Tightening the World-Plot Interface: or, Why I Am Obsessed With Conversation Models

framed

Framed is an interactive comic game in which you move around the panels of the story, reordering events in order to change what happens in the story. It looks really attractive, too.

Forgetting is a graphic novel with CYOA-style branching when you click on certain panels.
Forgetting is a graphic novel with CYOA-style branching when you click on certain panels.

When I first heard of this game, I was hugely excited about it. There aren’t that many entries in the interactive comic space, and this seemed to offer a slightly different set of mechanics to go alongside Dan Benmergui’s (unfinished but, to judge by the demos, awesome) Storyteller or Troy Chin’s Forgetting or the somewhat over-difficult Strip ‘Em All.

When I actually played Framed, though, I had essentially the same reaction described at The Digital Reader:

While Framed is based on a clever dynamic, the actual game is repetitive to the point that I am bored… Rather than have the user solve puzzles with different goals and different solutions, the vast majority of the levels I played all had the same goal: avoid the cops. Other than setting things up so the protagonist can either bypass cops or sneak up behind cops and hit them over the head, there’s not much to this game.

I’m maybe a little less harsh than this — I did feel that Framed was worth playing, and I know that some people did enjoy the puzzles — but nonetheless, I was hoping for something that did new work in telling an interactive story, rather than just setting up a bunch of puzzle levels. In that area it fell short. All of the puzzles are about a similar problem — one set of characters escaping another — and the stakes don’t alter much either. This makes for boring story.

The problem occurs at the world model-to-plot interface. That’s a challenging area for parser IF, too — and indeed for any game in which the player cannot influence the plot directly, but has to change the world model in order to move forward. Choice-based games vary in this regard, but probably more of them are of the directly-influence-plot variety than of the indirect-influence variety.

Continue reading “Tightening the World-Plot Interface: or, Why I Am Obsessed With Conversation Models”

Several Small Things

  1. This was effectively true some time ago, but the IF Cover Art Drive is officially finished and closed and over now, in the sense that I have taken down the flickr page. In the unlikely event that anyone reading this (a) got my email about their cover art and (b) really wanted to answer and accept it but (c) has been trapped under a big log for the last five months, you can email me — I still have a copy of the submitted art on my hard drive. But I’m assuming we’re done now.
  2. We draw near to the opening of IF Comp 2008! Now is a good time to donate prizes. (No, I’m not entering this year myself. I just thought I’d mention it, because a couple of people have floated interesting prize ideas in my hearing in the past few months but, er, I’ve forgotten who some of you were. So: generic reminder.)I am donating a copy of Second Person, which has great and provocative stuff to read by Jeremy Douglass, Nick Montfort, G. Kevin Wilson, Steve Meretzky, Chris Crawford, the authors of Facade, and others.