Seeking playtesters for Scribarchy: A text-based multiplayer game with a CYOA Mechanic

Greetings intfiction.org members,

I’m seeking playtesters for Scribarchy, a text-based multiplayer game with a CYOA mechanic. Players can create multiverses which other players can visit and extend, and players can interact with each other. All text is player generated and player curated.

I got the idea while playing Failbetter’s wonderful “Fallen London” game. I kept thinking things like, what if I could add another choice in this situation, or wouldn’t it be nice to interact with other players at this location. I was also inspired by Failbetter’s “Storytron” single-player authoring system (which is no longer maintained) to try and come up with something of my own but where players could create and interact, becoming part of the overall fiction both as author and participant.

Here is the link: scribarchynuxt3 - scribarchynuxt3 (for the technically minded this is an AWS CloudFront end-point).

EDIT: The sign-up does require an e-mail address for confirmation, so if that bothers you you can create a new e-mail address for the purpose of playing the game. The e-mail confirmation is part of the AWS Cognito User Identity service to prevent spam accounts.

EDIT: The sign-up does not require a phone number, so until I figure out how to remove that from the form, just type in 555-5555 or some such. Sorry for the inconvenience, I am still working out some kinks.

Once you sign up and sign in, ignore the overly enthusiastic introductory paragraphs and click on the “Learn” button to learn more. Or, click the “Play” button to jump right in creating your own Person in a Multiverse. There are a couple of stub Multiverse’s available: 1) “Hyperuranion”, which is Lovecraftian Dream-Cycle themed and has a little content, and “Swashbuckler”, which is Three Musketeers themed, and has very little content.

Let me know what you think!

This is a labor-of-love project and I have no intention, now or in the future, to charge money or display advertisements (frankly, that sounds like a lot of work).

Thank you for your time and interest.

Best regards,
Anthony Taylor
Scribarchy Development Team (well, just me, there is no team)

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Hi Anthony – thanks for sharing your system! It sounds interesting, but I wanted to flag that the requirement to provide a phone number in order to test the game out may be a pretty significant deterrent to folks who’d be inclined to try it out (at least, it deterred me). Is it in there for an important reason? If not, you might want to consider dropping it – honestly, I might also drop the email requirement if you’re just looking for folks to noodle around for now.

Oh, I forgot about that. I think I can fix it, but in the meantime you can just put in some phony number (it doesn’t check). This is the AWS Cognito User Authentication system that is doing this. Cognito does use an e-mail to confirm the account, but I will see if I can relax that as well.

EDIT: Unfortunately AWS does require an e-mail address to send a confirmation message to. This helps prevent spam accounts. But it can be a one off e-mail address (relatively easy to create with gmail, for example) that you use for the confirmation. From then on you will use the user name you specify to log in.

EDIT: The phone number is not needed. Just put in 555-5555 or some such (it doesn’t check if it is a real phone number). I haven’t figured out how to remove the phone number from the form yet.

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Cool, thanks!

I’ve created an account and tried to get started – looks like you need to create a person as the first step, which is kind of fun? I did want to flag that I almost bounced off at this stage since I kept getting a “you can’t include HTML in your description” error – finally I figured out that you’re not allowed to use punctuation (at least, once I deleted all the hyphens, parentheses, and apostrophes it finally worked). Might also be worth tweaking, or providing a warning about!

(I also think the need to manually approve characters before players can join is a potential barrier – I like the chargen idea though).

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Thank you so much for taking the time to take a look at this.
Sounds like I should make it more clear that before you can enter a Multiverse you need to create a Person in that Multiverse. The HTML thing bugs me too, I need to generate a better message about it. The purpose is to prevent injection attacks, but if it prevents players from playing then it’s a problem!

One problem with human curation is that the human needs to curate! I will go and approve your Person.

FYI, anything created by a Curator is automatically approved (assuming it passes all the other hurdles, like HTML screening), except of course Multiverse’s themselves, which I approve.

I wanted to create a safe place where no one gets exposed to toxic writing, but perhaps I am going too far? I see so much horrible stuff in other places, I just don’t want that happening here.

Thanks again for trying it out!

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Hmm, I think I’m having a hard time figuring out how to play? I was able to get into a multiverse and select a team and role, but there didn’t seem to be a “proceed to game” button. The third “chargen” tab, the one labelled “choices”, seemed to have an embedded option to move into a city, but after that I couldn’t find anything else to do – I’m not sure if that’s just an artifact of the fact that this area isn’t yet built out, but regardless, I think a little more hand-holding would be helpful for new players, and a middle tab of five is maybe an awkward place to put the main gameplay area if that’s in fact how the interface is structured.

Thanks so much for the feedback. This is exactly what am I looking for. I’ve looked at this interface so long I can’t grasp what impression a new user gets. I’m processing your comments and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks again for the feedback. Although not relevant to your comments, you just using the interface pointed up a bug to me which I have since fixed.

There is indeed no choices yet in the Place you reached, “The City Marketplace”. The stub Multiverse “Swashbuckler” has very little content, which you have discovered. The stub Multiverse “Hyperuranion” has more content if you wanted to try exploring there.

Given your comments, I am going to redesign the “Play” page to be more accessible to new users, like yourself. That might take awhile, but I will get back to you again when I have made some changes, if you wanted to continue with the playtest.

Even if you never play “Scribarchy” again I am very grateful for your comments, which have given me invaluable insight that I can translate into improving the game.

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There are libraries for escaping HTML/XML special chars on the backend, and you can use a library like DOMPurify on the client for additional safety. DOMPurify just removes dangerous things, so escaping is still necessary so the content is displayed accurately, but DOMPurify is used by Google, so it’s about as safe as you can get.

Cool, I will check out DOMPurify!

Thanks again for participating in the playtest.

I have approved your Person in “Hyperuranion”. I am thinking that it might be useful for the Curator of a Multiverse to optionally receive e-mail alerts when they have pending curation actions. Also it might be helpful to allow players to optionally receive e-mail alerts when their items are approved by a Curator.

I have made some changes in the interim. I have now added alert boxes when creating items (like Persons) that will let the player know when there is problem with their inputs (like HTML). For the HTML, the alert will include a list of the offending characters.

I have also removed the “Choices” tab from the “Play” screen and put its contents at the top of the page, so hopefully that is less confusing. In addition, if there are no Choices available at a Place, I now instead display a message stating that and also provide a button to “Create Choice”.

Speaking of creating, feel free to create your own Multiverse and to create other Persons (you can have more than one), Things, Roles, and Choices in your own or other Multiverses. The goal is have the players create all the content and I have created some small amount of content just as an example.

I also moved the “Team versus Team” Choices from the “Other Teams” tab to a column next to the Choices area in the “Play” screen (yes, there can be Team versus Team Choices).

In the past I have noticed that sometimes the latest page changes don’t load in my browser; if I clear the recent cache in the browser (for example, in Firefox, in the hamburger menu at the top right pick History → Clear Recent History and then uncheck everything but “cache” (so you don’t lose cookies, etc.) before clicking “Clear Now”).

Thanks again for your help.