Calling all web-designers: How to make a choose-your-own-adventure site?
February 6, 2014 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I've got an idea for a website I'd like to do - I want to create, together with my website visitors, a sort of "choose your own adventure." I would set up the story up to a point, then the people who visit the site could come up with ideas as to which way the story would go. The top three up voted choices become the next part of the adventure, which I then flesh out. I would update once a week; this just sprung into my head, and it sounds like a cool creative project for me to do. I also have a talented artist that would like to contribute. Unfortunately, I have no experience in web site design, and am lost as how to begin. Please help me learn how to design a website so I could set up this kind of project! Details inside.

Let me give a simple example:

Trevor fell down into... ()

In the parentheses, maybe the three top up voted answers would be 'a cave', 'a parallel universe', and a 'ferret'. I would then come up with three separate story lines for each with them branching off again at the end, and maybe kill some story lines if they are getting out of hand. Please help this idea come to fruition!

Please help me understand the costs, time investment, etc it would take to get a running model up so that I can begin. I'm sure it will just be friends/family playing at first, but it would nice if the idea was to catch on over time. Any other advice would be much appreciated!
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Technology (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You want Twine. Twine is exactly the thing that you want.
posted by ook at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

You will need to become a full stack Web developer. It's a time consuming process to learn all the technologies, but it's cheap. Building and hosting a small site can be free if you use the right tools. You would need to pay for a domain name and that's about it.

I suggest starting with a server side language like Python or NodeJS and a ser c I've like Firebase as the data storage.

Host and run the app on Heroku.

On preview you could use Twine as suggested by @ook. It looks to be much simpler
posted by askmehow at 8:26 AM on February 6, 2014

(Oh, except for the voting part, which I somehow glossed over completely in my hurry to expose another person to Twine.) Perhaps that could be done in a macro, if you're willing to dabble in some javascript.

But like anything we can do this easy or we can do this hard. You could use this as an excuse to become a full stack web developer if you're in to that sort of thing, but this doesn't have to be super complicated; I've seen people do similar projects just on plain vanilla blogs -- treat each segment of the story as a blog post, say "post your votes in comments!" and cross-link posts as needed. Even static html pages would do for a start (there was a flourishing of CYOA and other branching-narrative type websites in the early days of the web because the href is really well suited to that sort of thing.) You could set up a dedicated email address and just use mailto: links at the end of each story segment.
posted by ook at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2014

You could do something approximating this with freely available tools intended for non-technical users.

As mentioned above, Twine will help you author the CYOA portion of the project. You could use Google Forms to collect answers from your readers about which stories to pursue. (You'd have to do the work of updating the Twine with whatever your readers voted for on your own, though.)

Here is a good introduction to Twine, btw.

If you have really specific ideas about how the interface and interactivity would work that aren't possible with Twine (or its ilk) and Google forms (or similar services), then yeah, you'd need to write some code. The programming tag on AskMe is a good place to find other questions (and good answers) about learning web programming. I agree that Python or Javascript would be good languages to start out with.
posted by aparrish at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out this version of a Choose Your Own Adventure that Mefi's own shakespeherian runs through Google Plus comments section. It's pretty seamless!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll suggest a standard blogging system like wordpress. It doesn't sound like this is a many pathed adventure game, but more like an ongoing discussion between collaborators. I'm sure wordpress has a survey/vote plugin.
posted by sammyo at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

What you describe, with the user-suggested choices and the polling, sounds very much like the "Mearls" system used at Blog of Holding, except that the Mearls is aimed at producing a single storyline rather than a branching one. There's an online interface for making your own Mearls, but you'd be using their server that way, and I don't think you can extend that into nonlinearity the way you want.
posted by baf at 9:27 AM on February 6, 2014

You might also want to look at Squareknot - it was originally conceived as a platform for recipes, diy projects, etc., but I believe a lot of the early adopters have been using it for collaborative writing.
posted by mskyle at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2014

Quora Blogging has everything you need, voting included, and it's free. Here is an example of a Quora blog that utilizes stories with voting and commenting.
posted by rada at 9:40 AM on February 6, 2014

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