Category: Columns

Making Interactive Fiction: Interiority

November 13th, 2018 by

One of the things that sets prose fiction apart from other media is its ability to piece apart the thoughts and feelings of a character in a direct, unmediated way. In prose, it’s very natural to simply peer into a character’s inner thoughts. But that’s not the only option, and in interactive writing, there are […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: The Branch and the Merge

October 11th, 2018 by

Branching stories run naturally into the problem of combinatorial explosion. If you keep writing different variants for each choice the player could make, eventually you end up with too many branches to write or manage. Sam Kabo Ashwell calls this structure the “time cave,” and while it has been used in the past, the amount […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: Adapting from Other Genres

September 11th, 2018 by

The best kind of interactivity in a story is interactivity that resonates with its themes and characters. One useful approach to thinking about design issues is to adapt models from other genres. Even if the result doesn’t much resemble the starting point, it’s productive to have a guide to direct where you’re going. Emily Short’s […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: Scenes

August 21st, 2018 by

Whether we outline first, or just start writing, any prose story longer than a short vignette will break down into distinct scenes. In interactive narrative, this works a little differently: IF and games sometimes make it hard to cut from one story beat to another; stories aren’t necessarily one continuous line of events where we […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: Narrative Design for Writers (Part 2)

July 10th, 2018 by

This is part two of a two-part series about narrative design aimed at traditional-media writers and IF authors. In part one, I walked through a series of questions that help clarify a narrative design. Now, I’m going to talk about how one puts all of this together. The output of narrative design as a process […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: Narrative Design for Writers (part 1)

June 12th, 2018 by

This is part one of a two-part series about narrative design aimed at traditional-media writers and IF authors. First things first: What is narrative design? The real answer is that the role of “narrative designer” is relatively new in the games industry and has something of a fluid or even vague meaning. Different teams will […]

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“The Space Under the Window” and the Promise of Interactive Poetry

May 29th, 2018 by

Released in 1997, Andrew Plotkin’s “The Space Under the Window” (“Space”) was a groundbreaking, unclassifiable work of interactive fiction, the impact of which is still felt today. Many consider it a work of “poetic” IF, or poetry outright, but what does that mean? Is poetry a quality of language, interaction, or both? The work itself […]

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Bruno Dias

Making Interactive Fiction: Using Generative Prose

May 8th, 2018 by

Generative prose is the technique of dynamically generating text from smaller chunks of writing. This can look like the adaptive, variable prose functionality in Inform; like using Twinecery to add procedural text to a Twine story; or like Ink’s text-variation capabilities. Given a deep enough body of text to pull from, generative systems can spit […]

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Bruno Dias

Making Interactive Fiction: Going beyond “test your stuff.”

April 10th, 2018 by

The most-often given advice to new IF writers, and writers in general, is “get feedback.” Okay, so you’ve taken your story from a concept to a draft. You’re ready to show it to folks; maybe you’re even pretty proud of what you’ve put together. You take it to beta readers… and then they give you […]

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Bruno Dias

Making Interactive Fiction: Branching Choices

March 13th, 2018 by

From Twine to visual novels to AAA RPGs, branching choices are the basic building block of many interactive narratives. This month, I wanted to zoom in and talk about writing choices themselves, about handling branching points. It’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing choice as a tool for player expression. That relates to […]

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Making Interactive Fiction: Scope

February 13th, 2018 by

Hi. Welcome to the first of these. Sub-Q magazine has made the frightful editorial decision to give me a monthly column. This posed a problem. The mandate for writing this column – 600 words about any subject I like, related to IF – is too broad. I had to pare it down, come up with […]

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Romance in Early IF: A Review of Pytho’s Mask

February 6th, 2018 by

Interactive fiction’s history both intersects and acts as an alternative space to modern game development—even indie, narrative-based development—with its own unique traditions and community standards. One of the most prominent is “comp,” which could also be a “mini-comp” or a “speed comp.” Most were small, one-shot affairs with perhaps a few games entered, while others […]

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