Varytale First Look

So you like the idea of having a story with a little bit of reader input that's able to change the outcome, yet you don't want to mess with z-machine or whatever to make a zork-like game. Maybe you want something that's got only a little bit of freedom but largely goes on the rails you want it to so you won't have to worry about a potential user wanting to take the shotgun you thoughtfully left for them to use against the zombies and blow their foot off.

Or maybe you're someone that likes the idea of a story that responds to you, but you don't want to have to deal with the insane moon-logic puzzles and mazes traditionally associated with text adventures.

From Varytale's own website:

Varytale is a publisher and retailer of interactive books. 
Interactive books allow you to influence the narrative. From big choices that affect the whole story, through changes in viewpoint, to special features and extras that shed new light on the author's imagination. 
The books we publish range from literary fiction, through to genre and young adult work. We also allow writers to self-publish through our site. 
Varytale books can be read on any internet connected device, and your bookmarks are automatically up to date wherever you read from.
I can already hear somebody in the back row going 'Well why not just play runescape, or Star Legend, or some other free browser based game?' 


It's one of those things that I've dealt with when talking to people that don't read much, or read for it's own sake rather than to get the news, or as part of work, or school or the like. Also it's one of those things that almost has no good answer. To put simply though some people likereading. Some of these people would like books that have a little more, but are still recognizable words-on-text books.

There was actually something that was similar and somewhat popular in the late seventies to the mid-ish eighties that let you flip through a bookn get to the end of a segment and go to either this page or that to see what your choices panned out as (usually death of some form or another.) These Choose Your Own Adventure books were mostly aimed at gradeschoolers since at this time highschoolers either were too old for the sorts of stories being written, there wouldn't be the kind of money given older kids (and adults) could often had other uses for money (be it gaming, cars, bills, or the then just-getting-traction home computers.)

Oddly enough CYOA books are still being printed. Something about that just makes me smile.

For the time being everything on Varytale is free. There do appear to be plans for monitization, but I sincerely hope authors limit the attempts at money vacuuming to replenishing action points or other forms of 'well it's faster to do it this way but you can do it for free too if you want.' Why? Niche market, and I don't want it to be associated with quick buck made off of shovelware titles.

Right now it only accepts facebook logins. In time it will switch to a similar login system that boingboing uses, but for now Ian would rather focus on improving the interface and doing site shakedown for getting the core functions done, which I see as a proper attitude to have here.

Right now you have to use the varytale site both for reading and for creating works. However on the writer's side you can both download in progress project files as a bundled zip, and upload project files. Hopefully at some point this means either an official or unofficial set of reader apps/programs and writer tools will get churned out as wider interest (hopefully) develops.


On a somewhat personalish note

I've taken up the challenge of writing a small story in a week. All the planning, writing, and testing will be done in a single week starting this morning. On Saturday morning I will have the resulting text made available for anyone that wants to have a go. I don't claim anything in way of quality. However it will be something I've wanted to do for a very very long time crossed off my bucket list.
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