Below is a very partial list of the projects I’ve worked on. I’ve also done substantial white-label work and prototyping/R&D work on projects that have not been announced.
RPG and Browser-based MMO
I’ve written for a number of years for Failbetter Games’ RPGs and browser-based MMO, set in the universe of Fallen London, where my work has included content development, narrative design, world-building, and implementation within Failbetter’s proprietary content system. I now work with Failbetter full-time, but the following work was done while I was still an external contributor:
Our work on Sunless Sea was nominated for a WGGB award for video game writing.
Mobile and Indie Narrative Games
I’ve written commissioned content for a number of other narrative and casual games, among them…
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine was a finalist for an IGF Excellence in Narrative Award.
I helped originate this genre of games where conversation is the primary mode of interaction. For most of these projects, I also designed and implemented the conversation system that controls the interaction, progressing to a more and more AI-driven experience.
Galatea was the first game I ever released, a conversation with a single character. It was regarded at the time as a high point in non-player character dialogue. The piece has been exhibited many times since, including at the Library of Congress.
Though it was only commercially available for a brief window, Blood & Laurels has been recognized by as a milestone work in procedurally-driven storytelling, achieving a great deal of narrative agency and allowing relationships with non-player characters to affect later outcomes in the story to a remarkable degree. Interactive narrative scholar Janet Murray has ranked the game with Façade or The Sims in terms of its contribution to the state of the art in procedurally-driven storytelling.
Literary Interactive Fiction
These pieces are more book-like than game-like, and explore what can be done with writerly uses of interactivity.
First Draft of the Revolution is an interactive story for browser and tablet devices that reveals its characters through a unique mechanic of writing and revising letters. It has has been credited with influencing the text-replacement mechanic of many subsequent games in Twine.
A retro-gaming form without a commercial market, text adventures still have their dedicated fans. I started my career as a hobbyist in this space. Writing these taught me to design puzzles, connect story to geography, and explore a wide range of possible verbs and mechanics.
Counterfeit Monkey was once voted the best text adventure ever written. Rankings like that are always suspect, but this piece combines a story of intrigue and escape, themes about democracy and shared moral responsibility, and a gameplay mechanic that allows the player to directly manipulate the words on the screen. It has been described as “like Portal for English” (JP LeBreton).
Ultimate Quest was a limited-time text adventure commissioned by AKQA to publicize an NVIDIA launch. This project required rapidly developing a substantial, multi-part game to client requirements, communicating with an artist and other stakeholders, and running the game’s Twitter-based hints account while the game was live. Screenshots and background information can be found here.
San Tilapian Studies is a casual narrative game played live with a group of 20+ people. It’s designed to encourage shared storytelling as a party activity, starting with a corpus of evocative prompts that can be freely recombined. The prompt design itself is a significant part of the design process, and I have written about how I’ve iterated the design to create several new sets for other settings and genres.
San Tilapian Studies was made available to the public to play at the Wellcome Collection in 2015.
The Annals of the Parrigues is a guidebook to a fictional kingdom.
The towns in the guidebook — from their names to the details of their history and scenery — were created using procedural generation techniques. I built the tools in Python and Inform and then typeset the results with XeLaTex.
The book includes an extensive making-of section which discusses technical and aesthetic aspects of procedural text generation, and has contributed to the vocabulary used by procedural artists. My talk about the making of Annals of the Parrigues may also be of use.