Getting Started with Interactive Fiction from Inkypath

Inky Path:

Choose Your Own Adventure vs Text Adventure

There are two basic groups in the interactive fiction world, and as far as naming conventions go, they tend to vary from person to person.  So here’s the way you’ll see interactive fiction classified on this site:
  • interactive fiction is any work where the player somehow interacts with the game to change the course or outcome of the story. 
  • choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) stories involve the author giving the player a list of choices and the player must choose one of the actions to continue with the story. Quite often this choice will change the course of the game. This title includes both online CYOA games as well as choose-your-own-adventure books that are mostly intended for kids. 
  • text adventure games involve the player typing commands (usually two words) into a parser. The game prints text in response to that action. Using commands at your disposal, you can explore and manipulate the world to complete the game.

Mapping Your Game

For CYOAs, mapping a game can be pretty complex, especially if you want to write up the whole game in this manner. I’ve only ever used Word to plan games, though I can’t say that it’s the best method. Still, using highlighting and indents to indicate various paths can be a pretty effective way to plan out even more complex games. Here’s one example; you can  use the example game to follow along with the mapping here:

Welcome to an example of a choose-your-own-adventure game! There’s going to be two different examples, one with statistics and one without. Either way, are you excited about writing a choose-your-own-adventure story?​
  1. Yes!
          That’s the spirit!
  2. No…
          Come now, be more optimistic.

    Did you want to see what a game looks like with statistics or without statistics?

In this scenario, the player can choose yes or no. He gets the response underneath his answer, but either choice is followed by “Did…statistics?”

Choices can also be nested in this manner:
  1. I’ll go east.
  2. I’ll go west.
    1. I’ll throw the grenade.
    2. I won’t throw the grenade.
  3. I’ll do neither of these; I’m going to stay here until I find out more of what’s going on.
This indicates that the player will only be given the option to throw the grenade if he chooses to go west first.

For text based adventures, mapping can be easy or difficult. Because play is made up of various “rooms” rather than a more linear format, planning can be based on the rooms instead of story line. If you’re working in a program like ADRIFT, making rooms is very easy and keeping track of a map is built into the user interface. Building blank rooms and then later populating them is a useful way to create a world and then develop a story or concept.

Characterization in the CYOA World

Working in the second person point-of-view can be very tricky. The problem is, the author wants the reader to identify with the main character–after all, the use of “you” seems to imply that the story is about the reader. The author can go about this several different ways:​
  • Featureless Protagonist – The main character usually does not have a name, does not speak, and is willing to do whatever the player wants him/her to do. This means relatively weak characterization for the protagonist, but it may be easier for the reader to identify with the character. 
  • Customizable Character – The protagonist may start off as a blank slate of sorts, but the game puts in features that allow the hero to become any way the player wants. Choice of Games takes this to an extreme, allowing the choices to not just affect the main character’s skills, but also his/her language, appearance, and sexual orientation.
  • Established Neutral — The character has a name, gender, and some personality traits accounted for, but they’re relatively unoffensive. This is similar to the featureless protagonist in that it makes for weak characterization, but it also means that there is a separation between the character and the reader. This is the style of many choose-your-own-adventure books.
  • The Extremist — This person has a clearly dileneated personality at the beginning of the game, usually one that is fairly extreme. This might consist of one or two mannerisms, or a complete way of being that might seem very familiar, or very alien, to the player.
  • Fanfiction — Keep in mind that it is possible to create interactive fiction based on stories written already. This gives people a chance to embody the characters they know and love, as well as easing characterization.