Tools for event-driven future forecasting interactive novel


There’s a book called First and Last Men by Olaf Stapledon that tells a “future history” of humanity over the next 2 billion years(!!). It was written in the 1930’s and it has a lot of issues by modern standards. My idea was put together something like this, but make it interactive (and perhaps only 500 - 2000 years long).

They way I was imagining it working is:

  1. Readers would select from various choices how they think humanity would broadly react to various events
  2. Depending on the choice they made different global (in the coding sense) variables would be updated, representing global (relating to the world) properties such as the birth rate, technology research, war mongering, degree of inequality, global warming etc. etc.
    [actually the variables would not be changed directly, rather their rate of change, or the rate of change of the rate of change…]
  3. Some time steps would pass, updating the global variables with each step until…
  4. The values of the global variables trigger a new event [e.g. new technology invented, or a war, pandemic, etc] and the process is repeated.

In the process they are building a narrative story about the future of humanity. The story would end when you get to X years in the future.

Some questions:

  1. Do you like the idea? Is it something you would want to read/play? Maybe it’s less fun, but it’s at least interesting…
  2. What tools would you recommend? - I’ve not written any IF before, but having a look at the common tools it’s not obvious if this kind of event-driven story is easy to implement with them.
  3. I also think it would be cool to make the story itself some kind of open source/wiki thing that people can either collaboratively build or fork off and modify their own version - do you have any examples of collaborative stories like this?
  4. Are there tools for keeping track of the options people choose when they read your IF story? Could you do some analytics on this?

Thanks for any help you can provide!


It’s been a long time since I read Stapledon, but I remember it as being a thing of highlights and sweeping changes rather than numerical trends.

In general I don’t like tracking a lot of numerical values. You can spend a lot of time futzing with math and never tackle the problem of “how does this make a good story for the reader/player?” If a revolution happens in 2269 and the underlying cause is “inequality reached 35%”, why would be player care? It might as well have been a random encounter.

You might look at a web game called Epitaph:

This has a very simple model; various inventions happen a random order, and you can periodically trigger one by hand. There’s a set of possible disasters which can be caused by or prevented by particular inventions. I think that’s the whole game (aside from a bunch of random language generation). It’s pretty fun though.


You may be interested in Buckmaster Fuller’s World Game. I remember playing this in a high school history class and it had a profound effect on me. As I recall we actually achieved world peace, which the teacher said he had never seen happen before.

Anyhow, might make a good backbone for the kind of game you want to do.

If a revolution happens in 2269 and the underlying cause is “inequality reached 35%”, why would be player care? It might as well have been a random encounter.

I think this would work if you borrow from (some) sim games and make clear “stages” within the story that need to be passed.

Make it possible to fail entirely and restart but also give players multiple possible goals to pursue…whichever goal is achieved first triggers the next stage.

That might require the introduction of money and resources though.