I’ve been trying to find the easiest way to create an immersive IF where the characters and story adapt to the choices of the reader, either immediately or way down the road, as well as use implicit choices and conditional logic.
At one time I’d have recommended ADRIFT - back in the Version 4 days, it was hands down the easiest system to use for a non-programmer - but the new version is a lot less newbie friendly and isn’t very popular these days. When I decided to try my hand at something else, I found getting to grips with Inform 7 a lot easier than any of the other systems. A lot of the technical stuff went right over my head, but I managed to figure out the basics easily enough.
This should, however, be understood as ‘you need zero prior coding experience to learn I7’, not as ‘you don’t need to learn any programming skills in order to use I7.’
Also, Varytale doesn’t really require any coding; it’s essentially a form-based design, with a little very light code for state-tracking. (The way it’s organised is a lot more awkward to use than, say, Twine, but on the other hand the default appearance is a whole lot more attractive than Twine’s.)
Varytale do not appear to be accepting new writers at the moment, though. That was the case when I contacted them about 6 months ago, at least, and I’m not seeing any updates to their webpage since then. Apparently, they lost a co-founder, and the whole project is in limbo.
Yes. I absolutely would not feel confident about starting in on a Varytale project right now. This makes me sad - of the new(ish) choice-based platforms, Varytale was the one I’d most have liked to see mature and succeed.
Several reasons. I’m not sure if any of 'em would be useful for ChoiceScript.
One, it looks fairly pretty and polished out of the box - it looks browser-native. It assumes you’ll be displaying information in the margins, like a website would. Twine’s defaults are butt-ugly; ChoiceScript is clean plain text, but not very exciting; StoryNexus goes a bit too far and ends up all placeholder-artish. So my initial response to Varytale was ‘awesome, Undum-y aesthetics without the awkwardness of Undum coding.’ Their book-cover system for recommended works was the prettiest thing ever.
Two, I was really interested in the heavier focus on primarily quality-based, rather than orthodox branching, structure. This is something that you probably could do in the other platforms, but it’s awkward enough that few people are ever likely to play with it. Twine is very much about the old-school branching tree; ChoiceScript’s tree stresses qualities more, but it’s still very definitely a tree (and a tree with a very specific kind of shape). Varytale threw the tree out; you could recreate it if you needed to, but it wasn’t part of its core assumptions. I don’t think that that’s inherently better, or anything, but it was different. There are lots of tools that assume that choice-based games are built around trees, but on the other side there was just Varytale. (StoryNexus wasn’t generally available yet. But still, ‘StoryNexus but with the emphasis on story and author-defined character rather than grind and player-defined character, and also less laggy’ is the world’s easiest sell for me.)
(It also seemed like something that a lot of authors struggled to design around. I certainly found it weird to write with. That’d have been an eventual plus, in my book, if there’d been enough adoption; struggling to figure things out is where the art happens.)
The big central flaw is that there was never any way to publish Varytale works anywhere but through the Varytale site - online-only just plain sucks no matter how you slice it, and there’s now a real question about whether extant Varytale works will ever be playable again if the site goes away. (The secondary flaws: an awkward form-based author interface and not enough by way of tools, but those seemed like things that could have been sorted out as the platform matured.)
Maybe the moral of this is to just insert the stat screen in the margin of the default web-page version of ChoiceScript, and pay a designer to make us a few pretty (skeuomorphic) UI themes.
FWIW, our aesthetic is “unobtrusive e-reader:” Kindle Cloud Reader, iBooks for Mac, that sort of thing. I’m sure there are some fancy ePub-reader apps out there with textured-paper-on-faux-leather backgrounds, but I’ve never cared to spend hours with a skeuomorphic book; IMO fashion has swung away from skeuomorphism toward a classically boring look.
Does that manifest in the tools at all, or just in the community sensibilities? I’m pretty sure you could copy and paste Bee into StoryNexus with nothing changed except the default UI theme.
Yeah, I understand the reasons for ChoiceScript’s default look, and certainly it’s paid off when I’ve played ChoiceScript games on a mobile device (and for things like ClubFloyd, and etc.) But I do the great majority of my gaming on a Proper Computer That You Can Code On, so that’s why Varytale/Undum aesthetics are more appealing.
I can’t say for sure - it’s been a while since I used Varytale, and I never got very deeply into using StoryNexus. I do think that StoryNexus has a certain amount of Fallen London-derived structure in it that Varytale did away with - the distinction between cards and static options, for instance. StoryNexus does have the built-in experience-bar thing for stat-gain and the random-outcome-based-on-stats thing, which strongly promotes grindy design. I don’t think Varytale supports anything like that - if so, it’s not prominent.
(I’m not much of a purist, platform-wise. I tend to assess platforms on what the whole package - community, founder-effect works, learning curve, supporting tools and infrastructure, the things it makes easy as opposed to the things it makes possible - tends to encourage, as opposed to what the platform could theoretically be used to create.)
That’s really not true. Bee relies heavily on the ability to have continuous stretches of text that StoryNexus would have to break up into multiple cards, and options that are visible but greyed-with-an-explanation, which StoryNexus doesn’t do.
As a strictly academic question (because if I do anything like this I’m likely to do it in I7), to what extent do StoryNexus and Varytale support allow variations in text in a given node? I’m under the impression that Varytale allows at least conditional checks and StoryNexus doesn’t allow any, but I don’t know the internals.
That’s always been my biggest issue. But I was apparently able to download the stories, sort of, by saving the whole page. I don’t know if it’s accessing the internet or if it’s strictly offline, but… well, see for yourself.
By the way, yes, it’s uglier. I think I could have downloaded the background image and edited the HTML to show it, like I did with Colder Light… but if the makers of Varytale couldn’t be bothered to make it playable offline, I couldn’t be bothered to go that extra mile. Tit for tat.
EDIT - Deleted the file I’d uploaded since it turns out it was useless offline. Bah.
I’m very happy without skeumorphism and parchmenty flavor (Tin Man is awful with that stuff), but I do feel like Choice of Games’ default look (can users customize it?) is almost aggressively ugly. I’d love to see you guys do some redesign to make the design more elegantly boring. I think I would be slightly more likely to buy after demoing if I felt an aesthetic, tactile attraction to the design. You guys seem to be selling fine with the current look, though, so there may not be a large segment of users like me to attract.
I’ve decided on Twine for now, since I can alter it a little with some CSS and macros. I may give Choice of Script a go too, since I’m not overly concerned with aesthetics, but as others have mentioned it would be nice to allow for some customization. In the meantime i’ll try to see if I can’t figure out Undum and teach myself a little programming.