I am working on producing a system for IF/ARG style games using phone text messaging as the medium. I believe that this is an “under used space” and that some really engrossing games could be built in it. My sense is that the games would be played with sparse interactions in real-time. A short game might be played over 5 days with 3-5 bursts of communication a day. I believe that modelling real communications patterns coupled with the use of real text messaging could be compelling. I also believe that in this case the medium matters. I believe it makes a difference if someone is using an app that simulates text messages vs. actually using text messages. I also like the idea that a real-time text message game could be played anywhere and anytime (almost). People routinely answer texts in school, business meetings, etc. And as a bonus, you’ve already installed my (hopefully “our”) app.
Ten years from now thousands of players will be playing these games and possibly even interacting with each other in real life via intersecting story lines, but for now I’m thinking much smaller and more concrete. I would like to work with a writer to develop that short game I mentioned above. Twenty-five bursts of interaction, some just one or two texts in each direction, others longer. It could be one and done or represent the first chapter of some longer story to come.
In order to do this, I need to produce a platform on which to run the games, an authoring system, and of course, you know, the games. As it stands now, I have the platform, I am the authoring system, and I’m looking for writers to write the stories. I have several starter ideas I’ve been playing with, but I’m a coder and you know how you can always tell when a coder designs the front end of a website instead of a using a designer? Guess what, you can tell when a coder writes the story too. I naturally start with action/adventure/intrigue “man in the chair” stories, but the more I get out of my comfort zone the more I see how wide-ranging the possibilities are - you get a text message from anywhere in (or out of) this world and the story begins. Was it from a someone in trouble, a spy, a secret admirer, future you, a spirit, a sentient computer system, you’re the writer, you tell me.
Unlike some other forms of IF these games would generally be more about the conversations and the writing would likely tell the story without long narrative passages. I would also like to attempt to stay away from menu-ish branching where the player is simply directed to choose from two or three options – at least obviously. (Remember text messages, not an app that simulates text messages.) This will require some clever writing to push the player in specific directions. The platform is based on a “bot” back-bone so there is enough built in language handling that I believe this can be a successful venture, but it is to some significant degree an experiment and learning process.
I mentioned above that I am the authoring system. At the moment there is no refined authoring system, but I expect to build one once we know what that should look like. I can hardcode functionality into any given game (or if general, all games) and the interactions can be described in XML, but long term there needs to be something much better than this for authoring. I have played around with a number of formats and am still experimenting. I hope that this will evolve out of the first few projects. I am posting in the development board for suggestions concerning any possible “drop-in” system to start with, but I expect that in the long run something specialized will be required. In the meantime, if you can deal with XML code-ish stuff, have at it, but as that’s more my area, I would expect that you write in some evolving notation that works well for you and I get it to happen.
Hopefully, someone out there will like the idea. If that’s you, reply or message me and let’s explore it more.