Narratives for Interaction: Final Project Process

Title: U N S E E N
Media: Website
Projection description:

Unseen is an interactive text-based website that illustrates the story of a secret agent from a first-person perspective. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the main character in injured and loses his sense of sight, making it a challenge to do even the simplest of things. Limited by pure text and soundscape, the players can select and direct the thoughts and decisions of the main character, as he journeys through secret missions and lands in a total predicament.

The story begins with the main character waking up in an unknown location. As he recalls and explores his surroundings through sounds and touch, he attempts a search and succeeds in locating a secret passage way out. The players are given a chance to source for useful materials to aid the escape, before being presented with two options that splits the storyline.

This webpage is a combination of two initial concepts that I had in the beginning – prison break and blind soundscape. I was inspired by American TV crime series White Collar and Prison Break, by how their storylines were so cleverly planned and written. After checking out some existing interactive story-games such as Blindscape and NoStranger, I was surprised at how text alone (or with soundscape) can be so engaging, and decided to explore further into text-based interaction. From these inspirations, ideas started to come together as I began creating my own crime-themed story.

My initial idea was to use JavaScript or ChoiceScript, which I realised was not ideal because JavaScript alone required too much technical work and ChoiceScript offered very limited design and functions. I then came across a story-telling programme called Twine, which helps users to better structure their stories by presenting each page in a mindmap format. It was very understandable and useful in helping me create split paths in my story, and can be exported in JavaScript, CSS and HTML format. It was only until much later that I realised that Adobe Muse could also work and actually was able to produce better graphics as compared to Twine. However, I stuck with Twine because my webpage was mostly text-based.

This is what Twine looks like:Twine is structured in a mindmap format – where you can link passages to one another through links, or timed transitions. The code and content for each page is stored inside each of these passages (or cells).
There are three different story formats to choose from – Harlowe, Snowman, and SugarCube, each with its own layout and limitations. I started off with Harlowe, which was good for editing text, styling text and also timing their appearance -> E.g. (live:2.0s)[your text will appear after 2 seconds]

The problem came when I wanted to add sounds into my website. Harlowe doesn’t support audio (except simply playing an audio on a passage, with no controls or timing whatsoever).

I certainly faced several challenges in my story-making process – both in terms of the content and the coding. My biggest fear was for my story to become too wordy and boring, such that the readers would lose interest. To tackle that, I decided to minimise my words by using key phrases and thoughts to narrate my story. I also encountered difficulties while trying to calibrate the audio clips, and the timing of certain words, because certain functions were restricted by the default Twine programme.

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