The Lottery Ticket: Reviewer Appreciation (Public Edition)

Hi, everyone!

Just wanted to make this post to say thanks to the kind people that read The Lottery Ticket and cared enough to share their thoughts.

(And also, this is so I don’t junk up these peoples’ reviews with my prattle.)

So, for those that really appreciate unpredictable responses and poor grammar some good, deep thoughts, then why don’t you stick around and enjoy this post awhile!


Silvercyborg’s IFComp 2022 Reviews

Continuing the discussion from Silvercyborg's IFComp 2022 Reviews:

Thank you so much for the review, Zoe!

No worries about that! And thank you for reading anyways and sharing your thoughts!

By the way, I really like the term stative. The concept is really close to how I’ve been thinking about my approach, so that’s cool to see. In case you are interested to know how I’m thinking about it, here’s my go-to “model” I like to share.

story = ordered sequence of the events
plot = unordered human-curated subsequence of the story
narration = "human element" of the plot

Thanks for poking around to explore the nooks and crannies, despite the deliberate lack thereof.

Here’s some commentary for why this is happening — (By the way, why is there a crate of rotting produce over there?) — for now, I am embracing the “linearity” of stateless media printed novels. (Hey, that almost hit me!) I also intend later works to have the same audience experience as a traditional novel, such as an equivalent numbers of words (~100k) read during a single read-through or having similar motivations and patterns for re-reading.

I’m also exploring the idea of “progressively-enhanced” literature. The idea is that an audience might still enjoy the underlying short story (stateless media) in case the stateful writing does not suit their tastes. What’s “stateful writing”? I’m still exploring here, but lately, I like to think “podcast” but for writing: someone talking about something else.

You have no idea what this means to me as a compliment! (I created a post that goes into more details, if you ever do want to find out why.)

Even if my particular implementation was a dud for you (this time around), I do think you understand what my intent was, so thank you. For me, “interpreting the story” is the same as narration = "human element" of the plot. Another term I like to use is “literary Gestalt closure”. My intent was for this to be a phenomenon for both the character and the audience. And speaking of audience, I hope that my envisioned audience (high interest in literature, low interest in games or software) will appreciate the nuance of this approach.

P.S. Have you poked around the Wikipedia page for the Kuleshov effect? I found a fun coincidence there. (I delight in a good coincidence!)

The montage experiments carried out by Kuleshov in the late 1910s and early 1920s formed the theoretical basis of Soviet montage cinema, culminating in the famous films of the late 1920s by directors such as Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Dziga Vertov, among others. These films included The Battleship Potemkin, October, Mother, The End of St. Petersburg, and The Man with a Movie Camera.

And a hundred years later, I’m trying to go down a similar path for narration-based agency. Here’s to hoping the late 2020s turn out similarly!


Do you mean “more input slots”? You may want to try out my first study, which did have more input slots.

Or do you mean “a word is missing”? That’s interesting to me, if so.

Or do you mean “more than just adjectives”? In addition to adjectives, there’s adverbs, noun, and verbs (and likely I did not take advantage of them this time around). For my lemmas, I’m using about half of WordNet, so there’s lots of fun words to try out for the audience and storyteller.


Hey, thanks for elaborating on the thought process behind your work (and responding to my comment so thoroughly). It’s nice to see an entry that does something different with the idea of “interactive fiction”, and I’m glad my review had the complimentary tone I meant it to, despite not being the intended audience.

That was exactly what I had in mind! I actually did film theory in uni, and your piece put me in mind of that theoretical approach but in a different medium. I felt like I got the most out of the piece when I approached it in that way, thinking about what it said about the role of the reader in fiction rather than my personal pleasure, if that makes sense. So, far from a “dud”, although I’ll happily check out your other piece.

That’s the one. I mentally substituted “adjectives” for “positive and negative words”. A bit of semantic inaccuracy on my end, since as you say, there are different parts of speech at different points.

Also I think I was operating on an erroneous assumption about the kind of dictionary being used (manually-tagged lexical items). Knowing that it uses the WordNet database, I don’t think I stand by what I wrote there.


You are very welcome! And regardless of anyone’s own personal happiness, I am more than happy to keep chatting about my approach, so please feel free to ask me anything about it.

Totally makes sense. Also, my studies are trying to explore outside of the second person grammatical person that is ubiquitous to story-based agency. So, I’m happy to see you reconsider your role, leading you to deemphasize your personal pleasures as you adjusted to the affordances of the medium. (I suspect the emphasis of “personal pleasure” in story-based agency is an induction of second person grammatical person).

The “dictionary” (for lack of a simpler term) I’m using in The Lottery Ticket is the product of so many very talented academics and institutions over several decades.

Here’s the paper detailing the theory and implementation behind the dictionary I’m using for this second study.

Notably, Cost of Living uses a completely different theory and implementation. This is because “sentiment analysis” is observational (e.g., consensus, confidence), not prescriptive (e.g., authoritative, objective), so there’s tons of different theories and implementations to explore.

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Kit reviews IFcomp 2022

Continuing the discussion from Kit reviews IFcomp 2022:

Thank you for the review, Kit! I’m so glad you were able to see past my shortcomings as a writer to spot the potential of the underlying system and the affordances of a new medium.

After the comp, I’ll publish another version of my entry, but with the source maps, so you (or anyone else) can peek under the hood. In the meantime, you’re welcome to read through my post about Cost of Living, which is my first study in a series exploring the crossroads of narration-based agency and sentic computing.

Even better (no really, I promise)! Sometime today, I’m releasing an online editor for creating a stateful narration. (Yay!) You can write, preview, and download a local copy to your computer for later use, such as for offline reading, emailing to a friend, or uploading elsewhere (e.g., ifarchive, itchio, etc.).

Definitely both! But since everyone has unknown unknowns, I’m sure I can throw in a “splash of stupidity” in the mix, too. But yes, from my vantage, the system is incredibly sophisticated, both technically and noematically! And there’s still so much more work left to make the system even more sophisticated.

What do I mean by “noematically”? Here’s an excerpt from that post:

While the focus here is noematic interaction from stateless writing, there is also noematic interaction with stateful writing. On the itchio homepage of The Lottery Ticket, I mention,

Both of those are methods for building stateful noematic interactions for narration-based agency.

Being a self-labeled terrible writer, I will admit that I heavily leaned into this contrast. In fact, besides the lottery ticket, the only thing Toria and Ivan have in common is their contrast from each other. I do not have the practice (or ability, frankly) to be a good literary author, so this was just my attempt throw in things that I consider as being “literary” (in my limited understanding of whatever that means) in a desperate attempt to attract competent authors that are interested in producing their own stateful narration.


P.S. Just realized you are the author to Computerfriend! My first study, Cost of Living, drew a comparison to your work, so I’m thrilled that you’ve had a chance to check out my approach to narrational agency.


I think you’ll be successful here, the game is a terrific proof of concept. But I do think you’re selling yourself short - the quality of writing is excellent, and you have a knack for tight & succinct prose that is difficult to teach.

I’m excited to see it!

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Doug Egan comp 2022 reviews

Continuing the discussion from Doug Egan comp 2022 reviews:

Thanks so much for reading through The Lottery Ticket and then providing feedback, Doug!

In response, I’d like to quote myself from another post:

And I mean that, too! Ha! I would totally not be surprised if more than one of them politely declines any future requests, especially after reading the beta draft, with sentences like this one throughout the conversational prose.

Her attention drifts to watching herself burst through her apartment front door to proclaim to her roommates an immediate start of a restaurant tour with such force to make Jaslyn jolt and shriek and let slip a pasta plate with homemade red sauce that splatters plops on the tops of vintage LCD TVs where an enraged Francene pulls her attention away from archives of long gone cyber spaces and classic consoles with the latest in nostalgic graphics.

At the time, my excuse was that I was trying to construct an “additive style,” but my intention, mechanically, was to write a sentence that allows an audience to pick up from nearly anywhere in the sentence. (Please don’t ask why this was my goal. I don’t have an answer.) In practice, the sentences were very awkward to read, and were also a jarring fit to the stateless story.

I’m so happy someone has finally pointed this out! Thanks for poking at the boundaries to give me a chance to explain what’s going on.

What you were looking at was my parser implementation. This is how I route your (the audience) affective input to my (the storyteller) “dictionary”. I use quotes here, because I generate the “dictionary” on the fly. I start with a “lemma” word list, but that doesn’t get me everything (or much at all, if you ask me), such as suffixes like -s, -ed, -ing, -ton, -some, -ness, -erd, etc. For example, here are the results of two popular stemmers for the word hating: 1) hating -> hate and 2) hating -> hat. There’s no generalized approach here, I just go with my opinion, which is still a learning process for me.

The reason I chose my implementation — to allow “not real words” — was to reward creative storytellers and audience members that wanted to try fun words that might not be in the dictionary, like, denserdness, where denserd (a dense person) and denserdness (qualities of a denserd) are derivative of the word dense. (Yes, this word correctly maps to the expected “sentiment”, i.e., roughly meaning “positive confidence for unpleasant association”).

Thanks for noticing this! My last work tried to make creative use of a fixed-width font and fixed character count, but that approach turned out to be an issue for at least two readers. So this version tries to correct that for them (and everyone else) by incorporating more accessibility concerns.

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Ha, I can attest to this! :joy_cat:

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Mathbrush IFDB reviews IFComp 2022

Continuing the discussion from Mathbrush IFDB reviews IFComp 2022 (Latest: The Lottery Ticket) 49/71:

Thank you so much, @mathbrush, for reading through The Lottery Ticket and for writing a detailed review! And I really appreciate your effort to provide feedback to everyone that participated this year in IFComp.

Yes, ha! And please let me also say that finding this cover art — a period-appropriate image about a lottery and also in the public domain — was definitely a challenge.

I’m hoping this statement isn’t an oversight, because I would love to look at someone else’s interpretation of a Stateful Narration, but otherwise, The Lottery Ticket is my second “Study in Stateful Media with Narrational Agency”. Perhaps you are referring to my release of a bare-bones Stateful Narration Editor on itch․io? (If that’s the case, then thanks so much for checking out the editor!!)

Actually, this is a good moment for a segue into an aside. I was looking through my notes for a way to explain “narration-based agency” in terms other than Russian Formalism, and found the following “matrices” that explore agency in terms of embodiment.

Embodiment and Story-based Agency

you me
audience storyteller
lead support
lead support
audience → action action ← storyteller
storyteller → convo convo ← storyteller
lead support
foreground background
action convo

Story-based agency is typically about “leading foreground action”.

Embodiment and Narration-based Agency

(Please note the reflection of roles between “you” and “me” across the matrices.)

you me
audience storyteller
support lead
lead support
storyteller → action action ← storyteller
storyteller → convo convo ← audience
support lead
background foreground
convo action

Narration-based agency is typically about “supporting background convo”.

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This must be a case of me inventing a game of yours from out of thin air. Perhaps your last game was so impactful that it felt like two. I did check out your editor, though, and thought it looked pretty fun!


Cool, thanks for checking out the editor!

And, by all means, please feel free to implement that third work of mine. :wink: (ECTOComp is just around the corner, in case you need motivation.)

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Victor’s IFComp 2022 reviews

Continuing the discussion from Victor's IFComp 2022 reviews:

Thanks, Victor, for spending the time to read through The Lottery Ticket and for trying to comprehend my approach to narration-based agency! I really appreciate that you tried to fully engage with the work, and glad to see that it had an impact on you, too.

You bring up a lot of great points (thank you!), and I would love to discuss them now, but unfortunately, I have to postpone all of my full-length responses until sometime next week. I’ll edit this post then.

Thanks again and looking forward to answering some of your questions. :slight_smile:

[EDIT: Adding my full-length response for @VictorGijsbers]

I love that you’ve posed a lot of really great questions! This is the type of engagement I’m here for, so thanks again for the opportunity for our chat.

Your understanding of narration-based agency is tracking here, but then I think goes off the rails when you rephrase your model as the following.

According to a “model” that I’ve copy-pasted throughout various replies, I would interpret “how the story is told” as plot, i.e., “unordered human-curated subsequence of the story”, i.e., the “how” in the journalistic questions model (that I’ve also posted elsewhere). But, regardless, this still leaves me to explain my concept of “narration”. I’ll try to use a metaphor from recent events in the news to contrast story, plot, and narration.

Recently, Hu Jintao was escorted from the closing session of China’s National Congress.

  • Story-based agency is the decision by the CCP to escort Jintao from the session.
  • Plot-based agency is the tweet from Xinhua, China’s official news agency, explaining that Jintao was ill.
  • Narration-based agency is when media analysts the world over try to guess what really happened to Jintao.

So, in a way, narration is also speculation. Even more, as I’ve stated in prior posts, I also think narration is empathy, which I now see is also a form of speculation. Hopefully, this explanation helps you have an intuitive understanding of what I believe is the “possibility space” of narration.

So, yes, you’re correct that my approach does not provide plot-based agency, i.e., “how the story is told”.

I believe that agency works at two moments in time, present and future. Simply put, “what can I do right now” and “what should I expect later.” So again, you are correct here that I do not provide future-facing agency. But, as you note, my mechanism does provide present-facing agency (I’m free to choose a word). While future-facing agency seems more engaging, present-facing agency is no less important (in spite of its stochastic nature). For instance, I believe free-text input is what gives parser-based works (i.e., hidden choice lists) the impression of a larger possibility space over choice-based works (i.e., visible choice lists); this effect is particularly prominent in the Dialog system (e.g., Brian’s The Impossible Stairs), which provides the option to either show or hide its choice lists.

So, why support a weaker (but not useless) form of agency? Well, the target audience that I’ve envisioned might prefer present-facing agency over future-facing agency. That audience is composed of individuals that have future-facing agency in their work sphere but would prefer present-facing agency in their entertainment sphere. Or, as Mike puts it,

Let’s reconceive “suspension of disbelief” as Csíkszentmihályi’s flow state. Now we can see that plenty of things can break an audience’s flow, bad grammar and implementation bugs being two prime examples. Within my conceptualization of narration-based agency, I think I’ve managed to reduce some of these flow-breaking items, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to remove them entirely. For example, story-based agency relies on a sequence of events, creating a cause-and-effect dependency chain; branching stories tends to create a combinatorial explosion of content; branch folding is a solution, but it tends to break the cause-and-effect dependency chain, in turn breaking an audience’s flow state; in my conception, narration-based agency does not have such a dependency chain as found in story-based agency. Further, my approach doesn’t rely on any programming paradigms, relieving a storyteller from mastering a technology for the goal of reducing software bugs (that break a flow state).

I was trying to go with nautical imagery throughout the stateful prose. But, as I’ve said elsewhere, my strength is not as a writer. (In preparation for writing, I literally Googled “how to write a sentence” and just read the eponymously titled book.) What I was attempting here was a metaphor of a tsunami as an anxiety attack.

As a tsunami approaches shorelines, water may recede from the coast, exposing the ocean floor, reefs and fish.
[ref: What are the natural warning signs for a tsunami? | American Geosciences Institute]

With a tsunami, water rushes away from the shoreline, providing a moment of calmness accompanied by an exposed ocean floor, which is a warning sign to retreat back from the shoreline, back from the impending swell of water.

Blech! I don’t like that either. I will blame that on deadline mania due to me seeking out beta readers at the last possible minute. Apologies here, also.

I’m also not great at marketing, so I’ve likely misrepresented my entry as anything other than a mere study, a rough sketch to work out the composition. When my manifesto lands, you’ll know it. :wink: So please stay tuned!


Josh’s (walktothesun’s) IFComp 2022 Reviews

Continuing the discussion from Josh's (walktothesun's) IFComp 2022 Reviews:

As I said last week, thank you so much, Josh, for trying to explain your experience and for providing insightful feedback.

I love this curiosity! Before joining this community, I took for granted that an audience’s curiosity extends beyond their preferred IF experience to permeate their everyday lives. I soon learned that this was not something I should expect. But now I’m just especially grateful whenever someone provides feedback from an open mind. So, thank you very much here.

And I’m glad my blurb piqued your interest. Though now I see I should also mention the minimal nature of the user input mechanism, but I don’t think that helps to ground expectations. Either way, thanks for the inspiration here.

I reserve the shrouding and abstracting and mystery-ing for my gibbering scrawls throughout this forum. :joy:

Thank you for reading the introduction, and I’m relieved to see that my intention of grounding the experience worked for you. I was worried that some people might skip it, then would feel disappointment when they chose words the system either rejects or I mis-respond towards. One reviewer, Brian, tried words like deciduous and petrochemical, so perhaps this was the case here? (Regardless, as Brian correctly points out, I do need to provide more push back to neutral words.)

Oh, yeah, I’m not going to pretend otherwise, I’m still struggling under the weight of my approach. I’m fully expecting a great author to come along one day and show me the potential of my vision. Until then, I’m mustering all I can to cobble pieces together in a desperate attempt to appear Very Serious and Literary. So, thank you for not only seeing my study for what it really is, but also for not lambasting me about not meeting some expectations.

I did a deep dive into the word “interactivity,” and came back with some truly idiosyncratic conceptions of agency, so I’m glad my studies wore off on you during your read-through. In short, I believe the word “interactivity” is tenuous, at best, and marketing jargon, at worst.

I promise you, this was totally by design. I’ve envisioned my target audience to be people that have a low interest in both gaming and software, but a high interest in literature. An intuitive system that did not require training was imperative to not break a suspension of disbelief. So far, I think I’ve achieved a system that meets this goal of an intuitive interface — my target audience knows how to read and knows how to fill in a box. (Intuitive user input is also a quintessential characteristic of choice-based works.) Further, the seemingly minimal effort to advance the story was an attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance (though I’m not entirely sure how successful that was) and prohibit an optimization mentality (which I believe is typically at odds with a literary suspension of disbelief).

I’m hoping this is the space where a huge IF audience has been lying dormant for decades. Maybe my approach is the fabled gateway to all the other forms of overlooked stateful media? I have a writer’s center near me that I’m preparing to approach, so hopefully I’ll soon have some direction and guidance in this space.

For this second study, I focused more on thematically fitting together the stateful and stateless frames, as well trying to find a strategy for providing “cluing” to an audience (my prior work had about three times the number of inputs, yet suffered from an abundance of scoping issues and response issues, which I was trying to solve this time around). In other words, I was aiming for quality over quantity. But now that you bring up this line of reasoning, this is something I’m definitely going to consider. Thanks, again, for the inspiration!

Now I’m especially curious to know if you’ve read some of my theories throughout this forum, and how those theories resonate with you.

I feel the same as you, that the story was not the point. And now I suspect this might be responsible for more than one disappointed response. (Thankfully, my quick healing ability makes up for my less-than-thick skin.) Either way, thanks for reading through The Lottery Ticket and for providing great feedback. Looking forward to more insightful reviews about your other IF experiences!

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Kaemi’s IFComp 2022 Reviews

Continuing the discussion from Kaemi's IFComp 2022 Reviews:

Thanks, again, Kaemi, for your read-through and for your deep analysis! For the most part, I totally agree with you.

Well, I had my long, disjointed piecemeal response typed up, ready for you (and everyone else), where I do my usual bit, agreeing that some observation is mostly correct, but then show how that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong (because, hey, when did this become a zero-sum game, anyways?). But I trashed all that in envy of all these fun anecdotes that I’ve been reading throughout various reviews. Why shouldn’t I have fun, too, huh? So, I’m really excited to present to everyone — my very first anecdote!

Several years ago, during a typical trip to the grocery store, strolling up and down aisles, I found myself in front of the instant pudding packages, a myriad of flavors, where I was questioning the quality of “instant”. After all, why else was there non-instant pudding, right there, in chocolate and vanilla flavors. Was I deprived of something special because I wasn’t willing to put in a bit more elbow grease? Of course I was! So I threw in my cart a box of non-instant pudding, chocolate flavored, then reminded myself to not forget the milk on the way out.

With my shopping trip concluded and groceries in their proper place, I pulled out my trusty, triple-plied, aluminum-cored medium saucepan. Finally, I thought, now I can have pudding the way it was meant to be experienced, by adding that packaged mix to cold milk in a pot on medium heat. And while I waited for a boil, I got to stirring, constantly as the directions insisted.

Five minutes passed, no problem, I’m here to push through limits, right? Ten minutes passed, whatever, my anticipation was for five more. Fifteen minutes passed, and my hand was aching for no more. Twenty minutes passed. Was something wrong? I never made non-instant pudding before! How was I to know what to expect, other than a better taste, right? Why else could I still buy the stuff?

By the time my pudding set, ready to eat, after thirty-five minutes of constantly stirring, I had somehow lost my sweet tooth. Besides, the pudding tasted no better than the instant variety — in fact, I thought it was worse! What went wrong? Did I keep the heat too low, for fear of scorching the milk? Did I stir too often, at the insistence to do so constantly? Did I focus too much on my sore hand, ruing the day I stopped on that aisle?

In the end, I found that the pudding wasn’t worth the stir. But that’s perfectly fine, since I’ve found a great recipe for an Italian-style chocolate pudding, ten minutes to stir and definitely delicious!


Last night, someone brought to my attention that my approach to responses make some community members not want to participate in the meta-discussion that happens among reviewers. This was not my intention. So in the interest of community spirit, I’m going to stop contributing to this topic. I like to thank the reviewers, so far. Thank you. I’d also like to apologize for any exclusionary feelings I may have caused. I am sorry.


Hey Dorian – I get how some reviewers/potential reviewers could feel that way, though for what it’s worth I suspect that varies quite a lot (I know I usually enjoy it when authors engage with my reviews, but I’m a middle-aged white guy with a degree of pre-existing cred in the community) – and I think you’ve done a good job of keeping this thread positive and non-defensive, which is not always the easiest thing to do!

Sometimes authors will address the reviews they got over the course of the Comp as part of a post-mortem, if they write one. So throwing that out there as a potential alternate way to get at some of the stuff you’ve been engaging with in this thread that might be lower-stress for reviewers and potential reviewers.