In which one of the systems can EVENTS HAPPEN BY THEMSELVES?

…So I’ve been reading about Twine, almost got to the the end of the book, and - there still doesn’t seem to be anything about EVENTS in the world. I’m curious to know if there are any systems out there where events can happen by themselves in the world - say, while I’m pondering the future in a particular location, 2 characters go off and have a conversation, and come back to discuss the results of that conversation with me! Is there any such system? Does even Twine do it, for that matter, or some way to GET it to do it, which the book is not mentioning?


Is the important part that things can happen without the player seeing them, or that things can happen without the player giving any input to the game?

All the major systems can do the first; Inform can do the second (and I’m pretty sure TADS can too) but it’s somewhat out-of-favor nowadays. (If someone’s using a screen reader to play your game, for example, it may take them much longer to hear the full text than someone who skims over it in a few seconds to get to the next link; both those players should be able to get the full author-intended experience.)

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Umm…I think I meant the latter.

For everyone - this might be illustrative to read (the stuff about the CCL bit):

You know, there’s some interesting history here. When Emily Short started writing in the 2000’s, there was a big interest in the IF community on realism. That’s why her games from that time (and many others) focused on realism.

-Can a game model someone’s mood and memory in a conversation? (Galatea)
-Can you model physical properties like flammability, size and weight? (Metamorphoses)
-Can you model the ambiguity of information models? (Floatpoint)
-Can you model an entire city? (City of Secrets)

People had discussions about the hardest things to realistically implement (like rope and fire and shovels). There seemed to be (from at least part of the community) a hope that interactive fiction could be used as a proving ground to develop robust realistic models for simulation and AI that could later be used as a basis for perfect (or at least really good) simulacra of the real world.

That idea never really goes away. It’s why people are excited by GPT-3 and AI Dungeon. There’s always this hope that we’re 90% away from full AI or algorithmically-defined reality.

But the weird thing is that there’s no real difference between a computer actually simulating a world and just lying and saying it simulates a world. Does it matter if the computer flips a few booleans and increments a variable or two before saying “Your best friend is now dating your ex”, or if some writer just wrote down the words “Your best friend is now dating your ex?”

I think our perception of computer reality is no different from computer reality itself.

That being said, you can program characters in Inform to move on their own, say things to each other and even have goals, memories and motives. There are some examples in the Inform 7 cookbook such as " Conversation where characters seek logical connection to foregoing topics" and Character who learns new actions by watching the player


Twine is just a fancy HTML page. It doesn’t have game objects or object interaction, and therefore it doesn’t have events.

You can go out of your way to create this functionality, but to be honest, it’s a waste of time and you can just fake it with conditional statements. Even mimicking character autonomy and map navigation is quite simple and effective by abusing sugarcube’s PassageHeader and PassageFooter.

As someone that has actually implemented a real parser-style object system with “before” and “after” reactions and such, I can tell you that the player will have absolutely no idea whether it’s implemented the “right way” or faked using smoke and mirrors. The text displayed to the screen is exactly the same, but faking it requires only 1/10th of the work and is less prone to bugs.


There is the thing of “emergent gameplay”, which is basically multiple random number generators cooperating (or more frequently, getting into a fight with each other).

Another way of expressing this is that the author has defined what kinds of things can happen but not necessarily what will happen in any given playthrough. They’ve written the rules but not the script.

As with any system, this has both upsides and downsides. The upside is that gameplay is more random and thus more replayable (as each play session will be different from the prior one) – this is one of the major features of the “roguelike” genre, for example. The downside is that gameplay is more random and thus less narrative – it’s harder to string together a coherent plot this way (and most such games frequently don’t even try) and it takes a lot more work to prevent things getting samey and repetitive (and it’s basically impossible to prevent this entirely).


So this is tricky, like Draconis said.

In a parser game, that effect comes off like this: the game interrupts the player as they’re typing a command, or thinking about typing a command. This is very intrusive. Infocom experimented with it in Border Zone, but again, it wasn’t popular.

In Twine, the effect would similar: the player is looking at the screen, thinking about what to click, when the text changes abruptly: now it describes two people walking in and starting a conversation.

This is really hard to get right. You don’t know how fast the player reads. You could wind up with a presentation where the text-on-screen changes faster than they can keep up. Or they could go to the bathroom and come back to find that everything has changed. You might say “oh, that’s realistic”, but in fact it’s probably annoying.

The convention for single-player IF is that the clock advances when the player does something. So for parser games, an “event” is something that updates at the end of the current turn.

It’s a fine leather volume. You puzzle over the text, but you can’t make out what it says.

Bob walks into the room. “Oh hey, I was just looking for you…”

This is the familiar convention. Player command, command response, and then background events for the turn. Repeat every turn. (In I7, this is literally called an “every turn” rule.)

You could do something similar in Twine, but you’d have to think about setting it up, because there’s no convention of “turns”. You could invent one; certain links (representing actions) would cause a turn to pass, and append the appropriate event text.


There were parts of the game where I thought it worked really well though, particularly in the second chapter. I still remember fairly vividly one of my early attempts, standing near the border fence waiting for the right moment to sneak past, the pack of dogs still on my tail… I don’t think that moment would have felt nearly as tense in a turn-based game.

But maybe the game just got lucky there because I remember getting slightly annoyed with it in the third chapter. As you say, it’s probably not easy to get it just right.

Though now I find myself wondering what it would have been like if Spider and Web had switched to real time for the final part where you are - to quote the game’s instructions - “playing for keeps and heartbeats count”. :grinning:


It worked… well, it’s been decades since I replayed BZ, but I recall that it worked. But this was a game where the whole point was being nervous about being interrupted by the enemy!

I don’t think I ever considered it. Too much of a switch – it would have ejected a lot of the players who had enjoyed the first part of the game.

AXMA has a <repeat ‘passage’ 5> macro which can repeat a specified passage at set timed intervals so it can continuously print messages or check variables from time to time and interrupt if necessary.

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Probably, and it was not a serious suggestion of course. I was just trying to think of any game at all where such a thing might have worked.

But I can’t even think of many adventure games that tried to do real-time besides Border Zone. I know The Hobbit would automatically wait if you didn’t type anything, so I assume the Sherlock and the Lord of the Rings games from the same developers did too, but I don’t know if that counts. The Last Express, of course, and… no, I’m drawing a blank.

You know, a short while ago I also asked about this very thing (in Adventuron). It seems the idea of real-time IF continues to intrigue but, in practice, nobody really likes it.

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It’s the moral equivalent of throwing QTEs into a point & click adventure game or a turn based strategy. I can’t think of a game where that worked out well either.

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There was Sadim Castle, a game for the BBC Micro / Acorn Electron. The real-time factor made the game almost unplayable, since you had to meet particular characters at particular times, and if you missed them, that was it.

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I seem to recall that both The Hobbit and Sherlock (Melbourne House) had some half-hearted attempt at real-time, where a WAIT command would be issued if you stared at the screen for too long.

throwing QTEs into a point & click adventure

I suppose you’re thinking of the Telltale games. I actually think that worked pretty well as a tension-building device, as long as they were really easy and you succeeded on the first or second try. Less so when you got stuck failing at some multi-part action sequence over and over. But I think they sometimes auto-succeeded if you failed too many times.

Monkey Island 2 has a particularly nice (but hard) real-time puzzle, namely the spitting contest where you have to wait for the flags to move in the wind. This involves thinking out of the box, because the other puzzles aren’t timing critical, and you have to realize that this particular animation is more than just decoration.

Well, there are probably lots of timing puzzles (not to mention arcade games) in point-and-click adventures. I was thinking more about the plot progressing with without your input, with major events still happening even if you’re not around to witness them. Games like Deadline do the latter, of course, but are still turn-based. I mentioned The Last Express earlier, which I thought made a fantastic job of creating a living, breathing world were you feel like just one small part of the story. I don’t think it’s possible to witness anywhere near all events in a single playthrough, and fortunately you don’t have to.

It’s also a very overwhelming game that I’ve only had the patience to play through in its entirety once.

I try not to do too much with timed events that interrupt the story in an annoying fashion - those are like salt, a little goes a long way - but I had fun in robotsexpartymurder slightly delaying doorbells and notifications so they didn’t feel baked into the text which hopefully makes the world feel a bit more alive. Em completely interrupts the player several times but those are intended as surprises.

Also I was very proud of the scene where you order a coffee and have to wait for your name to be called in a steady stream of orders being handed out. I always make an attempt to give the player something interesting to do if they need to wait for something else, and that is how the whole “triangle muffin” scene got written when it started as just a mention in the text “they also have scones”. I don’t know if anyone else enjoyed it but it made me laugh, so it got longer and longer.


That sequence with approaching dogs in Cannery Vale was effective. I couldn’t tell whether or not it would be a problem to let the dogs get too close. It seemed like something would happen if I delayed making a decision, but did I want it to happen…?