What Works Work?

The Works section in the sidebar to the right contains a list of some of the early experiments in interactive storytelling. But it can’t be complete.

So what’s missing? Is there a particular piece of interactive fiction that deserves a place on the list? What about one of the early Versu releases? Did an earlier computer game carry the glimmer of interactive storytelling its eye?

Sound off in the comments about your favorite candidates.

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10 Responses to What Works Work?

  1. furrykef says:

    It’s funny this comes up now because I already started writing an article about how the 1988 game Hidden Agenda could be considered a very prototypical form of IS. In short, it follows the rules of “people, not things” (every single interaction takes place during a conversation with a petitioner or adviser) and “applause, not victory” (there is no way to “win” the game) — especially impressive because I’m not sure Chris Crawford himself had formulated the latter rule yet. I believe Chris first came up with the rule in the Journal of Computer Game Design volume 2, which I think was shortly after Hidden Agenda was released. Since I know Chris has played the game (though I don’t know when), I wonder if this is not entirely a coincidence.

    I think its omission from Chris Crawford on Game Design is very strange. It’s the only game I’ve played that has Chris Crawford written all over it (metaphorically speaking) that wasn’t actually designed by him. Perhaps it simply slipped his mind.

  2. Alex Vostrov says:

    Here’s an odd one from 1988. Captain Blood – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ONfFBMtYuQ. It’s the only game besides Trust & Betrayal that has linguistic input. I’ve never been able to get it to run myself, so I can’t comment on how well it pulled that off.

  3. Alex Vostrov says:

    Another more recent one is Crusader Kings II. It’s burdened by a lot of obscure resource management and Risk-like gameplay, but they hit upon something great with the dynastic system.

    It’s the only game where your illegitimate son can ask the Pope to excommunicate you so that he can take over the throne. :)

    • furrykef says:

      Yes, I’ve always thought if you threw out the world map and made the game entirely about the characters, CK2 would make for an excellent storyworld. As it is, it’s a run-of-the-mill strategy game with a simple political system bolted on, much more notable (in an interactive storytelling context) for what it could have been than what it actually is.

      Truth be told, whenever I play CK2 I can never remember who’s who. My recognition of a character is usually at a level of, “Oh, it’s that guy again,” with no recollection of what that guy has done or what I have done with him. In fact, I’d say CK2 suffers from too many characters. If your country’s big enough you probably have way too many courtiers and vassals to keep them all straight. It doesn’t help that your direct interactions are limited; many characters might be born, grow up, and die of old age without you having interacted with them directly at all.

      Incidentally, I’ve long thought of actually building a storyworld inspired by CK2 (and/or Game of Thrones) — a game where you’re a lowly courtier and you try to work your way up all the way to king or emperor. I also had another idea for a game or storyworld based on the ancient Roman cursus honorum. It’s looking like the storyworld I’m going to try to actually build is a merger of these two ideas: political intrigue in the Roman Republic. After all, you can always win an election by simply bumping off your rival, so long as you don’t get caught…

  4. oneconch says:

    I feel if Facade counts as a storyworld—which, sure, I’m not going to argue—then Alabaster certainly does.

    Unlike Galatea, which was also a highly character-centric, conversation-intensive work of interactive fiction from Emily Short, Alabaster avoids the guess the verb/guess the noun problem rampant in IF by providing a set of suggested topics to discuss at nearly every turn, which adjust themselves to match the current situation (thanks to a hefty extension ruleset running behind the scenes). And it features a truly massive dialog tree with multiple characters, in which discussing the same option in a different playthrough can have different effects depending on what has been said before and the current mood of the conversant (mood also derived from past events). It’s also notable for featuring text and conversation nodes added by 10 other authors over the course of weeks, building on each other’s work, using a related extension for constructing the nodes.

    Plus, I think Chris should like its dynamic illustration, which changes mainly to reflect Snow White’s emotional state.

  5. Bill Maya says:

    I added Hidden Agenda and Alabaster to the Works section in the sidebar.

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