I would like to share something with you. It’s my impressions of the Twine version of Coloratura by Lynn Glasser. Uncomfortable with posting this publicly in IntFiction at the time, I PMd this to Lynn; as I think I had a few insights into what I think is the greatest strength of the parser - the fact that we’re communicating, and that the responsability of typing down an action to be carried out is wholly different than clicking a link where it’s spelled out - I’d like to share this, in hopes of generating an interesting discussion about the individual best points of the parser and of CYOA.
Or about whatever the heck y’all want to talk about.
Warning: some spoilers below. Best read if you’ve played Coloratura. Oh what the heck, it’s a great game, go play it anyway
First off, I don’t know if you’ve read my review of Coloratura when it
was still up. Basically, I loved the heck out of your game (BTW, I
recently discovered a game called Legion. Did you play it? Was it
inspiration for Coloratura? They’d be a nice “double feature”; it’s
different enough from Coloratura that they sort of complement each
other, being different takes on a similar concept. Anyway, I digress).
It was beautiful, it was deep, it was fun, it was surprising, it was
very well written, it was amazingly polished.
I tried the Twine version. I have to confess to some disappointment.
I think it’s a wonderful thing that you’ve done, to port the game. I
think someone would HAVE to do it someday, at some point, and it might
as well be you with your brilliant game. I seem to be in the minority,
but ah well - in the Twine version, I just see text with hyperlinks,
which completely fail to draw me in. There is no wonder, there isn’t
even the sense of exploration because there’s no spatial references
And I mean, Coloratura got me hooked in the very first
couple of turns; in what other game can you EXAMINE UNIVERSE? That’s
What the Twine version retains is the story, and the
concept, and the writing, and these are all great. But the sense of
agency, I feel, has been greatly diminished. Therefore so has my
participation, my agency. I feel detached. I feel I don’t even have to
make an effort to understand the nature of the PC; eventually I need
only click links and I’ll get somewhere.
I can’t tell you, for
example, the thrill of starting to colour someone’s aura, or of
realising I could take on different properties, or enter the machine
near the beginning. It was as though the game world kept expanding, the
possibilities opening up. In Twine, it’s all part of the same mechanic -
click. Click. Click.
I mean, in one bit of the game - you’ll
realise which - I was delighted to see that what I typed was accepted by
the game. It was >LET ME GO. This is completely outside of IF
conventions, but it felt the most natural thing to write. And the game
understood it! That was an absolutely amazing feat, proof that the game
deserved all of my trust, that I was able to meaningfully communicate
with it and it was able to communicate back…
…which is what I
feel is the difference between the parser and CYOA. If you type, you’re
constructing sentences. Like it or not, it’s an act of communication,
and it’s inherently meaningful. And you get the feedback in exactly the
same way. Clicking can mean any of a million things, and therefore it’s
inherently meaningless. The choices are splayed out to be clicked on; as
opposed to they existing conceptually but taking a conscious decision
on your part to act upon them. It is the difference between clicking
"Kill lizard" as it appears, and between realising that you have to take
the conscious decision to perpertrate this act, so you actually have to
spell it out, every letter, and with every letter you tap you confirm
that it is your intention, that YOU have decided, to kill this animal.
There we go.
Again, it’s a wonderful thing that you’ve done, as an experiment, and it
solidifies in me why I always thought parser games were more to my
…or it could just be that Coloratura was too good in
parser form to be as enjoyable in Twine; or it could just be that it had
been originally designed for parser and its strengths, and the perfect
Twine Coloratura needs some redesigning, I don’t know; because I DO know
for a fact that a game that’s designed to BE a Twine game will probably
always be better in twine than a parser adaptation…
thank you for having done it, but most of all, thank you for having made
the original Coloratura in the first place, and having made it so
Funnily enough, a few days ago I played “Creatures Such As We” and I had no such issues about CYOA. I thought it was a great game (I didn’t finish it because it didn’t allow for game-saving). Which I guess just proves that a parser game is designed that way from the ground up, and a CYOA is designed that way from the ground up, and they’re both excellent but they probably shouldn’t try to be ported without some deep, deep design changes.
I once tried to make a game that was partly CYOA and partly parser, where the CYOA bit were where the character would go through his daily routine as sanctioned from a higher authority and the parser bits were more confused moments where for a brief while the PC had more liberty of choice than he ever had in his life, and during the course of the game the CYOA bits would become sparser and sparser.
Ah well, if Morpheus/Daniel has a computer room similar to his library of unwritten books, my game is probably there somewhere (if you don’t get this, read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Heck, go read it anyway)