Interactive Fiction: Plots

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One of the most important aspects of an IF is the plot. Without a plot the entire thing becomes a string of meaningless puzzles, throw together without narrative. Whilst this proved successful in the early days of IF, people soon came to realise that the best way to hook people on the game was to get them with the story.

Some games have multiple plots, all woven in amonst each other, other games use plots that brach out based on player choices, either reconnecting later, or leading to seperate endings. For some the one, simple plot is best, firstly it is easier to write, secondly once the player has completed the game they know that they've seen pretty much everything that was in it. Others prefer branching plots, which can bring the player back to see what would have happened if they'd done something differently.

In a novel, the writer can totally control the main character, so where they are, what they are doing and how they are feeling is always that which most benefits the story. In an interactive work, this is much more tricky to do. It becomes necessary to break the desired plot down into it's smallest parts and let the player uncover those parts as the progress. Key scenes that the player is preset for are just one example.

In some cases, the scene may be as simple as writing down the ideal of what happens as if it was a game transcript, and then implementing it, with adjustments to accomidate the player acting differently. In other cases it may be that you need some way to keep the player occupied doing something, whilst the scene unfolds around them.

Not everything has to be imparted in one big, dramatic scene, though. A general sense can be imparted from the mood, or foreshadowing or even the repetition of some seemingly innocuous detail.

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