Experimentation

Experimentation is an important and necessary component to maintaining a creative and relevant environment. Valve lets its employees work on basically whatever they want, then figures out how to sell it later; Lance Weiler considers most of his projects “story R&D;” and everyone and their rogue AI has heard the phrase “fail faster.”

Experimentation has always been something I’m interested in, too. I want to play with ideas, with mechanics, with stories, to see what works and what doesn’t. Tabletop games have been a great breeding ground for this, trying to fix systems or push their boundaries. Azrael’s Stop started as an experimental project, until over several iterations it became the fully formed project it is now.

Experimentation allows us to learn a lot very quickly; it allows us to better understand systems and audiences; it allows us to keep growing in expertise and understanding, and thus to broaden and sharpen our skills.

So when Andrew and I were discussing Silverstring’s direction, its mission, and the culture we wanted to create, we knew we wanted experimentation to be baked in from the start. We decided that at least a bit of our time and effort would always be devoted to trying new things for the sake of learning, pure and simple.

But allowing us to just do whatever we want for the heck of it isn’t very business-savvy -- and could miss the point of true experimentation. So to qualify as a worthy Silverstring experiment, we needed certain guidelines:

  • The project must be trying to answer one or more questions; this could be as simple as “Can I learn and use Inform 7 to make an interesting experience?” but must lead to learning something about the craft of stories and experiences.

  • It should involve more than one member of the Silverstring team, even if just in consultation.

  • Creating and releasing isn’t enough; the result must then be deeply analyzed, and ideally posted about to share our research with others -- part of our commitment is to remain a valuable member of the creative community, and a rising tide lifts all boats.


In keeping with this vision, we're proud to announce that we've just launched an experiments page to collect these projects and make them available to the public. To start off, we have a Twine game that I wrote last month, called Before the End of the World.

I’m really pretty proud of the story and experience I set out to create (with music contributed by Devin). It’s only about a 15-minute experience, and I would love to know what you think. I will be posting a detailed analysis and post mortem in a few weeks, partially based on the feedback I get from you.

Play it here, and leave a comment here if you can! I've also set up a quick survey to see what players think.