What Do You Think of This Strategy?

I’m asking this because I would really like some feedback from people who I think share my interests, and this is the closest group I’ve got. I’ve been considering the idea of writing novel length IF, but my family and friends have been pushing me into writing novels, as well. I used to think that perhaps I should tell separate stories when writing in the mediums of novels and IF, but now I’m beginning to seriously consider the idea of telling the same stories in both mediums.

Although the solutions to many of the puzzles might be contained in my literary works, I am thinking that the joy of exploration that the medium of IF can provide might be enough to satisfy someone who both reads my novels and plays my games. I believe that IF is a great medium for adventure, whereas writing in a medium like novels might be a little more efficient for conveying more relevant narrative ideas.

I’m sorry if this post comes across as too sudden, or anything like that. It’s just that I’m starting to get the courage to ask for feedback, whereas before I was a little more hesitant. I could explain how I intend to write long works of IF if you need me to, but I don’t have all of the details filled in just yet. I would just like to know for now what you guys think of this idea. Do you suppose this seems viable, or not?

Well, it worked OK for Douglas Adams.

Seriously, the idea of having a work of IF which is based on a “traditional” novel has been done before, and can work. However, I think that you need to construct the IF in such a way that it is not just a retelling of the same story. What made Hitchhiker’s Guide (the game) work even (or especially) for those who had read Hitchhiker’s Guide (the novel) was that a lot of the material felt familiar, yet you still had to figure out the puzzles independently. I don’t think the concept would work if playing the IF amounts to no more than reconstructing the steps of the protagonist in the novel.

One issue to which I don’t know the answer is whether your ability to find a publisher willing to take your novel (which, unlike IF, remains largely the domain of commercial publishing houses) might be affected by having a “parallel” non-commercial IF out there. Obviously, this was not an issue for Hitchhiker’s Guide, which was a commercial success as a novel long before the game was conceived of.

Robert Rothman

I hear that it can be quite difficult to adapt a novel to an IF game, because IF has trouble with linear narrative sequences. However, I think your idea to write IF alongside the novel could be very effective. My advice is to set the IF game in the same fictional world, probably even at the same time that the plot of the novel unfolds, but not to make the protagonist of the novel the player character of the IF game. The PC could hear about the adventures of the novel’s protagonist, or even meet the protagonist at some point. The main benefit is that the players of the IF game would be able to explore more of your world than was explainable within the narrative arc of the novel, helping to make the world seem more real in their conception of the story. This way, the game would not necessarily spoil the novel, and the two works would serve to heighten interest in each other, because they would be different but related stories set in the same world/timeline.

I would love to play an IF game set in the same world as a novel, by the author of that novel (especially if it’s high fantasy or space opera, because worldbuilding is very important in those two genres). Since I love IF and speculative worlds, I’m sure I would buy your book eventually (again, especially if it happens to be high fantasy, which is my favorite genre). It would be awesome if you could get a publisher to make the game available with the novel! But even if you had to simply put the game up for free on the IF archive/IFDB after the novel was published, that would still be cool.

I wonder about the time commitment involved. A novel is a serious investment of time and energy; a novel-length IF is even more so. You might talk to published IF authors about how much work it is to produce, test, polish and launch even a shortish, comp-length game. I, personally, would likely burn out before completing either. (And if you didn’t, how long would it take you?) I don’t mean this to necessarily discourage, but I think you need to be passionately on board with both, and have confidence in your staying power.

I’m with Bainespal. I would advise against telling the same story in a novel and in IF, because what’s compelling in a linear story is not necessarily so in an interactive one (and vice versa). But a game set in the same world as the novel, with some overlap, but following different characters and/or situations, could be great (sort of like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to the novel’s Hamlet).

Part of what works with Hitchhiker’s Guide is that there was already no exact canon, with differences between the radio show, books, and TV series (and apparently a stage show?) before the game even existed. It is more a mythology than a precise story, really, so there was some free reign for the game to play with.

I think the attraction to adapting an existing novel is the idea of the player being in the fictional world of the novel’s structure. Like, the Harry Potter games are a good example of this. But while those games allow you to adventure within the Harry Potter world, the plot is not identical to the books and doesn’t try to be.

What you could do is create a new plot within the novel’s fictional structure, within that novel’s “world” with new or the same characters.

I wouldn’t try to recreate a certain plot unless it was a well known plot (treasure island, hamlet, romeo & juliet, frankenstein).

Or you could write the same characters, but at different times. I think Suzanne Britton intended to do that with Worlds Apart, an IF that was supposed to have a novel sequel. I think she burned out before she wrote the novel, though, which might serve as a warning…

Having written both IF and novels, I can offer 2 cents’ worth of thoughts.

Others have already noted that the linear flow of plot in a novel is difficult and unsatisfying if you try to haul it into a game without making major changes.

With one fantasy novel (unpublished, and there may be reasons for that), I deliberately left a small hole in the story that, if it had been published, I intended to fill with a game. The hole involved a fellow who was a thief accomplishing some rather tricky stuff in a large castle infested with magic and odd artifacts. In the book, he just emerges from the castle the next morning with the object that he was sent for. The possibilities seemed pretty interesting to me at the time.

If you’re young and ambitious, I would say, forget IF and try writing novels! There’s money in it. Because there’s money, however, there is also an enormous amount of competition – and publishers tend to have rather narrow ideas of what they’re willing to put on their lists. For that reason, writing IF can be much more satisfying. With IF, you’re pretty much guaranteed to reach a small but enthusiastic audience, and you’re free to use your own imagination without worrying about what a publisher may or may not be willing to risk.

Thank you so much everyone for your great advice! :smiley:

I believe I have a very much clearer idea of what I should do now :slight_smile: I’ll just stick to one series in that huge world I have for my novels (and since it’s a fantasy series, I’ll make it as long as I can). Maybe the publisher won’t allow me as much freedom as I would get writing IF games, but that’s OK; I’ll write IF stories in my same setting, and at different times in it, to kind of let the players explore the world :slight_smile: I think I’ll just make some of my ideas into IF (when I believe I have the experience; like write now I have a nine-volume idea, but I’ll hold that off for some considerable time), and focus on writing smaller IF in my spare time when I’m not writing my high science-fantasy series.

I really liked all this advice, and thank you so much! I’ve always felt kind of a connection with this community, because I’ve noticed that many of the people on this forum have similar interests and tastes as me and stuff like that. There will eventually reach a point in my high fantasy series where my main protagonists will get to travel through space, and since they’ll have all these spacy abilities (not god-like, as in invincible, but more like 'I can go where I want to now,) maybe I could find ways to make them jump through time-gates and stuff like that, occasionally?

There are different eras in my world, and I intend on setting my novel series in the “main era”, or the most “normal” era. I don’t want to make my protagonists too powerful, but I would like them to have a lot of space, so there can be a lot of adventure-lust! I’m holding off on all the more crazy stuff until later in the series, though; and since fantasy writers are usually coped up into the same series by their publishers (from what I hear, at least), I believe keeping a really long series with the same main cast might be a good idea. I would still like to write those really huge IF projects that I’ve always dreamt about, but I’ll practice writing shorter stories in this medium first.

I’ll be sure to post here if I need any more advice (about both IF and my novels, if that’s OK with you guys).

I’m glad to see someone else on this forum interested in the theories and peculiarities behind the high fantasy and space opera genres of fiction. IF has plenty of space opera and lots of generic fantasy that probably doesn’t have enough of a coherent mythology to be called “high fantasy,” but I feel that these genres are often not taken seriously enough in many of those games. Anyways, I’m glad you like this little community. I’ve always liked it, even when I was shy teenager quietly lurking and observing.

I’ve thought about what a combination of high fantasy and space opera would be like (though I’m not entirely sure that Star Wars doesn’t already fit the bill). However, I’ve yet to see space travel explained in terms of magic. It could be really good, especially if it has a strong mythology to support it (as in, the magic and/or scientific “spacy” abilities used to be used by great beings in times long past…).

Hmm… I just finished reading the thirteenth book of The Wheel of Time a few weeks ago; I think that qualifies as a series that fits your goals of length with strong central characters. The length and the character drama are both good and bad. Many people have complained about how the later WoT books drag on. Yet, the sense of affinity fans develop with the characters is strong, and it will be sad to have the epic journey end with the next book.

That sounds like a wise plan.

This is the place for IF advice, not only about the technical aspects but also (I think especially) how to tell your story in our interactive medium. As for the novels, I can’t speak for the whole forum, but I wouldn’t mind hearing about them from time to time (maybe on the General and Off-Topic Talk board). I think there are a good number of good writers on this forum, and as I said above, I’m often interested in discussing the genre.

Do you have a blog about your writing, or anything like that?

I’m very sorry for the long delay! Like I’ve said in my last post, I’ll take all this advice. I still don’t know how long my novel series is going to be, but I know I should concentrate more on being a novelist right now, rather than learning to how to write IF. And as I’ve mentioned in my previous post, when I do right IF for the first time, it will be in short-stories set in the same setting.

Here’s a link to my blog:http://kytaari.blogspot.com/ but I must warn you, it’s kind of…foolish, in my opinion; I have a lot of weird thoughts from time-to-time, and I can be very sentimental when I write in it. I used to write in private journals, but I’ve decided to move my journalistic tendencies onto the net, that wayI might get some feedback (although I’m still afraid to check comments fairly frequently!) I’ve thought about moving to wordpress, but Blogger seems fine to me for now.

Most of the posts in my blog are very terrible, and the reason for this is I still haven’t assumed the practice of editing my work. I’m editing my work in this post, though; it’s just that I usually like to avoid the process because I don’t like how it feels to be reading what I wrote. Or maybe I just don’t like seeing my mistakes? I don’t think I’m experienced enough to tell, just yet. I think I may get used to this procedure with some more practice, though–or at least I hope this to be the case! Editing is the phase of the writing process that, right now, I have the least experience with; and I must apologize in advance for the punctuation on my blog for being very unorganized and terrible, due to my current lack of visible style. I’ll find my footing in one place or another, it’s just that right now I’m not sure if I’m more a Dickens or a Hemingway :laughing: I guess I’ll know by trusting my own instinct, and editing some more with practice.

Again, I apologize profusely for this long delay. I don’t mean to snub people, it’s just that I don’t always have the courage to face social situations (I’ll try be more responsive with this next post). I think I’m getting better at this, though! Or at least I hope I am, anyway :confused:

A little bit offtopic, but I just checked out what Neal Stephenson is up to these days, and I found out he’s working on a multimedia project called “The Mongoliad.” Wikipedia describes it as an “interactive fiction” although that may be an error. On the other hand, the site says the project will eventually include games and what sounds like fan content. It’s based on a lot of research into European martial arts, so I’m hoping to see some text-based IF with a very detailed combat system. Anybody looking for a project?

The Mongoliad looked to me to be a collaborative serial novel – more MS Paint Adventures than Anchorhead, if you will, though that’s not quite it either. And I’m sure there are other parts. If someone wanted to pitch a Mongoliad-related IF to Stephenson and Bear, maybe they’d listen. It seems to be pay-subscription.

I read one episode; the commenters on it seemed to be missing a big and obvious upcoming twist concerning

Zug, the masked naginata fighter

because no one realized that

the naginata was traditionally a weapon used by women. (Note: for the purposes of this plot twist, this need not be an actual tradition.)

HA! Yeah, I read that and then the discussion, and thought it was like reading someone try to puzzle out how the son could be operated on by his parent, given that his dad was also hospitalized.

They seem to have figured it out. I read this first because it came up before the regular chapters, and the discussion mentions two possibilities:


That exchange was what I was thinking of – poor jwesley figures it out, and then someone else takes it way off into the absurd.

I mean, if you’re going to get deep enough into cod-Japanese whatever to cite the samurai’s amazing power of ball-retracting, you could actually look naginata up in Wikipedia and find out that in Japan it’s traditionally associated with women. (Which may be anachronistic by about 300 years, but that’s closer to reality than the cremaster reflex, I warrant.) (And yes, everything I know about this I learned in nethack or Wikipedia – well, that, and having seen about fifty other things where the mysterious masked opponent turns out to be a women, and it turns into a duel to the sloppy makeouts.

My reactions were:

  1. They were joking

[spoiler]2. They suspected the authors were trying to pull a double-fakeout, where you think the secret is that it’s a woman, but actually, it’s not. Which I think would be kind of clever… especially if it ended up in a makeout anyway.

More likely, I think that Zug is Cnan in disguise. But I haven’t read everything yet, so maybe that won’t fit later.[/spoiler]