Sunday, 3 July 2016

Writing Salon Week 10: Program the Transcript

This post is for the July 3-9 writing event of the 2016 AIF Writing Salon.

It's time to get interactive! Add the commands from your sex transcript into your game. You should be able to play through your game now. Post your game up for people to try and give you feedback about how it plays.

When programming, it's important to not fight your story engine. Story engines are designed to be programmed in certain ways. As long as you stay within the expected structure, the programming should be relatively easy. If you do something that runs counter to the design of the story engine, the programming can quickly become very, very hard. If you find yourself doing a lot of complicated programming, you might be trying to make your story engine do something that it was not designed to do. In those cases, it is often easier to adapt your story to fit what the engine wants than the other way around. Experienced AIF authors are adept at finding compromises between the needs of their stories and the design of their story engines. Feel free to ask for advice.

If you have something you want to share, just post it as a comment to the blog post. Be careful to use a separate account for posting and not an account you use IRL. Anonymous comments are welcome, but it would be useful to tag your comments somehow so we know which comments are from whom. AIF Central sometimes has difficulties dealing with longer comments. You can break up your posts into multiple comments, or sign-up to become a blogger on AIF Central and make a new blog post with your content.


  1. I ran into this pretty hard (fighting the story engine) with ADRIFT. In addition to a somewhat complex conversation system I ditched (I'm sure ADRIFT could do this, just not me), I had a chase scene set up where you had to follow a thief up and down stairways, across rooftops, up fire escapes, etc but that kind of fast past action just seemed impossible in the engine. Probably impossible in any text adventure engine, really. So I just squashed most of the chase into a few blocks of text, which isn't a great solution but I think it worked ok.

    So while I'm working on programming the sex scene (something I know that ADRIFT is capable of handling!) one of the biggest problems I came up against in my game was gamifying parts of it. I had a general plot in mind but turning that plot into an interesting game was a bit tricky. I couldn't find good spots for puzzles without making them super contrived. But, this being a game, maybe contrived puzzles are ok in some instances? Is it better to put in a puzzle about finding lost keys when you could just skip it and move on to the next plot point narratively? At what point does an AIF game just turn into a barely interactive erotic fiction story?

    1. People will play anything. As long as there is something interesting in the game, there will be players. It doesn't have to have great gameplay. People play games for the writing or the scenarios or the characters. People play some very lousy games just to see naked pictures.

      AIF naturally lends itself to having interactive sex scenes. Since the sex is interactive, you have a free pass to make the rest of the game completely linear.

      It would obviously better if the rest of the game were interactive as well but some scenarios are better for that than others. Sometimes, it is better to finish the game first and let it grow naturally into its interactivity. Once it is finished, you can play it, and you will find yourself thinking, "why can't I ... here?" or "someone might want to ... here."

    2. > At what point does an AIF game just turn into a barely interactive erotic fiction story?

      This is the central problem I've been having. What started out intended to be a CYOA has de-evolved into a linear set of scenes. Every choice seems to either advance the story or lead to a dead end that can easily be backtracked from.

      Everything I've written in TADS has been story and game in parallel and in equal measure, but Twine is a different beast. So far I have all story, little game, and it's starting to feel more like a prettied-up submission to Literotica. I'm even shoehorning a second rejoining branch in to the middle, one that can also be attempted if Path A is failed, if only to provide some gameplay to a sex scene.

      I've also taken to the idea of several small choices that don't have any immediate consequence but add up over time to unlock additional content later on.

    3. I think it's common for writers to feel like there isn't enough interactivity in their games. You wrote it, so you know how all the pieces fit together, so it seems simple to you. But you actually need very little interactivity for it to "feel" interactive to players. The Walking Dead games are almost entirely linear, but are widely lauded for having lots of interactivity and choices.

      One trick is to put "open" sections into the game where players are free to poke around, even though the plot only advances linearly. You can have "open" sections in CYOA games, just like in TADS games.

      If you are unsure, put your game out for playtesting, and let other people with more distance from your work give suggestions of where interactivity can be added. In reality, I think most players don't actually like interactivity. They actually want to be led by the nose through a well-written plot in a way that feels immersive. Having "fake" interactivity is just a way to add to the immersion. If you want to write a real interactive game, the first step is to throw away the plot and to focus all your time on developing a sandbox, but that's not too common in AIF beyond pure sex simulators.

  2. I've programmed my sex transcript. All the actions from the transcript work but nothing is properly scripted yet.