Okay, so, I played Alexisgrad and now I’m making one for Spring Thing and it turns out it’s real hard, and I also realized that I couldn’t think of any other examples of multiplayer narrative games. I don’t mean multiplayer IF games, of which I am aware of literally just Alexisgrad, I mean multiplayer narrative games, be they text-based, 2d, 3d, whatever. There’s lots of multiplayer games, and lots of narrative games, but almost no multiplayer narrative games!
In this case, I’m talking about narrative games in the sense that the game has a specific story-based, bounded narrative, whose bounds are determined by an author and not the players, and there are player-controlled characters in the narrative that can change how the narrative turns out.
So! Tell me, do you know of any? It’s a bit late now to be doing research into prior art, since I’ve mostly written my thing, but I’m interested in know what kinds of stuff other people did.
Here’s some stuff I know of.
There was Moirai, (Moirai was one of the PC's most disturbing games, and now it's gone forever | PC Gamer) which I played back in the day and blew my mind, but it’s more of a chat-roulette style and, while amazing, kind of a gimmick.
There’s Seltani, (https://seltani.net/) which I’ve visited once and never played anything in, because it’s multiplayer and I don’t have anybody to play with, but apparently Emily Short once wrote a game for it (Writing for Seltani: an Aspel Post-mortem – Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling) which, again, I’ve never played. From what I gather it was less a narrative branching experience than, like, a group puzzle, but somebody who’s played it might be able to explain more.
There’s A Way Out (A Way Out (video game) - Wikipedia) which looks like the exact opposite of a narrative game, being an action game with story beats told through linear cutscenes, but the way the gameplay integrates into the story narrative lends it some pretty powerful story beats. Huuuge spoilers: Each of the players plays a convict, escaping from a prison, for the entire game. At the very end of the game it turns out one of the players is actually with the police, and the two players have an in-game shootout to determine which of them survives and goes back to their respective loved ones. It’s an amazing way of integrating the mechanics of the game into the narrative, and I could go on for hours in a tedious manner about all the ways I think it works; I’ll spare you.
Telltale Games had Crowd Play, which is essentially a voting mechanism strapped on top of an entire normal, 1-player narrative game. This is, technically, a multiplayer narrative game, but not in the sense that there are two participating player characters. Also, it apparently got turned off (https://www.reddit.com/r/telltale/comments/ch5lo4/does_crowd_play_still_work/).
Games like The Yawhg (The Yawhg on Steam) are sort of narrative games, but they’re more player-based narratives integrated over specific game actions. You’re doing [thing] on [turn] which implies something about your character, and the characters of the other players, but you can’t, like, have your character specifically argue with another character. So it’s not really what I’m talking about.
Fallen London (https://www.fallenlondon.com/) is, technically, multiplayer, and also narrative, but the experience is pretty game-focused over narrative-focused (though I think some exceptional stories are less of that) and the multiplayer elements are mostly just ways to get various stat bonuses. Or they’re non-character-specific interactions like elections.
Anyways, it turns out I can kind of think of a lot! But, none of them are narrative in the same sense that, say, Photopia, or a Choice of Games game, or Disco Elysium is narrative. So, what are y’alls thoughts on multiplayer narrative games? Do they exist? What would a good one look like? Is there a really, really good reason they don’t exist that in my hubris I ignored?