imbroglio
a tool for making browser-based interactive fiction
Last updated 5 years ago by jcmf .
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imbroglio

a tool for making browser-based interactive fiction

Is this even a real thing?

In theory, kinda? It's starting to get to the point where it might be usable for something, though it's still a far cry from what I would like it to be.

In practice: Not really, no. Not yet, anyway. It's still much much too difficult to use to justify its palty feature set, and there's no documentation.

What's going on is that I signed up to do ShuffleComp: Disc Two and I'm scrambling to get my entry done using the bits I've been able to slap together so far.

Wait. What even is this "interactive fiction" of which you speak?

Like, in general? That's just a fancy name people use for text adventure games for your computer, where you read a description of what is happening and then maybe type stuff or click on stuff and read what happens next. Like Infocom's Zork, back in the 1980s, when PCs were this new thing and were pretty much incapable of displaying pictures.

Choose Your Own Adventure books might be another good example from around the same era. Or maybe those totally don't count at all, depending on who you ask! Like didn't I just say computers?

It's not just one clear thing, it's like several related fuzzy things overlapping. Sometimes people argue about it, or write dissertations about it, or whatever. You know how people get sometimes.

But basically it's a 1980s nostalgia thing.

Oh, no! Well I mean maybe, partly? People still make this type of game, is the thing. Some of them are really good! And it's not just all, like, rehashing the same aesthetic; it's evolved a lot, in several --

Okay that's nice but what is this imbroglio thing for, specifically?

Oh! It's for making a particular style of game that I happen to want to make right now. I mean maybe it'll turn out to be a bit more general, but I hope it won't get too general for its own good.

Some of the basic ideas are:

  • you play a game by going to it in your web browser;

  • you read a paragraph or three, followed by some multiple-choice style options;

  • you choose an option, revealing some more text, and so on, until you reach an ending;

  • you make choices by clicking on them, or else by typing the letter or number that appears before or within the thing you want to choose, or possibly even by clicking on or typing in a few words;

  • you can always scroll back and review the full transcript of the game so far;

  • while scrolling back you can change your mind and rewind the game to any given point and retroactively choose something else, changing history, pretty much just by clicking on it;

  • the page URL just ends with all the letters and/or numbers of all the choices you've made, which completely determine everything else you see in the game, so you can undo a rewind with the Back button, or save by bookmarking, or just use your browser history to go back to what you had an hour ago, or send someone the URL so they can read the full transcript of your story, or close your browser and pick up again later without having to do anything special;

  • looks nice -- decent fonts, proper dashes and quotes, enough white space to read by, works fine on tiny phones, maybe some illustrations or a soundtrack if you want them -- you know, the basics;

  • doesn't need a server or a network connection to play;

  • creating a game is almost as easy as playing one: start typing text right there in the browser and immediately see it working, even offline, save it to a self-contained .html file right on your computer, email or upload or do whatever you want with it.

And have you done any of those things?

Some, yes, with the most notable exception being the part where creating a game is supposed to be easy -- right now it's basically impossible unless you're extremely determined, and it involves mucking around with node command-line tools, rather than typing text into a web browser. I hope to improve this, of course.

So, um. How can I put this gently. Have you heard of a thing called Twine?

Sure!

So... gah... let me guess: you think Twine is terrible?

Not at all! Twine is fantastic. Have you seen what people have done with it? It's really inspiring!

Then I don't even have to explain why you're an idiot for even wanting to make this new thing that is strikingly similar to that existing established thing, because you already know that, right?

Yep!

Don't you feel bad, though, for making the world a worse place by trying to add yet another similar-but-worse thing instead of contributing to this existing good thing?

Nope.

Come on, man. Work with me, here. I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from. Couldn't you just... what's the... where is the point in... why do you... why are... why?

*shrug*

You're really not helping your case here. Why would anyone even want to use your thing?

Beats me. People do weird things sometimes.

Wait so uh whose thing is this and what am I allowed to do with it?

Copyright (c) 2015 Jacques Frechet

The MIT License (MIT)

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

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