Spring Rain

Spring Rain is my second work of interactive fiction. If you’ve already had a look at Blacklight 1995 then the format will be familiar. However, I’d describe Spring Rain as more of a game than a story: the focus is not so much on unravelling a mystery as it is on simply surviving. Make your choices carefully: each one could be your last.

Play Spring Rain

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6 comments

  1. 500woerterdiewoche

    I should’ve played Blacklight 1995 earlier, I only checked it out after reading this blog entry. It’s great; they’re both great. You really have a hand for atmosphere, even with such short texts as in these games. Although Spring Rain starts a bit too mundane for my taste, and then there’s a real mood whiplash when [things]* start happening; but I guess with this kind of story, there are not too many different ways you can introduce the [things happening]*.

    *I don’t want to spoil it for others who may want to play.

    • Damon Wakes

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed them. Unfortunately, I think this kind of format will almost always result in short texts. It’s hard to measure how long they are when read (though I imagine there’s a tool out there that can work it out pretty quickly), but there’s always going to be a lot of content you miss. “Blacklight 1995,” for example, is something like 17,000 words long in total, but I’d hazard a guess that a single play-through could be as short as 1,000 words.

      It’s definitely a format I’m still learning to use, though, both in terms of how the stories should be structured and how the setting/character should be introduced. I feel like “Spring Rain” is much more efficient in terms of how passages are used linked together, but it doesn’t exactly jump into the [things happening] right off the bat. I think there are actually quite a lot of ways those [things] could be introduced, but there’ll probably be a lot of trial and error involved in working out what kind of style best suits what story. At the moment I’m mostly sticking with the classic second person, present tense combo, but even that’s not guaranteed to be a good move (and I know at least a couple of people who really hate it).

      • 500woerterdiewoche

        For games like this, I think second person present tense works well, as it is the “you” who makes the choices for the story.

        Mentioning the shortness was no criticism; I actually like that I can play through one story in the time of a coffee break. If the story gets too long, there needs to be some kind of way to bookmark your progress, because not everyone has time to read a novel in one day. I was more referring to the fact that the scenes/pages were always just a few paragraphs, sometimes only one sentence, but you still managed to create atmosphere instead of just going “You’re standing in a corridor. At its end is a door. To both sides, there is a wall. Behind you is the door you just came through. What do you do?”

      • Damon Wakes

        Ah! The choice between “You’re standing in a corridor…” vs. “Suddenly, a thing…” is actually one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make for these stories. Simply describing the area and listing possible actions might not make for a particularly gripping story, but it makes things a lot easier to organise.

        For example, using just a standard “There are doorways to the north, west and south” type description, you could allow the player to pick up a key in one room, then come back to exactly the same paragraph about the area with the three doorways (possibly with some new text indicating that they can use the key to open a new door). Using my method, I’d instead end up describing the player picking up the key, then offering a new “you’re back in the place with the three doors” section of text. I think that reads better, but there were times when I really wished I’d gone the other route with “Blacklight 1995.”

        Second person, present tense seems to be standard for this sort of format, but I do wonder how a different perspective would affect the story. It would easily be possible to turn it into a sort of prophecy by using future tense (you will meet a mysterious stranger), or to follow a non-player character in third person (perhaps with the choices affecting the environment, rather than the character directly). I don’t know how well either of those would work, but it is funny to be in a situation where second person is the norm and ising third or first would be a bold decision. Similarly, I feel like plain old past tense would actually be the most adventurous choice here, though I’m struggling to imagine how I’d use it at all.

      • 500woerterdiewoche

        I think past tense works best with a third-person narrator; then you could describe what they do and, at the end of a section, ask the reader as the character’s “inner monologue” something like “What should she do now? Open the door, or rather run away as fast as she could?” In a “normal” story, those questions would be rhetorical, and the character would answer them on his or her own. In a game, the player can make those choices.

        With the first person, I think it would heighten the impression that the player is some kind of puppet master, pulling the strings and chasing the “I” around, because the character would feel much more like a different person than a “you”. That could probably be used to great effect by a skilled storyteller.

        Future tense is an interesting idea. It would make the story something between a prophecy and a thought experiment: “You will be faced with this choice. How will you decide?” I like it a lot.

        Man, talking with you is always so inspiring! I really want to try one of those more exotic choices now…

      • Damon Wakes

        That sounds like it could work. I’m still not sure exactly what sort of story would really benefit from it, but perhaps some sort of fairy tale? Anything starting “Once upon a time…” pretty much has to be in past tense, and I can’t think of any first/second person fairy tales off the top of my head.

        I can really see future tense working well on a huge time scale: the kind of thing where the player is an emperor, or even a god. To me, present tense tends to suggest that things are happening moment to moment, so something like “You will face conflict with the nation to the North: will you send your army or your diplomats?” might help give a sense of scale. I guess you could also do a game in two halves: one where you prepare for a journey in future tense, and one where you undertake it in the present. The first half could establish skills and equipment you use in the second.

        It’s been good talking with you too! I already had a lot of vague ideas of things to do with this, but now I think it would actually be worth trying a few out. If you get anywhere with this yourself, do let me know: I’d like to read.

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