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Complicity: Building Interactive Narratives

Failbetter Games

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (BST)

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Event Details

A day-long masterclass from two distinctive experts in this growing field:

Alexis Kennedy, founder of Failbetter Games, the award-winning narrative engineering company (Echo Bazaar, Night Circus, Varytale)

Emily Short, interactive fiction legend and AAA games narrative consultant (Galatea, Savoir-Faire, Bronze, Inform 7 co-creator)

"Alexis was one of the very best speakers we’ve had here at BioWare. Clear, concise and candid." - Mike Laidlaw, Creative Director, Dragon Age Franchise

"Failbetter have shown a grasp and appreciation of the text which I have rarely seen in other creative agencies." - Dan Franklin, Digital Editor, Random House

"Emily has a rare combination of skills.  She can elevate not just your stories, but also how you tell them... she can tell a great story in a rich and coherent world and handle how it's all revealed with a deft hand." - Brandon Dillon, ArenaNet

"Emily has somehow managed to synthesise the talents of three or four game developers into one uber-mind: she is a masterful writer, a strong technical programmer, and an exceptional designer." - Richard Evans, Little Text People

  • This isn't a class in creative writing. It's about the craft, techniques, architecture and detail of making  interactive narrative, complete with war stories and hard-learnt lessons from two acclaimed but very different perspectives.
  • We're calling it 'intermediate': we assume you've either played or written some interactive stories, and won't need the very basics explaining. But this is a new enough discipline that even hardened professionals will come away with something useful.
  • Here's an outline of the day's programme. Think of it as a tasting menu. We solicit and welcome requests from attendees on where you'd like us to focus most.


The taxonomy of decisions.
Choices themselves as exposition and characterization.
What makes a decision important. Why trivial decisions aren't always bad.
The distinctive uses of decision, complicity and consequence.
A fundamental gap: what the player wants, what the player is allowed to choose.

Possible player roles (protagonist, actor, reader, hand-of-fate...)
Rewarding player expressiveness.
Fires in the desert: underspecified and *rigorously* underspecified narrative.
How, when and why to feed back to the player.
Player rebellion: pre-empting it or using it.

Social elements of interactive narrative
High-level planning.
Controlling plot and pacing in an interactive story.
Budgeting for choice redundancy.
Narrative pattern languages.
Lessons from software development.

Differences in context between linear and non-linear prose.
Writing recontextualisable text.
Player attention as a resource, and how to direct it.
Writing text to be read more than once.
Randomness in prose: uses and issues.
Things You Never Do. And when you do them anyway.

Have questions about Complicity: Building Interactive Narratives? Contact Failbetter Games
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When & Where

5 Penrose Way
North Greenwich
SE10 0EW London
United Kingdom

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (BST)

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