Are there examples of IF written in the third person, or would that just be weird?
I really cannot recall any example from the top of my head, but I think it is perfectly viable.
Some time in the past, when I was just evaluating some writing possibilities, this very same idea came across my mind. Actually, when it first came into my mind, I was considering the possibility of player controlling a bunch of characters and elements at the same time. It was like presenting scenes and the player choosing what happens to each scene in general terms, including multiple characters' actions and external events.
In the end, I found doing something like this would undermine the character point of view, so I moved into the idea of writing at third person, yes, but keeping chasing a single character, so the player would follow and control only this character. My main motivation for focusing in a single character was trying to hold a strong grip on character development. The player would observe better and choose better for the transitions of a single character, instead of a bunch of them. Or at least I think at the moment I have enough skill to handle only a character at once if I want having some quality in the game.
I did read a lot about te topic, including some ideas from Emily Short. Most of the IF designers defends the first person point of view arguing it would ensure the player's immersion into the game, but I sincerely disagree. I find perfectly possible the player creating a relation to the character if you tell the story in second person, what would bring me a couple of bonuses.
The first good point is that I could present and develop a character better. By giving the player an external character, it becomes easier for the player accepting a fully modeled character. I am not saying it is impossible. Tabletop roleplaying games does that every day. You invite the player to play as "Raistling Magere" - what comes to be a very well rounded and developed character - and the player does it nicely in first person. But for the IF community, I thought it could be a shock in a first project, so I could avoid the conflict. When trying to ensure first person and that the player wears the characters shoes, it usually commits the sin of vagueness. Characters are vague, descriptions are vague, everything to not step into the player's imagination. However all this vagueness also pushes the player away from having a grasp into the decisions, because vagueness means lack of information.
The second important topic I found was that most people complain in IFs that the options presented (In game books, where is my main interest) are not things they would do. And they complain because the first person / character vague narratives is made to convince they are the character. But the game has not the options they would take, and... well.. it goes round and round. By taking a third person narrative you may deliver a character. So, everything that happens and the choices are tailored for the character and not for the player. If your character is a pacifist, you dont need considering "punch the guard in the face" because the character would never do that. Players also complains things like "the text cannot state what I am thinking" when yu write a line such as "You think the man would be drunk". But if you are handling character, the player would not be offended.
I suppose in future I will have tools enough to deliver the player a full defined character and convey a first person narrative just as I do as RPG Game Master, but for now, my first formal IF project, I decided going these lines.
I hope all of this helps you on your IF journeys.
I think there was one I played a while back where the main characters are a brother and sister. You'd type a command, and get a third person response like "John pulls the heavy bucket up, while Alice hangs ineffectually on the end of the rope" or something. You'd never have to say which person the command was for. Either they'd both take part, or whoever is more capable or more willing to do that thing would do it.
I can't remember the name of the game now. But that's the only one that comes to mind.
I suppose the closest working analogy to this would be the player controlling an avatar in a video game like Assassin's Creed. You as the player control the avatar and get to act as him, basically in the 3rd person POV. There's none of the automatic defensiveness that is the risk of 2nd person "You do this/that" POV when the reader objects that "I would never do that!" It would be interesting to play a text adventure as mrangel describes.
Yes. I agree. Such kind of games are all focused on a third person point of view. The factor we must highlight about these games is that usually the player does not controls narrative decisions, but strategic decisions.
Usually (yes, I am looking at you, Witcher) the player is controlling how to pass through guards or the best way to kill a beast, but the narrative itself is guided, so you will not choose between betraying or making peace with the templars.
But in a IF you may grant the player more narrative and dramatis personae level decisions, even if narrated in third person.
Now my brain's gone off at a tangent again. I'm imagining the game with the siblings as a darker thing. Like, if you tell them to do something they can't do it might say that they try and fail. Or one of them might start trying while the smarter one tells you that it's obviously not going to work. 'Story' stuff might have one of them asking "What should we do about it?" or "Where can we find one of those?", but for much of the game it's not obvious that it's actually in first person. They're really talking to you, but it seems they could be talking to each other. And the only time they explicitly address you would initially feel breaking the fourth wall. «Adam turns to you with a disappointed frown and mutters “Do you really think we're dumb enough to try that?”» after you gave a really stupid instruction.
Turns out you're their imaginary friend, or maybe the ghost of an older sibling, who can't interact with the world except by giving instructions to the twins. And once you're already invested in the characters it becomes clear that they know some things you don't, before you finally realise that some of the more cryptic clues have been referring to you directly. And when you finally have enough hints to ask them "Who am I?" they're surprised that you don't remember.
I think the original one I remember might have been an "educational" game, where you're two kids who've been sent back in time to a medieval castle, and the objective is to walk around and learn about the era.
Hahaha... At start I was just considering the player as a scene director telling what happens next. But this idea of making the player "the voices in my head told me doing it " is pretty cool. Of course it can only be done in games of such creepy mood, by I found an awesome idea!
All the games I'm working on are third person, revolving around either set protagonists or lightly customizable ones. You're effectively their shoulder angel guiding them to victory! Or sabotaging them, if you want. I guess.
So, let me ask you, Pykrete. Do you find any trouble writing your descriptions? Are you working with the usual vagueness of IFs or are you delivering longer descriptions? Did you find any trouble about the feared Wall of Text?
As far as I'm concerned I'm writing a book with puzzles and minigames. I avoid typed player input in favour of printed commands and menus, and yes, I go with longer descriptions. If the info fits on a page without scrolling, then it's fine, in my opinion - for 'cutscenes' and such longer than that, I utilized 'wait for player input' with a 'press any key to continue' popup, separating things into roughly a page's worth of writing.
Interesting. I like hearing about oter designers' processes, as I face a few troubles here and there. It casts some light over my own process.
Just don't overthink it, is my thing. I try to go for an occam's razor approach to implementing a feature. Hell, my new map system in the Twine game I'm working on is just an if check for which map to display, and then a bit of css adjusting where to display the player's blip icon with Top/Left, updated by two variables I change per 'page'.
Interestingly, it might have something to do with my introduction to interactive fiction being third person! It was a series of 6 physical paperback gamebooks based on Sonic the Hedgehog, which featured dice rolls, puzzle solving and item management. Really weird and unique stuff for the time (and the stories were fun, too). That's probably why my projects now are text RPGs, rather than aiming for the nostalgia of first person stuff like Zork - my nostalgia is simply different!
https://gamebooks.org/Series/287/Show This page has a good write up about the lot, and about other Gamebook series in general.