Computer Approach to Narrative

Computer Approach to Narrative: Ren'py

Inspired by the music video Musical Fiction, a song about the song writing process, I created this Ren’py game called A Heart-broken Boy.

I basically follow the plot in the song when designing this dialogue-driven game: a lonely boy named Robert was heart-broken in a little bar because his girlfriend just broke up with him. What did he drink? Where did he go? And who did he encounter?

See the play-through below:

Computer Approach to Narrative: Inform 7 with Cinderella

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With Inform 7 I created this game named “How Cinderella become the mysterious princess”, a game that adapts the scenario of which Cinderella’s godmother asked her to get several things: a pumpkin from the garden, six mice and a fat rat from the mousetrap from the kitchen , and uses her magic wand, by a simple tap, to transform these items into a fancy coach, six horses and a coachman.

Source code could be found here.

But figuring out the logics of Inform 7 was very challenging. I have the plot now pauses at where Cinderella’s godmother has collected the elements she needs and give Cinderella a luxurious set of transportation tools and servants.


How Cinderella become the mysterious princess

An Interactive Fiction by Tong Wu

Release 1 / Serial number 180926 / Inform 7 build 6M62 (I6/v6.33 lib 6/12N) SD

Chamber

You are now in this spatial room. Your step-mom and two step-sisters were all dressed up and left you for the prince's party.

When their coach gradually disappeared in your sight, you starts to cry.

Look at yourself, bare feet, a dirty grey dress. How could you go to the ball like this?

Your godmother, who sees you all in tears, who was a fairy, asks you tenderly: "You wish that you could go to the ball; is it not so?"

"Yes," cries you, with a great sigh. "Well, " says godmother, "be but a good girl, and I will contrive that you shall go. Can you check around and bring me a pumpkin?"

In the room there is a door to the south, which lead to the garden. And the kitchen is north of the chamber.

>examine grey dress

A grey dress you've been given three years ago as a gift when you dad married this woman, which later become your servant uniform. It is full of patches since it has been mended many times. But it cannot hide your beautiful appearance.

>s

Garden

The garden is full of flowers and fruits. When you are young, your mom and you are always in the garden. She put you on her lap, sang you beautiful nersey rhyme. That's one of your sweetest memory you've always treasured.

A doorway east will give you a short cut to the kitchen. Don't bother going back to chamber to find the kitchen.

You can see a pumpkin patch (in which is pumpkins) here.

>examine pumpkin patch

Take pumpkins, as your godmother said.

In the pumpkin patch is pumpkins.

>take pumpkins

Bring it to the kitchen to see your godmother.

Taken.

>e

Kitchen

The kitchen is where you've been staying in for the past few years. Every day you wakes up before everyone in the house, and dedicately prepare breakfast for your families.

You god mother is now here. She is waiting for you to give her pumpkins.


You know every corner Inside the kitchen , including the mousetrap an old servant placed in the northeast corner.


A doorway south will bring you back to the chamber, or you could use the door you just came in that takes you to the west to the garden.

You can see a mousetrap (in which is six mices) here.

>give pumpkins

You gather the finest pumpkin you could get, and brought it to you godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could help you go to the ball.

Your godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind. Having done this, she struck the pumpkin with her wand, and it was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.

>examine mousetrap

There are six mices, all alive.

In the mousetrap is six mices.

>take mices

Taken.

>give mices

You so damn brave, girl. Your godmother gives each mouse, as it went out, a little tap with her wand, and the mouse is that moment turned into a fine horse, which altogether make a very fine set of six horses of a beautiful mouse colored dapple gray.

Being at a loss for a coachman, You said, "I will check the rat trap in the yard and see if there is not a rat that we can turn into a coachman." "You are right," replied her godmother, "Go and look using the door to the west."

>w

Yard

This is the exit of the house with beautiful lawn and a huge fountain.

You can see a rat trap (in which is three rats) here.

>examine rat trap

There are three huge rats inside the rat trap.

>catch rats

They just keep moving and screaming, make it hard to cath. But you manage to pick the one with the largest beard..

>give rats

The fairy choose the one which had the largest beard, touches him with her wand, and turned him into a fat, jolly coachman, who had the smartest whiskers that eyes ever beheld.

……

August 25, 1983

With the help of Twine, I adapted one of my favorite short stories, “August 25, 1983”, by Argentine short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges, into this interactive story project, “August 25”.

August 25, 1983 was the only Borges short story that uses date as its title. It’s about the meeting of two Borges: Borges of 61-year-old dreamed about that he visited the Hotel Las Delicias, accidentally ran into Borges of 84-year-old and observed his death.

The essence of the story is about “dream”. By repeatedly asking “who is dreaming about whom?” in the story, Borges creates time warp under a linear story structure. He purposely set up narrative traps inside a few suspicious keywords and hides the distorted story lines insides it. You could easily fall into these traps and get lost in his world.

The theme of the double has always been around Borges - in his short stories, non-fiction works or even inside he himself. He always tried to separate the public self from the non-public self and believe they are two people.

Therefore I adapted this short story by having two story lines going together: the 61-year-old “player” visited the Hotel Las Delicias, while the 84-year-old “player” went back to the apartment of Calle Maipé, and they ran into each other. There are several steps where, by choosing different way of answers to the question, you may switch from the 61-year-old to the 84-year-old, or vice versa. And you only notice the role change by figuring out the logics of the on-going conversation.

Twine Story Structure

Cautionary Tale for Chinese

Cautionary Tale for Chinese is a sarcastic tale generated with Tracery that features the terrible end of a Chinese who escaped from his socialistic reality and then ended up being eaten by decadent capitalism.

The tale was adapted from a 1907 children's book written by Hilaire Belloc called Cautionary Tales for Children: Designed for the Admonition of Children between the ages of eight and fourteen years. Besides the tale which I chose for this project, “Jim: Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion,” the book also includes other tales with similar structure and topics: "Henry King: Who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off in Dreadful agonies”, “Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death" and “Rebecca: Who slammed doors for fun and Perished miserably”.

The tales for children in this book have such a strong sense of disciplinary power, which keeps reminding me of the invisible surveillance and regulation from the government that I experienced when back in Shanghai this summer.

I keep the original structure of the tale as six paragraphs, and extract the key conflict of this story:

  1. “Jim” escaped from the protection of “nurse”, even though he was treated well and given lots of “good food”.

  2. “Jim” ran into a “lion”, he shouted out “words” to his “nurse”, but it was too late, and the “lion” ate him.

  3. “Jim”’s parents wasn’t too sad about their son’s death, because “Jim” wouldn’t do what he was told.

“Jim” - Here I replaced “Jim” with a collection of “Top 10 common Chinese names”

“nurse” - “Nurse” is a metaphor for something that provides protection/daily need while restricts the free will of Chinese people.

“lion” - “Lion” is the invader as well as the terminator to “Jim”’s life, which I interprets as cultural invasion. So I picked a few stereotypical cultural “invaders” to Chinese culture such as Hollywood movies, idea of LGBT equality, DINK, K-pop.

“good food” - The book The Global Trap gives this 20/80 theory, in which 20 percent of 21st century’s population keeps the economy going, while the rest 80 percent of frustrated citizens “happy with a mixture of deadeningly predictable, lowest common denominator entertainment for the soul and nourishment for the body.” These low cost entertainment is called “titty-tainment”, which is how I interpreted the metaphor of “good food” in this tale.

“words” - With his life threatened, “ Jim” finally realized his protection only comes from obeying his nurse, so he shouted out “help” to his “nurse.” Here I adapted the word “help” with the Core Socialist Value, which is a set of new official interpretations of Chinese propaganda about socialism promoted at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. Shouting out the “core value” has an explicit meaning of the ultimate surrender to his protector.