Art from Code: INTERACTIVE_EXPERIENCE

Clicking on the post, you have been transported to a wholly new and unfamiliar landscape. You are surrounded by rolling hills of a deep blue now, pitching and shifting ever so slightly in the early evening light. Fish swim through the pink sunset in flocks as the warm wind dances along your skin. You breathe deeply, taking in a floral aroma mixed the tangy salt of sea air.

In front of you stands a computer, opened to a program entitled “INTERACTIVE_EXPERIENCE”.

>EXAMINE COMPUTER

The program appears to take the form of a rudimentary text-based puzzle game. You are initially given a choice between two buttons, of which the narrator urges you to select the red one. Following the command, you are sent to the “Good” ending. Resetting the game and disobeying by pressing the blue button, which you can continue indefinitely, eventually earns you the “Bad” ending. The concept is interesting, in your opinion, but the replay value is low, given that the game only consists of seven screens.

Underneath the keyboard, there are several pages with jagged edges, like they were ripped out of a notebook. Each page is covered in handwritten text, and accompanied by a paper-clipped photograph of the program.

>READ PAGES

The first page reads, “I’ve been interested in interactive stories since I was very young. The first project I ever tried to write was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, with all the options on different pages of the same notebook… I had no idea how to plan something like that, of course, so I ended up getting so overwhelmed when re-writing the same scene five times so that the reader could choose the size of their family and the genders of their siblings that I dropped the idea. It’s a lot easier to experience a piece of media with choices than to create one yourself, after all. I was drawn to Goosebumps and Star Wars CYOA books before I had any access to the internet, and games like The Stanley Parable, There Is No Game, and Dude, Stop afterwards. I’ve fallen in love with the concept of “interactive narrators” in games— story-telling characters who you can directly interact with and emotionally effect via your choices, sometimes to the point of them CRASHING THE GAME or removing themself from it if you manage to upset them enough. My initial idea for this project was just “I want the player to be able to make the narrator mad at them”, and the game grew out of that.”

>CONTINUE READING

The second page reads, “Coding it was pretty similar to most other projects I’ve worked on previously— you research all the individual parts you need, set them all up at once, and debug until your computer stops crashing. On a more serious note, though, through the process of working on this program I was able to develop a system of variables that would be changed based in your actions in the game (often known as “flags”) and then used to determine what screen you would be shown. If each screen is only shown for one specific combination of variables, I never have to worry about the code slowing down from drawing multiple screens over each other. Additionally, I was able to use the system to pull a pretty cool trick for looping screens— hitting the blue button adds one to your “blueseen” counter, and after you’ve reached the third blue button screen, hitting the “Back” button subtracts one from the counter, so you can alternate between the screens indefinitely. Plus, the reset button? Just returns all the variables to 0, which shows the opening. I’ve been using modified versions of this system in all my Processing 4 projects with multiple states since, so I’m really happy that I was given a chance to develop it here.”

>CONTINUE READING

The third page reads, “To me, this project represents a major milestone in my plan of eventually creating my own video game, which I’ve been working on (mostly in the planning and story/art/music development phases) since 2020. Being a combination of an RPG and a Visual Novel, the game doesn’t have much in common with this project (besides an interactive narrator…), but I feel that “INTERACTIVE_EXPERIENCE” has helped me gain a firsthand understanding of creating a system for programming and manipulating event flags, as well as the types of planning required to keep everything in development running smoothly when you provide your player with multiple choices. I can’t really say much about the game at this point… just know that HLOWARD’s going to be hidden somewhere in it ;)”.

There are no more pages to read.

>BACK

In front of you stands a computer, opened to a program entitled “INTERACTIVE_EXPERIENCE”.

>WALK NORTH

Author: AB Donegan