Plot Structure

These works are designed in unusual ways in order to to tell their stories to the player. Some present a story out of order, overlap parts, or otherwise diverge from the standard linear method. Others limit interactivity in order to force a specific outcome and pacing.

Those interested in narrative in IF may also want to look at the winners for Best Story in the XYZZY Awards each year.

Unusual Plot Order.  Events in the plot are presented out of chronological order, or repeatedly; games where this occurs as part of a time travel gimmick.

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Infocom.
  • Photopia, Adam Cadre. Constructed to present the events of the game out of chronological order.
  • Common Ground, Stephen Granade. You re-experience several of the events of this game from the point of view of different characters. [My Review]
  • All Roads, Jon Ingold. Contains some loops and temporal jumps, though figuring out how it all works is a large part of the challenge of the game.
  • Manna, Sam Kabo Ashwell. This small SpeedIF game cycles through three sections of a story one turn at a time. When a section is completed, it is dropped from the cycle. [Suggestion and writeup courtesy of David Welbourn.]

Multilinear Plots. Plots branch, allowing the player to experience large segments of the game in different ways on different plays.

  • Losing Your Grip, Stephen Granade. Some plot segments have alternate versions; not all can be experienced in one play-through.
  • I-0, Adam Cadre. The player’s choice of solutions to various puzzles allow the player to select one of several routes through the game.
  • Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus, Dan Shiovitz and Emily Short. The player is given a choice of which character to play (of two) and runs into different challenges depending on that choice.
  • Scavenger, Quintin Stone. Features several approaches to solving the different puzzles (some of which depend on a choice made at the beginning of the game) as well as several ending scenarios.

Multiple Endings.  The game can end any of several ways.  This is distinct from Multilinear Plots because for the most part these games are otherwise consistent between playings except for the outcome, whereas Multilinear Plot games may contain entire alternate scenes and segments. See also the list of Multiple-Ending games on The Underdogs.

  • Tapestry, Daniel Ravipinto. Offers the player a moral choice, though some reviewers have complained that it too heavily favors one of the three possible decisions.
  • Textfire Golf, Adam Cadre. Sports several dozen endings, depending on your score and relationships to other players.
  • Galatea, Emily Short.  Features perhaps forty different endings.
  • Masquerade, Kathleen Fischer.  A handful of different endings allowing for different outcomes of the game’s central romance.
  • Slouching Towards Bedlam, Daniel Ravipinto and Star Foster. Offers the player real choice about how to resolve the game’s central problem; perhaps the best execution of player free will I have ever encountered.

One-move games.

  • Aisle, Sam Barlow. A one-move game in which successive playings reveal hints of a (not entirely coherent) backstory.
  • Rematch, Andrew Pontious. Another one-move game, this time an exceptionally complex puzzle which requires many iterations to resolve. Definitely a learn-by-dying game, taken to its ultimate highest expression. [My Review]