Saturday, November 24, 2012

What I'm Playing: Myriad

I'll have some announcements about my own projects pretty soon, but in the meantime I wanted to start sharing some of the interactive stories I've enjoyed while working through my backlog of links to check out.

Myriad by porpentine is a Twine-based interactive story and the first I've played from a list of recommended Twine games by anna anthropy. I learned from a fantastic talk anna gave at this year's IndieCade that Twine has grown in popularity as a low-barrier-to-entry tool for interactive narrative, which is great: I've always thought it was underappreciated, and used it twice successfully in my summer class.

Besides having evocative, darkly beautiful writing, I found Myriad's play with structure really intriguing. With many hypertext/choice-based works, you can feel out the shape of the work after a playthrough or two, and get a feel pretty quickly for the overall possibility space: how many major branches there are, when and how your choices have an effect on the narrative, and so on. Here, things are less obvious: major new portions of the work can open up from unexpected places, and while there's one clear "winning" ending, there are several others that might or might not be satisfactory depending on the player. I replayed many more times than I usually have patience for in this kind of work, both because new bits of writing were always a pleasure to encounter but also because it remained genuinely surprising even on the fifth or sixth playthrough: just when I thought I'd gotten a handle on what it was about or what it's scope was, it would surprise me again.

Interestingly, however, barring complex tricks with tracking variables it's usually possible to feel out the whole scope of a choice-based work with enough perseverance, an interesting contrast to IF where there's no easy way to tell whether you've missed something important. This arc from initial confidence that my expectations wouldn't be subverted, to middle-play disorientation and surprises, to a final feeling that I understood the scope and shape of the work through a thorough exploration, provided a satisfying experience that I think wouldn't have worked quite the same in a different medium.