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

Entwee/Enscree 1.1.1

I’ve bumped Entwee and Enscree, my Twee and Multimarkdown exporters for Twine (respectively), with a bug fix for buggy brackets (reported by AnotherRPGEnthusiast in the Discord). Unfortunately, bigger Twine bugs exist in proofing formats than the one I fixed, which make my changes rather academic at this point.

On the bright side, there’s a beta/preview of DotGraph as a Service that got rolled along with the above changes. The corresponding version of DotGraph isn’t out yet, but enterprising graphers can build it themselves off the dgaas branch in BitBucket, if they can’t wait.

Hyperfictionary

I was inspired by a reddit post about gamebook software to update my list of hyperfiction tools again, this time moving it from the old blog post into two freestanding pages: the thesaurus (and reading list) and the software list.

The most interesting software suggestion to me was gamebookformat, with its extensive handling of paragraph numbers for gamebooks. I’m curious whether randomizing paragraph numbers will feel right to a reader who’s used to manually-assembled gamebooks. I also stumbled across some Twine vaporware called Spiner whose goals look similar to those of my PrePub.

In Hypertext No One Can Hear You Click

I was googling around for a classic blog post about hyperfiction structure, and instead stumbled upon a six-year-old Wired story, Why No One Clicked On The Great Hypertext Story. It was appropriately pessimistic about the future of hyperfiction, but strangely wrong about the causes:

That future never happened. It turned out that nonlinear reading spaces had a problem: They were incredibly difficult to write.

Of course that’s not true; tools like Twine make hyperfiction easier to write today than it ever was in the paper-based heyday of gamebooks, and they were sprouting up everywhere at the time. The author goes into some technical detail about issues he experienced writing interactive non-fiction commercially, then makes up some random numbers about the amount of hyperfiction online—having apparently never heard of Twine:

At last count, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 trillion web pages, all connected through the axons and dendrites of hypertext. How many of those pages involve real nonlinear storytelling? Almost noneā€”the rounding error of a rounding error.

Everything on the internet is a rounding error, except possibly porn and kittens. If I had to make up an explanation for reading fads I didn’t understand particularly well, it would be precisely that it’s too easy to write hyperfiction now. People pick up Twine and immediately feel the need to add an inventory system and turn their story into a game—which then gets classified as a game rather than a non-linear story of the sort the author couldn’t find. You can’t tell from the outside what inventory systems lurk inside a game/book; most of the signals from paper days are gone, and there’s no good name for the genre itself—never mind for its fuzzy subcategories. The author’s problem is one of discovery: that you can’t find something easily doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; it means there’s no effective curation.

It reminds me of fanfiction. For reasons either legal or practical, most people don’t even attempt to monetize what they produce. There are few or no sales numbers, and people on the outside have no idea how much iceberg lies down there. But that doesn’t stop them from writing articles about how, e.g., fiction is dead.

Update

The failure of StoryNexus is a good example of the writing is easy, discovery is hard problem.

placekitten

Boskone 56

Boskone, New England’s longest-running science fiction and fantasy convention, begins tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, with an afternoon slate of free programming and gaming. As usual, you can find out more about Boskone at The Boskone Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and the Boskone website.

I’m on the schedule again this Boskone, where I’ll be talking about games, interactive fiction, free will, and Star Trek.

Correlation Causation

Because it’s intimately linked to BoardGameGeek data, yet another blog post appears only in my BGG blog, 40 Graphs. Post #2 is about a BGG correlation tool.

Pnut Botter Talks Back

Yesterday I made a little bot (Twiki) with a glitch back end (pnut-botter); today he learned to reply to mentions.

pnut botter

I made a little bot (Twiki) with a glitch back end (pnut-botter) for the most recent pnut.io hackathon:

40 Graphs

Because it’s intimately linked to BoardGameGeek data, my latest blog post is in my BGG blog, 40 Graphs. It is an inaugural post about counting the games I played in 2018.

I have a little G. K. Chesterton page with quotes that I first put online back before many of the people his quotes apply to today were even born. But then, he said them long before I was born, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at his staying power. I just didn’t expect him to become more relevant, and to find myself quoting him even more frequently:

I’m still a liberal. It’s those people who aren’t liberals.

Clan Correction

During NaNoWriMo 2013, I wrote a Random Family Tree Generator in order to auto-generate characters, and later expanded it in 2014. I opened it up this NaNoWriMo and immediately noticed a bug involving the clan dropdowns (for those humans and fantasy species with clans), which I never noticed before because I either go straight to my custom species or I use random clans—and which would never have happened if I had just started fresh on it with a framework rather than basing it on even older code. The bug is now fixed.

Kids' Choice

Publishers Weekly reports on a recent increase in Choose Your Own Adventure-style books, including some interactive graphic novels, on the market: Kids in Charge: Choose-Your-Fate Fiction Kicks into High Gear

Manuskript

I’m using Scrivener 3 with Scree this NaNoWriMo (and yes, I’m behind already), but I’ve always dreamed of a Scrivener with a plain-text backend. There are ways to work around Scrivener’s RTF file format, and it has features I can’t give up (yet), but I’m still taking a longing look at Manuskript, a Linux-first open source Scrivener-style editor that uses a plain-text file format.

Gentlemen, start your novels!

Horizontal Paloma

In response to a request on Discord, I’ve provided some user CSS and JavaScript for my Twine story format Paloma, a non-drop-in replacement for the popular Twine 1 stretchtext story format Jonah, to make it imitate Leon Arnott’s horizontally-scrolling Jonah variant Journal. (I also added Journal to the story format catalog.) I found the scrolling a bit too slow for my tastes, but dealing with that would probably mean some internal changes to the story format, or going the way Leon went with a separate story format (which, of course, I would have to name Palomar).

In any event, the fiddling uncovered some Twine 1 bugs in Paloma, probably having to do with the initial refactoring to make the same codebase handle Twine 1 and 2, and hence to a newly repaired version of Paloma: 1.1.2. Twine 2 users should be unaffected either way.

Sub-Q's Interactive Flash Love Jam

The announcement from Sub-Q includes two options, the actual game jam at itch.io, or a proposal option similar to their usual proposal submission process. The theme is love of any sort, and there’s a word limit: the interactive stories can present only 1000 words of content to the user.

I’m thinking of it as a flash fiction market on that account, and I’m hoping it also means that the usual structural requirements (or heavy-handed suggestions, if you prefer) one finds in hypertext markets like Sub-Q and Choice of Games won’t apply—so I may even submit. If you’re new to interactive fiction, they sound quite supportive and you should probably try it, too.

A Twine Story Format Catalog

Once again I underestimated the scope of work and created a catalog of Twine story formats that a wiser or more prescient me never would have.

Magnate Roller 1.3

I don’t think I announced the addition of Magnate Empire and other multiplayer Magnate rules to Magnate Roller (now backversioned to 1.2) when it happened. In further progress, Magnate Roller 1.3 also includes a dice deck option for fairer dice rolls.

Marooned!

Click Your Poison #5, MAROONED: Will YOU Endure Treachery and Survival on the High Seas? by James Schannep, is out! I’ve loaded it up in my Kindle, though right now I’m in the middle of reading a LitRPG novel where the main character just got gored to death by a dire bear, so I haven’t insta-died of exposure on a desert island yet. But I’m looking forward to many parched deaths to come, and to reading volume #4, SUPERPOWERED, as well.

BDO Recommendations from Reddit

Via reddit again: Today’s Big Dumb Object (BDO) non-story is a thread at Reddit about favorite BDOs. Some of the BDOs aren’t (e.g., Anathem) and others I haven’t read so I can’t vouch for their being actual BDOs (yet): Blame, Marrow!, The Architects of Hyperspace, The Stars Are Legion, The Expanse, Grand Central Arena, Confluence, Vast, Rogue Moon (an oldie), Dark Orbit, ShipStar (Larry Niven and Greg Benford), and Strata (Terry Prachett).

While contemplating my forthcoming updates to PrePub and how I would make a dead-tree version of an e-gamebook, I found an old LaTeX gamebook package. It doesn’t actually do that much, but then there’s not much to do and it’s always handy when someone else has already done it for you.