StoryNexus is a system designed to create choice-based narratives that exist and are played completely online. It differs from most choice-based authoring systems in that it allows an extensive list of variables, called qualities to affect play, and a card-drawing mechanism that allows the author to create a degree of randomness in the story experience. The system allows live editing, a monetization system, and recently began allowing authors to modify the look of their games using CSS and customized card art using any image hosted on the web that is legal for the author to use.
Qualities are numerical variables that can represent all manner of things within a game world, and have categories that affect where they are displayed in the interface, and how they behave, report to the player when they change, and what text and icons they show at different levels. Qualities might represent money the player earns, health the player has, progress through various plot lines, useable items that trigger a storylet, or even items that the player can equip within another slot quality that affects other qualities. For example, a shiny medal quality can be equipped into a lapel slot quality that gives a bonus to a confidence quality and a penalty to the modesty quality.
The game cards, also called storylets are comprised of one Root Event, the text of which is always visible, and commonly serves as exposition for the situation presented on the card, and/or explanation of the choices to be made. Each card then usually has one or more branches which are choices the player can make with buttons to activate them. Each branch will also then have one or more results which reveal the outcome of the choice, and modify any qualities appropriately. Results can have separate default and success outcomes if the branch has a difficulty setting based on one or more of the qualities in effect, and both default and success outcomes can have an additional rare default or rare success outcome that triggers based on a set percentage chance when the outcome of the difficulty challenge succeeds or fails.
Storylet Cards may reside in any number of Decks that the author creates, or be pinned to the screen where they are always available. Cards may appear and disappear from the screen and from decks based on any quality requirements the author sets for them, by location that the author specifies, or by setting, which allows the author to change card availability without affecting the player's location. Within storylet cards, branches may be locked and un-selectable, or even hidden from view completely based on the value of qualities the player currently has.
StoryNexus also provides living stories which are cards that can be triggered by player action, but delay their results for a specified amount of real-world time before their effects are presented to the player via a Storynexus alert or an email if the player chooses to be alerted by the game. These can be used for effects such as plants that take actual time to grow in-world, or correspondence the player can write and send that provides a realistic delay before being answered.
Each game also is controlled by refreshable actions which come from a pool the size of which the author specifies in increments between 10 and 100. Actions refresh over time, the rate at which is also adjustable by the author in five increments of one action every 10 minutes to one action every 3 hours. Choosing a branch on a pinned card costs one action. Drawing from any deck of cards costs one action, and deals up to three cards that the player qualifies for, into any of three empty slots which are open on the screen, which then do not cost actions to play. Cards can be specified as transient which means they will disappear when the player no longer qualifies for them, and/or may be set as sticky or discardable which controls if the player can get rid of a card without selecting a branch on it. Actions pace players to keep them from tearing through content and from grinding their qualities up to maximum level without a trade-off.
Players can restore their actions within a game without waiting for them to refresh naturally by purchasing Nex with real-world money and spending this currency for an action refresh. Authors may also choose to make certain branches within a storylet only choosable if the player spends a set amount of Nex to play it. In general, Failbetter recommends that StoryNexus worlds be free to play, with occasional premium Nex-required branches that provide significant benefit for choosing them. Authors are paid a royalty percentage of any Nex spent in their world which are disbursed into a PayPal account of the author's choosing when their earned funds reaches a minimum goal.
StoryNexus also provides convenient ways to build new game content onto an existing world and keep it out of view from players (or tantalizingly locked but visible) while allowing the author and collaborators to beta test the content easily. The world tools also allow an author to specify multiple users who may collaboratively edit or create content in a specific world as desired.