Launch of Interactive Story

To all IF enthusiasts,

I’m getting close to the half century mark and since the zx81 I have had a passion for computers and computer gaming - almost 35 years worth!

In those 35 years, the games that are most memorable to me are the ones that held the suspension of disbelief, enveloped my mind in worlds fantastic, whose fidelity superseded the fanciest graphics card, whose vibrancy went beyond the latest color depth. This, of course, is the realm of Interactive Fiction and my own imagination. You need words to tell a good story, and you need logic to provide a good game. Bring the two together and you have a volatile mix of entertainment. So, following my passion, I would like to announce the launch of Interactive Story - an ALL screen size friendly web portal for Interactive Literature.

The Interactive Story portal has four sections, the Editor, the Library, the Reader and the Collaboration.

The Editor:

  • is designed to be used on any device regardless of screen size.
  • uses a writers approach to Interactive Fiction. Think in terms of scenes with events with actions, where objects and items facilitate the the story progression.
  • is tightly integrated with the full development life-cycle (write, test, review, publish and sell).
  • is completely free form, there is no special syntax or style to learn.
  • prompts you at each stage of the story development, just like playing a game.
  • provides bookmarks that let you to test immediately from any scene.
  • supports offline editing within your browser.
  • allows export and import of story data as XML files.
  • lets you publish to your own private online library, which you can download and edit from any other device.

The Library:

  • has a children’s, teenager’s, and mature section.
  • lets you develop, collaborate and test your stories in your own private library.
  • lets you publish and optionally sell in the public library.
  • automatically organizes your collection into published, purchased and currently reading.
  • automatically bookmarks your stories in the cloud - continue reading from one device to another.
  • supports direct hyperlinks to any story, both public or private.

The Reader:

  • automatically provides three levels of story interaction - normal, easy and casual.
  • provides an automatic hint system built into each story.
  • easily creates and stores bookmarks in the cloud.
  • allows preview of the first ‘n’ scenes (if selling).
  • optimized for use on all screen formats.
  • optionally lets other readers export to the editor.
  • provides a built in rating system for stories and individual scenes.

The Collaboration

Let’s get social with Interactive Fiction :slight_smile:
For fun or for education, the Interactive Story collaborative mode allows any number of individuals to add and modify their own actions, events and scenes to a story. The story development is automatically coordinated within the cloud. Each action/scene acknowledges the author and can be individually rated by the readership. If you want to pioneer this mode of story writing then start with the first public collaboration - The Great Epic ( Alternatively, publish a collaborative story privately and get your friends or school group to contribute. Stories of 3000 words or more can be published in the public library.

I look forward to developing and taking IF to new levels of interaction through the Interactive Story portal. Please don’t hesitate to offer any comments or suggestions in this forum, or in the official forum at:

Yours sincerely,
Aaron Balint

So, what model of interaction are you thinking about here?

I poke briefly at your site; it looks like a straightforward CYOA with menu-style options (rather than hyperlinks), with some (perhaps all) of the state hardwired as a physical inventory. Is that right?

It’s kind of a hybrid. It can be a straightforward CYOA (what I call explicit actions). However there is a gaming element in which you can construct the next command from a given list of items, objects, verbs and prepositions (I call these implicit actions). The game engine automatically keeps track of what constitutes a valid command based on the available implicit actions, items and objects in the scene. It’s a bit like a text interpreter, however you select from a list of words instead of typing them (making it suitable for touch screen devices). It is also possible to interact with items in any scene, removing linearity from the story progression.

To elaborate a bit on the non-linearity, each scene can be it’s own narrative, with the option to move freely between scenes. Each scene is made of events. Progressing through the events may require selecting an action in another scene. Thus becoming a traditional text adventure.

I glanced at your site, but everything’s locked behind an account wall, and I don’t want to register. Could your system allow for non-registered users to look at the games?

It lets you in without registering if you click on the “guest” button at the login screen.

You can do everything, browse the library, read, rate and write stories as a guest. You only need an account to publish a story, or contribute to a collaborative story.

Totally missed that. Thanks!

The first short Interactive Story is now available - ‘The Brass Lamp’ - a story in three scenes with some Python-esque banter.

This IS provides a good example of mixing the different play styles of the story engine.

You can read ‘The Brass Lamp’ here:

I haven’t played it to the end, but the interface could be improved a bit. Is there a reason why verbs and nouns aren’t listed by their full name but by first letter only? Now you have to click through everything to see what options you have available. I don’t see any obvious reason why they should be partially hidden this way.

Also, this might be a personal preference, but I dislike the constant “Do you want to:” prompt as much as the “What do you want to do next?” in some older parser games – it doesn’t serve any purpose as it’s already obvious what the interaction mechanism is. (Also it’s a bit confusing: “do you want to” is a yes/no question, but there are no options to respond directly to it. Specifically there’s no way to say “no” if none of the options seem preferable.)

I moved away from the native drop down lists as the mobile pop-ups are very distracting. The new approach allows you to just ‘thumb’ the response. However your point about seeing the list of available words is valid. I think combining both options is the way to go. Tapping(clicking) the verb/noun etc in the command will show a custom drop list, tapping the row of first letters will cycle through the words.

I agree, the ‘Do you want to’ should be be dropped. As you say it is confusing. Removing it will also open up valuable real estate on mobiles and keep the options closer to the story text.

I had some guess-the-syntax issues:

At the point when I had to pull the cylinder from the sand I kept inputting “pull cylinder” and getting a response that told me to pull the cylinder from the sand. I found this hard to process – it wasn’t obvious that I had to click on the period to get options for how to put in a second noun.

For what it’s worth I’m playing on a laptop.

Good luck! It’s always good to see people trying something new.

If I move the box highlight to the next input field after selecting, this should resolve the confusion. Thanks for the feedback Matt, it’s greatly appreciated.

Interactive Story is now available in the Google Play store:

This version also supports multiple inventories for stories with more than one character or disparate scenes. Click on the scene title in the editor to set or add a new inventory.

I had a look at this system. It looks interesting in that you can do cyoa and there is a mock-parser where you can construct sentences similar to the SCUMM interface. I wish it were documented a bit better. For example, what is the difference between an item and an object? I also could not figure out how to put something in the character’s inventory when the story begins.

An object is associated with an implicit action within a scene, whereas an item is associated with an inventory. An object appears in the noun list of the parser when the associated implicit action comes into scope (you have reached the corresponding scene/event in the narrative in which the action can be applied). An item appears in the noun list of the parser when the item is in the active inventory.

An example would be “open door with key”; ‘door’ would be declared as an object and ‘key’ as an item. The parser would list ‘door’ as an option when the implicit action is in scope, however it will not list key unless the item ‘key’ is in the inventory. Thus the reader cannot perform the action ‘open door with key’ until they have acquired the key, however they do know that something can be done with ‘door’.

An action is required to add items to the inventory. To place items into the inventory at the beginning of a story you will need to use an explicit action such as “click here to begin” or even “examine inventory”. To edit the properties of an action click on the action description in the editor, then click on the Advanced button to display the options for adding items to the inventory.

Wow, I finally figured out how to do this, it was a little difficult to figure out even with you explaining.

It appears there is no directional mapping? If I create a verb called “go” it then wants an object…do I create objects called “north” “south” etc, or am I trying to type using a pencil? Implicit actions for directions?

Yes, an object can be a direction. It can be anything really. In designing the story editor I have tried to avoid any predefined constructs, so as to provide maximum flexibility for the author. You can use both explicit or implicit actions for moving between scenes (locations). In the advanced properties of the action you can can set the target scene/event for the outcome.

For a first iteration, this is very nicely done. The UI/UX will need a few iterations to get it right, but there’s a lot of good here.

I would highly recommend you implement UserVoice or some sort of bug/feature tracker so users can offer feedback.

David C.

Thanks for the feedback David. When you register with Interactive Story, you also gain member access to the IS support forum (click on the ? image in the title banner). Registered authors/readers can use the forum to make suggestions and discuss any issues. Of course I’m happy to answer any questions or discuss issues in this forum as well.

There is now a video tutorial demonstrating the writing philosophy behind Interactive Story. The tutorial provides a practical example of writing a reasonably complex scene (based on Douglas Adams Babel Fish puzzle).

You can view the tutorial at:

You can play the finished story (Hubbub grub) here: