The advantages of our medium


#1

I was reading a book today that I have largely been enjoying, but when it got to the action I found myself struggling to keep my interest. The scale of the action was immense, the acrobatics were incredible, and the bad guys were dangerous. Were it a movie, the scene would have been great. However, movies have several advantages over books when it comes to action. They are able to use things like camera angles, pictures, and fast paced movements. That being said, books have the advantage of giving you better insight into the character’s minds, and allow for a focus on the emotion of a scene rather than action.

Each medium has advantages and disadvantages, and it might be helpful to remember which has which. Certain ideas that sound like they would be amazing in an anime or 3-D videogame can translate poorly into a gamebook, and vice versa. I thought it would be helpful to see what you forum goers feel are the strengths and weaknesses of books and gamebooks compared to other mediums.


#2

I feel the biggest strength of interactive fiction is the fact it allows the reader to immerse themselves in the story. A good book can draw you in just as well but there is something special about being able to say Mr Iam Badguy was a nasty piece of work but I managed to take him down.

Another strength is specific to the author as it can force them to think of other results to their scenes. In a book the protagonist goes from A to B to C where as the protagonist in interactive fiction can still choose to do A to B to C but if they wish they could also go B to D to E. Sure it is cool when the Hero(ine) defeats the badguy with a rainbow somersault drop kick in a book, but interaction fiction forces the author to think “What if they did a butterfly cat punch?”

Weaknessess are mainly lack of visual stuff (yes we can add pictures and music but that tends to bump up the size of the app which could put off potential buyers - due to lack of space on their devices). The other weakness is trying to judge how much game and how much book your IF should be.


#3

I agree with @Nocturnal_Stillness on the immersion part, that is definitely one of the biggest strengths in this genre. It gives the feeling of you being there and making the choices, meaning you are more invested in what happens than you would be with a traditional book or story. The game aspects also make it more tolerable for those who dislike reading, and can offer a break in the monotony so to speak. Another positive is the ease of branching paths, compared to other genres of entertainment I would say we are second to the top.

Negatives would be the time requirements to craft the games and the relatively few number of them in existence. It is pretty choice pickings.


#4

This, all the way.

It can also help reveal a character in a way that conventional fiction can’t (or usually doesn’t). The different paths can leave you with a complex picture: here’s someone who’s usually trusting or kind or hot-tempered, but along one story line you find the limits of their trust or kindness or anger. You can show how different circumstances bring out different sides of someone’s personality – and not just successive circumstances, but the alternative possibilities in each situation.

Look at Guenevere, for example – you can know the three central characters so much better in @jeantown’s version than you would in a single-stranded narrative.

The downside is that she might never finish, because writing all those alternatives is really long. (:


#5

Interaction is the big one, and I think “costs” is another one.

With interaction, you can both give the player a better reason to care about the proceedings (namely, if this fucks up, it’s YOUR FAULT), and far more intriguingly, you can tell a story without anyone even noticing by way of player race/gender/personality. I’ve written small games where the player could be white, black, brown, whatever, and had that actually alter the story in some ways, most small, some gigantic, but the players won’t know that until they play again with a different race. This can be lead to all sorts of incredible opportunities for education and plot magic. It doesn’t even have to be race: perhaps let the player try the whole game blind, or missing an arm, and see how that alters it all. It’s like Havenstone mentioned with the other characters. How will the mysterious assassin fit into the player’s story if they’re a good person? What about bad? PLAY TO FIND OUT.

Costs is self explanatory. We pay the same amount for scenes set in a small coffee shop as we do scenes about giant space stations being assaulted by elder gods or whatever. This means the range in content can be 1000000000% greater, even within a single game. I kind of long for someone to make a game where all the endings are so vastly different in this way. It would be so much fun. Open door number one to get married and have eight kids and a storybook family. Open door number two to have ruthless corporations destroy your life.

Weaknesses are obv visual things but that’s been mentioned. The only other thing I can think of though is that oftentimes the gamey nature of things can prevent the player from ever connecting with the world or its characters, instead just focusing on the choices, trying to engineer the happy ending they want without ever really taking time to enjoy the words on the page. I know I’m guilty of that kind of thing in a lot of these games, mostly because much of the time, once you get about a chapter or two in, you can basically tell exactly what’s going to happen. This is probably a result of authors trying to streamline their divergent trees tooooooo much, such that there really isn’t any true split in the narrative, instead replacing it with altered dialogue or scene description that, while nice, still doesn’t really change the plot’s direction in any way. It’s like those games that ask the player if they’re evil or good and then have the evil players do the good scenes anyway, just assuring them that “it’s just part of their evil plan” and perhaps letting them kick a puppy for good measure. That’s lame-o! I wish people wouldn’t be so scared of writing distinct trees. Yes it’s more work and many players will never get there, but it’s the principle of the thing.


#6

You know what bummed me out? This review of Yeti’s Parole Officer on 148Apps.

http://www.148apps.com/reviews/yetis-parole-officer-review/

Specifically:

The problem with Yeti’s Parole Officer is that it all looks so dated. The game is solely text-based, without any images to spruce things up. There’s no combat, with the focus squarely on decision making like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of old. Options are divided up according to radio buttons, giving the appearance of a outdated form on a website. They’re far from attractive to look at…Its visuals are a world away from the likes of 80 Days, but it’s the story that’ll keep you going.

Look, I think that 80 Days is visually really cool. But the fact that both are text based and have choices does not mean that they should be compared apples-to-apples.


#7

Jason, that review’s true. It’s also a good review so don’t let it get you down. They liked the game, didn’t like Choice of Game’s interface, and I think those are valid criticisms.

Do I agree with them? No. But I can see why the lack of graphic slickness does put some people off. Choice of Games have good stories, but the interface is extremely bare bones. There’s no fancy bells and whistles, no extraneous combat, nothing but text and the power of your imagination.

When I’m reading just plain text there’s magic there. The pictures beam themselves straight into my brain so I don’t need to be distracted with them on the screen in front of me. Even better, I hear they do that for other people too.

So in cases like, say Heroes Rise and Black Magic. The text might describe a super-sexy hero in a catsuit that has a zip down the front. The minute a picture shows up, it breaks the illusion. You’re suddenly basing on a graphical representation and say you thought Black Magic wasn’t white, or wasn’t female, or was sleek and athletic without large assets and didn’t spend all her time doing a a boobs and butt pose. Well that picture’s already ruined it.

I look at the facebook page and all the fantastic fan art there and know what? None of it actually represents my own visual images, and much of it seems to differ from each other. (Well apart from the picture of Jury over there which totally stole my own idea of what he looked like.) :slight_smile:

My imagination=Better than any picture.
No pictures=No distraction/More Immersive story.

Hmm and didn’t Choice of the Dragon originally have a different interface from the rest of the games? Something scroll like which was dropped?