3D CYOA - A New Style of Interactive Fiction?

Hi CYOA/MCA fans!

Those of you who played my IFComp 2013 Entry The Challenge sure noticed that I changed my style a bit this year. Instead of text-only CYOA games I introduced a graphical component: 3D graphics which are supposed to better illustrate the various environments in a text adventure game.

This kind of approach makes the text part more easier to handle, because you can focus more on writing a story, instead of writing long descriptions of rooms and other locations which may be misunderstood or interpreted differently by each player anyway. So adding 3D graphics is a good spice imo.

The motto for this is: “Ein Bild sagt mehr als tausend Worte.” (from german: “A picture says more than a thousand words.”

What do you think about it? Can such a concept work better than a text-only concept? If such a type of CYOA game looks cool AND is also well-written and longer, could it compete with traditional Interactive Fiction?

Share your thoughts…

From a commercial perspective, graphical/text combinations work so well that they’ve completely squashed text adventures. After all, this description encompasses the King’s Quest series, the Mass Effect trilogy, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Planescape: Torment, FTL, etc., etc… There’s no competition, because graphical hybrids won decades ago. (Heck, my day job is working on a graphical/text hybrid*.)

But are they better? - well, that’s an apples and oranges question. Is television better than a book? I’d rather watch House than read Twilight, but I’d rather read The Lies of Locke Lamora than watch Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Similarly, I’d also rather play the graphical/text game Monster Loves You! than the pure text game Stiffy Makane, and I’d rather play the pure text game Spider and Web than the graphical/text game Gone Home. It’s a Venn diagram - 1) what you’re executing, 2) how well you execute it, and 3) how well it fits with your audience’s tastes.

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Alex K, I’d say that the format of The Challenge bore a striking similarity to the “room escape” genre that got incredibly popular around the turn of the millennium. There are a lot of great examples that have enjoyed a high level of popularity. Check out Exmortis if you can handle a good jumpscare, or one of the most well-known early room escape games, The Crimson Room.

Heck, one could even draw a comparison to NES-era graphical/text adventures like The Uninvited, Deja Vu, and my mother’s personal favorite, Princess Tomato and the Salad Kingdom. Oh, and Shadowgate, which is getting a modern remake thanks to a successful kickstarter!

Games like these are also enjoying current popularity in mobile gaming – ‘The Room’ and ‘The Haunt’ for android are good examples.

So if you’re wondering whether there is a market for this kind of adventure game, the answer is an emphatic yes! Is it the next big step in IF? Well … no, because it’s already out there and its bar for entry is higher than text IF.

There’s a DS game “Hotel Dusk Room 215” which is pretty close to what you’re talking about. Due to the (extreme) graphical limitations of the DS it was mostly static images of the rooms and characters and then various text choices. It’s one of my favorite DS games so check it out if you get the chance

I don’t think technical limitations played a major role; Hotel Dusk is a pretty formulaic Japanese visual novel. If you liked it there are a lot more similar games, Phoenix Wright series being the most popular one.

Your mother’s onto something there. That game is AWESOME.

Speaking of… I’ve been playing Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies on the 3DS. It came out (eShop only) a couple weeks ago. It seems like the earlier games had more gameplay and less dialogue, but I’m probably remembering wrong.

A graphic above some text was the 2nd kind of adventure game. First they were text only. Then Sierra brought out Mystery House (black and white graphics above some text and a parser) then The Wizard and the Princess (colour graphics above some text and a parser). That trajectory eventually became graphics with animated onscreen characters - and text and a parser beneath - and then those graphics without text or a parser. But the ‘graphics above a parser’ school is the bulk of the first half of the 80s. Whether the graphics are more or less literal (we could regard 3d as more literal), I think they are basically in one camp.

I wrote about my thoughts about some of this in a similar topic of Joey’s from last year:



We should also point out that there is an entire genre of japanese video games called Visual Novels, which are basically exactly this - pictures, usually manga-styled and sometimes with animations - with what amounts to a novel over the top of them. They generally have multiple endings and a CYOA style gameplay mechanic (if it can be called such), though some have other gameplay mechanics as well.

It’s an insanely popular genre in japan, often with tie in anime, manga, toys and various merchandise, but much less popular in the western world. It’s popularity has risen in recent years and there are quite a few official translated games out there now, though most of those that get official translations tend to be pornographic (which says a fair bit about us I guess), and a few well-known franchises (such as Phoenix Wright, which I would say qualifies as a VN).

There are fan translation patches out for a lot of others though, and there are some great stories in there. There are also authoring kits similar to inform and TADS design for building those kinds of game (ren’ai I think is a popular one). Culturally speaking, i’ve found the stories to have a very different feel from what you might expect as a western-influenced reader, often quite ‘trippy’ and surreal, and i’ve really enjoyed some of them.

As far as competing with IF… like the others said, commercially there hasn’t been a huge amount of interest in IF since the 80’s, so on that front they’ve got them beat at least in one market, but “are they better?” is a value judgement that really has no meaning. I love playing both, so more of either is a good thing for me as a consumer :wink:

I think your prototype would have been more impressive if you didn’t have to control the character directly. I don’t want CYOA, I want the 3d world to react to the parser:

For example a 3d environment where I wake up on a cot in a bunker and I type GET UP and the avatar stands. EXAMINE TABLE and avatar moves over there and I read a pop-up description along with seeing it up close. PREPARE BREAKFAST…3d model does it.

You wouldn’t be the first to make this observation:

(From Awkward Zombie, natch)

There’s no actual spoiler here, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.