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Building a Map-Based Game

Creating a map-based game involves creating a physical setting that the player can explore. With directional choices like north, south, up, down, in, or out, the player controls where he or she goes. A map-based game may not have a plotline; rather, it may be fun because it allows a player to “travel” to a space and explore without leaving home. For example, you could construct an interactive fiction Hogwarts and allow players to move from room to room in the castle.

You can practice this process by turning your home into a game space. Think of this as an unofficial but more elaborate Try It Out. Start by constructing a map of your house or apartment. Draw the layout of the rooms and pay attention to the flow of the space so you know how players can move from room to room. Figure 3.8 shows an example of a map of a house.

FIGURE 3.8

FIGURE 3.8 A map of a house.

Once you have a rough sketch of your house, you can translate it into Twine. Create a passage for each room on your map. Figure 3.9 shows what the map from Figure 3.8 looks like all set up in Twine. Click and drag the boxes to arrange them so they’re in the same order as the rooms on your map.

FIGURE 3.9

FIGURE 3.9 The earlier house map now constructed out of Twine boxes.

Link the rooms together as you would actually walk through them. In Figure 3.9, the player can only go to the dining room or front hall from the kitchen, but he or she can go to four different rooms from the front hall.

Now write some choices for your player to make when navigating this house. You can give the player directional choices such as go left or go right, or you can write room-based choices, such as “enter the living room” or “enter the bathroom.”

Open each passage and write a description of the room. Try actually walking to that room in your house and taking a look around. Where do your eyes go first when you enter that room? What furniture is in that room? Remember that you are not only the players’ eyes, but also their ears, nose, tongue, and hands. Use all five senses when writing your descriptions.

Now that you’ve written some description to start, you can add even more details to create opportunities for deeper exploration. Write a few short detail passages that connect to each room or use the (link:) tool to hide information for the player to discover.

Although there are only seven locations in this house, each passage may have dozens of detail passages that provide further detail. Each of those passages may have multiple passages connecting to them, as you can start to see in Figure 3.10.

FIGURE 3.10

FIGURE 3.10 The house contains several rooms. Each of those rooms has detail passages connected to the rooms to encourage deeper exploration.

In the kitchen, the player can look in the cabinets. In this case I’ve used detail passages to give additional information, but I could just as easily use the (link:) tool to create richer description.

Unless you’re talking about places that people would love to visit, such as Hogwarts or the Shire, moving from room to room probably isn’t very interesting if there isn’t a goal, so you should give the player a goal. The player character could discover a ripped piece of paper with part of a secret message on it, and they must search the house to find the rest of the pieces. Don’t make it too easy! Create nested links to make players poke around to accomplish the goal.

Houses are often small, but you can use the technique just described with larger spaces, such as a town or a country. Just draw your map, create your corresponding passages, arrange the boxes on the grid screen, and then add shorter passages to the main passages.

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