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[IF in Texture] Carl and Neil Share a Dream

A topic by camerongoble created Jul 30, 2017 Views: 194 Replies: 5
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Submitted

Hello everyone!  First post ever, first time developing a game in years and years, first time blogging about the experience.  It's a lot of firsts for me.

My game is called Carl and Neil Share a Dream.  It's a simple Interactive Fiction game that would have fit into the Fermi Paradox jam as well.   The player finds a  strange interstellar signal and tries to figure out its origins. 

So I've been thinking about developing an Interactive Fiction for a really long time.  I loved playing IF when I was growing up and the genre was in its Infocom heyday.  What made it hard for me was the programming aspect.   Way long ago, I had programmed in 20th century languages like Pascal and BASIC, which was essentially a living nightmare for Interactive Fiction type gaming.  Inform 7 tried to make it easier with a natural language syntax, but in the end, it was still like learning a new language.  I think Inform actually made things worse because it was so much like English that it was hard not to let English constructions take hold of my programming.  So I ended up with syntax errors that were gramatically correct to my writing eyes.  Ugh.

But: web-based graphical development engines make it a lot easier.  Just find the interesting bit in your text, make a link, and point it in the right direction.  Codeless.  Awesome.  All about the storytelling.

Texture is my game engine because it makes it simple to highlight the player's options.  No guessing the verb and endessly combining inventory items here.   It was a toss-up between Texture and Twine.  I decided Texture's drag-and-drop verbs provide enough clues to move the player along and allow for just enough flexability without overwhelming me with options.  The way the engine replaces in-body text feels dreamlike to me, too.  I want the player to explore a story, make a few choices, and get some thought-provoking feedback.

I came onto Itch.io a few weeks ago looking for a new source of inspired video games.  One link led to another, and I soon found the game jams.  The Fermi Paradox themed jam really got my attention.  I love ideas about cosmology and human understandings of the universe.  I was inspired to start writing something of my own.  Then I found this jam, and now I'm committing myself to it.

Submitted

Nice! I've never played an Interactive Fiction before, but I'm into cosmology too. Looking forward to your work.

Submitted

Okay, so here are two screenshots.  The Texture game engine here is unique.  To understand how this works, basically:

  1. The screen starts out with short, basic text.
  2. The players drags one of the action buttons at the bottom of the screen onto an interesting word phrase.
  3. New text is revealed, hopefully giving the player a richer story experience through exploration.

SO here is BEFORE the player noodles around with the buttons...

Here, the player has is about to use the "Wonder about" button on the "stars up there in the sky" text (by dragging and dropping):

...and some new text is revealed.  (All the questions in the middle.)


So basically, today was about writing introductory text, then expanding on it for the player to discover.    

Here's what the entire exploration looks like:

The new text arrives step by step as the player does the interaction, so while the final version of this page might look overwhelming in this post, the differences are actually very manageable as you play.  I hope.


Jam Host

ooh, I haven't heard of this engine! you're making me interested in trying it out! also nice work so far, keep it up!

Submitted

Things are supposed to go all 'splody in game development, right?

So I totally forgot my wife was having knee surgery this week.  Add a five-year old and a full time job to the mix, and....well.  I haven't worked on it for 3 days.  And the due date is...um...tomorrow?  Well then.

Fortunately, I kept the scope of my game really small.  So writing the text is the hardest part.  There are no big puzzles or complex inventories to keep track of in the game.  Texture can make its way through those systems with a lot of pushing, but the engine is really about letting the words flow.  

My game is based on the early life of science popularizer Carl Sagan, without trying to be completely biographical.   I'm cribbing pretty heavily from Wikipedia to get inspiration.  Then I tweak the content to make it more approachable for a contemporary audience.  Dr. Sagan was four during the 1939 World's Fair, and I just don't have time to try to get that atmosphere right and tell the story I want to.  So I'm going with what I know, hand-waving the differences, and hopefully staying true enough to the realities.

The game's interactions are based around cognitive development in young children: how to learn about the world as you encounter it.   So the controls are based around different ways of thinking: there's wondering, reasoning, imagining, doubting, and so on.  As they player goes on, they pick up new action words that reflect more sophisticated ways of thinking.  That means the story's narrative language grows more complex as you play.  

I love text-based games, so this kind of interactive text stuff is super neat :0 Life pretty much finds always finds a way to slow down game projects, but good luck with everything!