I spent the majority of my gaming time this weekend checking out Jason Rohrer's recent indie release, Sleep Is Death, an interactive story tool that gets as much of its DNA from improvisational theater as it does from old school gaming. Participants are cast into one of two roles: controller or player, and connect to each other via the Internet. The controller interface provides tools for setting the player in a scene, and adding objects (people, dogs, zombies, etc.) to the scene for the player to interact with. The player's interface allows them to talk by typing into a speech bubble, and to tell the controller what actions they'd like to perform by typing verbs into an action box. This interaction plays back and forth, from scene to scene until the story reaches some sort of conclusion.
By default, each person has 30 seconds to take their turn, so playing the controller takes a fair amount of prep time in the controller interface. So far I've spent the majority of my time with the game there, getting used to the tools, building scenes, creating objects (persons, things) out of sprites, etc. The graphics have a real Gameboy Advance look to them, which gives Sleep Is Death a very classic feel. At first it was a little hard to see the possibilities given Rohrer's sample imagery - he's more of a programmer than a graphic artist - but after seeing Shannon Galvin's excellent "Are We Home?", I was sold.
I'm still not entirely certain where Sleep Is Death will take me. The $14 price includes 2 copies, one for each player, and I've passed my second copy on to a friend, but we've not jumped into a game as yet. Digging into the controller interface has been really interesting and addictive, though, so that should keep me occupied for a while. Rohrer has posted some sample playthroughs on his site that are quite good, and I've found a large, unfiltered collection of them at sidtube.com, which also has forums, IRC, art resources and a wiki.