Final Girl is a StoryNexus game about classic slasher horror. It is replayable, and may well take more than two hours to reach a good ending (certainly I didn’t get there), but a single playthrough is more in the 30-45 minute range.
Black Crown is a forthcoming Random House project by Failbetter. It’s not playable yet, but there’s a sign-up page here and Wired gives some additional background. Over at The Literary Platform, Alexis Kennedy mentions the game as well in a longer article about the possible relationship between books and games.
Dave Morris (Frankenstein) weighs in on whether randomness is really a help to interactive fiction, tying the question in with gamebooks and computer adaptations of gamebooks.
Deirdra Kiai gives an interview on the claymation point-and-click adventure Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings”, discussing the gender roles, inspirations from Fallen London, the claymation process, and various other features.
The XYZZY Awards are now in second-round voting, with the nominees chosen. This year’s crop includes Twine and StoryNexus content as well as parser-based IF. You can vote here; authors may not vote for their own games and are discouraged from posting “vote for me” sorts of messages, but otherwise the voting process is open to anyone through May 7.
Various people, including Warren Spector, Kevin Bruner (Telltale), Stéphane Bura (Storybricks) and me, will be speaking about interactive storytelling at the IFOG symposium May 10 in Mountain View.
In November I wrote about the StoryNexus game Zero Summer. At the time I didn’t play their for-pay content, Fifty Miles South of Lexington, but I’ve done so now, and it deserves its own discussion. Fifty Miles is its own short story, which you can buy from within the main game of Zero Summer using Nex, once you’ve progressed far enough to move around town a bit.
From the StoryNexus perspective, Fifty Miles South of Lexington is pushing the envelope of what the engine can do. Which is a good thing! Every new storytelling engine needs some content that pushes it to or beyond its capacity; that’s how the formal capacities of the machine are discovered. Experimental stuff typically feels just a little bit odd, though, just because it is doing something that may be hacky and weird for the affordances of the toolset. Consequently, the following is a review both of the content of Fifty Miles and a discussion of StoryNexus’ ability to cope with this kind of content.
Failbetter is Kickstarting Below, a StoryNexus piece with rogue-like underground exploration and a Viking-flavored backstory. One of the higher-tier rewards is a physical opportunity deck; I have an earlier version of this from their Silver Tree Kickstarter, and it’s a fun piece. Not sure if this sounds like your thing? There’s a playable prototype already online.
If you’d rather write your own StoryNexus game, you might be interested to know that the Winter World of the Season competition is open; the deadline is 31st December 2012, and the entries will be judged by a panel of various interactive storytelling people, including Jon Ingold.
Meanwhile, “To Be or Not To Be: That is The Adventure”, a choose-your-path version of Hamlet (careful not to call itself CYOA for legal reasons) has steamed through to an astounding $139K raised. This is no doubt due in part to the luscious Kate Beaton illustrations accompanying the pitch. Like this:
Which incidentally looks like it might be prototyped in Twine. (Check out 4:07 in the video if you don’t believe me.)
Evolve placed third in the StoryNexus World of the Season competition, after Samsara and Zero Summer. Unlike the other two pieces, it’s a work of educational non-fiction: you begin as a single-celled organism and make choices that allow your organism to evolve. The author has written about her inspiration: she works in a science museum, and saw the StoryNexus platform as a possible way to convey the educational content she’s interested in.
Winterstrike takes that same gift for imagining a strange and alien world and presents it via StoryNexus mechanics: Iria is a city of etiquette and technology. It used to have spaceships and dueling clubs, architects and soldiers. Now suddenly it is oppressed by a heavy unnatural winter, the result of an act of war, though it is not clear who made such an attack, nor how. Bodies are frozen; buildings are broken; there isn’t enough hot food to go around. It’s not immediately clear how many races of creatures inhabit the city, let alone what their allegiances might be. Hints about the nature of the world accumulate slowly.
Plot grips less strongly here than in Samsara — at least during the opening stages. There are fewer of the pinned cards that represent ongoing plot threads. Some come in time, but to start with there aren’t many options of that kind. Instead, playing Winterstrike resembles exploring a foreign city when one has no special agenda of one’s own. A market, a street performance, an attempted crime, an interesting ruin capture the protagonist’s attention and then let it go again.
Meanwhile, the action bank is very generous, which means you can play more of Winterstrike at a time than you can of some SN games — a good move, I think, because it allows the player a little more scope to begin putting together clues and fragments before an enforced hiatus helps her forget them again.
As with Fallen London, the player character seems to be intentionally short on allegiances and long on self-preservation. Sometimes you have opportunities to act altruistically, take a side, help someone in trouble, but there’s also plenty of freedom to cross the lines and combine multiple strategies. It grows on me more slowly than Samsara did, I have less clear sense of what my character might in the long run wish to accomplish, but in the meantime the worldbuilding and imagery are intriguing, and there seems to be a lot of content to explore.
And a side note which is not really about Winterstrike per se:
I am not quite sure how I feel about StoryNexus’ recurrent use of a pool of iconic images. Playing Winterstrike one finds the same bridge over a river, the same sword, the same flag that make constant appearances in Samsara: now tinted a grim blue-grey rather than Samsara‘s heated gold, but with the same forms. This is a much better outcome than having no art for StoryNexus games — the concept of interchangeable cards more or less requires the player be given some visual distinction between options. And the available set is fairly evocative while at the same time not committing itself too firmly to any one genre. Nonetheless I found myself struggling with the imagery set more in Winterstrike precisely because those images already had meanings for me; it was like trying to hang a second coat on the same peg, associating this new set of story options with the same pictures.