IF Comp 2015: Gotomomi (Arno von Borries)

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.)

If you are looking for other reviews, this ifwiki page contains a list of places currently carrying them.

coverGotomomi is a very open-ended, sandboxy puzzle game set in a Japanese city. It took me several attempts and a look at the walkthrough even to really understand what my goal was. Once I did understand, it turned out that there were many many ways to try to pursue that goal, and the game didn’t give me clear hints about which way would be best. Even with the walkthrough, I did not complete the game in even one way within the two hours. I have the impression that multiple endings are available and that I’ve seen only a fraction of the game.

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Plot, scene by scene

When I plan plot-heavy IF, I think of it in terms of a sequence of scenes. This doesn’t mean that the gameplay needs to be rigidly linear: scenes can occur in varying orders, or there can be plot branches, or scenes that can be skipped depending on player action. But I nonetheless do the organization in terms of scenes. A scene has a definite beginning and a definite end. It usually has to take place in a specific area of the game map (which may mean that the player triggers it by entering that area [as in City of Secrets] or that I move the player myself when the scene is scheduled to start). Following some writing advice I got long ago, I try to make most of the scenes end with some kind of clear hook. At the end of the scene, the player should ideally have a new take on what is happening, or a new problem to solve, or a new question about what is going to happen next. Exciting the player’s curiosity about something is especially powerful in getting the player to keep playing.

But the conventional writing advice tends to be insufficient when it comes to the types of scene that IF supports. I find that in interactive fiction my scenes tend to come in several styles, identifiable by the sort of interaction I expect from the player.

In rough order of intensity, they are

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Inform 7 for the Fiction Author

Jeff Nyman recently raised the idea of having a guide to Inform 7 specifically written for an experienced fiction author without background in IF, and I posted a brainstormed outline for such a project. The formatting was pretty ugly on Usenet, though, and I had a few ideas for revisions, so here is another, longer and better-laid-out version of the same thing, with more links to relevant games and articles.

This still isn’t nearly into the shape I would use if I were actually going to write this book — and I don’t have time to do any such thing right now anyway; I have a bunch of things to do for Inform 7, feelies.org, and the long-neglected theory book before I could take up a project of this magnitude. (And I’d like to have a little time to work on a WIP of my own — IF support work has pretty much wiped out my time for that kind of thing lately.) But possibly people will find the brainstorming interesting, even if it isn’t worked up into a complete document.

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