Using Choicescript to develop interactive chat fiction


#1

Hi all. I would very much like everyone’s views on the practicalities of using Choicescript to develop interactive chat fiction. While it is true that Choicescript does not allow for some of the more graphical elements of the genre, I don’t see any impediment to producing very neat chat stories with involved and immersive interactive storylines. Of course, using chat texts to push an interactive narrative is somewhat outside of the original scope of Choicescript but if it could be done there is a vast market for interactive storytelling, especially amongst young adults.

I have to say however, that chat fiction is a curious form of writing. A typical chat story is carried on the back of conversations texted between characters and usually doesn’t include anymore than 2 to 4 characters at most. Most chat fiction only lasts four to eight minutes per story and the vast majority of it is not interactive. Writing interactive fiction is hard to do and somewhat time consuming and the one thing about writing linear chat fiction is that it is relatively straightforward. Most writers don’t delve into choice-based fiction and I think this has left open a large opportunity for those of us who do.

If it were possible to bring together a collection of interactive chat stories and present them in a single Choicescript app, one that could be updated with new stories as time progressed, it could well turn out to be rather successful. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Regards
Wayne Densley
www.arborell.com
freechatfiction.blogspot.com.au


#2

I haven’t clicked on your links, but this interactive chat fiction, is it something akin to mobile app Seen?


#3

I’m not sure either, but I’m guessing chat fiction refers to the really old-school interactive fiction games like Anchorhead where, instead of choosing from a list of options, you have to type thinks like, “look” and “go north” and “open door”?

I’d be really excited to see a game like this in choicescript, but I also imagine it would be really difficult to code.


#4

I haven’t used Seen. Mostly i read from Hooked, Yarn, TapTap and Scary Chat stories. In the main they are bogged down in ads, delays and limited feature sets unless you pay the subscription rate. Almost all are presented in a similar fashion and I think there could be some value in a more accessible app focused on interactive chat fiction.


#5

Its probably best to clarify what chat fiction is. Generally it is a form of storytelling that is conducted as a conversation. Usually read on mobile devices and structured like you’re reading someone else’s chat history off their phone. It is a story based on the experiences and text messages of the characters and is generally quite short. The challenge with chat fiction is to produce a story that seems plausible whilst being built as a series of text messages. If you want to see the general structure of a chat story you can look at my Graveyard Shift chat series.

The old school interactive fiction mentioned by Avery_Moore are truly excellent games but are different from the chat fiction stories I am talking about.

Regards
Wayne Densley
Chronicles of Arborell
Graveyard Shift Chat Fiction Series


#6

Hmm, this seems interesting (I kinda enjoyed Seen), but I think since there are already other apps or platforms dedicated to this, doing this in CS seems clunky and seems much less immersive if it is the main focus of the story.

By the way, I’ve already tried doing something like this, where the screen “scrolls down” for each line of new text so it’s very much possible (without you copy-pasting large amounts of text repeatedly). There’s a “group chat” scene in my WIP if anyone has seen it (you have to disable the screen reader mode though since it pretty much just loops the text).

If anyone’s interested in what my code looks like, feel free to PM me!


#7

Franzintye.

Fully agree with everything you said. My thoughts were to present the narrative with a slightly different structure so that it might better mirror the capabilities of Choicescript. Instead of presenting the chat as individual texts my idea would be to present the texts as blocks of conversation, much like a normal scene but then have important decision points at the end of each.

It may be that each block of texts might contain ten to twenty messages as a part of that conversation and then provide a number of decision options at their end. In this way the reader can influence the process of the story and turn it the way they might respond in that same situation.

Why we might do it in CS when there are other options out there would be mostly to produce a different format that many readers might well enjoy. Certainly the apps currently out there all look pretty much the same and a CS one could be very different.

Regards
Wayne Densley
Graveyard Shift


#8

Oh, I see what you mean! I read one of your stories and it seems promising. You can play around a lot with a story lacking a narrative, which works well for scary stories despite its limitations.

Do you mean that this would be a collection of short stories or more of a single episodic story? I don’t think it’s been done before in CS so it would definitely be interesting for me either way. I like a good slice of life too in case it doesn’t have a particular plot.

Will you also get to “play” as the MC/protagonist? It might be weird if we get to play as a set character or a different one for each story.

And are you currently writing one in CS or just checking for interest? You might get more interest if you post a demo over at the WIPs section.


#9

Hi Franzinyte,
It could be either episodic or a collection of short stories. More likely though a collection. People who currently read chat fiction seem to like it most when it is short and impactful.

My own thoughts were to have the player act on behalf of the main character in the story. Because the stories can be diverse it could mean playing as good or bad, male or female depending on who is the focus of the narrative and the circumstances of that particular story.

An alternative would be to develop a character that could be customised and then play through an episodic season of short stories. Something like a Paranormal investigator or conspiracy theorist. Whatever works best it would have to comprise enough short adventures to give value for money to the player.

Anything done in CS would have to be a mixture of what established Choice of Games readers like and the expectations of chat fiction readers as well. Not a big problem I think. If the balance is right then a CS app could be very popular.

You will see from the Graveyard Shift website that I have completed the first “season” of stories and are now working on the second. I have written a number of CS adventures so developing the actual app won’t be a learning curve.

What I will do is put together an example of how it would look, and then put it up as a WIP. I don’t normally like throwing stuff out until it is fully done but it might be instructive to see how CoG readers respond.

It would be fun to do a full on horror story with the usual twist at the end. Will have character stats and achievements as well, just to see how it all melds together.

Regards
Wayne Densley
The Graveyard Shift


#10

I wrote something years ago using onsequel like that. (But never published it as it never worked properly and is a right pain to edit) It was actually a lot of fun and could definitely be converted over into a choice game. (Maybe I’ll do it one day since it’s just sitting there :slight_smile: ) The only thing is they tend to be short, so if you ever wanted one published (rather than a freebee) it’d probably have to have a few stories mixed in together.

The other thing is, is you can’t get different coloured text or icons automatically. If using choicescript, it’d almost work better if you had small PNG images of the person who’s speaking so you could put it above each of the “chat” texts to liven it up a bit and make it easier to see who’s talking.


#11

Jacic,
I think that any publishable app would have to have at least eight or ten parts to be acceptable. Whether it be a collection of individual stories or a series of episodes of the one story. The nature of chat fiction is that it is invariably short and that would have to be taken into account. The good thing about this is however, that you could add new stories as in house purchases and grow a reasonable library of interactive titles within the same app.

With your other point about coloured script you are right. To get a look that is comparable to the “normal” chat fiction titles will require the creative use of a few png files, but luckily most chat fiction only has two to four characters so that shouldn’t be any great trauma to provide.

Regards
Wayne Densley
The Graveyard Shift