Continued from the previous post….
Writing an interactive fiction story is not the same as writing a traditional fiction story. It can be a lot harder, I realized from my brief experiments to date. For one thing, you need significantly more material, because you have to write many stories (all with their own beginnings, middles, and ends) to accommodate your reader’s choices. It has the potential to become infinitely big. (Which is why I’ve put that project on the shelf until I FINISH my current writing project – the paranormal romance novella)
I recently met a developer of “interactive fiction” at a party. Incidentally, most people involved in creating interactive fiction think of it more in terms of designing “games” than “books”; though, by it’s interactive nature, the book / game divide is rather fuzzy.
I asked her to recommend examples of good interactive fiction. She recommended Echo Bazaar:
I’ve become a bit addicted to it.
Essentially, Echo Bazaar is a richly detailed, fantastical “world”, which “you” the reader / player get to explore. And it’s a world you’ll want to explore, because it’s just so much fun.
“1889. Three decades ago, London was stolen by bats. Dragged deep into the earth by the Echo Bazaar. Echo Bazaar is a storytelling game of mystery and nocturnal intrigue. Join and choose your fate!”
If you like the ethos of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and the shadowy side of London they portray, if you like the fantastical imagination of Steampunk, if you like the delicious darkness of Victorian gothic … you will like the world of Echo Bazaar.
Victorian gothic is probably the closest kin to this fantasy world, and like all good gothic worlds, there’s a touch of horror to Echo Bazaar, but it’s done with so much tongue and cheek humor that the shivers are rather cozy. (Yes, Echo Bazaar’s creators are British. Of course they are).
Essentially, you create a character, and then make choices through clickable “storylets” to take them on adventures, solve mysteries, acquire items with fake currency (“echoes”) etc… The storylets let you be quite a rogue (and a rake!) – another part of Echo Bazaar’s charm.
Echo Bazaar uses either Twitter or Facebook as a form of login. If you choose to play, I recommend using Twitter, and I HIGHLY recommend setting up a separate Twitter account just for playing Echo Bazaar. (Echo Bazaar doesn’t spam you, per se, but it will send you cryptic messages that only make sense if you’ve been playing the game – and you might not want these blasting out to your entire social network)
The strength of Echo Bazaar lies in its writing, hence why I like it. The graphics are cartoonish at best (see images, above) but pleasingly so. (Simple, static images mean you can play it with very little processing power – thus, an old, cheap, crankly laptop like mine does just fine. ) Echo Bazaar contains as much text as “four longish novels”, say the makers, and the prose is eloquent, picturesque, quick paced, with an irrepressible, impish sense of humor. The writing has to be good, because it’s an almost entirely text based game. This is what makes it appeal to me, as a writer, and as someone who is NOT into video games and other rpgs. It’s also why I’ve heard some negative reviews of Echo Bazaar by “gamers”.
Unlike other games, you cant play Echo Bazaar endlessly. No 72 hour straight World of Warcraft marathons here. Echo Bazaar actually locks you out after a few rounds of play (around 10 or 15 minutes), and you have to wait until your “opportunities” are refreshed.
The creators structured it this way intentionally, because as a small company with a finite amount of content, they don’t want users playing through the material too quickly.
Perhaps being able to read / experience the game only in bite size chunks is part of what makes it so maddeningly addictive.
Like any good drug, Echo Bazaar is free to start – you can continue to play for free, but in order to play without interruption from advertisements, and in order to get slightly longer play sessions, you have to become an “exceptional friend” ($10 a month)
Echo Bazaar is far from perfect. It uses its interactive format far better for exploring a world than telling a story. I’d rather see something with more novel like plots and more well developed characters. But I do recommend it as an interesting, “adult” take on choose-your-own-adventure.
p.s If you’d like to join me in “Fallen London” (the game has social components where you can interact with other players) “follow me” on my Echo-Bazaar only Twitter account:
(my Echo Bazaar character name is Artemisia Lovelace)
See you in Fallen London, delicious friend 😉