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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Modern text-based adventure games development #2: More problems

    In my previous post I stated some common problems you may face during the development of your game that contains text (wow, text?).

    Even if your game of this type has decent storyline, compelling characters and good writing (perfect example of bad writing is this blog. Joke, this blog is the best.), probability of success is still low. And if your writing is poorly done, cool landscapes and voice acting will not save you - because you have no graphics and no sound at all.

    I also mentioned visual novels - well, this can be a good choice for your state-of-the-art story/dialogs-driven game. Community of visual novels players is larger than interactive fiction players community (I am not even sure if IF-players community is alive) Add pretty faces of characters painted by decent artist, add sexy voice of your cousin and - voila - the best game of all time is ready.

    It's not that easy in real world. There are hundreds of visual novels with awesome arts and ourstanding voice acting - and with writing that looks like a writing of a retarded monkey translated via google (again, this blog) With stories that are so primitive that you think 'One more word and my brain is dead'. 

    So, good story, characters and dialogs are must-have for text-based game. Suppose that we already have it.

    What other kinds of problems do we have?

 - We have text only but still text component of the game is poor.

    Game understands 'go north' but fails to process 'lets go north'Game understands 'look' but can't do a shit when gets 'look around'

    It's not only poor natural language processing but the traditional mechanics of such types of games itself - it's a tradition in IF community to let player say 'go north' but forget about processing of other types of this phrase like 'I want to go North'. Just start to play Make it Good or any other interactive fiction game here and you will understand what I am talking about. 

    Your game has no graphics, no sound - and still it can't even process input strings that are slightly different from the strings that are direct orders - well, how can we say then that your game is a true text-based game?

 - Limitations of frameworks. 

    Almost every framework for IF development has typical and primitive understanding of what is a text-based game: such kind of a game must have rooms with a maximum of 4 doors or directions like north, south, west, east; such kind of a game must have 'look' and 'examine' mechanics; if you want to add roleplay to your game you better shoot yourself instead of doing this.
    These framework will not let you create your own game world - because creators of these frameworks surprisingly can't understand that 'text-based' doesn't mean 'has simple mechanics and primitive world model'.

 - No real characters. 

    That's right, guys, I reviewed Galatea recently and, actually, this is the best example of NPC in interactive fiction we have right now. Such a shame. 
    You can't say 'Hello, girl. How are you? What is your name?', you need to write ugly stuff like 'Ask X about Y' and repeat it again and again for any kinds of things you want to discuss.

    And it's not only the result of poor functionality of IF development frameworks.

Summary of the main problems I see so far:

1.) Poor natural language processing capabilities.

2.) Primitive gameplay.

3.) Primitive characters or even no 'real' characters at all.

    I think that modern text-based game must contain not only decent storytelling and writing, but also it must:

1.) implement game mechanics that is more complex than just 'man goes through some rooms and examines things'

2.) have at least one compelling NPC with opportunities to chat and opportunities to establish relationships.

3.) offer natural language processing (it's a text-based game so one of the main tasks is to process text, surprisingly for typical IF authors)

IF developer in a cruel world of gamedesign

    Moreover, good characters design is a must-have for every game in my opinion. It's one of the best means to bring some life into your game world. Through characters players can observe the effects of their actions on your game world in a natural way. 

    When a player comes back into your game and your character says 'Hello, bro. I am so glad you are here again!', your game makes a step forward to player's heart.

    That's all for now. Any other kinds of problems you see that I didn't even notice? Maybe story-driven text-based games are obsolete and it's useless to discuss such things?

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