Adapting a straightforward story as IF

Something I’ve seen a lot of the more successful minimally-interactive works do is go heavy on the multimedia—sound, visuals, creative formatting, text effects. But the former two require the ability to create or source stuff from entirely different artistic domains, and the latter two require a certain amount of CSS know-how to do well, so this isn’t always the most feasible option. If you want to look at works that do this, I agree with Josh that it’s worth looking into kinetic novels, which is a type of visual novel without choices—they always have art and music/sound effects, and sometimes even voice acting. For examples outside of that sphere, I think 17776 and 20020 made it onto IFDB on the strength of what they’re doing with visuals and formatting, and Harmonia IIRC does have some choices but is largely relying on visuals and formatting as well. (On the subject of Liza Daly, there’s also Stone Harbor, but for me that one crossed the intangible, hard-to-explain line into “I feel like I might as well be reading a book.”)

Another approach I’ve seen is to divide the story up into scenes/blocks that you allow players to access out of chronological order. January, from last year’s IFComp, did this, and over in the IF-adjacent indie games sphere, Her Story, Analogue: A Hate Story/Hate Plus, and the last chapter of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni all do something along these lines. But they’re not just cutting up the scenes and letting players pull them out of a hat at random; they all have some kind of gating along the lines of “scene Z is locked until you’ve seen scenes X and Y” (or at least “you’re unlikely to figure out how to find scene Z until you’ve seen scenes X and Y”). X and Y don’t necessarily both come before Z in the timeline; in fact, in a story with mystery elements, often Z is chronologically the earliest, but it reveals something that explains or recontextualizes the events of X and Y, which wouldn’t have that much punch if you hadn’t seen X and Y already.

In general, I think the really important thing is to think about what interactive elements can add to your story, or at least, how they could transform the story in interesting ways. You definitely don’t want to be tacking them on out of a sense of obligation.


Lance, if you want to keep the story linear, but still have Multiple Choices in it that makes a difference somewhere too, then maybe you could try rewards (or negative rewards) that are awarded depending on how smart the answer you choose is. The different storylines can then usually be easily brought back together behind the different multiple choice options.


Ah, those are good ideas! I actually did write a game for the Neo-Twiny Jam, and I went with a few options you can do in any order before the big conclusion.

A lot of the script is conversational. Looking at it now, I think this would be a good way to add some interaction. For example, one thing I split up early on was how you can choose to comfort someone: either with words of reassurance or hugging them. Both fit the character, but people might approach it differently based on what they think.

Similarly, another scene has the protagonist talking to a friend to get ideas on how to befriend someone who doesn’t like them. This’d be another place to add in a small split; you could either be upfront with your questions or kind of lead into it, but you’d get the same conclusion in the end.

I like this idea, too. I have a small idea where the exact way you handle certain action-y scenes will give you more points depending on how effective you are, kind of like in Lady Thalia. It wouldn’t have much of an impact on the overall plot, but I think players would enjoy trying to get the best scores they can.

I don’t think I’m going to lean too heavily on sound or audio, since I usually have my own music going when I play through IF. I have a small idea for adding visuals – a notepad that updates with small sketches of characters and objectives as you progress – but that’d be something I’d add more towards the end, if at all.


If there is only one outcome for the story, then the only choice is about the order in which the events are experienced. Let the choices just answer the question, “what should I experience next?”

Try putting each event/scene in your story on index cards. Then start looking at the scenes in relation to each other. Which scenes absolutely must follow one another? Which scenes have more flexibility? Which scenes can the player skip and still have a sensible story. This will give you ideas for how to lay out your game.


I see that Stone Harbor was mentioned here as an anti-example, but it was my first thought when I read about adapting a linear story. Yes, it is basically like reading a book, i.e. no real choices or alternative endings (I think, I only read that once), but the interactive part was really keeping me, as a reader, interested. It was definitely more than just flipping pages of an ebook.

Stone Harbor is written using Windrift, by the way.


Just cross referencing that this new system might be a really good fit for someone who wants to tell a simple choice narrative story without too much fuss:


Yes, it’s designed to be simple to use! Definitely let me know if anyone has interest in trying it out. We are actively developing the platform so we are looking for feedback as well. I can post some alpha codes here as well if someone wants to try it out.


That wasn’t intended as an anti-example, but as a “you may also be interested in this, which many people liked, although I, personally, did not find it effective.”


I realize it’s been almost a year, but progress on this game has been effectively canceled.

Without the entire context behind who these characters are and what the usual expectation from them is, it loses of its point. The people I’ve trialed it with have liked it, but they have read everything leading up to it. It doesn’t work as an isolated piece – the fact that it’s different from usual is the big gimmick.

Similarly, I do have the first part of the story down, but like it’s hard to write as a game without deviating too much from the main point of it. There’s also the matter of the story being extremely violent, and it’s not exactly fun to be directly responsible for all the killing and murder you’d otherwise just be observing. The entire meaning of the story is different when it’s not addressing the characters, but rather your actions.

And on the third note, I just don’t like programming in Twine. It’s very difficult to self-learn it and while I have a few things like working variables, I’d prefer to publish the story in a different format if I ever do. Twine is highly customizable, but as someone without much experience for exactly how to customize it, that doesn’t matter much.

I don’t think it’s completely unsalvageable, but it would require a massive rework to make it more accessible, and I’d rather put that effort into making something entirely new rather than rewriting something I’ve already done recently and still like.


I had the same type of experience of mild choice-paralysis using Twine Harlowe or Sugarcube. Have you looked into the Chapbook format? It kind of pares down all the things you can actually do down to most of what you want in a text-focused narrative that doesn’t do wild text formatting tricks with a really nice default UI that is easy to customize if you want.