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Dr Lynda Clark
Defining and Capturing Web-
based Interactive Fiction
University of Dundee
lclark001@dundee.ac.uk
The Project
Emerging Formats:
Web-based interactive
narrative – collection &
creative artefact
The Process
• Identify
• Determine UK authorship
• Categorise
• Collect
• QA
• Analyse
• Create
Identify
Interactive Narrative as
defined by the British
Library:
 Interactivity: Experiential
 Narrativity: Non-linear, anti-
story
 Non-standardised: Variety of
tool usage
 Web-based: born-digital, but
NOT downloadable
From: Michael Day, Maureen Pennock, Caylin Smith, Jeremy Jenkins & Ian Cooke, ‘Preservation
Planning for Emerging Formats at the British Library’ in Proceedings of iPres 2018, (2018, 1-10),
<https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1303007>
https://ifdb.tads.org
http://philome.la
https://sub-q.com
https://itch.io
https://www.choiceofgames.com
Identify/Determine Authorship
http://pr-if.org
https://www.springthing.net
https://readingdigitalfiction.com/writing-
competition
https://ifcomp.org
https://intfiction.org/
Sidebar: Why is Interactive Narrative at risk?
6
Sidebar: Gone, But Not Forgotten
7
Categorise
294 works by 114 creators!
Hypertext
Parser-based
Choice-based
Multi-modal
????
Categorise: Hypertext
9
Adam Hay, The Cat Demands, Twine, 2015, https://unusualcadence.itch.io/the-cat-demands
Hosted on itch.io
Interaction: clicking links
Categorise: Parser-Based
Interaction: Typing commands
C.E.J. Pacian, Castle of the Red Prince, Inform 7, 2013,
http://iplayif.com/?story=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ifarchive.org%2Fif-archive%2Fgames%2Fzcode%2FCastleOfTheRedPrince.zblorb
Hosted on iplayif.com
Categorise: Choice-
Based
Toni Owen-Blue, Double/Cross, ChoiceScript, 2015, https://www.choiceofgames.com/user-contributed/double-cross/#utm_medium=web&utm_source=ourgames
Hosted on Choice of Games
Interaction: Making choices
BUT: Paywalled
Maria Mencia, The Winnipeg (El barco de la esperanza/The boat of hope), Web, 2018, https://winnipeg.mariamencia.com/
Categorise: Multi-modal
Hosted on creator’s personal site
Interaction: clicking moving text
Categorise: ???
Ethan Fox, Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, RPG Maker, 2018, https://ethan-fox.itch.io/nale
Web-based: Hosted on itch.io
13
Interaction: Move Nina to advance story
BUT: Does this count?
BUT: Is this a game rather than
interactive fiction?
Categorise: Avatar-Based
Interaction: Making choices
Ethan Fox, Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, RPG Maker, 2018, https://ethan-fox.itch.io/nale
HOWEVER: Creator identifies the
work as interactive fiction
Categorise: ‘Other’
15
(Above) Verity Lee, 30 Kilogrammes,
Texture, 2016,
https://verityvirtue.itch.io/30-
kilogrammes
(Below) J.R. Carpenter, Along the Briny
Beach, Javascript, 2012,
http://luckysoap.com/alongthebrinybeac
h/ (Above) Emma Pooka, Bad Influences,
Html, 2013-2014,
http://badinfluences.org.uk/
Some things you may have noticed
so far…
125; 43%
68; 23%
21; 7%
51; 17%
29; 10%
Hypertext
Parser
Choice
Avatar-driven
Other
Lack of standardization
No central location(s)
No collection method for
commercial works
( )
Collect & QA
Collection Tools:
Collect & QA: Hypertexts
18
Adam Hay, The Cat Demands, Twine, 2015, https://unusualcadence.itch.io/the-cat-demands
Collect & QA: Hypertexts
19
Chikodili Emelumadu, Onyinye Iwu & Tory Hoke, The Fixer, HTML, in Sub-Q Magazine, 2015, https://sub-q.com/play-the-fixer/
Missing Image
Collect & QA: Parser-Based
C.E.J. Pacian, Castle of the Red Prince, Inform 7, 2013,
http://iplayif.com/?story=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ifarchive.org%2Fif-
archive%2Fgames%2Fzcode%2FCastleOfTheRedPrince.zblorb
Robin Douglas Johnson, Aunts and Butlers, Versificator, 2006,
http://versificator.net/aunts-and-butlers/
Creator’s custom-made engine
Collect & QA: Choice-Based
Sammi Narramore, Journey Through Your Final Dream, Ink, 2018,
https://narramoreart.itch.io/finaldream-inkjam18 Isak Grozny, dripping with the waters of sheol, Ink, 2017,
https://ladyisak.itch.io/sheol
Collect & QA: Multi-modal
Collect & QA: Avatar-Based
23
Ash Green, Changes: A Mysterious Tale,
Bitsy, 2018,
https://ashg.itch.io/changes-a-
mysterious-tale
‘Run’ button
Settings
which affect
capture
Collect & QA: Contextual
Information
24
Marina Díez, Aquarium, Bitsy, 2018, https://ninfa.itch.io/aquarium Marina Díez, The Forest: A Fable, Bitsy, 2018, https://ninfa.itch.io/the-forest-a-
fable (comments section)
Capture
failed
Creator
description &
specifications
retained
User comments
retained
Collect/QA Summary
25
Creation Tool Additional Notes on
Content
Recommended Capture
Tool
Any Works containing significant
video, audio, or visual
elements
Webrecorder (any browser)
Any Work which requires a button
press or text entry to start
rather than a click
Webrecorder (any browser)
Twine Most images in Twine works
capture successfully with
ACT, particularly if image
URLs are added. Some may
require Webrecorder if
javascript or dynamic images
are used.
ACT in the first instance,
Webrecorder with any
browser to eliminate issues
with images, Webrecorder
with Firefox v49 to eliminate
issues with javascript
RPG Maker ACT
Bitsy If the work has an opening
page which can be started by
clicking, ACT will be able to
capture successfully, if not,
use Webrecorder
Click to start: ACT
Arrow keys to start:
Webrecorder
Inform 7 While Webrecorder is
generally recommended for
Inform 7, ACT can work
equally well depending on
whether it is click to start, or
space bar to start, and where
and how it has been
uploaded.
Webrecorder (any browser)
Creation Tool Additional Notes on Content Recommended Capture Tool
Emulated BBC Micro (online) Webrecorder (any browser)
Adventuron ACT
Ink/Inklewriter Basic Ink works capture well
with ACT, those which have
been heavily customised may
require Webrecorder
ACT in the first instance,
Webrecorder with any browser
to eliminate issues with styling
such as dynamic or hover text
elements.
Texture ACT
ChoiceScript Only compiled works can be
captured fully, although any CS
works can be captured to some
degree with Webrecorder (Firefox
v49)
ACT (compiled)
Webrecorder (uncompiled –
errors likely)
Flash Webrecorder (Firefox v49)
Quest Cannot be captured with either
tool.
Genarrator Cannot be captured with either
tool.
Construct 2 ACT
Unity ACT
Javascript Website Depending on the nature of the
dynamic content, it may be best
to run the site through ACT to
ensure CSS code, images, html
index files etc are captured and
follow up with Webrecorder to
see if more of the ‘feel’ of the
site can be obtained.
ACT & Webrecorder
Overall findings:
26
Webrecorder:
 Great for video, audio etc
 Time-consuming, manual
ACT:
 Large scale, easily scheduled, automated captures
 Limited success with some formats
 Sometimes differences between QA output & live environment
output
Analysis
 Top 3 genres:
 Slice of Life
 Fantasy
 Science Fiction
 Genre-mixing very common
Genre
Adventure
Children's
Comedy
Crime
Educational
Erotic Fiction
Experimental
Fantasy
Historical Fiction
Horror
Mystery
Poetry
Romance
Science Fiction
Slice of Life
Surreal
Analysis: Themes
Public Transport
Tea
Mental Health
Pets (Cats)
Interactive Fiction (Metanarratives)
Creation The Memory Archivist
Lynda Clark, The Memory Archivist, Twine, 2019,
https://notagoth.itch.io/the-memory-archivist
Recycling
(Background)
Json for link
cycling in
Memory
Archivist,
amended from
Ostrich by
Jonathan Laury
(foreground)
Ostrich, Twine,
2018,
https://borntopo
otle.itch.io/ostric
h
Recycling
(Background)
Gradient
background in
The Memory
Archivist,
amended from
Brevity Quest by
Chris Longhurst
(foreground)
Brevity Quest,
Twine, 2017,
http://springthin
g.net/2017/play_
online/BrevityQu
est/brevity_quest
.html
Dr Lynda Clark
Thank you for listening!
University of Dundee
lclark001@dundee.ac.uk

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WAPWG Clark defining capturing_web-based_if

  • 1. Dr Lynda Clark Defining and Capturing Web- based Interactive Fiction University of Dundee lclark001@dundee.ac.uk
  • 2. The Project Emerging Formats: Web-based interactive narrative – collection & creative artefact
  • 3. The Process • Identify • Determine UK authorship • Categorise • Collect • QA • Analyse • Create
  • 4. Identify Interactive Narrative as defined by the British Library:  Interactivity: Experiential  Narrativity: Non-linear, anti- story  Non-standardised: Variety of tool usage  Web-based: born-digital, but NOT downloadable From: Michael Day, Maureen Pennock, Caylin Smith, Jeremy Jenkins & Ian Cooke, ‘Preservation Planning for Emerging Formats at the British Library’ in Proceedings of iPres 2018, (2018, 1-10), <https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1303007>
  • 6. Sidebar: Why is Interactive Narrative at risk? 6
  • 7. Sidebar: Gone, But Not Forgotten 7
  • 8. Categorise 294 works by 114 creators! Hypertext Parser-based Choice-based Multi-modal ????
  • 9. Categorise: Hypertext 9 Adam Hay, The Cat Demands, Twine, 2015, https://unusualcadence.itch.io/the-cat-demands Hosted on itch.io Interaction: clicking links
  • 10. Categorise: Parser-Based Interaction: Typing commands C.E.J. Pacian, Castle of the Red Prince, Inform 7, 2013, http://iplayif.com/?story=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ifarchive.org%2Fif-archive%2Fgames%2Fzcode%2FCastleOfTheRedPrince.zblorb Hosted on iplayif.com
  • 11. Categorise: Choice- Based Toni Owen-Blue, Double/Cross, ChoiceScript, 2015, https://www.choiceofgames.com/user-contributed/double-cross/#utm_medium=web&utm_source=ourgames Hosted on Choice of Games Interaction: Making choices BUT: Paywalled
  • 12. Maria Mencia, The Winnipeg (El barco de la esperanza/The boat of hope), Web, 2018, https://winnipeg.mariamencia.com/ Categorise: Multi-modal Hosted on creator’s personal site Interaction: clicking moving text
  • 13. Categorise: ??? Ethan Fox, Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, RPG Maker, 2018, https://ethan-fox.itch.io/nale Web-based: Hosted on itch.io 13 Interaction: Move Nina to advance story BUT: Does this count? BUT: Is this a game rather than interactive fiction?
  • 14. Categorise: Avatar-Based Interaction: Making choices Ethan Fox, Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, RPG Maker, 2018, https://ethan-fox.itch.io/nale HOWEVER: Creator identifies the work as interactive fiction
  • 15. Categorise: ‘Other’ 15 (Above) Verity Lee, 30 Kilogrammes, Texture, 2016, https://verityvirtue.itch.io/30- kilogrammes (Below) J.R. Carpenter, Along the Briny Beach, Javascript, 2012, http://luckysoap.com/alongthebrinybeac h/ (Above) Emma Pooka, Bad Influences, Html, 2013-2014, http://badinfluences.org.uk/
  • 16. Some things you may have noticed so far… 125; 43% 68; 23% 21; 7% 51; 17% 29; 10% Hypertext Parser Choice Avatar-driven Other Lack of standardization No central location(s) No collection method for commercial works
  • 17. ( ) Collect & QA Collection Tools:
  • 18. Collect & QA: Hypertexts 18 Adam Hay, The Cat Demands, Twine, 2015, https://unusualcadence.itch.io/the-cat-demands
  • 19. Collect & QA: Hypertexts 19 Chikodili Emelumadu, Onyinye Iwu & Tory Hoke, The Fixer, HTML, in Sub-Q Magazine, 2015, https://sub-q.com/play-the-fixer/ Missing Image
  • 20. Collect & QA: Parser-Based C.E.J. Pacian, Castle of the Red Prince, Inform 7, 2013, http://iplayif.com/?story=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ifarchive.org%2Fif- archive%2Fgames%2Fzcode%2FCastleOfTheRedPrince.zblorb Robin Douglas Johnson, Aunts and Butlers, Versificator, 2006, http://versificator.net/aunts-and-butlers/ Creator’s custom-made engine
  • 21. Collect & QA: Choice-Based Sammi Narramore, Journey Through Your Final Dream, Ink, 2018, https://narramoreart.itch.io/finaldream-inkjam18 Isak Grozny, dripping with the waters of sheol, Ink, 2017, https://ladyisak.itch.io/sheol
  • 22. Collect & QA: Multi-modal
  • 23. Collect & QA: Avatar-Based 23 Ash Green, Changes: A Mysterious Tale, Bitsy, 2018, https://ashg.itch.io/changes-a- mysterious-tale ‘Run’ button Settings which affect capture
  • 24. Collect & QA: Contextual Information 24 Marina Díez, Aquarium, Bitsy, 2018, https://ninfa.itch.io/aquarium Marina Díez, The Forest: A Fable, Bitsy, 2018, https://ninfa.itch.io/the-forest-a- fable (comments section) Capture failed Creator description & specifications retained User comments retained
  • 25. Collect/QA Summary 25 Creation Tool Additional Notes on Content Recommended Capture Tool Any Works containing significant video, audio, or visual elements Webrecorder (any browser) Any Work which requires a button press or text entry to start rather than a click Webrecorder (any browser) Twine Most images in Twine works capture successfully with ACT, particularly if image URLs are added. Some may require Webrecorder if javascript or dynamic images are used. ACT in the first instance, Webrecorder with any browser to eliminate issues with images, Webrecorder with Firefox v49 to eliminate issues with javascript RPG Maker ACT Bitsy If the work has an opening page which can be started by clicking, ACT will be able to capture successfully, if not, use Webrecorder Click to start: ACT Arrow keys to start: Webrecorder Inform 7 While Webrecorder is generally recommended for Inform 7, ACT can work equally well depending on whether it is click to start, or space bar to start, and where and how it has been uploaded. Webrecorder (any browser) Creation Tool Additional Notes on Content Recommended Capture Tool Emulated BBC Micro (online) Webrecorder (any browser) Adventuron ACT Ink/Inklewriter Basic Ink works capture well with ACT, those which have been heavily customised may require Webrecorder ACT in the first instance, Webrecorder with any browser to eliminate issues with styling such as dynamic or hover text elements. Texture ACT ChoiceScript Only compiled works can be captured fully, although any CS works can be captured to some degree with Webrecorder (Firefox v49) ACT (compiled) Webrecorder (uncompiled – errors likely) Flash Webrecorder (Firefox v49) Quest Cannot be captured with either tool. Genarrator Cannot be captured with either tool. Construct 2 ACT Unity ACT Javascript Website Depending on the nature of the dynamic content, it may be best to run the site through ACT to ensure CSS code, images, html index files etc are captured and follow up with Webrecorder to see if more of the ‘feel’ of the site can be obtained. ACT & Webrecorder
  • 26. Overall findings: 26 Webrecorder:  Great for video, audio etc  Time-consuming, manual ACT:  Large scale, easily scheduled, automated captures  Limited success with some formats  Sometimes differences between QA output & live environment output
  • 27. Analysis  Top 3 genres:  Slice of Life  Fantasy  Science Fiction  Genre-mixing very common Genre Adventure Children's Comedy Crime Educational Erotic Fiction Experimental Fantasy Historical Fiction Horror Mystery Poetry Romance Science Fiction Slice of Life Surreal
  • 28. Analysis: Themes Public Transport Tea Mental Health Pets (Cats) Interactive Fiction (Metanarratives)
  • 29. Creation The Memory Archivist Lynda Clark, The Memory Archivist, Twine, 2019, https://notagoth.itch.io/the-memory-archivist
  • 30. Recycling (Background) Json for link cycling in Memory Archivist, amended from Ostrich by Jonathan Laury (foreground) Ostrich, Twine, 2018, https://borntopo otle.itch.io/ostric h
  • 31. Recycling (Background) Gradient background in The Memory Archivist, amended from Brevity Quest by Chris Longhurst (foreground) Brevity Quest, Twine, 2017, http://springthin g.net/2017/play_ online/BrevityQu est/brevity_quest .html
  • 32. Dr Lynda Clark Thank you for listening! University of Dundee lclark001@dundee.ac.uk

Editor's Notes

  1. My research project arose out of the British Library’s Emerging Formats project. This is concerned with exploring items which come within Legal Deposit, and are at risk of disappearing, but aren’t currently collected by the Library as standard. Web-based interactive narrative is just one element of this broader preservation project. My task was to create a special collection for the UK Web Archive and a creative piece that reflected that collection in some way.
  2. Because these are complex digital artefacts we’re dealing with, there’s a multi-stage process to undertake in order to ensure they’re properly collected and represented in the collection
  3. For the purposes of this project, the BL considered Interactive Fiction to be interactive in experiential terms. That is, items didn’t necessarily have to offer ‘true’ interaction such as player choice or branching narrative, but merely use some kind of interactive affordances to give the player an experience they couldn’t have with conventional print. There’s no emphasis on the ‘narrative’ element either – non-linear hypertexts which wouldn’t be classed as stories in the typical sense are fine. No limits on tool usage either – interactive works can be produced in any way and (theoretically) on any digital platform. The main restriction is that the items must ‘live’ on the web. This is due to the need for the library to comply with legal requirements.
  4. These are some of the resources I was able to use to help identify works and determine authorship. But many of them emphasized why there’s a need for collecting this kind of work in the first place – no systematic archiving of this kind of work currently exists.
  5. Here’s a typical entry from IFDB. The creator uses a pseudonym and their profile gives nothing away, while clicking on the work itself gives a 404 error.
  6. Clicking on the member reviews doesn’t provide much contextual information either. There’s only one review, and the reviewer doesn’t describe the game at all. However, this is better than some entries fare, where the IFDB record is the only information provided at all. Important takeaways here, then: researchers may want to access interactive work. Where the work cannot (or just hasn’t) been fully preserved, contextual info can help fill in gaps.
  7. A full list of all works is available here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1j-LXCMvVVRnfzIk9E3kvrvTIaK_jjwF6u8V7ZRPzfnw/edit#gid=0 The online collections are here: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/collection/1836 and here: https://webrecorder.io/BL_IF
  8. No current web-archiving tools are able to cope with pay walls.
  9. My solution was to encourage authors to volunteer their work and nominate the work of others, and to accept author definitions of what work is. But this isn’t without its problems – underrepresented groups are likely to remain underrepresented, and commercial works are still currently not collected, although there are exceptions, such as InkleStudio’s work.
  10. W3ACT is a tool by the British Library, https://github.com/ukwa/w3act which adds curation and annotation tools to heritrix webcrawler. If you’re not familiar with github it works in a very similar manner to the Wayback Machine: https://archive.org/web/. Webrecorder is available via https://webrecorder.io/.
  11. Collecting and QAing hypertexts is usually straightforward if they’re just made up of interlinked pages – as far as the webcrawler is concerned, they’re websites and so they can be collected easily with automated tools. QA need only consist of checking the first few links – if they have captured, it’s reasonable to assume the others have too.
  12. However, if the text contains code or images, standard webcrawlers may not be able to collect them. Therefore it may be necessary to adjust crawl settings, or use a dynamic capture method like Webrecorder. Checking each image may be necessary.
  13. Web-based parser works made with standard parser creation tools such as Inform 7 generally require Webrecorder, but some home made engines are broadly crawler-compatible.
  14. As with hypertexts, the complexity of the page design dictates which capture method is most suitable, and the degree of QA which is feasible.
  15. On a large website like The Winnipeg, it might be preferable to crawl it to get as much of an overview as possible, and then webrecord to highlight key elements. Similarly, QAing the entire site simply may not be possible.
  16. On Itch.io works, there are various settings which can be adjusted to aid capture (auto-run must be disabled in order for the webcrawlers to capture works). However, this requires either creator-archivists, or for archivists to work closely with creators.
  17. As mentioned previously, contextual information can be highly valuable, particularly if the work itself won’t capture.
  18. The above summary provides a comparison of the two main capture tools used in the project.
  19. The Memory Archivist was created in Twine to showcase some of the challenges associated with creating an interactive fiction archive, while also using some of the themes and techniques from the works.
  20. It also made use of code from some of the collected works, for example link cycling from Ostrich by Jonathan Laury & style sheet elements from Brevity Quest by Chris Longhurst.
  21. One of Twine’s most useful features is the ability to save out the html files of existing works and open them in Twine to see how they are made.