games specifically, NarraScope is still expected to happen this year — late May, in Illinois. Feral Vector is one of my favorite indie spaces just for its relaxed and friendly vibe; that is upcoming in the UK as well.

Local events like meet-ups are also a useful way to develop ongoing connections and support, and find people who will help you through a long project; as always in this post, I’ve listed below the events I know of in the interactive narrative space.

For developers looking for connection and support, there are a number of Slack and Discord channels that allow for some connection. Some of these require you to be invited, but some will take open applications. A couple that I know of:

The hallway conversations and the dinners

The things I will find hardest to replace myself are

  • social, in-person time with friends, former colleagues, and people I have been wanting to meet. Video calls exist, but a meal with someone is a different kind of experience, one that feels more personal and less like work.
  • chance meetings. In-person events vs online ones are like bookstore browsing vs Amazon searching: they let you find things and people that you didn’t know you were looking for. That element of randomness is actually really useful.
  • time set aside. The week of GDC, I’m not generally expecting to do anything else, which means a relative lack of distraction and ability to be wholly engaged in what’s going on there.

I’ve heard a few people talk about Google Hangouts with people they’re missing at GDC, and that’s something I’m still thinking about — especially if they’re not 1-1 hangouts (which can be a bit time intensive) but perhaps 4-6 person chats with a group of people of shared interests. Mulling whether there’s something worth exploring in that model.

Continue reading “End of February Link Assortment (and a bit about GDC Cancellation)”

GDC 2020 Previews

Every year I write up a list of interesting-looking narrative-related talks I’m looking forward to at GDC. (I also have an old post about surviving your first GDC that still mostly holds true, though Samovar no longer takes reservations, alas.)

This is a longish list, with a lot going on Monday and Tuesday especially given all the narrative and indie talks presented in the summits.

Continue reading “GDC 2020 Previews”

Mailbag: Development Process for Storylet-based Interactive Fiction

I’ve been a fan of your site and writing since 2009. Two of your older articles have been nagging at me recently — the one about writing prose for IF, and the other about your drafting process (with examples from Metamorphoses and Bronze, respectively).

I have been wondering how they would look updated for writing prose/process for storylet-based designs. I’m having a bit of a difficulty transitioning from the static fiction mindset, with all its attendant shortcomings in the IF context (text not bite-sized enough, difficult to decide on salient information , too much linearity, etc.)

If you had to address these two articles’ topics today, how would it be different? 

This is asking for an update to two articles, and so I’m also going to split out the response.

This piece will focus on the process side rather than the prose question. If you’re writing a game using storylets, how do you plan it, and how do you stay on track through executing it?

Continue reading “Mailbag: Development Process for Storylet-based Interactive Fiction”