Cyberpunk ChoiceScript Game

Posted Oct. 16, 2014, 7:48 a.m.

My interest was sparked while listening to one of the back episodes of The Game Design Round Table, which was an interview with a guy named Dan Fabulich. He started a company called Choice of Games based on the popularity of a computer-driven Choose Your Own Adventure story he had thrown on a server a while back. From that he created a markup language called ChoiceScript that lets you easily branch stories and track variables. This made me very excited.

In second grade I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books - I used to write them in class when I should have been listening to the teacher drill us on vocabulary. I remember one of them was based on Secret of Mana, the latest and greatest SNES game to hit my TV. That one had a sort of inventory, where you'd find potions in the tall grass and keep track of them with tokens. Later in the story you could use your potions to allow for certain choices that you couldn't otherwise make. The writing was terrible, but I was always proud of what I saw as a crazy innovation in story branching. Now with ChoiceScript it looks like the game can track and display these variables for you. Listening to Dan Fabulich talk about why he views this particular vein of interactive fiction as under-explored and still vital made me want to write a ChoiceScript game of my own.

Looking at my Big List of Game Ideas, I've realized that a lot of them are meta-systems - ones that need an underlying game to make sense and are hard to test on their own. I tend to see something that annoys me about a game and wonder how it could be different - more interesting, more real, more whatever - but it's often not the core of the experience. My idea for the Secrets and Promises campaign for Shadowrun Returns was similar. Most of the interaction with the systems I proposed were through dialogue, and the dialogue editor for that engine was a bit unwieldy. I tried to pare down the complexity by using a dialogue extension in Stencyl, but was having trouble tracking the variables I needed to make it work. Then I realized that ChoiceScript would be an even simpler way to try out the Secrets and Promises concept - just text and variables. To be fair Twine would also work, but I found the syntax of ChoiceScript a little easier on the eye.

As far as the cyberpunk setting for the original Secrets and Promises mockup goes, I think I'll keep it. Of the story genres that have been told on Choice of Games' site, cyberpunk is one of the few that is missing. The tone of cyberpunk has always spoken to me on some level as well... Writing a game/story in generic cyberpunk will allow me to focus entirely on hacking and cybercrime - I'm thinking something like Netrunner the Choose Your Own Adventure game.

While I'll still be Stencyling games about magic and swordplay and pantheons of gods, I'll also be using ChoiceScript to work on my story design - something hard to get much practice with from game jams alone.