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  Mechanic #190 - MadLibs Adventure
Posted: Jan 27, 2014

A twist on the Choose-Your-Own Adventure where you [verb] your own [noun].

  MadLibs is a pun on Women's Lib

This is a twist on the Choose-Your-Own Adventure style of interactive storytelling. The game is still a giant branching tree of text, but the text is not chosen by selecting actions. Instead, you fill in the blanks with words to control what happens next.  

Passage One
[--Proper Male Name--] went to the store to buy [bananas]. He put on his [filthy] [jacket] and head off to the store. Upon arriving, he discovered that they were sold out of bananas. However, they were having a sale on cheeses, so instead he bought [--type of cheese--] . He took his cheese and left, heading towards the [--sporting venue--]. Along the way, he passed a store with a really expensive looking [HAT] in the window. He rather wanted the hat, but looked down at his filthy jacket and decided it would clash.

The way the game works is that the text is broken into passages, which are themselves broken into segments. Each passage has a number of MadLibs-like fill in the blank sections where you can choose from a list of pre-selected words that fit the criteria. Some of the chooses are purely cosmetic and used for comedic effect, while others will greatly affect what happens in the next passage (or even several passages down the line).

The player does not have free reign of the words he can select. Instead he has a list of words set for him. For instance, the word "Banana" can work as a noun, type of fruit, and even a proper male name. Though the player begins with a number of words, he can collect words from the text itself. These highlighted words, like [HAT] above, can be clicked on and added to the word set.

The reason that each passage is broken into segments is an important implementation detail. Because the player can change the fill-in-the-blank words at any time, it can have profound impact on the rest of the story. If you change an early word, it could rewrite the entire story, or it could just add a few comments here and there throughout. When the changes happen, any segment that you haven't seen yet will be highlighted in blue, so you can just skim through the changed text and see at a glance how you've affect it.

The game will remember choices made, so if you switch back and forth between two branches, the choices made will remain the same. If you start a new branch, the passages will only change up to the first passage which has a blank. So, if you decide to take a left instead of a right at the street corner, you can find a passage which unlocks [GO STRAIGHT], allowing you a new, third choice for the street corner. This will change all passages from that point on, and there will be only a single new passage with blanks for the player to fill in.

This is very much a sort of guess-and-test sort of exploratory game. It's about reading a story and making choices - both structural and aesthetic - without knowing the consequences of your actions. By going down story branches, you unlock new words that can be used to go back and change the past. This will open up new branches or superficially change old ones, allowing you to find more new words, and find some way to one branch ending or another.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.