Going Nonlinear: Like Going Green, but with Words

DavidThis article was written for us by Kyle Richardson, an avid gamer and writer who enjoys finding ways to mix those passions with his latest love: mobile tech.

Hostorical text

How do we make a leaner, greener, collaborative-friendly environment for creative writers? Let’s see how the text-based adventure does it with nonlinearity.

Historically, text-based adventures took the form of novels, allowing the reader to get involved with a number of voices and spaces uninhabitable in reality. With the advent of fantasy and science fiction coupled with gaming mechanics, the text-based adventure game was born. In the context of the digital age where user choice is paramount to success, what was ultimately downing about these novels? Linearity.

The Nonlinear Track

Going nonlinear with a story can be met with both approval and disapproval publicly. But then again, so can any feature. So how do we keep player enthusiasm and replay value up when thinking of nonlinear story bases to pursue? Easy: take away the graphics and keep the story on the screen, in text, and available for modification by absolutely any user, within a few guided rules for the common good.

Going nonlinear is a lot like going green in the sustainable/persistent world context. For instance, with a play-by-post environment, players create and sustain their characters through a series of undetermined encounters and outcomes. After all, brains are still better for this kind of thing than computers.

PenMimesis Can Spell Linear Destruction

Software, particularly in the gaming context, has forever mimicked the greatest of historical linear text adventures (read: novels) to the liking of public. God of War, the Final Fantasy franchise, and even down to Intercasino‘s slot games (namely Gulliver’s Travels and 20,000 Leagues) have made use of historical texts to fuel present-gen play. While all are visually striking and pose unique challenges, none creates the open-ended inspiration of the original texts in a nonlinear way.

From the perspective of the persistent, these stories have spelled their own deaths by linear progression. In order to evade this kind of regression, it’s important to keep avid writers in check and in tune with the nuances of the universe in which they write, which means empathizing with their creative needs without compromising the integrity of the universe’s ongoing life.

rulesMay the Rules be Your Guide

Generating rules for the greater good of sustainability is a writer-centric process. Aiming to support instead of hinder the progress of the role-playing game requires that the creator of the universe be fluent in writer empathy.

Negating the god-character and sticking to a single point of view for consistency is only the tip of the iceberg. For instance, dice rolls for random outcomes are generally done through a single program, with the writers not left to their own devices and biases to push advantage in their own character’s direction.

Finally, a play-by-post per its nature requires? Posts! Therefore, a guiding mechanic for any creator ought to be the number of posts required per week per character in order to keep the world persistent and updated, with a life and ecology of its own in which to flourish.

At its very core, the text is the weapon and the shield in these role-playing games. They rely on guiding rules with open-ended writing in mind to form the nonlinear environment in which all characters virtually live. A safe, green environment for healthy writing exercises is the result of the nonlinear efforts, so make sure you keep it nonlinear in order to best go green with your newest persistent world ideas!

This article was written for by Kyle Richardson, an avid gamer and writer who enjoys finding ways to mix those passions with his latest love: mobile tech.

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David Ball

David is a web developer, and the creator of OngoingWorlds