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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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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IF Comp 2015: Paradise (Devine Lu Linvega)

The 21st annual Interactive Fiction Competition is currently on, through mid-November. Voting is open to the general public; the only prerequisite is that you not be an author, not vote on games that you tested, and submit votes on at least five games. (You emphatically do not have to have played them all! In a year with 55 entrants, it is very unlikely that most judges will get through anywhere near all of them.)

100Paradise describes itself in its comp blurb as a procedural interactive fiction and multiplayer novel. Neither of those are terms I would use to describe it: there’s not much you’d call plot progression. And when I hear “procedural interactive fiction” I usually assume that there’s going to be some text generation or some procedural narrative structuring or some AI-driven characters or something along those lines. What’s here, I’d be inclined more to call something like “a platform for collaborative textual landscapes”.

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Writing for Seltani: Aspel Post-mortem Part 2

This is Part 2 of a post-mortem series about my multiplayer Seltani game Aspel. Part 1 talked about things I omitted entirely from the design, and some things that I put in that didn’t work quite right. Part 2 talks about things that did work, and things that started out not working but that I think I improved over the iterations between tours.

These discussions are sort of implicitly a bit spoilery. You can decide how much that bothers you.

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Writing for Seltani: an Aspel Post-mortem

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Seltani is Andrew Plotkin’s platform for multiplayer choice-based IF. He’s written about it and its world model here, and we had an IF discussion club meet in/about it, from which the transcript is available. I’ve also been kicking around some ideas for multiplayer IF for a while, in one form or another, which I’ve previously written about with respect to Guncho and to Velvet Sundown. Versu also spent some time in multiplayer testing though that feature never reached the production phase.

So I thought I’d see what I could do with Seltani. In my view, the Seltani realms I’d tried so far, though entertaining, were essentially single-player realms where it just happened to be possible to have some collaborators along as buddies; whereas I wanted to do a story where having multiple players was critical to the way the game played and felt. (Edited to add: Barbetween is sort of an exception, but it is asynchronous, so that players never meet one another in the realm.)

Herewith is part 1 of a multi-part post-mortem of Aspel, because it turned out that building and then iterating on this over the course of Spring Thing produced a lot of discoveries. Many thanks to everyone who came along, played, and gave feedback (or just through action showed what was working and what wasn’t): it was a great help.

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Spring Thing 2015, and Aspel

Spring Thing is now open, with nine new games: six in the main category, three in the “Back Garden” area for games that aren’t in competition for prizes and have somewhat looser entry requirements. There’s a mix of systems, too — Twine, Undum, Seltani, Glulx and z-machine, and Ren’Py.

My contribution is a Back Garden game called Aspel, which is a realm in the choice-based multiplayer Seltani platform. As my entry blurb says:

Aspel is an experimental interactive experience designed for multiple players, featuring asymmetric information and collective decision-making. The text you see on the screen won’t necessarily be the same as what everyone else sees, so you’ll need to communicate with your fellow players in order to experience it most fully. To make that easier, I’ll be around to participate/host at the following times:

Tuesday April 7 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific
Sunday April 19 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific
Friday May 1 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific

…but of course people are more than welcome to arrange their own visiting hours.

At some point I’ll likely write something about the experience of writing for Seltani.