In the traditional sandbox-environment Interactive Ficton game, there are often puzzles to be solved through the discovery and manipulation of objects found in different locations in the game space. Keys to open locks. Code-breaking devices. Hidden treasures to placate or weapons to defeat enemies. In the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative, the game play is somewhat different, primarily because the narrative is based on factual and well-documented events involving known historical figures. Entering locked rooms or discovering hidden passages, for example, isn’t as effective a way to advance the story, since the point of the game is to retell a story where the outcome is predetermined. To some degree, the player is more an observer rather than actual agent of change. That’s quite all right though, with interactivity being served by giving the player the ability to experience the story from different perspectives of time and place.
The narrative, then, is the main driver of game play, and in order to experience the game, the player needs to be in certain places at certain times. Unfortunately, it is the sandbox environment that challenges narrative integrity. For example, imagine that the player needs to overhear a conversation between two characters at a particular time and in a particular place. What happens if the player is in an entirely different location far removed when the conversation takes place? Here we see the need to provide latitude for the time and place for the occurence of events. Fortunately, creating a flexible framework to ensure exposure to relevant events is fairly straightforward.
The method is to determine a zone rather than particular location in which narrative drivers may occur, and then the actual event may occur after a particular time rather than exactly at that time. Finally, once the event has taken place, there needs to be a way for the game to track that so the event does not continue to trigger. The following code shows a way to handle this in Inform 7.
Here we see that the event is triggered if the time is after 5:08 PM (and not exactly at), as long as the variable placeevent has not been incremented from its initial value of 0. Once these criteria are met, the actual event occurs differently across six different locations. Finally, when the event takes place in one of two locations with the player there to witness it, the placeevent variable is changed.
This framework allows us to set up event conditions throughout the game (both in time and space), with enough latitude to ensure that the player experiences everything necessary to understand the game. The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative is built on this foundation.
This report recently went out to all of the game Backers on Kickstarter. The actual download location is available only to the Backers.
I new version is available for download at [URL HIDDEN]. Included in the .zip archive is a map of the locations.
A quick word about the map: where you see the location names highlighted in blue, the blue portions indicate a shortcut in the game navigation system (meant for speedier play testing only). For example, on the map is the “Military Encampment” location with the word “Military” in blue. When you are playing the game, type “xmilitary” at the cursor and you will be immediately taken to the Military Encampment. This will work for any of the locations in blue.
A big “thank you” goes to backer Vivianne D. for her work on the navigation code in Inform 7. Now when you type “dir” at the cursor, the game will display all possible directions (unless specifically hidden) based on room relative location definitions. Previously, I had been hand coding all those directions.
Otherwise, changes in this version are not major. Cleaned up more descriptions, added some detail, etc. Feel free to play it and let me know what you find.
In an upcoming release I will be publishing a guide that provides a listing of the possible commands.
While historical Williamsburg (as managed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) has been my focus, there are other historical communities, sites, and museums that are definitely worth visiting. A few that I want to mention here are
- Deerfield, Massachussetts – an authentic 18th-century New England village in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – site of one of the most famous battles of the American Civil War
- Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia
- Mount Vernon – The Virginia home to the first President of the United States, George Washington
- Winterthur, Delaware – a rich museum of American decorative arts that reflects both early America and the life of the du Pont family
Progress on the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative continues. Three plot-level releases are planned: a walk-through version focused on the Williamsburg physical layout, an exploratory version including interaction and discovery with historical characters, and narrative version that is constructed around the removal of the gunpowder supply from the magazine.
The following two screenshots represent what the player will first encounter regardless of the version of the game being played. First is the pre-game opening screen that appears before the player provides any input. As you can see, it sets up a little bit of the story framework by providing some background on the player character and context on how he comes to be in Williamsburg.
The second screenshot depicts the description the player gets the second time this location is visited. (The first version of the description has some additional information and is displayed as soon as the player presses the Space bar at the intro screen.) As you can see, the command “see” was entered after the text description. The way the HWLN game is being implemented, graphic images will be provided at many locations; however, in order to display the images, the player must enter the “see” command at the prompt. The images themselves are based on my actual photography of Williamsburg.
It’s quite easy to release Inform 7 games for the Glulxe interpreter, which in turn makes it easy to test. So that’s what I did to get this screen shot with the Capitol, and there’s a portion of descriptive text on the screen as well.