Absent Heroes: Choose Your Own Interview II

I had a sweet time making the last Choose Your Own Interview, so this time I collaborated with long time Interactive Fiction heroes Adam Cadre, Emily Short and Andrew Plotkin to make you something special. The following is a heady mix of RPS fanfic, Interactive Fiction love letter, and slight autobiographical tendencies. Your secret content this time comes courtesy of a guest appearance by someone we all know and love. Enjoy, and keep me updated on your own adventures in text. Now let’s get really drunk. There must be a bar around here somewhere?


  1. marcusfell says:

    That was great.

    • McDan says:

      Yea, this is amazing. Well done to everyone involved, seriously. Awesome stuff.

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    Emily Short is a legend. Would be awesome if her narrative-weaving skills could be applied to something like an open-world RPG

  3. Jody Macgregor says:

    Holy shit indeed.

  4. Durkonkell says:

    I knew from the first mention that the bartender would be KG. I don’t know how, but I knew it!

    • Carachan1 says:

      KG is the bartender of the games universe, no doubt.

      Also, I had to ask him what his lovely wife would say if he texted about tea. I hope I did Chrissy justice.

  5. Carachan1 says:

    Extra points for anyone finding the extra bonus content from our guest writer. I shall give hints if y’all get stuck.

    • Fede says:

      Thanks a lot for the game+interview combo, it was very pleasing, and the RPS fanfic was awesome. Hope you’ll get to make more of them for RPS!

      It’s not hard to find the secret content. Now I also get Quinns’ line about Rab liking inklewriter.

    • Arvind says:

      I played the interview in all 3 different orders of wine, but I don’t think I’ve found the extra bonus/RPS fanfic. Any help would be great.

      • Fede says:

        Keeping it a big vague: search for a link where there should be none.

        If you’d like to know when (in which page) it is visible, rot13 this: vg’f ng gur raq

        • Paul B says:

          Thanks fede – I finally found it after your clue and it was worth the effort.

          (And I found out what rot13 is – thanks fede & wikipedia)
          Extra Hint (Rot13): gur raq bs gur yvar?

  6. liance says:

    Phonogram meets Kieron Gillen meets the Gods of Interactive Fiction meets Rock Paper Shotgun.

    This is why I am in love with this site.

  7. Ricc says:

    That was great! Really enjoyed the “RPS fanfic”. :) It fits the interviews so well. Also the extra content is very much worth looking for. Interesting stuff.

    • Paul B says:

      Indeed, have to agree that this was excellent, and interviewing IF writers in their own format, while doing RPS fan-service – great!

      Now I just want a John Walker simulator so I can learn to love adventure games and know what it’s like to be a terrible healer.

      • Carachan1 says:

        WalkerSim: An Adventure Game. You negotiate cups of tea and other adventure games whilst attempting to write readable sentences in between your cat stepping on the keyboard

        *downloads Adventure Game Studio*

  8. Faldrath says:

    This was brilliant. Thank you for making a chilly, rainy Monday morning much more bearable!

  9. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    That took a bit of time to read, but it was worth it.

    I did find a bug, I think. When you drink the Red Eye last, then punch Quinns and then request a new drink, you get stuck.

    • Carachan1 says:

      Ah! It’s because I haven’t put a condition in to check whether you have been through all 3. Thanks for that!

      • Carachan1 says:

        John is currently working some magic with html to put my fix in for you.

  10. Mbaya says:

    I won’t lie, I’m not quite sure what I just experienced – but I really enjoyed it.

    That was quite simply brilliant and engaging, also for a moment, I’m pretty sure I had breasts.

    Borderlands can wait…I’m off to check out the Choose Your Own Anna Anthropy interview I’ve previously overlooked.

  11. TheGoddamn says:

    That was incredible. Makes me want to fire up HTML TADS and WinFrotz and play. I am reminded of why RPS is on my speed dial. Thank you.

  12. Keith Nemitz says:

    Yea! More IF goodness. The underdog is still looking for his super energy pill, but this has a nice ring. Thanks for the extra effort, Cara. I just spent three years discovering the difference between writing and writing IF, five times the work for twice the prose.

    Also, if IF is where writing meets games, then 7 Grand Steps is where IF meets games. You can ask Adam what I mean, or check your inbox. I’ll mail the invite to you.

    Power to the writing peoples!

  13. tossrStu says:

    If anyone else is having trouble reading this on a tiddly 1366×768 laptop display (the taller-than-the-screen iframe that the interview is in makes reading it a pain in the bum because you have to scroll both the screen and the frame to get to the bottom of each entry), hop over to here to read it: link to rockpapershotgun.com

  14. Robert Yang says:

    Seems pointless to include another option alongside “punch Quinns” because won’t EVERYONE just choose “punch Quinns”?

  15. Zwebbie says:

    This is a great interview, thank you, Cara. It’s a tad problematic in that you can’t go back and search for quotes as easily as you would in normal text, but it is fun.

    On the subject itself: I find myself in a situation similar to the one Adam Cadre mentions on Why would IF not be enjoyable to play?, in that I can’t really get into a piece of IF. I get why they’re great, but there’s something about the method of interaction that doesn’t work; you’re tasked with creatively coming up with something, without guidance. An answer is either possible, or it isn’t, it’s success or fail, but it doesn’t allow for a nudge in the right direction or a sub-optimal result, which means that you simply spend a lot of time guessing at the way the author thinks and how IFs are supposed to work.

    For example, I gave Emily Short’s Galatea a try a while ago and didn’t get very far. I felt completely lost and didn’t really know what to do, or ever felt that I went in a direction. I played that same author’s Bee just tonight, and enjoyed it a lot. The difference is that one is Interactive Fiction and the other is Choose Your Own Adventure. The latter’s much more comfortable. I’ve read a Let’s Play of Galatea and it’s definitely as fascinating (though an LP kind of misses the point of Interactive Fiction and doesn’t work as well, I imagine), but it’s just hard to interact with.

    Now you could argue that while CYOA gives you responsibility, it doesn’t require creativity. Or you could argue that it’s a learning process, since these games (if they are that) are written for a small community with its own methods, and that I just need to learn to ‘speak their language.’ But Adam Cadre mentions a similar problem playing with IF and he is undoubtedly creative and well versed in the language of IF. So I’m tempted to just label the entire genre as ‘not for me’ and instead keep a closer eye on CYOA. Whether that’d be the right thing to do, I’m not sure.

    Lastly, having read the Emily Short part of the interview and its heavy focus on CYOA and related software, I can’t help but wonder if there might be a link with Visual Novels. Both IF and CYOA can, in my experience, be easily coded in Ren’Py (albeit a bit more unwieldy than the fancy software mentioned in the interview, but that still appears to me to be the easier part compared to actually writing) and the visual element could open up new doors for some kinds of CYOAs. Not that a VN would be inherently better, but maybe there’s a relationship between CYOA and VN similar to the one between books and films? Analogue: a hate story can already be said to tread a middle ground between the two.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      I think there are now three or even four companies selling CYOA style RPG games for iOS. My favorite is, ChoiceOfGames.com. Their games can be played in your browser on their site, for free. They also support Kindle and I think the Android store.

      It’s mainstream vs. core players. Parser games can be very frustrating but more rewarding. At MolyJam, I released a CYOA style game engine that is intended to be as easy to use as a text editor. Three IF games shipped that weekend, using the Mischief Engine.

      link to whatwouldmolydeux.com
      check out: ‘Cardboard Baby’, ‘10000 MPH Racecar’, and ‘Twenty Two Cans’.

      No links yet to the engine itself, I’m buried under my ‘bring cash home’ game development. I’ll release the engine again, when I can fix two bugs, add one feature, and rewrite the documentation.

    • bloomer_au says:

      Re: parser games. It’s worth pointing out most of the examples mentioned here aren’t recent games (Eg Galatea is 12 years old, as well as being what is broadly called arty – it isn’t goal oriented. Adam Cadre said he stopped playing IF games years ago.) There have been lots of tech advances giving parser games the power to better understand and guide players during the past decade.

      It’s still up to authors to use such advances — so it’s still possible to write a game now that is no more scrutable than some games from the 90s, and that may be the default position for new authors for proficiency reasons. But as an example, if you grab the winning game from the Interactive Fiction Competition from either of the past couple of years (Aotorea (link to ifdb.tads.org) or Taco Fiction (link to ifdb.tads.org)) you’ll find they’re games that understand and behave with a lot more clarity than you might have expected based on experiences from the past. In other words, you’ve still got the puzzles, interaction and creativity, but they’re also more accessible and accomodate a lot more player commands, etc. This is an extension of the fact that this is now more possible than it was a decade ago.

      In the world of graphical games, people often do older games a disservice by considering something from 10 years ago as old hat. In IF, because on the surface it’s still words on a screen, it’s probably the other way around — it can be a disservice to not realise that there have been a lot of advances in the same space of time, or just that things are developing all the time.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Cheers to the both of you, Keith and bloomer. Now I don’t have any excuse not to at least dip my toes in once again, if I can find the time :) .

  16. sonofsanta says:

    That was lovely. Thank you.

    Does make me miss KG and Quinns all over again though. I eat a pineapple. /sobs