Dark Forest Crow Notes - Interactive fiction, text-interactions based and roleplaying games

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Modern text-based adventure games development #1: Problems

I decided to write yet another abstract post with my thoughts about text-based and interactive fiction games in general.

Am I really trying to think and to do something right now?

What are the problems of such type of games? What are the problems of developers who tries to create their state-of-the-art text-quests? I think this topic is very interesting. Moreover, almost every modern computer game contains some text, dialogs, lore, any kinds of descriptions so my monologue will not be only useful for developres of text quests and writers of interactive fiction.

You may take a look at some of my thoughts about typical examples of old and modern text-based games here: Galatea, Make it Good, Star Wars: Escape the Flagship.

So, you want to create your text-based adventure game. If you want to create it for yourself and your friends only (joke, developers of text-based games have no friends), then you just develop it. Then one or two guys in the world play it. Everybody is happy.

But what if you want to create something enjoyable for more than just one miserable person who plays your game only because he feels sorry for you (actually because he thinks you are a psycho who can do something bad if he will not check your game out)? 

You have a lot of problems then, son.

Because, guess what, text-based game is a text-based game and you are not a Hemingway. You need a good writings, you need a good plot, you need some compelling characters, you need good additional interesting mechanics ideas. Just go to textadventures.co.uk and launch some games - you will see a lot of problems. I hope. 

Some games there have good story but awful writings and awful English (even worse than mine). Some have perfect English but boring plot and obscure characters. Others have good plot and good English but simple and boring mechanics. Who is the audience of these games? Like with any other types of games, you have three main circles of players:

1.) Creator of the game.
It's not as bad as you may think (and even not that bad as I think). Some writers write novels just to read them after a year or so. Art for single person in the world is still an art.

2.) Creators of the games of similiar type.
Interactive fiction community is the best example in this case: they use similiar tools, they write their games, they play their games. Community is pretty closed and bounded (I am not saying this is bad).

3.) Usual gamers.
Mmmmm...usual gamers...Millions of players...success.

You can easily reach the audience of type 1 and 2, but what about type 3? Do you have some awesome pixelart pictures with landscapes and characters to impress those people? Do you have some insane chiptune soundtracks? Voice acting? Maybe you have beautiful animation?

No. You have text. Player writes some text as an input and the game displays some text as an answer. Nothing more.

Probably, you have a good story. Maybe some plot twists. Decent dialogs. But you can't show your compelling story or charming characters. You can tell something interesting about your game but it's not easy at all to impress people using text only. Especially in modern world of powerful graphics engines and pixelart freaks (I love them).

I will continue my analysis soon and will describe some features that are must-have for modern text-based games.

Do you think authors of visual novels have their answers for these questions? Visual novels have huge audience.

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