Bee is a new work of mine, written for Varytale: it’s the story of a home-schooled girl preparing to compete in the national spelling bee, dealing with various small crises with family and friends, and gradually coming to terms with the clash of subcultures involved in belonging to a family like hers.
Bee is not reviewed anywhere that I know of (unsurprising given it’s only just out), though one reader had this to say:
Bee is not parsed IF in the classic sense, but it does have a world state and elements that allow it to be a bit more flexible than the average choose your own adventure presentation. Screenshots and a little more discussion here.
I thought the game’s structure was masterfully done and I was wondering how much the Varytale framework (with its storylets, which is about as much as I understand of it) influenced the design, or helped enable it.
The storylet structure strongly affected the whole design.
I mean to put up a blog post on this later, but the key structural distinction here is that a lot of existing CYOA systems have a series of nodes, and at each node the player can choose to go to one of a small number of chosen points next. (ChoiceScript, Inklewriter, pretty much every CYOA book ever written work this way.) And the Varytale storylets internally work this way as well – they’re structured as little trees, typically, with maybe a few rejoins.
On the bigger scale, though, Varytale works on the Echo Bazaar/quality-based narrative system instead. Each time you go to the contents page, you get three storylets chosen from the total storylet pool according to a set of rules:
– is this storylet available currently? (many storylets can be locked by having the wrong “qualities”, or stats – which is where the term “quality-based narrative” comes from.
– what is this storylet’s priority and frequency relative to the other storylets available?
So to give a specific example of how that works in Bee: the current month is a quality in Bee. Certain storylets are available only in certain months – Christmas, Easter, seasonal stuff about shoveling snow or mowing the lawn, etc. During the final month of the year, only competition-related storylets are allowed to appear at all, so you always wind up with only that as an option.
Other storylets can happen any time, but only when you’ve fulfilled their story prerequisites; and yet other storylets are almost completely unconstrained and can pop up whenever. If there’s any kind of narrative crisis afoot, those storylets become high-priority and can displace less-important storylets.
I found Bee very interesting, since I was homeschooled for a while in the elementary grades. The structure is also interesting; there’s probably more variables being tracked than the list that appears on the lower left of the screen. I played twice and lost twice, but I fell back on skimming through the text both times. There’s a lot of repeated sections. Next time, I’ll try harder not to skim, and I’ll see if I can beat it.