DISCOVERY: A Point-and-Click Interactive Narrative

Posted on November 2, 2011

I’ve added a new project to the site: DISCOVERY! This was a team project for my Interaction Design class. Our goal was to build an interactive narrative that facilitated the use of multiple characters/perspectives to drive a story. What we ended up with is, according to our testing, an enjoyable mashup between an interactive narrative and a point-and-click puzzle game. A recent development in interactive narratives is the use of hyperlinks to drive the story. The obvious contrast is to games such as Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure which allow the player to type commands as they please. The advantage to using hyperlinks is that the interaction is directly joined to the text: rather than navigating a space, as in Zork, the player is navigating a story.

The engine we chose to use is called Twine. By default, Twine makes two story formats available and a small selection of links between “passages” (blocks of the story) with varying behaviors. One of the first things we noticed in our testing is that having hyperlinks immediately apparent in the text detracts from the reading experience. Rather than being focused on what is happening in the text the player is concerned about what will happen when they follow that link. We chose to counteract this by removing any decoration or differentiation from the links themselves until moused over or clicked on. What resulted is an experience that ends up looking very much like a story laid out on screen but is, in fact, driven by the player.

My contributions to the project were primarily technical. One of the features we wanted to add to the engine are contextual menus that allow for multiple interactions with each passage. I wrote a macro for the engine that allows for multiple choices and disables links to other story threads upon activation. I’ve added a link to that macro (as a text file) to the project page in case anyone is interested in using it elsewhere.

This isn’t my first interactive narrative project but it is the one I’m most proud of. In a class I took a year ago we built a narrative in Inform7, an engine that produces Zork-style experiences. Literally, I was pleased with that project. Technically, it didn’t do anything interesting. It was refreshing to be able to step back and look at the interactive experience holistically in order to build tools that suited it rather than writing a story to suit an existing system.