What is our Cloak of Darkness?

The original Cloak of Darkness was a specification for a very simple interactive fiction (IF) world used to test various IF development systems. It’s scope is quite simple – it consists of just three rooms and three objects and can be completed in five or six moves.

Part 3 of my Inform 7 and Interactive Storytelling post didn’t definitively answer the question of Inform 7’s suitability for interactive storytelling so I ended with the following statement.

Now if we only had a Cloak of Darkness storyworld that someone could attempt to implement in Inform 7.

I wrote that sentence knowing full well that I was going to follow up with this post. Chris Conley got it right away and posted in the comments on my original post on the Phrontisterion Online site:

That is a really good idea. It’s worth asking what such a storyworld would feature. . . . I’d say a theoretical minimal storyworld needs to represent dramatic conflict, actions and reactions, and characters who act to further their goal. Something that can be completed quickly is good, but it also needs to unfold (and possibly end) in many different ways, because replayability [and] responsiveness to choices made is the strength of the medium.

You can read all of Chris’ comment here.

So what should our specification storyworld be? Here’s some initial ideas.

  • The Political Debate – Multiple characters on a single stage. A constrained language for political denial and deception. A moderator performs the function of Fate.
  • The Job Interview – Two characters on a single stage. Both the interviewer and the interviewee have the candidate’s resume as common ground for discussion plus each character can ask standard interview questions of the other.
  • The Talk Show – Multiple characters on a single stage. Guests on the show are asked about their pasts and their presents to get them to reveal things about themselves to garner audience approval and higher ratings. The commercial break is Fate.
  • Lost and Found – Multiple characters on multiple stages. Survivors of a shipwreck or an airplane crash must work together to survive in extreme situations – Lost, Robinson Crusoe, Cast Away, The Swiss Family Robinson, Lost in Space.
  • Let’s Shoot Johnny in the Head – Multiple characters on multiple stages (bedroom, living room, kitchen, basement). A group of people find themselves in the same house during the beginnings of a Night of the Living Dead style zombie apocalypse. You wouldn’t focus on gathering things (State of Decay) or shooting things (Left 4 Dead) but on getting consensus among the group so you can survive until morning (you can also try and force your will on others but then they might just band together and pitch you outside to be eaten). Fun for the whole family.

There were some good comments about this post on Phrontisterion Online.

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