Creating: Adventure in Style and The Marble Index in Curveship

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I describe the process of writing and programming the first two full-scale interactive fiction pieces in the new system I have been developing, Curveship. These two pieces, Adventure in Style and The Marble Index, are meant, in part, to serve as examples for authors using this system. More importantly, though, they are initial explorations of the potential of Curveship and of the automation of narrative variation. They were also undertaken to help provide concrete system-building guidance as development of Curveship progressed toward a release. Adventure in Style is a port of the first interactive fiction, the 1976 Adventure by Will Crowther and Don Woods, which adds parametric variations in style that are inspired by Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style. The Marble Index simulates the experiences of a woman who, strangely disjointed in time and reality, finds herself visiting ordinary moments in the late twentieth century; the narration accentuates this character's disorientation and contributes to the literary effect of incidents. The system used to implement these pieces, Curveship, is an interactive fiction development system that provides a computational model of a physical world, as do existing state-of-the-art systems such as Inform and TADS. Curveship does something significant that other systems do not: It allows author/programmers to write programs that manipulate the telling of the story (the way actions are represented and items are described) as easily as the state of this simulated world can now be changed. It has been straightforward to simulate a character and to have that character move around and change the state of the world. In addition to this, Curveship provides for control over the narrator, who can speak as if present at the events or as if looking back on them; who can tell events out of order, creating flashbacks or narrating what happens by category; and who can focalize any character to relate the story from the perspective of that character’s knowledge and perceptions. While Curveship has functioned as a research system for several years and has been previously discussed from the standpoints of computer science, artificial intelligence, and narrative theory, this is the first discussion of specific full-scale pieces of interactive fiction implemented in the system and the first discussion of how the system supports and engages with particular literary, writerly goals.

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Audun Andreassen