Game Development & Storytelling

For those who haven’t had the joy of experiencing it, I strongly recommend a browser game called Fallen London. It’s a text-based game in which you can follow a vast series of stories to accomplish various different tasks. You have four main qualities; Watchful, Dangerous, Persuasive and Shadowy. You can choose whether to work on just one, two, or all four; each allows you different kinds of adventures. The main point to the game though, is storytelling. You can sign up using facebook, twitter etc, or with an email address. The main benefit to using social media is you can interact with your friends.

Fallen London is an alternate reality where London has been stolen by bats, and dragged deep underground (stay with me). The world is a kind of Victorian pastiche, and features a lot of memorable characters with whom you can interact and follow their stories. The writing is brilliant. You follow different stories called ‘storylets’, which branch out into different options that you can play by building up your qualities. This is what it looks like in play:

You have a set of opportunity cards at the top there, which allow you to do various one-off adventures, or follow a long-running story. The ones below are either ways to practice your skills and bump up main qualities, or more usually they are extensive stories that branch and feed back into themselves – and sometimes each other – to create a vast, patchwork story.

The force behind this (and other fantastic browser game the Night Circus about the novel of the same name – I’m currently reading it, it’s lovely) is a company called Failbetter Games. They are pretty much my heroes, and not just for their fantastic writing skills and their delightfully weird brain splurges. Failbetter Games are currently developing (well, finalising?) a website called Story Nexus, on which anyone will be able to go and create their own games like Fallen London. You can create a game just for you and your friends, or for everyone. You can make it small and self-contained, or huge and sprawling.

What’s best is that Failbetter intend to nurture and interact with this community of creators and gamers as much as possible – and I believe that they really will, because they’re truly passionate about this. They plan to have a seasonal competition – you can enter a new game, and the best will be selected and raved about by Failbetter, then added to their list of recommended games. In this way they get to encourage creators to do better and better, and help support people making new content.

The point to all this, apart from telling you how awesome Failbetter and Fallen London are, is to put down in words somewhere that I’m going to be creating a game on Story Nexus as soon as it’s open (and I have the time). I’m writing it with a close friend, based on an idea we came up with through a Microscope game, and it is going to be the best game ever. Yes, really.

So this is me announcing it. Now I have no choice but to go through with it!


About sarahgracelogan

Sarah Grace is an itinerant scribbler and general layabout. She runs a writing group called CAKE.shortandsweet, because any form of procrastination from actual writing is always attractive to the serious author of refined taste. When not distracted by laser pens, Sarah Grace writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, poetry, stage scripts and screenplays. She has performed her work at Stirred Poetry, Bad Language and Tongue in Cheek Manchester. Her first publication, Humping the Boonies is a self-published chapbook available directly from the author, or from Travelling Man, Manchester. You can find more details about her ongoing projects, not to mention a selection of free stories up for grabs right here on her blog. She also likes to talk about theatre, film, books, photography, and especially games and other things that involve collaborative storytelling. Sarah Grace likes feedback, in whatever form it comes.


  1. Elizabeth Krall

    This sounds intriguing, though you did give me pause with the bit about London being stolen by bats. It could be a good way to while away lunch hours at work when it’s too unpleasant to venture outside.

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