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Hi! Welcome to Intfic. Pull up a chair and enjoy some of our Handcrafted Interactive Fiction – we’ve been brewing it this way ever since our grandpappy stumbled on the recipe back in 2014.

Do you like interactive fiction? Adventure games? Playing them, writing them, reviewing them, talking about them? Then you’ve come to the right place.

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We’re not here to change the world. We aren’t here to judge you for who you are – we’ll get to know you based on your words and contributions. We might not always agree, but we’ll always be hospitable, and you’ll always be greeted with a handshake and a frosty glass of Handcrafted Interactive Fiction.

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Stop on by whenever you like. If you’ve seen all there is to see, go ahead and click over to IFDB, IFWiki, or IntFiction.org. We’ll be right here where you left us.

I moved 4 posts to a new topic: Thread categories

What is ‘handcrafted’ intfic?

Interactive Fiction that you didn’t code with your feet. Obviously.

It’s also clearly a rally against the trend in developing emergent storylines, emergent puzzles, emergent everything, to the detriment of the lone authorial figure, heralding an age of generally-procedured, discompassionate IF.

Finally, it’s something that’s really messy to make; takes ages; you keep fiddling with it, adding to it, then removing, then doubling back, doubting your life and the choices that brought you to this place, then making your product the focus of your life, showering it with love and care, torn between leaving those handprints that are the sure sign of a loving handcrafter or to polish it up to industrial standards, and something that you eventually release in a state of euphoria before heading to the nearest pub to get pissed and consider your next creation.

Fancy you not knowing that.

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I thought it was a dig against Twine, which is anything but ‘emergent’. I actually think emergent gameplay is pretty cool, and definitely not less work b/c you still have to lovingly ‘handcraft’ a system that will produce fun emergent gameplay instead of boring emergent gamedrudge. That’s not easy.

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I was talking about the dark side of emergent gameplay, Natch.

Ok, ok, I guess I should be serious for a second. now. :slight_smile: I find that emergent gameplay is a wonderful tool to be used in a greater story. I think “Metamorphoses” qualifies, even if the greater story is really just a playbox. Or “The Last Express”, which is not just about emergnet gameplay but about the lovingly handcrafted - just as you said - experience that is, though based on an “emergent” system, tied to a lot of other elements that keep the whole game within a certain set of rails.

To put it another way, this is from the film 1900, with Tim Roth. He plays a pianist that spend his whole life in a ship, was born there, never left. He once had the perfect excuse to leave, but he just stood there on the platform, looking at the city, before resolutely heading back inside the ship. This is his explanation:

Take a piano. The keys begin, the keys end. You know there are 88 of
them and no-one can tell you differently. They are not infinite, you are
infinite. And on those 88 keys the music that you can make is infinite.
I like that. That I can live by. But you get me up on that gangway and
roll out a keyboard with millions of keys, and that’s the truth, there’s
no end to them, that keyboard is infinite. But if that keyboard is
infinite there’s no music you can play. You’re sitting on the wrong
bench. That’s God’s piano. Christ, did you see the streets? There were
thousands of them! How do you choose just one? One woman, one house, one
piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to
die. All that world weighing down on you without you knowing where it
ends. Aren’t you scared of just breaking apart just thinking about it,
the enormity of living in it? I was born on this ship. The world passed
me by, but two thousand people at a time. And there were wishes here,
but never more than could fit on a ship, between prow and stern. You
played out your happiness on a piano that was not infinite. I learned to
live that way. Land is a ship too big for me. It’s a woman too
beautiful. It’s a voyage too long. Perfume too strong. It’s music I
don’t know how to make.

I happen to feel this way about emergent gameplay, or anything procedurally-generated. If it goes too far, it stops being a story. You can’t make a story in an infinite context, with infinite choices. Because that story is God’s story. It’s called “Life”.

Thankfully, God never sued the makers of the board game for their obvious copyright infringement. That would be ugly.

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No but you can fake it! 8)

A lot of the terms used in game design are admitted fakery. People talk about ‘player agency’ but of course there’s really no such thing since all of any game’s ‘choices’ sprang fully formed from the designers’ minds, and there are no others. Player agency is fake but that doesn’t mean it’s undesirable and that naked linearity would be better. This argument shares its structure with the idea that objectivity is impossible. Of course it is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a “silly thing to strive for” in the words of one notoriously biased game journalist.

Objectivity, though impossible, is still the only fundamentally non-silly thing to strive for. Similarly, ‘emergent’ design is not really possible because in practice the designers will have carefully tested every likely combination and pruned anything that isn’t fun, or else the game will suck. But it’s a non-silly thing to strive for because in the act of faking it better we might greatly improve upon the relative lack of freedom of choice in prior works.

P.S. That film sounds really interesting.

For all the reasons you’ve said, if it’s faked, then I have no qualms with it. :slight_smile:

The two big problems of this quest for emergent, highly meaningful gameplay, to me, are the loss of authorial voice - which I’ve covered, and which you’ve covered as well, effectively saying “it’s never really emergent, and that’s how the designers can make sure the game is still fun” - and the inclusion of artificial choices that have no bearing on the story; cue in “Choice of” games (which I haven’t played, but from all reports it’s pretty much a standard thing: they tend to include lots of choices about PC customization that don’t make any difference in regards to the story that’s being told. I don’t know how they current games are, though).

“Faking it” means the authorial voice is still strong, and that the choices are meaningful - or, if they’re meaningless, they’re meaningless in a fun, or amusing, or thought-provoking way. As long as there is a flesh and blood someone at the helms of this fakery, bring it on!

PS - I adored the film. It’s more a fable than what you’d call a “serious” film, which a lot of critics tend to look down on; I wouldn’t want to be on an exclusive diet of films like that, but occasionally I just have to watch one. I sorta spoiled a big part of it, sorry about that, but I definitely encourage you to check it out.

I have trouble thinking of any CYOA game as ‘emergent’ in any way, but maybe that’s because the fakery in that case is just too plain to suspend disbelief. Making a bunch of irrelevant choices about your identity that don’t really factor into anything, doesn’t even resemble anything ‘emergent’. You put your choices in and they go absolutely nowhere: that’s SUBmergent.

Anyway I’ll be back to check for more posts this evening. (I don’t think anyone actually cares about my schedule — it’s just that if I don’t make such declarations, I’ll end up refreshing this forum every 10 minutes throughout the day as if it’s autonomic.)

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My fault. I’m conflating too much. I sometimes get so excited about a discussion I tend to lose sight of the finer points - such as, what it is we’re actually talking about. Emergent gameplay is one thing; offering tons of choices or ramifications to the player, be it branching storyline or a highly detailed skill tree, is another. Both can be overused to the detriment of the story being told, in search of a simulation of real life. This can be done very well and it can be done very poorly.

It might not surprise you that I’ve tried Fallout 2, years ago, and couldn’t get into it. Too many possibilities, too open-ended. That’s probably very important context for this discussion - I’m clearly not the intended audience for that sort of thing! Baldur’s Gate (1) I enjoyed a lot more, even if I didn’t finish it.