Mid-January Link Assortment

Events

January 17, I’m presenting at the London IF Meetup on matching story and mechanics. This will be part talk, part workshop.

The next People’s Republic of IF meeting takes place Wednesday, January 24 at 6:30 PM in MIT room 14N-233.

January 26, there will be a livestream playthrough by elitpathfinders of Thomas Disch’s 1986 Amnesia.

February 3 is the next meeting of the SF Bay Area IF Meetup.

February 12 in Leeds, there is a ticketed but free workshop on Twine.

The Opening Up Digital Fiction competition runs through February 15, 2018. It offers cash prizes and the possibility of future publication.

Upcoming February 17 (a bit more lead-time than usual), the London IF Meetup is doing a Saturday afternoon workshop on using ink and Unity together. This is one of the best methods for creating professional-looking standalone IF applications, and we’ll help you get started with the tools you need.

Let’s Play

OldGamesItalia has put together a video let’s play of the tutorial scene in Versu, for those who never got to play through that.

Announcements

Releases

Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile, the interactive comic ported to digital forms by Andrew Plotkin, arrives on Steam January 17.

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Adventuron.png

Adventuron is a system for making retro-styled, illustrated text adventures. The creator Chris Ainsley writes:

Adventuron is web hosted, and features a code editor (in which all logic and assets are placed), and has the ability to import maps from Trizbort.

Adventuron features code completion, and a web based game source parser, so the barrier to entry is quite low. I would be fooling myself if I was to claim this is anywhere near the competency of Inform 7, but I hope the code completion and UI features will help it find its audience.

I have a written an introductory article featuring a link to the system itself here

Articles

Digital Antiquarian has an interview with Judith Pintar, a pioneer of interactive fiction who took a long break from IF but is now working and teaching with it again. The interview covers a wide range of topics, from Pintar’s early days on CompuServe and the nature of the community there, the development of CosmoServe and Shades of Gray, and her current education work focusing on Inform 7.

Andrew Plotkin profiles several of the games up for IGF Narrative awards.

Chris Crawford writes about the current status of Encounter Editor, and the rest of his Storytron projects.

Clara Fernandez-Vara has a list of tools for building adventure games (including but not limited to text-based games).

Here is my article on IF in 2017, translated to Russian.

Digital Humanities Quarterly has an excellent writeup (from researchers at UC Santa Cruz) on crafting systems in games, and how we measure their quality and other parameters.

Laine Nooney critiques the traditional narratives of IF and adventure game history, including refs to Twisty Little Passages.

Mailbag: Writing for Versu

g_ending_2@craigtimpany writesYou’ve covered Versu’s architecture, but I’m curious what that was like to write for… In particular I’ve been wondering how very non linear tools affect a writer’s flow.

For those just joining, Craig is asking about Versu, a system focused on agent-driven narrative. Versu and the games made with it are no longer available, but there’s information available about the system, including several papers at the Versu website, and past posts of mine here about the conversation system and about what it was like to convert Galatea to the Versu format.

During the first portion of its development, Versu content was driven through Praxis, the language that specified social practices and truths about the world state. Praxis is very powerful and allows the user extremely detailed control over what is true about the world, and what all the agents want; and the baseline implementation of conversational practices, among others, were written in Praxis. However, writing extensive dialogue in Praxis was essentially wrapping conversational elements in code — a high-friction way to compose, and one that discouraged revision. To address that, we developed a DSL called Prompter. I am not going to re-describe here everything about how that worked, since the attached papers go into detail.

But the core point to know is that, within Prompter, one wrote scenes. Each scene could have some opening text; some parameters about what was allowed to happen in that scene (e.g., “no one dies in this scene, but Veronius is allowed to have sex”); a body of dialogue that can be spoken only in that scene and nowhere else; and then one or more ways that the scene can end.

Using that information, the system would follow its own rules about how conversation and social actions could chain into one another, improvising a particular performance around the scene parameters the writer had set on the page.

Continue reading

Interactive Digital Narrative: Theory

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 1.12.24 PM.pngThis is part two of an overview of Interactive Digital Narrative: History, Theory, and Practice. See my earlier post for coverage of the book’s history section (and one practice chapter that I took out of order because it felt like it fit better that way).

This time we’re looking at the theory section, which addresses academic approaches to interactive narrative (including the question of what interactive narrative even is).

Again, the section begins with a brief overview from the volume editors, and this provides a fair sketch of the academic debates of the last couple of decades, together with a bibliography of a number of foundational pieces in this space. I might also have listed Jesper Juul’s half-real here, as it provides a readable and persuasive cap to the narratology vs ludology debate.

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Post-Linden

As recently announced, Linden Lab is no longer supporting Versu.

What this means for me: I am no longer an employee of the Lab. At the moment I’m taking on some contract work.

What this means for the project: I am currently trying to see whether I can get back the IP for Versu and the apps that we built that Linden did not release, including Blood and Laurels. If that succeeds, I’ll post more information here. Aside from wanting to see our hard work out there, I’m concerned that people who had started working with the Versu toolset in academic environments continue to be able to use that toolset and, ideally, have a way to publish their work for others to play with. I may not be able to make that happen, but it would mean a lot to me to be able to do so.