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What is CircumReality?


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How do I create my own world?

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What is CircumReality?

I don't have time to finish my game.

Click here for the free source code,, or,,,,,,,, .

See Multiplayer Interactive-Fiction Game-Design Blog  (docx)  (htm)  for more info.


Travel to exotic locations,

Meet interesting people,

And, for once, DON'T kill them,

Talk to them instead!

CirumReality is a multiplayer online game in which you explore imaginative player-created worlds, not by killing monsters, but by talking with and befriending computer-controlled characters. In CircumReality, you challenge your brain by figuring out what makes computer-controlled characters "tick", and use that knowledge to befriend them and accomplish your goals. Observation and problem-solving are key!


CircumReality video


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CircumReality worlds are created by players. Since most of what makes a game expensive is "eye candy", CircumReality reduces the eye-candy workload by displaying static (non-animated) images that are narrated using text-to-speech synthesis. (Click here to listen to a sample of the text-to-speech.) CircumReality titles aren't as flashy as a $20 million dollar game, but neither are books as flashy as movies. Books are compelling in their own way, though, and so are CircumReality titles.



How does CircumReality differ from a MMORPG, CRPG, or adventure game?
or Text MUD
  • CircumReality doesn't involve much combat, a cliche favourite of MMORPGs/MUDs, but focuses on other more-intellectual sub-games.
  • CircumReality is story driven, while most MMORPGs/MUDs are just about getting bigger and better loot.
  • CircumReality worlds take less time to complete, around two to ten hours.


Computer role-playing game (CRPG)
  • CircumReality doesn't involve much combat, a cliche favourite of CRPGs, but focuses on other more-intellectual sub-games.
  • CircumReality worlds take less time to complete, around two to ten hours.
  • CircumReality is multiplayer, so you can play with your friends, or meet new ones online.


Adventure game (or single-player Interactive fiction)
  • CircumReality includes some combat, and isn't limited to vexing puzzles.
  • CircumReality is multiplayer, so you can play with your friends, or meet new ones online.


Interactive storytelling
  • CircumReality is about more than just NPC interaction.
  • CircumReality is about more game-like.
  • CircumReality is multiplayer, so you can play with your friends, or meet new ones online.



Example CircumReality gameplay and how it differs from that of a MMORPG, CRPG, or adventure game
Since gameplay might still be a little unclear, I thought I'd illustrate some sample gameplay.

The scenario is one in which an old woman, the local town gossip, knows a salacious rumour that the player needs in order to boot the town mayor out of office. Unfortunately, the woman doesn't trust the player at first, and isn't too eager to give up her prize rumour. She is, however, an avid collector of snow globes.

To demonstrate the gameplay, I'll also explain how the scenario would be implemented for adventure games and CRPGs, so you can see the difference.


Adventure game - At some point in the game, you would find a snow globe object and pick it up. When you got to the room with the old woman, you'd notice her collection of snow globes in the background, and then give the snow globe to the woman. The woman would reply by giving you a letter with the salacious rumour, which you could then take to the local newspaper to have printed.

CRPG or MMORPG - The old woman would be standing outside her house (all day). When clicked on, she'd give you a quest to seek out a rare snow globe that's owned by the goblin king. You would have to enter the goblin king's lair, kill lots of goblin minions, the goblin king, and loot the snow globe from the king's treasure chest. When you return with the snow globe, the woman takes it and gives you a letter with the salacious rumour, which you could then take the the local newspaper NPC.

Multiplayer interactive fiction - From other NPCs, you would hear that the woman knows an important rumour.

Trying to make a good impression, the you put away your weapons and armour, and dress in your Sunday best, assuming that the woman is prim and proper. Of course, snow globes litter the woman's house, but it isn't obvious that's what she wants.

You approach the woman, say "Hello", and mentions a rumour that you heard, that "Mary [the woman's neighbour] is pregnant." This piques the woman's interest (she likes rumors after all) and she mentions a rumour about someone else in town. You follow up with another rumour, or an anecdote that somehow fits with the woman's previous rumour/anecdote. In some ways, the back-and-forth is like the "Magic, the gathering" card game, with each side pulling out an appropriate rumour/anecdote, combined with the old "Illuminati" card game, where only certain cards can be near one another. It wouldn't do for you to tell a joke just after the woman related a sad story about her mother's death, for example.

At some point, the woman decides she trusts you enough, and mentions another anecdote, about how she used to visit the beaches of Amroth when she was a child, and look through the nearby shops. She mentions that some of her snow globes came from there. If you didn't get the hint, then some more obvious hints are given in later anecdotes; the woman may discuss various places she's been, and all the snow globes she's purchased as souvenirs.

You have several possible solutions to the problem: The obvious one is to search around the stores, buy several snow globes, and give them to the woman. (By the way, the woman won't accept snow globes from you if she doesn't already like and trust you a little bit. The conversation part is necessary.) A better solution is for you to notice that the woman's snow globe from Amroth is broken, travel there, and buy just one snow globe; it's a cheaper solution for you, but more valuable to the woman. Another solution might be to buy the old woman a train ticket to some place, since she obviously likes to travel... or, you could always kill the goblin king and take his snow globe. :-)

Whatever the solution, enough snow globes (or the right one) make the woman friendly enough that she's willing to grant you a favour. One of the favours might be the tasty bit of gossip about the mayor. When she tells you the gossip, it appears on your list of "knowledge". You can then wander around town telling other NPCs the gossip. If enough NPCs are told, the mayor will resign in disgrace. Alternatively, you could visit the mayor and tell the mayor about the gossip that the old woman told you, and who the source was; the woman mysteriously falls down her stairs that night...


Note: This scenario isn't the only way that multiplayer interactive fiction can play out. It's just pointing out how the experience can be very different from an adventure game or CRPG/MMORPG. Multiplayer interactive fiction often incorporates elements from CRPGs, MMORPGs, and adventure games, and might require a few goblin kings to be slain too.



What is "Multiplayer interactive fiction"?
Multiplayer interactive fiction is an online computer "game" which:
  1. Lets you play a character in a virtual world. The world isn't limited a standard fantasy or science fiction setting, and might take place in Victorian England, modern-day New York City, or even a dream world.

  2. The world is centred around a story that your character participates in, such as a detective solving crimes in Victorian England, a romance in New York City, or the more familiar "save the world" fantasy and science fiction stories.

  3. Your actions affect the story's direction, although this is limited by current technology and how much time the author had to write in narrative choices. You can even forgo the story altogether and follow your own muses, although the game experience may not be as rich.

  4. The world is filled with sub-games. IF titles aren't limited to the standard combat sub-game (common to computer role-playing games) and puzzle sub-game (common to adventure games). Sub-games, which are customised to the story, might involve interrogating non-player characters, romancing them, or trying to run a property-rental empire.

  5. In (multiplayer) interactive fiction, sub-games are used to enhance the story, much as music and special effects are used to enhance a movie's story... instead of the movie's story merely being a vehicle to show off music and special effects.

  6. Much of an IF title's experience comes from the "scenery". You might find yourself spending much of your time in activities that have nothing to do with the sub-games, such as listening non-player characters' anecdotes, exploring the world, or chatting with other players, much like you'd do on a real-life vacation.

  7. Many (but not all) IF titles are multiplayer. You can team  up with other players, just sit around and chat, or stick to yourself. Sometimes you'll even compete against them.

  8. (Multiplayer) interactive fiction titles tend to be short, requiring between two to ten hours to complete. When you finish one, visit the CircumReality web page and download a link to another. (Or for those who like a challenge, write your own.)

  9. Most IF titles are created by hobbyists, who author the titles for the fun of it, just like people write blogs. If you enjoy a title, or even if you find some problems with it, make sure to tell the author what you thought; They like to hear that players are enjoying their works of art, and are always interested in improving their creations. Also, if you enjoy playing an IF title, make sure to tell your friends. Being hobbyists, authors don't have an advertising budget!

  10. IF titles that use CircumReality will tend to be slow-paced and intellectual due to the way CircumReality uses still scenes and spoken narration.



Copyright 2009 by Mike Rozak.