About how Toadstools model world would fit best in parser system than Twine (IMHO)

Hi people,

One of my best favs from the past #ECTOCOMP2020 was Toadstools, by @bitterkarella

I loved the game, the atmosphere, but I liked the most the building of a world for me to visit, get lost, and be intoxicated. But while I was traversing that nightmare, I found that the Twine interface was a little “in the middle” of the experience. I found it a bit complicated and taxing to traverse the interface in order to interact with the game and the world.

This is not a post about why parser games are better than Twines, or worst… or how parser games are the real THING, and such. I love all systems. For someone who is middle age, and have touched most main IF systems, I love each one for what work needs the better.

Anyway, about this rambling… so yeah, this is just a thought, and I want to know what you think.

Do you think complex Twine games with deep worlds or systems, and interactions, would benefit better of the immediacy of a parser system? You know. In Toadstools, the player must traverse several nodes to get to where he wants, for example, consultation of the guide, or regarding the inventory, or be taken back to the work to continue the exploration. On the contrary, parser games have a “one distance” immediacy with every system, just an action away.

Also, when this though assault me, I remembered that Karella is an experienced author in parser games, so, that added to the weirdness, in my head, of the doubt.

Do you think games like Toadstools, or How to kill Vampires at a McDonalds would fit better in parser? or benefit from it?

Thanks.

TLDR; this is not a flamewar question. I love all IF systems, but I think it is interesting to ponder on if complex systemic twine games would benefit of being a parser game.

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But the game doesn’t want you to just read the guide and start walking, it gives you some context and atmosphere first.

I would imagine a same interaction in parser, several “guide” prompts or menus.

that could be acommplished in parser too. You can just puth the guide inside the backpack.

To me, at least, parser games provide a much higher level of immersion when exploring. They make me picture a three dimensional world, whereas just text and clickable links makes me think in terms of pages.

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I tend to think that that’s more about what things Twine in particular makes easy or difficult, rather than parser vs. hypertext? There are tools like, say, Undum, where you click things, but it has a transcript-based rather than page-based display, and a sidebar for stats and inventory, so it’s less work to do some things.

And maybe that’s a design choice for this particular story. At least some of it seems to be very intentional.

You could certainly, say, put your inventory at the bottom of the screen instead of in a separate knapsack page. You could automatically look up the items in the book when you click on them, so you start with a broken mushroom and then refer to it as a broken Fire Imp later. And some of those things are probably harder to implement than others. But, for instance, the way you have to click through four links worth of introduction to get to the book’s table of contents for the first time…that has to be a deliberate pacing choice.

And we’ve seen some hybrid models: Jon Ingold’s A Colder Light, a bunch of Robin Johnson’s work, Dialog does some of that. I’ve not been terribly impressed with any of them from a UI perspective, but I think it would be possible to do better.

So to me it’s more a question of visibility and input method than Twine vs. parser: how does it play on a tablet where text input is a nuisance? How much do you want all your commands to be visible in some fashion so you can click on them, instead of being invisible and mysterious and you can enter anything you want regardless of whether the game actually understands it? That’s a stylistic choice, and a “who’s your audience?” question. Graphical video games can certainly be quite complex without having an interface where you type in commands, so it’s possible, but is it better? Dunno.

Yeah. That was a bunch of rambling thoughts with no particular conclusions. I do think that for me, Chuk and the Arena hit a sweet spot in terms of world-model complexity vs. convenience vs. ease of implementation in Twine, though even there it would be interesting to me to try and streamline it a bit.

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Agreed. It’s useful to think in terms of UI elements: text box, text scroll, pane of choices, input line. Twine is biased towards having a single text box with choices, no incremental transcript. But say you can redesign your game to have several panes. What do you want on screen at all times? Is there an iterative interaction which should be scrolled rather than replaced?

(Do any Twine formats let you build a multi-pane display easily? I don’t know them well.)

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Oh, interesting. No, you’d have to dive into some HTML for that.

SugarCube comes with a sliding side panel that normally just has the save/load/restart stuff there but it also has a spot for placing inventory and menus. Each passage also comes with a header and footer that you can use for menu stuff, if you like. And of course you can just make your own floating div or something that is not connected with the passage at all and doesn’t disappear when you transition. There are lots of options but they rarely get used, sadly.

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Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed the game :slight_smile: Your thoughts are especially interesting, because I originally wanted to make Toadstools as a parser game. For example, I think it would have been much easier to implement the “guidebook” in a parser game. Twine required a lot of finagling to make it work; it was surprisingly difficult to rig Twine so that the player could be returned to their previous node after consulting the guidebook or the inventory. The main reasons that I ultimately decided it would work better as a hypertext game is that I wanted the player to have a more “linear” experience. A parser game lends itself better to open world exploration, but I wanted the player to experience Toadstools as a journey down a very specific path without feeling them they were being led. Of course, you’re being led in a hypertext game just as much as you would in a parser, since the game author has made design choices as to what options are available to the player, but I feel that hypertext games are expected to be a little more linear so the leading becomes more invisible. The other advantage of hypertext in this situation is that I knew this would be a game that would involve A LOT of description. Parser games generally thrive on shorter, less verbose description, because parser players want to be able to more quickly interact with more of their environment and have less patience for longer text dumps. Anyway, that’s the reason that Toadstools is hypertext but adapts a few more parser-y conventions XP Thanks for indulging me!

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Toadstools was perfectly rendered in fully imagination for me.

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Josh, those are really very good points.

I agree. Some systems, or UI would improve the friction with the interaction of those kind of games (not particulary Toadstools). One can imagine a fully Unity game with frames and bits and menus for each needed interaction. Even Twine can be used or modded to show complex GUIs. As several games has demostrated before.

Yes, I agree that Toadstools could be perfectly intentional about presentation and pace, and interaction. Even I’m ok with using raw Twine to create something more complex than usual. At least, ECTOCOMP is a competition that promotes quick developing and prototiping, and not perfectly lavishly rendered apps.

Thanks a lot K.

That makes a lot of sense!

As I said, I liked it very much, but it is nice to have this kind of analysis and debate.

Thanks!

There may be better terms for this, but I experience player immersion differently from reader immersion. I can always picture what is described in a good story, but parser games are able to make me feel that I am a character better than other types of games, including both hyperlink games and graphical games.