Need a second opinion

Hello everyone.

I recently started trying to create a parser game, and it’s my first attempt at this since I was a kid. I figured it would be a good idea to write up a mock game transcript before I started in on any coding. There isn’t much so far, just a few really rough drafts of room descriptions and journal entries, basically just starting to block out what might be in the space and trying to refine an image of things in my own head.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of letting someone else see it. As I said, this is not a phenomenal example of writing yet. It’s serviceable at best so I was expecting a not so great critique. What I did not expect was him telling me that I have no idea what narration is. That’s a pretty upsetting comment which he wasn’t able to explain in any coherent way, and it’s left me feeling very uncertain. I don’t know if he’s clueless or if I’m clueless. He has played IF before so I would think he’d know what it should look like. I had been free-writing and working on this in some way pretty much non-stop the last few days, but since he said that all I can seem to do is stare at a blank screen panicking and unable to type a single word.

Is there someone who would be willing to take a quick look at what I have and tell me whether he’s right? If there is something fundamentally flawed in what I’m doing then I need to know now before I write an entire game like that.

Thank you.

Without even looking at it, I can tell you a couple things:

1-a lot of good parser games have terrible writing, and
2-enjoyment of a parser game has much more to do with thorough implementation than anything else.

Elaborating on point 2: very well written games with bad programming aren’t that fun. Try Madame L’Estrange and the Troubled Spirit, for instance (

So it really doesn’t matter if your writing is horrible or not, as long as the game isn’t buggy. With all that in mind, you can PM me what you have if you’d like.

I’m not deeply steeped in IF (yet), but that doesn’t prevent me from having an opinion.

If you don’t have a strong narrative line, that can actually be a good thing. The narration is primarily the responsibility of the player. Through their actions, they string together the plot points to develop the story. What you want is a story world where the plot points can be strung together in all sorts of interesting ways. You don’t want to force a particular outcome on the player.

On the other hand, you do have to immediately answer the “why am I here” question for the player and give them some sort of initial goal to accomplish so that they have a reason to explore your story world. Hopefully, after the player has learned more about the world, they will develop new goals based on what they bring to the story and what they find in the story world.

Thanks to both of you.

bikibird, I completely agree with you on both points, and those are things that I’ve kept in mind a lot while outlining the story and setup.

craiglocke, I haven’t had a chance to play the games you mentioned yet, but I put them next up on my study list.

I will take you up on your offer to look at this, but I’ve decided to do another draft first. Usually if I’m not feeling inspired by something I go ahead and rough out the gist of it anyway, let it float in my brain for a few days, and then come back when I’m in the mood.

I looked at one of these rooms again today, and I hate it. There’s a reason I designed it the way I did, but I hate it so much I want to give my PC a can of accelerant and let him burn it to the ground. It just doesn’t feel like it fits at all. Everything else in the game is quirky and dark and twisted, so basically it’s just me amplified to a crazy degree. This room is not me, and if there is anything at all in this story that should feel like me it is the library. If my soul was manifested in physical form that is what it would be, a library. I’m scrapping this completely. My own real-life library would work so much better and I’m just going to base it off that.

Well said. To me, this is the difference between Interactive Fiction and Hypertex or CYOA. In CYOA, the player can see his options to choose from. In IF, the player has to come up with his/her choices on their own. Giving the player agency to move about and encounter the plot points at their own direction is better than railroading them.

I don’t know if I got this right, but in case… how can one judge so harshly a DRAFT?

It’s well known of many authors (among which newcomers and pretty much unsuccessful ones like Stephen King and JK Rowling) who actually write a book, re-read it when it’s finished and basically rewrite it from scratch to make them work. Sometimes twice.

I suggest you go on with your work and THEN have someone look at it – when it’s (almost) finished and ready for judgement.
After this phase you can go back and restart, if necessary, and make it work.

In conclusion: sayin to someone “you don’t know what narrative is” is as useless as a third armpit. Criticism is nowhere near that, trust me.

Okay. I finally finished writing and fleshing out a second library draft. Before I send a copy of this to anyone to look at I just want to make sure that doing something like this qualifies as testing and not releasing a portion of the game which would disqualify it from any competitions. This is just testing right?

As long as you don’t release it publicly it’s always testing :slight_smile:
Just send private emails or PMs.

And now I’m curious, so PM me too with your draft :slight_smile:

My opinion is, don’t listen to that person.

As others have said, you can write a great game whether or not your narrative is great.

Besides, the answer is the same whether you’re great at narration or not: Keep pressing forward. Keep making games. Try. Learn more. That’s how people get good and better at it. Even the best people can benefit from practice. So, keep on keeping on.

I wonder what narrative is expected in a transcript? One thing you could do is to play a well-regarded game and save him the transcript of that, and ask his opinion of that (not quite the second opinion you meant, I know).