I’ve returned to Fabled Lands as a stimulus for my Steam Highwayman writing. I like the short, pithy passages that leave a lot to your imagination. However, there was never a great deal of conversation in those books and I find dialogue fits into a responsive text very naturally – in fact, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasurable things I write. So I’ve drafted this encounter with a gipsy family: Barsali’s Caravan. It gives a flavour of the style of mini-quests I’m intending to include as you explore the world of Steam Highwayman. Different options would be available to you depending on whether you have collected certain objects, or have certain skills.
I’ve also just begun experimenting with customising colours on Twine, the tool I use to create this.
I’ve now completed a demo map to explore on your velosteam: 14 passages or ‘rooms’ that respond to the order and time in which you visit them, generating unique text and interactive traffic events. I haven’t got any graphic interface for this yet – it exists purely as the relationship between passages. But I have sketched it here to help you locate yourself:
One of the underlying ‘vanilla’ engines of this story was always to be your ability to rob any passers-by, either creating story-lines as you become despised or hated by particular groups or simply making easy money. This means that in true open-world fashion, you will need to be able to interact with all the traffic that comes your way.
At the moment these interactions are very rough, but essentially different sorts of road (main road, road or lane) and different times of day (day/night) will be more or less likely to generate different classes of traffic (pedestrians/farm vehicles/goods vehicles/guild vehicles/locobuses/private steam carriages etc). You may be able to hail them and get rumours or rob them – reminiscent perhaps, and purposefully, of the sail ahoy mechanic in Sid Meier’s Pirates Gold.
I intend to keep working on this demo map until all the major modules are working. So far we have:
A weather generator
Health and wound counters
A rudimentary fight system (not yet plugged into the encounters with traffic
A fence where you can sell items (with still some bugs)
A pub where you can rent a room
Locals who will give you a rumour to investigate (and the space for many more)
Characters who will remember you
A wreck engine that will leave destroyed traffic at the side of the road
New today – the ability to wait somewhere until nightfall or morning
I mean to finish writing Squire Lynch’s quest, finish the interactions with the guild engines and create a quest at a nearby steam fairground. Still haven’t done anything about my pistol engine…
Also I’ve got some lineation and matching issues with the generated text in my passages. I’m slowly building more reliable templates so that in a completed version, everything should look seamless. Other bugs include:
Unwritten encounters with private steam carriages and quest vehicles
This morning I’ve been working on those priority checks – the variables that will test whether you’ve visited a location before, what factors will influence the generated text there and the counters that generate time, the phase of the moon and the weather. I’m going to head out to do some of the creative part soon, thinking about the way I want these passages to sound and look.
I had a long chat with my brother Jack about this and we agree that there’s no point having long passages of description clogging up a reader’s enjoyment of what is essentially a story. In the Fabled Lands series, passages are typically around 60 words, and that suits a smartphone fine, so I’m hoping to extrude the all the vital information in a few pithy sentences.
It’s been a good morning. I’ve been teaching the locals at the Sign of the Spyglass to gossip – as well as to keep track of your visits there. Should they tell you of the wicked Squire Lynch, you should find a new quest opening up, in which you dole out some justice to an overbearing landlord.
Most of my recent writing has been coding systems that keep track of various story variables, so it’s nice to be starting on writing a mini-story within the tale. However, though I’m sketching dialogue and event options there are a few things I need to complete before you’re able to to stop Squire Lynch’s speedy chariaeoli, defeat him in a duel, humiliate and rob him.
The high-level code that decides, when you visit a location, what variable-generated information to give you. These are pieces like descriptions of the weather and scenery, designed to be wrapped into the particular writing of any specific passage. I want every visit to every major to be unique, tailored to the time of day, state of the sky, and the various random chances of other traffic on the road.
I need to complete my engine allowing you to fire a gun.
I need to complete my guilt engine – the tracker that will remember every sin and misdeed committed in the name of your own wealth or even for the good of the poor… It will all be significant later.
These are what I’ll be working on for the next week or two. Using variable text to create interesting and significant passages is really my aim. Many interactive fictions dispense with description because a reader skips them naturally, hurrying to the action. I’m trying to embed important information and other options within text. If it rains, that will effect your ability to chase a high-speed steam wagon. If you’re in a wood, you may have simple sub-quest options related to objects you carry – such as cutting wood or finding a particular mushroom. I hope to give the reader the ability to complete actions in any reasonable place, rather than at a specific quest location.
I was just mucking around with sound editing software and an intro for Steam Highwayman that came out of my head. So here’s a little taster I made last week.
That’s Brahms’ 3rd Symphony in the background – a very quick choice – inspired by the old Ladybird story cassettes we had with classical soundtracks to excellent stories like Around the World in Eighty Days and Tom Sawyer.
I’m spending a lot of my writing time working on an interactive fiction project, Steam Highwayman, written using Harlowe 1.2.2 on Twine 2.
This morning I has mostly been building a process by which the protagonist can suffer, bandage and heal wounds. This should slot into my story so that the reactive text remembers if and where you were wounded, editing your options in seamless prose.
And a scar on the eye may unlock the option of an eyepatch. Oooh, Intimidation+1, eyepatch,
Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.
This is Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to work miracles. It is straightforward for him – grudges and dissatisfaction are obstacles to the expression of God’s power. However deeply buried, unforgiveness will always work out in lack of faith, because unforgiveness is rooted in a selfish world-view. Releasing others and ourselves from grudges is absolutely necessary for a continuing Christian walk, as well as the only way to see God’s power work through our lives.
In fact, it is so much the prioriry that Jesus has changed the conversation here from one about miracles in the world to being about the greatest miracle we can experience: forgiveness of our own sins and justification with God. It’s not in keeping with Jesus’ lessons of a good father or the Hebrew scriptures to launch from this verse into a validation theology – that our salvation is dependent upon our forgiveness of others – but it is fairly observable that unforgiveness presents an experiential obstacle to appreciating our salvation!
Taking Jesus at his simplest here and in the previous verses, all I can see is that he links our ability -or desire – to really believe in God with the degree of intimacy we have with him, and unforgiveness and grudges, regrets and other unhealthy emotions obstruct that intimacy, not because He is unable to surpass them but because we become preoccupied with them! How wonderful that one promised day, we will no longer have to fight to keep our attention on God – and that every believer is in the process of being changed into this place by God’s sanctifying Spirit.
It is our job while here on earth, through God’s Holy Spirit, to present ourselves as living sacrifices, blameless and acceptable – to work out our salvation by engaging with the process by which the Spirit of God changes us to resemble Jesus. So be free of anger and hold no grudges and see God’s power work through you.
The ground shakes… A season begins… Not obviously, since autumn always slips out from beneath summer’s train. Seasons are never well defined.
But in the few months since I’ve last written on here, a lot has changed. And now I’m about to take a new journey.
My friends know a quick way to get me excited is to ask me about IF – interactive fiction – or CYOA – Choose Your Own Adventure – the genre defining series. And over the summer I got very excited and spent about 15 full writing days learning to use an IF software tool called Twine, writing a non – linear Steampunk time – sensitive role playing interactive novel, simply called Steam Highwayman.
I’ll write a lot more about it soon, but the key to my excitement with using Twine is that it provides me with a very natural writing environment, meaning that my productivity and fluency were as great during those 15 days as at any time in my life. And the finished result published in html format, meaning that it can be read easily in a Web browser.
I’ve learned a small amount of html and css from the work I had earlier this and at the end of last year editing a website for Mary’s and then building my own. But if I can up my game, the prospect of downloadable CYOA apps that combine my love of writing with modern technology awaits me.
I mean then to be spending time learning more CSS skills to create a good looking page, learning how to use android studio to create an app that will use one of my finished-ish IFs, and then to release it here.
Will I succeed? God knows. How long will it take? I don’t mind. Because whether or not I’m posting a downloadable free IF within the year, entirely written and produced by me, I know I’m learning a lot. And that feels great.
In Psalm 119 it says “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.” There’s nothing to blame in my desire to explore and create and I know that anything done for the glory of God can be an act of deep worship, so I’m looking forward to meeting Him and walking with Him along His road this season.