For August’s Patreon game, I wanted to do an interactive fiction game. Reasons were twofold: I know how to write, so it would at least be presentable; I wanted to try Inkle. Inkle was used for some great games, most notably 80 Days. It can be used both as a standalone tool or be integrated into existing games or engines (for example, with its official Unity plug-in). I used the web version, which also lets you share your stories with other people easily, without needing to host the files anywhere in particular. Probably the most common comparison has been with Twine. Twine feels like it’s more manageable for stories with a lot of branching, while Inkle’s strength seems to be adding different variations of a similar path.
For the game’s story, I wanted to use my novella, The Ring of Void, but rather than just port an existing story, I had another one in mind. The “Embers” story was initially meant to be in a PC98-styled adventure game I had planned but never been able to do. The premise was simple: you go to investigate a haunting, and you have the choice to find out as much as you want about it. There was no good or bad way of going about it, since you play a character who banishes spirits for a living, so whether he hears yet another sordid tale doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Or it does, if the player decides so.
Because Inkle generates a map on its own, unless you neatly structure your paragraphs, you end up with my nightmare above. My story is structured in the following way:
As you can see, the idea is that you can just go through the meat, but there’s optional content that does affect the outcome and does affect how you perceive the story. How Inkle does this is by letting you mark every paragraph you want with a “marker”. Then, you can make any dialog option or any other paragraph a conditional of said marker. So, you can say “Only display this if player reached this marker.” You can also remove markers the player has reached or add counters. This works well if your player has something in his inventory that he loses, or if you want them to have a certain number of things. I used the latter function in one section to show that the player has exhausted all questions. Each question asked adds a +1 to the question counter, and when it’s at max, you won’t say “I have more questions” > “That is all”. Markers also help to avoid you repeating the same questions over and over and being stuck in a loop.
In general, Inkle was easy to use and get into. I think it’s more powerful if you try to make a story with it in mind, rather than having an already planned story and trying to adapt it to Inkle. Having a pre-existing story will still work, but Inkle won’t really shine.
You can play “The Ring of Void: Embers” on the following link: https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/zfdn
Please let me know of any issues or comments you may have on Twitter.
This also concludes my two-month Patreon project. Since I now have a full-time job, I will be focusing on that. Thank you all who contributed or spread the word on it.