Go North

Go north.

The first narrative tool I am working with is the classic Inform 7 (the latest open-source version) to craft my experience. Many people use the "choose your adventure" Twine 2, but I like the classic text adventure's exploration and "blank prompt.” The reader is promised something will happen if you engage with the story. You need to imagine choices and write them.

You need to read, synthesize, and logically connect what has been told to you and what is possible at the moment. As a result, there is much work for the writer, as everything mentioned needs logical interaction. It is only possible to note a lamp on a table if you can turn it on and off or even look at it and examine the object. Nothing is more frustrating than an author of interactive fiction mentioning something, such as that lamp. Then the reader naturally assumes they can interact with it, and when they type "turn on the lamp," the parser replies, "I don't know how to do that."

And immersion is broken.

Then again, why mention a lamp in the first place? If there is no need in your story for lights that can be switched on and off, don't put them in there, or at least add a line saying, "There isn't anything special about the room," and move on.

And yes, this is the sort of game with ordinal directions, such as being in a hotel room, knowing the patio is to the east, the door to the hall is to the west, the bathroom is to the north, and the closet is to the south. You can always say, "go in the bathroom," or use "n" as a shortcut for the word "north."

I have no idea if people will freak out having to navigate a space they can't see but only read and put together inside their head. It works better for a dungeon game, and then only loosely. You can imagine a classic D&D adventure, like the Tomb of Horrors, only interacting with the labyrinth with text inside your head. Make the wrong move, and it is game over.

Also, with a traditional dungeon, you are not "going 10 feet south down the hall" and seeing a pit in the next ten feet. The areas need to be slightly abstracted and conceptualized, and the traps should be more of the objects you interact with. It is like a treasure chest with a pit trap in front of it, should you fail to open it correctly.

Also, this isn't a traditional RPG with stats, combat odds, to-hit rolls, and hit points. You could have a system where you take several wounds before you die, but following an invisible set of rules with a character sheet you can't interact with would take time and be a step out of the experience. If there was a troll in a room, you could fight it, have a random chance of taking a wound to your three, and heal it with healing potions you find.

Sex would be similarly abstracted if you went there. Try to "have sex with the troll," and it will happen. You could put a puzzle around the act, trying to seduce the monster and bring it the head of an orc it hates in the east room, but that is if the game were more puzzle based.

To keep interested, these sorts of games do trend towards puzzle based; to seduce the orc, you need to wear a demon mask that it worships, and then your ritualistic mating can commence. Make sex on the evil pentagram, and you summon a demon as a secret. This is the fun of prompt-based games over choice-based ones. You can hide many secrets in an experience with combinations of things and actions, so "make sex to the orc" is not the same as "make sex to the orc on the pentagram."

Players who figure that out are rewarded. With a choice-based system, you typically have a flow that gives you both options up front, and nothing is hidden.

I love the hidden stuff. It makes me feel competent that I found it, and it gives me a thrill that something that I imagined and came up with the author intended and snuck in there as an easter egg.

I love the puzzles too, but not to a depth where you assemble X to Y to Z to do A to make B happen so you can get C and then have sex with the orc. You start using walkthroughs, and I avoid playing games where I need a FAQ.

I love the organic experience that rewards me if I am clever. I don't like the "moon logic" of some puzzles, most notably the early Sierra games that required huge logical jumps and were primarily designed to sell hint books or feed the hint phone lines that cost money per minute to get an answer to a puzzle.

I swear those games, while loved and classics, did more to hasten the end of the genre since people eventually tuned out and wanted their console-like experiences with VGA graphics.

So modern choice-based and visual novel games could be much better. I prefer the deeper interaction of a blank prompt sitting in front of me, making me read, consider the possible actions, and try things until something new and exciting happens.