When I was thinking about the interactive fiction game, I wanted to go back to another setting that I had written and thought about before in the story of a desert and an oasis that turned out to be a mirage. I thought this would be a good setting to tell a story about scarcity, abundance, and the tragedy of the commons.
The basic story would be that you would play as a member of a desert “pirate” crew that comes across an oasis in the midst of the desert. You’d act as your character through the events of the discovery and an eventual conflict that would occur as members of the crew become greedy and self-centered with the water of the oasis. One important element of the situation is that I wanted to make your relationships with other characters feel compelling so that your actions through the conflict feel impactful
I personally am not a huge fan of interactive fiction because it ends up summarizing a lot of conversations and choices rather than writing it like a book so I wanted to make the choices feel like realistic small actions that you might make at different decision points. However, as I got started, the choies started to balloon immensely. I’m also the sort of writer who writes as they go rather than planning everything out beforehand so it became an immensely time-consuming task to try and manage all of the different paths that the player could take.
I was a fan of my early writing in this piece of fiction as I felt like I had the time and energy to create an interesting environment and setting that would allow readers/players to feel immersed in the story. I tried to make the players interactions with the other characters feel like there were a lot of dialogue options even if the end result of the conversation would be the same.
However, after spending several hours on the first event of the story I realized it was sort of unsustainable. I think that the story became much more linear and choppier, but I think that it has enough to grip a reader especially for a game design sprint.
(my chaotic twine diagram)
The first version of this game consisted mostly of just the first event of finding the oasis since it was already a considerable amount of writing and storytelling. I think that this iteration was really powerful since it was a very condensed version of the kind of writing I want to do if I have a lot of time. I playtested with some of my friends and with Christina during our playtesting session. She mentioned that the pacing felt like a novella rather than a short story and that the level of detail and small choices made it feel like you were fleshing out your personality in the game (which is what I wanted yay!)
However, the challenge was expanding it out in a way that felt compelling.
This was when I was starting to run on fumes for the story. At this point, the player has fleshed out their character and then are making decisions with their relationships with the captain and other crew members. The captain asks you to help him steal water and you face several ethical decisions. I playtested this with Melody and with Christina and got great feedback! The story was still compelling even though I wasn’t exactly writing up to my own standards. Some interesting feedback was that the players felt like they were acting differently from how they would act if they were playing as themselves. They wanted to know more information but didn’t want to be confrontational. This was challenging as I wanted the player to feel the pressure in making these consequential decisions. I decided to add some choices that would expand out the possibilities.
I ended up finishing the final scene today so I would love to hear people’s reactions to the story!
I had a lot of fun with this IF project at first but because I was writing on a deadline and during school, I felt like I was getting really burnt out in the process. I also am not a huge fan of Twine’s interface so I might check out inkle as an alternative for the future.
I’m honestly really glad I got a chance to write so much and put it in front of people because it was one of my biggest passions over the pandemic. I just wish that I could do it when I wasn’t dealing with so much life chaos.
I think I’m also a perfectionist when it comes to my own writing, so it was an interesting experience to just put something out there and expand out a story just because I had a deadline. It made it so I was committed to writing even though at times I felt like I was dissatisfied with it.
In terms of the story, I wish I could have made it more detailed in the second half as I ended up having to summarize events in order to limit the number of decision trees I had to write. I also feel like I’m not personally compelled by the decisions near the end as they feel very drastic and over-the-top. I just wish I had more time!
Overall, I’m a fan of writing and I will always be. However, writing on a deadline stresses me out even though it makes me very productive. I would love to write more in this story and make it something that I can feel really great about. For now I feel like its serviceable 🙂