Based on feedback, I’m experimenting with a twice a month approach to link roundups. I’m hoping this will mean each individual post will be less overwhelmingly long, and time-sensitive things will be fresher.
This is only semi-IF-related, but there’s an event in San Francisco for enthusiasts of roguelikes, 6:30 PM, May 17. The talks include some discussion of procedural generation and narrative, so might be of interest to some here, though.
And, of course, Feral Vector is still upcoming: Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, June 2-4. It will be fun. I will be talking.
If you liked the sound of Enter the Oubliette and you’re in range of Brixton, you’ll want to get tickets and go as soon as possible: the site is closing in another four weeks or so. Here’s Exit Games UK talking about the game and its closure, and a fuller discussion of why they’re closing over on their Kickstarter page. The short version is that their landlord has changed his mind about letting them renew the lease, and they don’t have a good place lined up to move to. Which is a shame — it’s a really fun experience. Here’s hoping they find another venue.
Bard Jam in April produced six works of Shakespeare-related IF. I haven’t had time to check them all out, but I was amused by David T. Marchand’s Armando the Bardo, which among other things uses some real-time effects that I don’t typically associate with Twine: for instance, there’s a guard character you have to sneak past when he’s described as looking the other way.
From Ryan Veeder, we got An Evening at the Ransom Woodingdean Museum House, a creepy parser game in which the protagonist is a docent at a historic home. It’s less silly and more scary than average for Veeder; and, as is often the case with Veeder’s work, it tosses in a bunch of elegant design tricks so casually that it would be possible to miss that anything virtuosic just happened. I’d really recommend this to people who are thinking about how to build a sense of dread in the open space of parser IF. The pacing of revelations, the use of light and darkness, the gradual changes in narration are all great. But An Evening is not played just for horror; it’s also a meditation on our relationship to the past.
The game comes with a link to a rainscape you can listen to while you play, and I recommend using this.
Alexander Systems (Darusha Wehm for Sub-Q) is a Twine story of dystopian work, punishment, and solitude. There are quite long passages between choice points, and the first few screens end with a single link-to-continue — the pacing feels rather different from the Twine average — but the prose is assured.
Starship Adventures is a new collaboratively-written ChoiceScript game, coordinated by Felicity Banks and including writing by a number of other authors:
You’re a naturally heroic and quick-thinking space captain flying a starship from world to world while keeping your hair groomed to perfection. It’s your duty to keep the engine running, the scotch flowing, the crew happy, and your outfit looking fabulous. There’s carnivorous flora, deceptive aliens, space anomalies, horrifying creatures, and too many arch enemies to keep track of them all! Can you survive?
Enchantedonsequel and Christyonsequel are two conversational games involving dialogue with a fictional character via Facebook, played on Facebook Messenger and “powered by Sequel”. These are adaptations of work by Felicity Banks and Joey Jones, originally available on other chat apps.
Mark Marino (of Living Will and the Mrs. Wobbles series) and Rob Wittig have also done a project with Sequel, which Mark describes thus:
In Baby Seals, Spencer and Heidi are drawn into a new Reality show in which Spencer gets to do fake Special Ops — unless they’re real.
My initial impression is that the interface, universal to all of these games, is a little on the clumsy side — Lifeline-esque choice-based interactions like this:
…where the selection isn’t even about clicking the choice you want to make. Still, it’s interesting seeing various commercial attempts to do IF in the chat space. There are also times when you have only one option to select, and the UI makes it pretty unclear that it even is supposed to be your dialogue, rather than just a tap-to-continue after the previous person’s monologue. For instance:
Here, context makes it clear that we’re selecting the (lone) option to say “I won’t,” but visually it’s not distinct from Spencer saying “I won’t!” and the protagonist doing a continue action. Then, too, the system doesn’t always cope gracefully with even a fairly brief distraction from the game. At one point I set Spencer aside for a moment to type up some notes — a pause certainly shorter than pauses that appear naturally in online chats in general, let alone a gap of hours — and when I returned and tried to pick an option, I got this:
So it’s not entirely smooth or graceful yet, I’d say, and I already consider Facebook chat/messenger to be the Most Annoying Way To Chat (TM). That said, this is an accessible way to do Lifeline-alikes.
For my taste, this kind of game is immensely dependent on the appeal of the character you’re conversing with: during the time I played (which was not the full game), Marino and Wittig’s reality-show star Spencer reminded me very accurately of certain Hollywood-peripheral people I know in LA, and this kept things entertaining. Pieces with a less-strong protagonist voice might struggle to make the format work.