m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

The Gamebook Adventurer posted yesterday about how to combine Four Against Darkness with Dungeons & Dragons: Four Against Dungeons & Dragons.

The Pyxis Memo: A Hyperstory

I joined a few interactive fiction discords recently, and in the most promising one I scrolled back to a discussion of a blog post about yet another inapt term for interactive fiction: storygames. If only, I thought, there were a good name for this genre. I thought about it for a minute and hyperstory occurred to me. It was a tougher nut to google than I expected because there’s a band of the same name.

But several pages in, I found a kindred soul, Lyle Skains, who also calls them hyperstories. He’s an academic who studies digital fiction, but has also written two of his own. I read and enjoyed both, although they’re a bit hypertexty for my tastes. (I suppose I was hoping hyperstory would have more plot than hypertext; nevertheless I’ve updated my blog post on the state of hyperfiction to include it in my glossary of gamebook synonyms.)

“The Futographer”, the first story, has a bit more of a (Twilight Zone-style) plot to it; I can’t say much about it without spoiling that, other than I liked it very much, but it’s still hypertextual enough that I’m not sure whether I read the whole thing.

“The Pyxis Memo: On Resurrecting the Free Web” is more plotless exploration of a hypertextual space, and, while spoilers are still spoilers, it feels less violated by spoiling. So consider this your spoiler warning; to avoid spoilers stop reading here.

So, “The Pyxis Memo” tells the tale of the last great shitposters through a postulated partial archive of the Internet of their day. The interim government of a post-collapse United States is debating restoring the equally-collapsed Internet. This frame story is quite negative about the Internet, while the archives through which the reader wanders are more ambiguous: Did a highly-contagious Bolivian coronavirus outbreak actually reach the US? Did the CDC report it in their usual technobabbly way, or did they cover it up? Or is the entire story fake news?

The implication is that the Trump administration nuked several allegedly-infected cities (because why else would they nuke American cities?). Did they fall for the hoax or is the nuking itself just more fake news? Can we trust this “archive” assembled by the interim government, or are they just stacking the deck against the Internet with a fake story of shitposter-induced Armageddon?

To be honest, I’m not sure I was supposed to get the extra meta level of fake news out of the story, but I happened to find the shitposters the fakest part of the story—not that they wouldn’t try such a trick, but that it would somehow cause the collapse of the US without the actual 90% fatality rate of the alleged epidemic. Much of the ambiguity of the story comes from hiding facts well-known to the survivors, like whether 90% of the population actually died immediately of a fast-moving coronavirus, or suffered more slowly from societal collapse (whether I find that collapse feasible or not).

The conversion to an ebook was mostly successful, but there are some CDC case studies in the story that suffer from a lack of formatting. Since they’re significant to the truth or fakeness of the epidemic, the formatting issues are particularly unfortunate, although not actually unnavigable.

Myrmex 1.3.1

Myrmex, one of my JavaScript implementations of solitaire games for the Decktet, suffers from an iOS 11.3 scrolling bug that’s going around all the drag-and-drop libraries. I’ve done a bit of hacking around the issue for the moment and made a beta version 1.3.1 for anyone actually having issues. (You’d know it immediately if you were.)

The reason it’s only in beta is that the hack will break older browsers in the process of fixing newer ones, and there’s still some hope that Apple will fix the bug on their end.

One Hundred Escapes from the Crypt: A Gamebook Adventurer Adventure

I’ve been following a new gamebook blog, The Life & Times of a Gamebook Adventurer, via RSS, of course, so when I tried to google him I came up with Gamebook Adventures instead, and that turned out to really be Tin Man Games. After a short detour into their humble bundles, I got back to the blog and its review of a new paperback gamebook, Escape from the Crypt, a short Fighting-Fantasy style RPG adventure of only 100 paragraphs.

Googling it, I found that Amazon really, really wanted to sell me the Kindle version instead. At first I thought it was because I’m not in the UK, but I later came to the conclusion that the books have somehow become separated from each other and the paperback doesn’t know to list the Kindle as a second format, nor vice versa.

I was going to leave the reviewing to the doughty Gamebook Adventurer and only peek at the Amazon previews to scope out the technology as I have before, but I screeched to halt at the second sentence of paragraph 1:

How long was it until your fellow captive lay his final breath unto the world.

Neither the grammar nor the punctuation improves in the rest of paragraph 1, but Gamebook Adventurer assures me that the descriptions are lively and engaging enough. Sadly I don’t have my Kindle Unlimited trial any longer so I can’t verify that the paragraph numbers (the standard in gamebooks of the RPG adventure sort) are actually linked. They do seem to be trying, if failing, to be links in the previews. As the Kindle version of the book has no reviews, I admit I’m a little dubious about it.

I skimmed along to “paragraph” 9, which, perhaps as part of the effort to hold the paragraph count to 100 includes a lot of italicized internal logic about rolling for luck and only having to fight the monster(s) at the end of the “paragraph” if your luck fails. The battle itself is also heavy with internal logic. While I’ve seen short sections of such logic in old gamebooks, paragraph 9 seems a pretty extreme example of the approach, and is begging to be separated into more paragraphs for simplicity’s sake.

Note that book 1 is not the first book of this gamebook series; volume 0, The Last Evil, is a more united paperback/kindle apocalyptic adventure that’s right up my alley but as yet unreviewed. A third volume (#2), The Crypt of the Vampire, is planned for July (in Kindle format only so far):

Paloma 1.1.1

A couple of NaNoWriMos ago I mentioned that I’d made a Twine 2 replacement for the popular scrolling/stretchtext story format Jonah from Twine 1. I didn’t port Jonah itself; instead I based Paloma on Chris Klimas' minimalist Twine 2 story format Snowman. At the time I also threatened to backport Paloma to Twine 1, which I apparently did soon afterwards, as well as tossing in some special passages (versions 1.0.1 and 1.1.0).

Today’s version, 1.1.1, fixes an iPhone < 6 issue involving tiny fonts on tiny screens.