NarraScope 2020 took place online from May 28 to June 4, 2020.

All times shown are US Eastern time.

May 11 to May 25, 2020

Inform 7 Boot Camp
An online high-speed course taught by Judith Pintar.

May 25 to June 8, 2020

NarraScope Game Jam
Work alongside NarraScope attendees as a team, or individually, in the NarraScope Conference Game Jam.

Thursday (May 28, 2020)

  • 11:00 am11:50 am (US Eastern)
    Inform 7 and the Teaching of Writing
    Brendan Desilets   (Workshop)
    Inform 7 offers a long list of utilities that correspond, in useful ways, with tools that teachers use in working with the writing process. These include outliners, storyboarding tools, and aids for revising and editing. This presentation will explore Inform 7 as a tool for teaching the writing process. Participants will leave with practical assignments for making use of this unique tool.
  • 12:00 noon12:50 pm (US Eastern)
    Inform 7 Update
    Graham Nelson   (Seminar)
    What’s been going on with Inform since our last NarraScope discussion?
  • 1:00 pm1:50 pm (US Eastern)
    Tips and Tricks for Teaching an Interactive Fiction Course
    Mike Spivey   (Workshop)
    In this session we’ll share ideas for teaching a course on interactive fiction. If you have a favorite IF assignment or activity, or even if you’ve tried something and it failed miserably, bring it! We’ll discuss it – and learn from each other. The session is suitable for everyone interested in the teaching of interactive fiction, from veteran instructors to those who have never taught IF before.
    ( Slides )
  • 2:00 pm2:50 pm (US Eastern)
    Literature as Game
    William Gillespie   (Workshop)
    When Emily Short reviewed the hypertext novel The Unknown, which I was sure was literature and not a game, as if it were a game, it opened a door for me. In this workshop we’ll approach the novel as if it were a game and talk about what the novel-as-game can teach us about literary game design.
  • 3:00 pm3:50 pm (US Eastern)
    Procedural Play with Tracery
    Anastasia Salter   (Workshop)
    Kate Compton’s feminist, crafty JavaScript library Tracery is an easy way to get started with procedural generation, from poetic grammars to graphic meme-generators. As an open source library, it can also be brought into other tools for creating interactive fiction, including Twine. In this short workshop, we’ll learn the basics of using Tracery’s models of rules and substitutions to deploy poetic Twitter bots using the “Cheap Bots Done Quick” platform created by v buckenham.
  • 4:00 pm4:50 pm (US Eastern)
    Terrifically Awkward: Games To Teach Social Emotional Learning
    Matthew Farber   (Workshop)
    Can games and play work together to solve pressing societal needs? Early research suggests that it can! In this session we will play and discuss Tiltfactor Laboratory’s Awkward Moment, a party card game for middle school age kids and older. Players gather a hand of reactions cards and together debate silly, embarrassing, or stressful event cards. We will then use the game – and meta-discussion – to construct interactive fiction.
  • 5:00 pm7:00 pm (US Eastern)
    Chapbook: Coding, Debugging, and Pretty Pictures
    Chris Klimas, Stuart Moulthrop   (Seminar)
    This workshop will demonstrate some intermediate-level features of the Chapbook story format for Twine: mixing JavaScript in with regular Chapbook code, working with Chapbook’s debugging tools, and incorporating multimedia. We won’t get too technical, however. If you’ve used other Twine story formats like Harlowe and SugarCube but are curious what Chapbook is about, this workshop will be a great way to learn.

Friday (May 29, 2020)

Saturday (May 30, 2020)

Sunday (May 31, 2020)

  • 12:30 pm1:30 pm (US Eastern)
    The Adventure with a Thousand Faces
    Scott M. Bruner, Kris Purzycki, David Stanley, Sarah Stanley   (60m)
    The legacy of the first work of interactive fiction, Will Crowther’s 1976 Colossal Cave Adventure, can be found in nearly every work of contemporary digital narrative. We will examine classic and contemporary digital texts which have translated, interpreted, and even updated the ideas, aesthetic, and experiences of Crowther’s original work.
    ( Video )
  • 1:45 pm2:45 pm (US Eastern)
    Say What?: Bringing Narrative to Life with Voice Over
    Ivy Dupler   (30m)
    What creators need to know about all things voice over, from crafting readable dialogue to directing the best possible performances. Whether you’re curious about adding VO to your projects or consider yourself a voice over veteran, we’ll go over what a narrative designer should keep in mind.
    ( Video )
    Characters and Automata
    Mark Bernstein   (30m)
    Characters in games are constructed jointly by the writer and the player. We will explore approaches to joint creation of meaningful characterization ransacked from literary machines from the William Wallace Cook’s novel-writing automaton to Punchdrunk’s interactive drama, from recent figurative painting and sculpture, from hypertext theory to narrativist tabletop games.
  • 3:00 pm4:00 pm (US Eastern)
    An Hour With the IFTF Board of Directors
    Jason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin, Judith Pintar, Chris Klimas, Liza Daly   (60m)
    The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation is the charitable nonprofit that acts as the parent organization for NarraScope, IFComp, the Twine project, and lots of other IF goodness. We’ll talk about our year and then open the floor to discussion.
    ( Video )
  • 4:15 pm5:15 pm (US Eastern)
    Beyond Time: Adapting Film’s Techniques for Nonlinear Stories
    Nathan Savant   (60m)
    Interactive and Linear narrative are fundamentally different, yet film is well-explored and full of lessons to learn. By scrutinizing Pixar’s throughlines concept, we can find a way to tell stories in games that works with, rather than against, game design.
  • 5:30 pm6:30 pm (US Eastern)
    The Geometries of Non-Linear Games
    Dave Pickett   (60m)
    Games are increasingly non-linear. But what shapes are they, exactly? The popular discourse around games fails to distinguish between the wide variety of structures encompassed by the blanket term “non-linear.” We’ll discuss why Mega Man is a downward triangle but Mario 64 is an upward triangle; why Breath of the Wild is a jellyfish accordion; the difference between cul-de-sacs, branching, and progress shuffling.
    ( Video , slides )

Monday (June 1, 2020)

Tuesday (June 2, 2020)

  • 12:30 pm1:30 pm (US Eastern)
    The Quad Game: Collaborative Narrative Design in a Massive Multi-authored IF Sandbox
    Judith Pintar   (60m)
    The Quad Game is a collaborative IF initiated five years ago in Judith Pintar’s “Programming and Design of Interactive Fiction” course at the University of Illinois. Now 100 authors and 250,000 words of code later, this Inform 7 “sandbox” has 700 rooms, 1400 items, 200 people, and 50+ endings. We’ll discuss insights gleaned from throwing students into this sandbox to learn Inform 7. Then you are invited to contribute to the coding of the Narrascope edition of the Quad Game. (The speaker chose to use their time to instead address current events.)
    ( Video )
  • 1:45 pm2:45 pm (US Eastern)
    Multiple Role-Playing Groups in a Shared Campaign World
    Sam Sorensen   (30m)
    Why (and how) would one run multiple groups of roleplaying game players within the same game world? Lessons from three different months-long campaigns in a variety of formats.
    ( Video )
    Just Enough Cooks in the Kitchen: Managing an Anthology game with 25 Writers
    Johnnemann Nordhagen, Laura Michet   (30m)
    Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative game with an unusual writing process. We took an anthology approach, drafting fifteen different writers for our characters, and another group for other, smaller stories. We’ll explore how and why we did this.
    ( Video )
  • 3:00 pm4:00 pm (US Eastern)
    Visual Storytelling in Immersive Reality
    Matthue Roth   (60m)
    In games like BioShock and Half-Life 2, most storytelling doesn’t happen with words. Graphic design, sound design, environmental architecture and experiential cues put the player in the space, tell the story, and teach users to play the game. But augmented reality introduces users to a new world every time they start a new play session. How does the traditional game vocabulary transfer to augmented reality experiences?
    ( Video )
  • 4:15 pm5:15 pm (US Eastern)
    Lingua Vitae: A Narrative VR Game that Teaches Latin
    Brian Beams, JooYeon Christina Ri, Lissa Crofton-Sleigh   (30m)
    We present Lingua Vitae, a virtual reality interactive fiction project that takes place in ancient Rome in which all dialogue is in conversational Latin. We’ll show our findings from the first round of user testing and discuss the future of this project.
    ( Video )
    Caves of Qud: A Decade of Worldbuilding
    Jason Grinblat   (30m)
    Caves of Qud is an ambitious project, an expansive open-world roguelike that weaves a handwritten narrative through an array of physical, social, and historical simulations. It’s also been in development for over ten years. In this talk, co-creator Jason Grinblat shares what it’s like to spend a decade worldbuilding for a single game. He discusses his working relationship with two unexpected collaborators introduced to him by the passage of time: his prior self and the game’s active player community. The former, a nascent systems and narrative designer, worked intuitively and made choices (mistakes?) that today’s Jason must reckon with, including the design of a combat-centric core loop that often grinds against the game’s narrative goals. The latter—Qud’s active community—has helped define the soul of the game, spawning fan fiction that’s turned into canon, calling attention to latent themes like bodily autonomy, and organizing into a vibrant, inclusive community on Discord with an explicitly antifascist moderating position. Jason elucidates the unique challenges and joys of nurturing a world through the unusual medium of longform game development.
    ( Video , slides )
  • 5:30 pm6:30 pm (US Eastern)
    Cast Thyself: Role Playing Without a Role
    Jessica Creane   (60m)
    An unwritten rule in immersive theater states that creators must “cast” the audience. However, rules are meant to be broken. When does it make sense not to cast participants as someone other than themselves? (The speaker chose to postpone their talk.)
    ( Slide )

Wednesday (June 3, 2020)

  • 12:30 pm1:30 pm (US Eastern)
    Writing the Never-Ending Story (Without Burning Out)
    Rebecca Harwick   (60m)
    The games-as-service world can be a scary prospect for writers and narrative designers, but it doesn’t have to be. Like other serialized media before them, narrative has a key role to play in keeping players engaged in games for years at a time. We’ll share insights into how to create hit serialized story-driven games without burning out or losing your creative spark.
    ( Video )
  • 1:45 pm2:45 pm (US Eastern)
    Making Storylets Work For You: How to Build a Quality-Based Narrative
    Josh Grams, Cat Manning   (60m)
    Quality-based narrative is a surprisingly common technique in narrative design: some designers use it without realizing that’s what they’re doing. This enormously versatile model offers many advantages, but leveraging those advantages can be difficult. We’ll briefly explain the storylet-based architecture, and then illustrate one possible method for constructing such a system in Twine.
  • 3:00 pm4:00 pm (US Eastern)
    More Choices is Not Better: Advantages of Linear Storytelling
    Sisi Jiang   (60m)
    There’s a common assumption that player choices define “play”, and that linear experiences without choices are not games at all. We’ll make the case that linear narrative creates unique opportunities for games to tell stories.
    ( Video )
  • 4:15 pm5:15 pm (US Eastern)
    Machines for Getting Lost on Purpose: Kentucky Route Zero and the Future(s) of Adventure
    Aaron A. Reed   (60m)
    The recently-completed KRZ revels in, reinvents, and reimagines the tropes of classic adventure games. We’ll walk through some of the game’s deepest cuts, tracing the references and callbacks you may have missed. But we’ll also tackle the game’s overall message across all its acts and interludes, considering its centering of stories about outsiders, its embrace of technologies that can be hacked, modified, and repurposed, and the roles that choice, agency, and simulation should play in IF.
    ( Video )
  • 5:30 pm6:30 pm (US Eastern)
    They Like to Watch: Embracing Interactive Fiction as a Spectator Sport
    Michael Andersen   (60m)
    Alternate reality games excel at creating intensely personal moments for its most active players that become a compelling story for the broader audience. But other branches of IF are also exploring the subject. How are video games, escape rooms, ARGs, and LARPs designing experiences that treat their active players as only part of their audience, and why is that essential for the expansion of the space?
    ( Video , slides )

Thursday (June 4, 2020)

  • 12:30 pm1:30 pm (US Eastern)
    Building Narrative Chat
    Doug Valenta   (60m)
    For the past two years, I’ve been developing Mote, a real-time storytelling platform based on a new technology we call narrative chat. I’ll explain what narrative chat is and why we created it, dive into how the technology works, and offer my perspective on the future of text-based interactive and parametric narrative technology.
    ( Video )
  • 1:45 pm2:45 pm (US Eastern)
    The Differences Between Writing Voiced and Non-Voiced Dialogue
    Jedidjah Julia Noomen   (60m)
    Screenwriters are used to writing dialogue for actors. Comic writers will just see their words on the page. And the game writer? The game writer can do both. How does your perspective shift when you switch from one to the other?
    ( Video )
  • 3:00 pm4:00 pm (US Eastern)
    Wandering Games
    Melissa Kagen   (60m)
    The term “walking simulator” originated as a derogatory sneer, intended to denigrate games that were less violent, less task-oriented, or less difficult to complete. But what began as an insult has, in the last decade, become a catch-all term for games that are simply interested in alternative modes of expression and alternate considerations of embodiment, environment, orientation, and community. We’ll look at these games through the lens of wandering.
    ( Video )
  • 4:15 pm5:15 pm (US Eastern)
    NarraScope committee   (60m)
    Comments, feedback, goodbyes.
    ( Video )