Blue Lacuna: Lessons Learned Writing the World's Longest Interactive Fiction

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Blue Lacuna is an ambitious new long form interactive fiction comprising nearly 400,000 words of prose and natural language source code. The longest work yet produced in the Inform 7 language, it is also among the most substantial text-based story games in existence, an interactive novel with an average play time of fifteen to twenty hours. In development between 2006 and 2009, Blue Lacuna features several experiments of interest to creators of long-form interactive stories. This paper describes these experiments and performs an anecdotal post-mortem on what succeeded and failed in the project's realization. I focus on how successful I was at achieving my three principal goals: 1) simplifying the IF interface so those unfamiliar with the medium can easily participate, 2) telling a story which revolves around the player's ability to make choices with real dramatic repercussions, and 3) creating a character able to form a complex relationship with the player across the span of a novel-length story. Among the mechanics discussed are Blue Lacuna's streamlined keyword-based system for entering commands, its attempts to match a much broader range of input styles than traditional IF, and various techniques to adapt the story to include the player's narrative goals, such as tracking which character the player thinks the story is about. I'll also discuss the design of the story's central character, a mentally unstable castaway named Progue, who evolves into one of twelve archetypes (such as friend, mentor, lover, or sycophant) based on the way the player treats him during 70 potential scenes across ten chapters of story.

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Title Developers Year initiated
Inform 1995
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Record posted by: 
Audun Andreassen