Tips for designing

This is not intended to be a strict guide on how to make a book, but rather a help for those who don't have much experience in writing games.

First, we'll do a little introduction to the world of text-based games.

What is a text-based game?

It is a book to read on a computer or mobile device in which the reader, while reading, interacts with the story. In other words, the story unfolds according to the actions chosen by the reader, just like in a computer game.

Originally these books were somewhat short due to the limitations of the technologies of the time, but today they can reach impressive lengths.

The narrative style also differs. Since graphics are basic or non-existent, the author has the opportunity to express himself as he would in a printed novel, with narrative, metaphors, dialogue, etc.

If there is a constant, it is that the narrator tends to express himself in the second person, making the reader the hero of the story.

A book where the reader chooses what will happen?

Yes, the reader is not only a viewer, but also participates in the story depending on what the writer has outlined and what options there are to choose from. For example, "If the protagonist is in a cave and from the depths emerges a bat with a head as big as a carriage, the reader can decide whether the protagonist hides behind a stalagmite or pulls out a rusty sword and defends himself."

The fact that the reader can decide is, in reality, an illusion, since he or she must stick to what the writer has designed as far as the options to choose from are concerned. Even a role-playing game is bound to a set of rules.

The difference between good interactive fiction and bad interactive fiction is that in the first one the illusion is integrated with reality without the reader being aware of it. For example, the reader will go from chapter 1 to chapter 2, and from there to chapter 3, as if it were a traditional novel. However, the decisions he makes in Chapter 1 will have repercussions in other chapters.

And herein lies the difficulty: you can't create a satisfying illusion if the choice has no repercussions. The reader must believe that he chooses, even if the writer has induced him to choose.

So is it a book to play or a game to read?

If you focus on the plot, the characters and their relationships, and not so much on the reader's decision making, you will get a book to play with.

If, on the other hand, you focus more on the decision-making, the reader's interaction and its repercussions, you will get a game to read.

Both options are good, there is no one better than the other. Each author has his or her preferences and feels more comfortable in one format or another.


Where to start writing?

If you don't have a lot of experience, our advice is not to approach T4PStudio empty-handed. This would be the equivalent of a writer facing a blank sheet of paper.

There are writers who know how to do it, but if this is not your case, you'd better think first before doing anything. The result will be more satisfactory.






Before you start, think about what you want to tell and how you want to tell it. You can follow these steps.



Answer the question: "What do I want to tell?

It is important to invest time in this step, as it is vital to whether or not our project will be interesting. Look for a topic that you are passionate about and that you have knowledge of.

Think that, if you want to reach more people, it is advisable to introduce classic elements such as a call to duty, a difficult situation to overcome, a mystery to be solved, etc. "Our hero is an archaeologist who has been hired by an anonymous businessman to discover the treasure hidden in a large abandoned building from the 14th century."


Character identification

Write a brief description of what the characters are like and why they are the way they are. Especially the main character, who will be the reader: "He is a man, tall, about forty years old, very introverted, as a child he went through an experience that marked him ...".

Think also about the secondary characters: his wife, his assistant, the gardener, the anonymous businessman, etc.

And finally, reflect on the relationships between them: friends, lovers, did they know each other or not, do they get along well or badly, is there a past between them, is there mistrust, etc. 


Identifying the values

Think about whether it is a purely recreational game, to distract the reader, or if on the other hand you want to communicate a message or ethical value: to pose a moral dilemma, to reward courage, to go deeper into cowardice, friendship, self-improvement, etc.

Remember that not all books or games must have a message, although it is advisable, as these tend to attract more readers.



So far, everything we know about the story is in our heads or in brief notes. It's time to outline the synopsis, to start shaping it. So, start thinking what will happen to the story, the plot, where it takes place, what parts it should contain, etc. "The game will be divided into three parts: 1. Arrival and entry into the house to discover the characters and the most important rooms. 2. Discovering the library and the secret laboratory where you find out who the anonymous character who has hired you really is and what tasks his ancestors performed in the laboratory. 3. You are locked in and you rush to find the secret way out so you don't get trapped forever. "


The main plot

Keep in mind that a classic story has only one plot line, but as the reader intervenes with his or her decisions, different plot lines are created.

Initially, try not to approach many different lines, or many plots and subplots. If you do not have much experience, it is better to focus on one main plot line and define well all the decisions that the reader must make to reach the expected end. "The protagonist opens the front door. He goes to the dining room, where he finds a key on the table. He goes up to the second floor. With the key he opens the library room. He moves a Moby Dick book and a secret staircase leads down. Go down them and reach the secret laboratory, etc. "

If you have the main line well structured, it will be easier to build the subplots without dropping the main one.

Think that the more plots and subplots you define, the more repercussions there may be and, therefore, the more complicated it will be to make it all fit together. If you are inexperienced, do not complicate it too much, as you may run the risk of despairing and getting frustrated with the result.


Elements of the main plot

Once you have the main plot defined, identify which are the essential elements for the reader, with his decisions, to go through this path of the main plot.

In CYOAs the elements to identify are: the locations where the story takes place (main door, dining room, sofa, library, stairs...), the decisions the reader can make (go to the dining room, go upstairs, take the key, move the book...), and of course, the ending.

In the IFs the main elements to identify are: the map and the rooms (main entrance, dining room, library, hallway), the objects (sofa, key, library door, book ...), the main events that will occur (take the key, open the door, move the book ...), and the ending.


Avoid monotony

Keep in mind that the main path and its elements, which you have defined in the previous point, must accompany the plot of the story, they must be important for its development, being necessary that each time new situations, new mysteries, new answers that manage to surprise the reader are discovered.

Think that a game where there is always "take a key and open a door" has the risk of becoming monotonous and that the player ends up getting bored. Try not to fall into monotony.


Identificar tramas secundarias

Keep in mind that the main path and its elements, which you have defined in the previous point, must accompany the plot of the story, they must be important for its development, being necessary that each time new situations, new mysteries, new answers that manage to surprise the reader are discovered.

Think that a game where there is always "take a key and open a door" has the risk of becoming monotonous and that the player ends up getting bored. Try not to fall into monotony.


Now, once we have identified the main plot, and maybe some secondary ones, we can open the computer and face the T4P Studio to start with our design.


The route

Within T4PStudio, use the Path option to write down all the steps and decisions the reader must make to follow the main plot. This way you can always refer to it from anywhere in T4P, and you can also reuse these annotations to write the guide and clues.


Elements of the main plot

It's time to capture in T4PStudio what we have been thinking about before, that is, to create the main elements of the game. Our advice is not to get lost in frills, texts or descriptions for the moment. The names of the elements are enough, since we are still building the skeleton and not the book.

- For CYOAs it would be a matter of creating the elements of the chapters, the locations, the flow of decisions and the endings.

- For IFs it would be about creating the map, rooms, objects, events and endings.

- At the expert level, we can also record the decision variables, timers, counters, scenes, etc.


The first test

At this point, if you have created the decision flow for the CYOA or the events for the FI, the game should already work. Now is a good time to do a first test. Don't leave it to the end because if there are errors you may run the risk of working in vain. Test and correct the errors you may encounter.

If while testing you come up with new ideas (subplots, non-main objects, new rooms, etc.) you can use the T4PStudio notepad to write them down. Our advice is not to get complicated with other plots or subplots until you have tested the main plot.

If you are an expert, you can use T4PDebug to test, see how the elements evolve, automate paths, etc.


Secondary plots

At this point, you have already tested the main plot. In addition, you have probably come up with new ideas (locations, objects, situations, etc.), that is, you have new plots in mind. It's time to start shaping them in T4PStudio. As in the main plot, you must create:

- For the CYOAs: locations, new options to choose from, decision flow and alternative endings.

- For the IF: rooms, objects, events and alternative endings.


Do not frustrate the reader

Keep in mind that subplots can have the opposite effect to the desired one. Now you have a lot of space to develop the secondary plots and you could be tempted to put in filler that does not contribute anything to the reader, but on the contrary, that bores him. We recommend that you keep in mind some tips:

- Be clear about the level of subplots to be defined: If you feel comfortable with a book to play, do not invent many subplots. On the other hand, if you prefer a game to read, you can add more plots, more decisions, more objects, etc. Remember that the more plots, the more possibility of errors, and the more you will have to try.

- Avoid filler scenes: Not all scenes should advance the plot, but all of them should contribute something to the reader, whether it is an interesting detail of the environment, a clue, a conversation that deepens the relationship between two characters, etc.

- Don't include options, objects, events, etc. in a crazy way: you will distract the reader, you will add volume to the work without increasing its quality and you will go crazy with so much material to try.

- Don't distract the reader too much: Decisions should not have too far-reaching repercussions. Don't kill the protagonist in chapter 30 because he had a black coffee instead of a latte in chapter 10.

- Don't kill the reader too much: an excess of abrupt deaths is a clear indication that the author did not want to write about alternative plots, a stance that breaks the sense of freedom and, therefore, the reader's immersion. Interactive fiction revolves around the power of the reader to develop the story with his or her decisions. Although this is an illusion, it must seem real.


Recurrent testing

Each time you define a plot (new objects, new rooms, new decisions, etc.), we advise you to test it before continuing with the next one. Test it as if it were a whole, indivisible unit. Test the subplots well.

It is true that sometimes subplot 1 has implications for subplot 2, so you will not be able to test it 100%, but it is better to test 95% than not to test anything.

Test little by little and leave the game solid, with no bugs. Also, every time you test you can come up with new ideas or how to improve the ones you already had.

If you are an expert, T4PDebug will help you to test recurrently.


At this point, you already have the game designed at T4PStudio. Now it is time to write the book. It is important to keep in mind the rules for good writing. Although you will find a lot of information on the internet, here is a small guide to help you.


Retrieve and review notes

Review the initial notes: what the characters were like, how they related to each other, what values you wanted to convey, etc., to see if they have undergone any changes or if you want to add anything else. Keep these things in mind as you write the book and, above all, once the story is finished, ask yourself if you have managed to convey the message clearly.


Keep in mind the timeline

Depending on the plot and the freedom of movement that you have left to the player, that is, if the game is very linear or completely open, you may encounter inconsistent situations due to the timeline. For example, at the beginning the player is at the entrance of the house and it is night. Halfway through the game, you describe that it has become daytime. If the player returns to the entrance of the house, you can no longer say that it is night. It would be inconsistent with the timeline.
Anyway, in the expert mode, you have two resources that help you overcome this problem: The initial text that only appears the first time, where you indicate that it is night, and the double state of the rooms, where you can establish that the first state is night and the second state is dawn.


Inconsistencies between description and action

When you describe an object, this description must be consistent with the action you can do with it. For example, if the game allows you to open a cabinet to take an object inside, do not describe it as a large cabinet with the door open.


Check grammar and spelling

For a novel to be successful it is essential that it is well written, so you have to take care that the text is grammatically and orthographically correct.
T4PStudio allows you to export and import texts for proofreading with a spell checker.


Support your text with images

Even if the purpose is to write a text-based game, a good option is to include images of the locations, rooms or objects to make your story more understandable and descriptive. The reader will appreciate it.


Include mood music

If you are an expert, you can include background music appropriate to the genre of the story (mystery, fantasy, comedy, romantic, etc.), and thus improve the reader's immersion in the game.


At this point you have built the game and written the book. It's time to test it.


Definitive test of the game

Even if you have already tested the game repeatedly, it is time to test it once it is finished, to check that there are no errors, that there are no inconsistencies, and to check that the integrated texts are coherent with the plot.

However, we want to give you a warning: you will not get everything right the first time. Be patient and try, correct what you need to correct and try again. Your level of demand will determine whether there will be errors or not.


Test with other people

Once you have it finished and well tested by yourself, we advise you to ask your friends or family to test it before publishing it. Think that the opinion of several people who have not worked on the creation process is very important, since they will really have the same feeling as your readers. It is a good source to detect errors or improve aspects of the game and the story.

T4PStudio provides you with some direct test links so you can share them with anyone you want.

Now, if you are satisfied with the result, press the Publish button and share the story on social networks.

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