World Models vs Narrative Choices

The two main structural forms of interactive fiction.

Broadly speaking, there are two main structural forms of interactive fiction:

  • In parser games, the player has a variety of verbs to use as world modifiying or introspective actions and usually the possibility of moving between spaces. As a consequence, they tend to be less novelistic and more puzzle oriented.
  • Choice fiction (pick-a-path, choose-your-own-adventure, hypertext, etc) uses pre-defined or dynamically generated links between sections that describe a specific action or movement in the context of the story—the player can only act or move given the choices that are available.

Leaving aside the experiential/affective considerations (which I’ll hopefully discuss another time), the core distinction here is between the story unfolding through actions modifying a world model and the story developing through predefined narrative branches.

Parser games based on a world model tend to be best suited to telling a story through puzzles and exploration, whereas narrative choices fit better with works based around a dramatic structure.

It’s interesting to consider whether these approaches are mutually exclusive, and if not, how they could be combined.

The reason why I decided to go with narrative choices in Muturangi was that the linear narrative constraint was better suited to the manuscript I already had. I had to resist the temptation to mire myself in some kind of dynamic conversational multi-agent system which would be larger and more ambitious than what I’m already doing. Something I’d probably never be able to finish.


World Models vs Narrative Choices was last edited on .


Computational creativity, interactive fiction and game design devblog.