Interactive Fiction Process

Nov 8, 2018 · 4 min read




I started with a very weak design process. What I mainly did was write up the Premise document (copy+pasted at the bottom of this article). My primary goal was to create a very different cadence from the interactive fiction works we played for class. However, this meant that I ended up having to focus more time on implementing mechanics over using what was already available. Because I didn’t get to writing until much later, I did not have a very clear vision of what the narrative voice/characters should be.


First, I tried to write my story with Inform7. I spent a while trying to understand the inner workings of Inform7; specifically, I was looking at how to modify the core verbs of Inform (Look, take, put, go), to match the design that I had conceived. Looking back, this was a pitfall where I accidentally fell into using the waterfall model of design. After a week of building up pieces of code to handle some of the game systems, I threw it all away.


After properly disposing of my work in Inform, I started anew in Twine/Sugarcube. Luckily, I had a reasonable amount of experience with those tools, so it was very quick for me to create a reasonable prototype, which contained the opening few rooms, as well as the first two tutorial stages.

At this point, I did one playtest on my two roommates, who said that they really enjoyed the beginning parts of the game, where you are moving through a series of unique events, such as the sponsored ad, the window, and the letter. They were less interested in the tutorials, because the writing was simply less interesting. Finally, they were not quite sure what the lesson/message of the game was supposed to be.

So after this feedback, I sought to make my in media res sequence, which occurs after the tutorial sections, more full of small interactions. This introduced some complexity/risk of bugs, but it led to significantly more interesting things occurring. In case the reader does not get the solution, here it is:

  1. Go to 14XM. Take the popcorn out of the pantry, and put it somewhere.
  2. Swap the bills on the coffee table and the picture in the drawers.
  3. Go to 15XM. Turn on the microwave. Turn it up REAL HIGH.
  4. Go to 16XM. You win!

Old stuff for reference:

Slides can be found here:


My project is a dystopic story about privacy, consumerism, and corporate power. More specifically, it is going to be a story about a far future where Tempo Inc. offers people free temporal management services; in other words, when things go wrong for someone, Tempo Inc. will go back in time and fix that problem. However, this “free” service also comes with advertising services built into a consumer’s life; advertisers can pay to influence the consumer’s needs and wants strategically, while Tempo Inc. is the sole arbiter of what it means for “harm” to come to its clients. Additionally, Tempo Inc.’s premium offering allows people to not only fix things when things go wrong, but also to tip things in their favor. The protagonist will be one of the low level Tempo Incorporated employees who eventually gets tired of their job and seeks to rebel against the corporation, but fails.

I aim to create a unique system of interactive fiction that can incorporate the ability to jump between multiple versions of a room that are set at different points in time. My version of time travel will not be too “hardcore”, without much concern for time loops/paradoxes, but it will try to introduce consistent time travel rules throughout the game. Those rules will be that:

  1. If you change something in the past, the future immediately changes to reflect that. So if you travel to the past, change something, then travel back to the “present”, it will be a different present than the one that you came from.
  2. Going backwards in time “forgets” the changes you’ve made in the present. So for example, if you move a jar from the table to the cupboard at 10XM, then go back to 9XM, where the jar is on the table, then go forward to 10XM, then the jar will be back on the table.

It will incorporate a traditional level structure akin to Portal to pace the game as well as introduce its core mechanic of time travel.

Project Map

Below is a basic map of the story, as well as a deeper map into how a specific puzzle will work.

Map. Level 1 structure above, Overall story structure below. Room layout gets increasingly more complex as levels get harder.