Fighting the text - a realisation about IF

Hi fellow authors,

I just wanted to share a realisation that I had last night which is probably nothing new to the veterans but may appeal to others in my boat.

Having always been a person who makes up stories and worlds combined with enjoying making games, I recently chiseled down my focus to writing Interactive Fiction. Then I made my first mistake - "How do I change the world of IF and make games more fun!?".

Today, I am sat writing this after wasting two weeks of jumping from one IF tool to another while trying to get "words to catch fire" or "introduce a groundbreaking user input system" - and there is nothing wrong with innovation of course, but this was misguided on my part. Last night I decided to visit the marketplace on my phone and check out all of the IF on there. To my "surprise", there were many titles that featured nothing more than a black background, white text and hyperlinks that had around 50,000 downloads and good ratings. Then it hit me - the writing (duh).

So I learned that, if your story is good, you are 90% there.

Again, nothing new to most people here but I write this for those who are (were), like me, putting good writing anywhere but top priority.

(End of philosophical rambling)

It would be interesting to know what sort of innovations you were looking into. :) I've seen a number of people on here modifying the Quest interface in various ways, and it seems that it's possible to edit the appearance of almost any aspect of a game. Some of them look really good, and enhance the player's immersion and enjoyment. As you say, though, a simple interface does the job well enough, as long as the text itself is good.

I think it's encouraging to see someone say that good writing is the most important feature of interactive fiction - it's very easy for me, at least, to get distracted by other things, and forget that the writing itself should probably be my main focus. As an aside, one thing I've noticed from reading various forums is that writers/players of interactive fiction often seem to fall into two categories - those who prefer the 'interactive' aspect, and like challenging games that are primarily driven by logic problems and puzzles, and those who prefer the 'fiction' aspect, and like immersive games that are driven by the characters and plot, with puzzles having less of an emphasis. As a player, I tend to prefer games to tell a story, rather than be what essentially amounts to a book of riddles, and in this case, the quality of the descriptions and writing in general definitely seems to be an important thing.

On the other hand, in a game that is primarily puzzle-driven, or driven by other gameplay mechanics (e.g. hunger/thirst in survival games), I'd possibly argue that the quality and complexity of these puzzles or mechanics is more important than the actual literary quality of the writing itself.

Hi Chris,

I was going to have the word "wood" actually burst in to flames and slowly turn to ash. Have the word "glass" shatter if you clicked on it. Things like that. Of course, I love what teams like Inkle have done and feel that if done correctly, it can add to the experience.

For me however, I was looking for gimmicks over content if I am honest with myself.


I was going to have the word "wood" actually burst in to flames and slowly turn to ash. Have the word "glass" shatter if you clicked on it.

I would call these "special effects". Sure, they are nice to have and could enhance the experience, but would not mean anything without a good story. I would first focus on the story and core mechanics, only adding the effects in the final stage of the production, if time allowed.

So basically, what you have concluded.

I imagine a better tool for start putting your words to flame would be trying a simple game book. Actually, I use to say that the very beginning of using Quest is closing the program and opening your favorite text processor.

Try typing pages, taking notes of choice paths, map branches and then read different paths checking if it makes sense as a whole. Leave scripting and coding for only the case you find you really need it in order to tell your story. I believe you will find a more pleasant work flow as you will see things happening without much worries about mechanics.

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