For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on my first interactive short story, and polished it to the point I was ready to show it to somebody else. Naturally they found a bunch of problems, but there’s one in particular that I wanted to discuss with more experienced IF authors.
(For completeness, the story is The Lost Temple of Kingara, although I’m more interested in what I should do next time than trying to patch up this one)
My goal for this game was to explore and experiment with dramatic irony. Frustratingly, I have to admit the experiment was a failure. As it turns out, it’s really hard for the game-designer to talk directly to the player, bypassing the character, when the game is entirely narrated by the character. I had hoped that if I described things in enough detail, the player would recognise them even though the character did not… but things didn’t work out that way.
Perhaps I could have put more labels on things? Just because the character can read text like “authorised personnel only” doesn’t mean they understand it, but it will give the player more of a clue about what’s going on. On the other hand, not everything is labelled in the real world, so I think an excess of labels would obscure matters rather than make them clear. Also, it stretches credulity to have a character that can fluently read the idioms of some time and place without recognising any of them.
I used first-person-past for this story because I wanted to try something other than the traditional second-person-present, but perhaps third-person would better keep the player and the character separate. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a third-person IF game, though - do they exist? Is third-person a really bad idea for some reason?