Interactive Storytelling

Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Blog, Design, Random thoughts | No Comments

I’m a big fan of the Sims, even though I don’t get to play it often enough. I like the way stories evolve out of seemingly banal gameplay, the flexibility of it. So when I discovered the free iPad version, I was on it immediately.

Of course, it, being free, came with advertising. It only popped up once a day, so it wasn’t too intrusive and for the most part, I ignored them. The other day, however, an ad for something called The Act came up. “An interactive comedy,” on sale for $0.99 only! The artwork was Disneyesque, of decent quality. But most of all, it reminded me of a computer game I used to play in the ’90s, the kind that came on CDs and took forever to boot. I forget what it’s called now. You play a movie director, and by filling in the blanks on a script you control the way the actors perform the scene and the storyline. Promising premise, but the interface was shit and I never figured out how to play it.

Interesting, I thought, and promptly forgot about it.

A couple of days later, I read about The Act in Wired. (The animations are by ex-Disney artists! No wonder.) Compared to the Sims, The Act takes interactive storytelling to a different place; closer to a traditional movie, the interaction is kept limited and simple. You swipe your finger left and right to affect they way your character emotes. Emote appropriately and you advance to the next scene. No changing storylines. Simple enough, and the trailer charmed me into shelling out $0.99 for the app. (Highly unusual of me. I never pay for apps if I can help it.)

As it turns out, the game is simple only in theory. It calls for the subtlest of touches, and I’m still making my way through the story. According to reviews, it took most people no more than an hour to beat the game, but unfortunately the linear storyline means there’s not much replay value. Now, if only the game had branching storylines… different consequences for different emote styles. That would be interesting.