inkle's recent iOS release, Steve Jackson's Sorcery!, is a text-based game that tells a story and provides player choices entirely through words - using minimal art and no animation or cut-scenes. Despite this, it achieved 85%+ reviews on IGN, Kotaku and elsewhere, and reached the top 20 all-app iPad chart in both the US and the UK. Creating a commercial success in a genre usually perceived as either too retro or else too avant-garde for the mainstream required a tight focus on the strengths of working with text: versatility, modularity, fast iteration and expressiveness. Using examples from Sorcery!'s script, we will demonstrate how we built a game with two people in six months that has several thousand meaningful story-choices and no canned sequences.
Takeaways will include the practical advantages of textual storytelling and textual game input, colouring narrative vs. changing narrative - strategies for managing a game story with thousands of player choices, and a walk-through of the procedural generation used in Sorcery! to narrate some game combat on-the-fly.
This talk is intended for designers and narrative designers interested in text, and more broadly, those exploring the cost and benefits of working with branching narrative of any kind. No learning is assumed.