At the beginning of the project, I started off with a grand vision for my game. I wanted to create a text adventure with a large, living world, puzzles with multiple solutions, and choices for the player that resulted in branching endings. At the start, I was writing at a good pace. However, as I reached the second week of game development, I quickly began to suspect that my scope was way too ambitious for the amount of time I had available. I was soon forced to scale back my plans and focus on a smaller, more manageable game experience. Even then, I still didn’t get anywhere close to finishing my game. I knew from the beginning that it was likely I was overestimating how much I could get done, but I didn’t realize by how much.
Another major challenge I faced during the project was learning how to use Inform7. As someone who is used to programming, I actually found the natural language structure of Inform7 to be pretty confusing. It created a lot of ambiguities in the language that took a lot of research to figure out. Additionally, writing good interactive fiction required a great deal of thought and planning. I had to carefully consider how the player would experience the game and predict all the different kinds of actions a player might try to take. I know from first-hand experience how frustrating it is in a text adventure when you think you should be able to use an item in a certain way, but the game gives a “I don’t recognize that action” response.
Iteration and playtesting were super important for understanding how players new to the game might approach it, as well as improving the quality of the experience as a whole. The further on into the project I got, the more I understood how important it was to consistently playtest. Playtests were super helpful for guiding my thinking and development process. It also prevented me from getting stuck with writers’ block, as I always had feedback I could use as a jumping off point to work on the game. Next time, I would start off playtesting much earlier in the process.
In service of playtesting earlier, I think I should have created a more robust outline before kicking off the writing process. I felt like I had to have an actual demo in Inform as quickly as possible due to the short development timeline. However, I think that having a detailed plan would have made development faster in the long term. It would have also permitted more early feedback on the shape of the overall narrative. I was able to talk to collaborators about the themes I wanted to convey and impacts I wanted to accomplish, but I wasn’t able to get any assessment on if my story would be able to succeed at communicating them.
Generally, I found P2 to be a challenging but super rewarding experience. As someone who grew up playing text adventure games, it gave me a newfound appreciation for the artistry of the genre. I look forward to working on my IF game further, and hopefully turning it into a complete experience before the end of the quarter!