January Link Assortment

Upcoming events:

Thanks to a burst of focused planning, we have a bunch of forthcoming meetings scheduled for the Oxford/London Meetup. They are

London, February 16. We will be playing a variant of San Tilapian Studies, along with other short card and boardgames focused on storymaking with other people. I’m psyched about this – San Tilapian Studies takes a fair amount of prep to put together and I don’t run it frequently, so if you want to play, this is an unusual chance. We’re using a different setting and sticker set than in the original.

Oxford, April 3. Sunday afternoon pub meet-up; you may bring WIPs or other items to share if you like, though we’re not set up for actual projection or anything like that. Consider this one a really late March meeting, because SXSW/GDC/Easter weekend use up all of my actual March.

London, April 19. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

London, June 14. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

Thanks to Failbetter Games for their on-going willingness to co-host!

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If you are planning to be at GDC, here’s some IF-related content for you:

I will be talking in a short format about visualization and design, with many examples from interactive narrative contexts (as well as some from elsewhere).

inkle studios folks will be talking about their tool ink that is used for 80 Days and the Sorcery! series, and which they will be open-sourcing. (!)

Meg Jayanth is speaking twice, once about writing NPCs with agency and once about diversity.

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Further reading on narrative construction

After recent RAIF discussion and the Gamasutra article on Far Cry 2, the rest of the world is also talking more on the question of how narrative can be constructed in games — out of what pieces, and in what sense it can be narrative.

A lot of the discussion comes back to traditional issues we’ve seen before: people re-discovering, for instance, the conflict between freedom, agency, and story. A lot of the techniques suggested (sandboxes where the player has to make his own story; branching narratives; narratives constructed in partial reaction to the player’s behavior, by some sort of drama manager) have already been floated a bunch of times.

For myself, I actually feel like I’ve talked out this topic for the time being, but it’s interesting seeing what everyone else is saying.

Make it juicy!

Often in IF design I think back to an old Gamasutra post on rapid game prototyping. (For a while I couldn’t find it again, having sort of sketchy memories of when it ran or what a good search term would be. But now I have, I thought it might interest other people as well.) I particularly like this bit:

“Juice” was our wet little term for constant and bountiful user feedback. A juicy game element will bounce and wiggle and squirt and make a little noise when you touch it. A juicy game feels alive and responds to everything you do — tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input. It makes the player feel powerful and in control of the world, and it coaches them through the rules of the game by constantly letting them know on a per-interaction basis how they are doing.

IF doesn’t do wiggles and squirts much, but it has its own kind of juice — fun and unique responses to as many commands as possible. And to judge by the success of Lost Pig and Suveh Nux on JayIsGames, I think this is part of what gives IF its appeal with newbies and people who aren’t hardcore IF fans.