Serial Interactive Fiction

I’ve got an idea for a serial IF work, where the choices made in one game carry on over into the next. Can I get an overview of how the various choice-based tools would accomplish this, in a very general sense, and which ones simply cannot?

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Interesting idea. You would be restricted to development environments that could save a game state file of some sort, so you might be restricted on systems that develop for the web. There’s not many that can save the game state.

Then in your subsequent games, you’d essentially need to duplicate all the variables or whatever that you were saving. It’s definitely an interesting idea, along the idea of the Mass Effect games where you could import the saved state of your previous playthroughs.

I was going to try using (in Inform 7)

Lines Of Communication by Aaron Reed. [For File I/O]

Have not tried yet!!! But looking for the same thing.

A bunch of ChoiceScript games do this, but since the save is stored on our servers, we limit access to the feature to folks who publish with us.

In Twine, I think your best bet might be to generate a password of some kind, allowing people to copy and paste it into subsequent games.

If you’re hosting the works in the same domain, anything which lets you directly control Javascript can easily do this with localStorage.


I have also used a modified version of Emily Short’s “Recorded Endings” extension in two games to remember game state details between sessions (in their own games - not between the two.) I suppose you could do this if you hosted the game online and the “File of Conclusions” were accessible by multiple .gblorb files, or the player were instructed to hold onto that file wherever they installed or install the .gblorb in the same folder?

Recorded Endings is intended for use with Glulx works that can end in multiple ways. It records short text descriptions of the various endings to an external file, then allows the player an ENDINGS option when the game is over, so that he can review all of the endings he has encountered so far whether in this playthrough or in an earlier one.

The cool part is you can write rules that fire based on "used’ endings.

if "Turning into a pumpkin" is a used ending:...

It might not be practical to remember all the variables in the game, but using it to mark significant milestones where you’ve bottlenecked the world game-state and want to re-create it for the player is definitely feasible.

Of course, this method would be volatile, and any chapter outcome would not be transferable from device to device or person to person.

Carolyn Van Eseltine had started a serial IF called 18 Rooms to Home in 2015 and was doing it without carrying data over. She encountered the expected combinatorial-explosion difficulty of an ever-expanding game. I believe her strategy was each installment was self-contained but added new elements upon each release. She never completed it, but I believe that was due to job opportunities rather than the difficulty involved.


Does this going back in time mean that the previous episodes cannot affect the current one (since technically in-universe they didn’t happen yet)? In that case it’s a very cool trick! Unfortunately it’s a one-time thing, all IF series cannot go back in time.

It’s a very interesting problem. Now is the age of the serial format. It is shining on modern TV and I’ve just recently read an article about even some book publishers switching to an episodic format. Would’ve been great to see some episodic IF, but the combinatorial explosion is a beast. Interesting, what is the longest (in terms of episodes) serial IF so far and how is it structured?

From what I remember, 18 Rooms started very short with what was the “finale”. The next episode started perhaps 15 minutes before the first game and included it. It quickly hit combinatorial explosion which is why the author found it increasingly difficult to continue. The effect was neat though - when you reached the part you’d already played, there was increased knowledge and perhaps new inventory and resources you were aware of that changed the and re-framed and clarified the circumstances a little more each time.