Bespoke IF

Greg Costikyan recently ran a post about GMing as bespoke tailoring — the idea that having your game run by an individual human with an interest in your tastes is the ultimate high-end in gaming experiences, with digital RPGs and MMO games as the equivalent of ready-to-wear stuff.

I don’t GM, but this interested me because I do enjoy what you might call bespoke IF authorship: writing a game (usually tiny, though not necessarily joky) for a specific person or small group of friends. Obviously, there’s usually no expectation that what I create is going to be of value or interest to anyone else; it’s more like writing a letter than like a literary exercise. The reason I find it so satisfying, though, is that it’s much easier to get the balance right if you’re addressing the game to a particular person’s play style.

Does anybody else do this? Or is it my own private form of crazy?

6 thoughts on “Bespoke IF

  1. This isn’t something that I’ve done, but it’s something that I’m really interested in. Perhaps not exactly in the form you’re speaking of — I’m specifically interested in multiplayer IF. My perspective on multiplayer IF is specifically that of someone who wants to play tabletop roleplaying games without the tabletop, and online. Neverwinter Nights has actually been pretty successful in this regard, and while it is scriptable, it’s not as flexible as your typical IF language.

    I think Guncho has a lot of potential for something like this. Instead of, or in addition to, the GM actively running a session, he could develop a tailored multiplayer IF game that will be played by his friends. Something like this has gone on in MUSHes for a while, but I think it could become much more advanced than that.

  2. If anything, I tend to do the opposite: target too broad an audience. I think a problem with Blue Lacuna is that it tries to work for too many different groups: story people and puzzle people, mapmakers and non-mapmakers, newbies and pros, gays and straights, sighted and blind. While on one level that’s a strength of IF, and I would hate to alienate any of those groups, it makes programming an acceptable game for each of those types of people, and all the combinations thereof, an exceptional challenge.

    Designing a game with a specific player, with his or her likes/dislikes, play style, patience, etc. in mind, is maybe a better approach.

  3. I think Guncho has a lot of potential for something like this. Instead of, or in addition to, the GM actively running a session, he could develop a tailored multiplayer IF game that will be played by his friends.

    Yeah, I think that’s true. One of the things that intrigues me about Guncho, though I haven’t had as much time to think about it as I’d like, is the idea of shifting the game away from computer-player interaction to interaction between players, mediated by the computer. There’s a lot of room there for customization as well, since the author can go and modify the Guncho module at any time based on feedback, in a process somewhat more fluid than the usual beta-test and release cycle used for single-player IF.

    If anything, I tend to do the opposite: target too broad an audience.

    This was a major design issue in City of Secrets, I would say: it tried to handle too many needs at once.

    Most of my games wind up targeted somewhere in the middle — at, say, players interested in story who like an SF setting — which is nebulous enough to include a lot of people but not so vague as to make the design document completely self-contradictory.

  4. Better still – Sam and I, for a time (we need to get back to it), were playing an RPG of his own devising. He’d plan everything out a little way in advance, but I think quite a bit of it he made up on the fly. It’s was actually really, really pleasant. Granted, it was just for me, and might have been more fun to play with more players, but that never bothered me, and I really enjoyed the custom tailoring, which I’m sure he did with my tastes and preferences in mind. If only the dice cooperated as much as his authorship.

  5. I’d say this largely describes most of the Speed-IF work I’ve done. I’ve usually had a specific group of maybe 10 players in mind whenever I’ve written one. Not always the same 10, but it’s definitely that sort of headspace.

  6. I know that Adrien Saurat once did a special edition of his game “La cité des eaux” for the birthday of another member of the French IF community. Although I didn’t play it myself (it wasn’t *my* birthday), I know there were various easter eggs added to the original game (birthday candles, for instance).

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