Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hooray for Text Adventure!

Since we're all sharing all or part of our midterm projects already, I thought I'd throw mine out there to see what the general reaction was.

At first, I decided that a choose your own adventure story spread out over a website would be a great idea. There was going to be art and music and everything was going to mesh really well. I felt I would be using technology to really immerse the reader in the narrative. This was a great idea, I think, as it accurately answered the assignment given to us by Dr. Johns. Unfortunately, I just couldn't come up with a damned plot to save my life.

That's why I decided to make a text-based game. I've been typing my little fingers down to knubs working on this thing. I re-read some of the CYOA stuff we'd been working on here in class, even played through Zork and a few of the old Sierra adventure games to get a feel for what I wanted to do, when I noticed that all of these things, despite being different forms of media, shared a lot in common.

First, they all were a non-traditional means of expressing narrative. CYOA novels put you in the captain's seat in the same way that a video game, be it text or graphics based allows you to control what's going on, and, thusly, what action happens when. They're all interactive to some extent. They all require technology, be it a mind, a certain way of writing, or a processor. But most importantly: you can die in some truly horrific ways in all of them. Some of the deaths don't even make sense, and some of the deaths seem just like mean-spirited ways to crush your dreams.

With that in mind, I decided to make a text game that sort of lampoons these terrible deaths, and thus Project CYOHD was born (Choose Your Own Horrible Demise). While there are currently only 7 or 8 rooms in the version I'm posting online for the class, there are countless ways to die. It is literally possible to die in every room of the game, sometimes in two or three ways. Some of them follow logically more than others, and some deny logic entirely (I did, after all, get a D in symbolic logic last semester).

This is a narrative. It lets you guide the action. You are basically commanding your character around the game's world. You can choose what your character does. Much like Zork, the real narrative in this game comes from the connection you make with the world. Will you do certain actions? Will you go to certain places? This degree of interactivity goes beyond the scale of a CYOA novel in the sense that you aren't confined to two or three choices on a page -- you can make your own damn choices, even if they don't advance the story. Maybe you don't want to go find the goddamn tea bowl, maybe you'd rather just be a normal kid and watch cartoons on Saturday morning. Well, the publishers don't give you a choice. Zork did, however. You didn't have to go into the cave. It wouldn't necessarily be any fun to wander around the forest, nor would it be particularly adventurous, but, hey, you could do it.

So without further ado, play through a sampling of my game and see how many ways you can wrack up your death count. Post your favorite deaths in my comments. Post things I need to fix, things you think were working, things you think could stand to change. Things you'd like to see. If you guys really want to, I can post the Inform (inform is the program I used to write this game, I believe it was written by the guy that made Zork) source code, but in addition to being horribly redundant, the code ruins all the surprise.

Here is the link to the program you'll need to run the game (it's tiny and uses like no resources)
And here is the link to my work in progress.



Adam Johns said...

I'm enjoying the satire: you're successfully boiling down the inner darkness of most CYOAs (to say nothing of most video games). Your prose is nice and nasty, too.

One critique of the game as game: you need to tell us in each room which directions we can go. I'm going to keep working on it, but I've only managed to get into three rooms so far.

A couple more suggestions, just as starters.

1) You have a nice start to some "tough guy" prose -- maybe work on brushing it up even more, to the point of self-parody?

2) As funny as your voice is in _the game_, your blog post itself is at least as funny. Weird as it may seem, I'm seeing the possibility for you going meta - integrating some aspect of the class and blog itself into the narrative. Maybe I need to sleep - take it or leave it.

3) The narrator doesn't mock, ridicule and revile us enough for making stupid choices and ending up dead (you could have us end up in a different versions of hell, for instance, being mocked by St. Peter, etc). Death by falling out the window vomiting is my favorite so far.

Oh, I'd like to see the inform code. Trust me, I won't grade you on style or anything - I'm just curious, and I'd like to be sure that I'm not missing anything.

Adam Johns said...

I realized I left out my most important comment.

The satire is funny, but why is it funny? What here is worth making fun of? Are you satirizing the idea of interactivity itself, since it all boils down to death in the end, for instance? Maybe not, but humor is always directed at something - think Night of a Thousand Boyfriends.

Tim said...

This is actually quite entertaining. Morbid, but entertaining nonetheless. I'm assuming this is just because it is your rough draft, but so far I have only found two things that I can do (Puke/fall out the window or shoot myself). Not that I am eager to kill myself or anything.

Considering how much work you probably put into this, you deserve to be proud of yourself.

My only problems lie in the lack of anything to do. I chainsmoked, which was entertaining. But, I couldn't really find anything else to do.

I walked into the hall, but I found that I couldn't get anywhere from there. (Again, I wasn't sure if it just wasn't completely developed yet or not). Just knowing where everything is would help out a lot. For instance, in the first room, I didn't know there was an exit until I hit the direction buttons and it said I was in the hall. But, from there I couldn't get anywhere.

I enjoy the game though. I can't stress that enough. Beyond what I have said, I have little criticism for you.

I can imagine anything along the line of a comment on my project will be far more critical, seeing as how I am finding trouble in writing everything that I want.

But, good job so far!