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It’s been some time since I wrote an update. A lot has changed in the world, and that has naturally affected my work, as well. After a difficult winter, during which I was sick more often than seems entirely necessary, March brought the Covid-19 crisis to my doorstep. Since March 13th my part of the world has been under the onus of social distancing, which has gradually affected more and more parts of my life. Although it may superficially seem that my normal routine is not much different than what I’m doing now, the constant barrage of news and the worry for myself and those around me take an emotional toll, which can make productivity quite difficult.
Evertree Inn is a mystery text adventure from Choice of Games‘ Hosted Games label, featuring an amateur detective untangling a cobweb of clues and secrets, but set in a by-the-book fantasy role-playing world, complete with elves and dwarves, mages and rogues, and all the rest. Sordwin is the sequel to Evertree, which can continue the adventure with a character from Evertree, or be played independently.
The premise of Evertree Inn is bare-bones. The game has a vested interest in speeding through the niceties of character generation, and dropping the player right in the middle of “and then the murders began”. This is just what a good detective mystery ought to do, in my opinion, and it contributed a lot to how readily the game drew me in, even in a time when I had found myself stuck in the middle of several other — otherwise excellent — games. You play a young adventurer, recently come of age and out to seek their fortune in the world. Much of the customization revolves around preset RPG concepts of race and class, though space is given for gender and sexuality, to propel the optional romantic side plot.
It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. Life is full of twists and turns, and sometimes new priorities have to override preexisting obligations. I spent the latter half of 2018 focused on my two ongoing projects, Turncoat Chronicle and an unnamed novel. I chose to prioritize those works over reviews and blog posts. Then I had a long stretch of time where my day job had to take priority, and even finding time to work on my game was a challenge. Once I had reclaimed my writing time and started making major progress on the game again, another thing popped up. And so on, so life goes.
Lately, though, it occurred to me that it was time to post a small update on my recent writerly activities. During May and June I have been hard at work on both the game and the novel, while at the same time planning ahead for what my next ChoiceScript project might be. I examined and discarded a large number of promising ideas, which is why I am holding back on discussing the details of the current idea, at least until I’m certain that it’s taken root.
Since February, Turncoat Chronicle has been undergoing a closed beta testing process. Both feedback and changes resulting from it have been extensive. Some of the comments were expected, others less so. Revising and expanding chapter two, the meatiest section of the game, has also helped me rethink the structure for chapter three, which will require further revising when I get back to it. Readying the next beta version is my top priority at the moment, and to that end I’m working full-tilt on the second half of chapter two, including the much-anticipated romance scene.
Since last May I’ve been working intensively on a new interactive fiction written in ChoiceScript language, titled Turncoat Chronicle. My previous attempt at writing a ChoiceScript game did not go well, but with a year’s worth of writing experience I decided to revisit the draft of the old game and re-spin it into a new story, told from a different point of view. Restructuring the narrative gave it a new lease of life, and my strict adherence to limiting the scope of the story means I have great hopes of completing it in a reasonable time frame.
Like the game it spun out of, and like several of my other writing projects in progress, Turncoat Chronicle occupies a complicated fantasy world, alien to our own, but without magic and religiously agnostic. Its setting, the kingdom of Koth, is known within its own world as a militant and battle-ready nation. Despite this, combat does not form the bulk of the story’s plot, nor the game mechanics. It lives in an uncomfortable subgenre, where talking typically solves more problems than stabbing: political fantasy.
Choice of Rebels: Uprising is an interactive text game from Choice of Games. I previously reviewed their game The Daring Mermaid Expedition, and have also played several of their other games, notably the Affairs of the Court trilogy. As implied by the name, the game’s plot involves an uprising against a corrupt empire in which you, the player character, play the role of both instigator and leader. As in all Choice of Games offerings, this game is rich and divergent, with hundreds of choices large and small that can affect the outcome of the plot.
One of the game’s main strengths is in its worldbuilding. The world of the Karagond Hegemony is richly drawn and thoroughly outlined in the attached codex, which is accessible from the game’s stats screen. The centuries-old empire has swallowed up the nations that preceded it and morphed their religion into a doctrine in support of their brutal hierarchies. This world order is held in check by theurgy, a vastly powerful kind of blood magic restricted to elite practitioners, and requiring the yearly sacrifice of thousands of serfs to power it. The game does an elegant job of intertwining the cultural and historical elements of worldbuilding with this deeper, more metaphysical aspect of the plot. While at times confusing, it also provides a richness that long-time readers of epic fantasy can appreciate.
The year-end mood has been upon me for weeks. 2017 feels like it’s been fleeing from under me, while at the same time, in retrospect, it’s been one of the longest years of my life. It’s hard to think of the passing year without remembering all that I didn’t accomplish. I had big ideas for this year, ideas that didn’t pan out quite as I’d hoped.
My plans to complete a playable game, top to bottom, met with repeated setbacks. I had hoped to have the final version of Girlfriend Material complete for release before the end of the year. Now I’m uncertain of when I’ll be able to set a hard release date for the game at all.
Work stress and real-life circumstances prevented me from dedicating myself to NaNoWriMo as I’d planned, though I participated in the latter half and managed to rehabilitate my daily writing habits. I ended November with ten thousand written words that I hadn’t had before, setting the course for a story sun out of 2016’s wordier — but still unsuccessful — NaNovel.
Apart from NaNoWriMo and my daily pages, I hadn’t tracked my word count at all in 2017. I think 2018 is as good a time as any to resume that habit. I hate to find myself at the end of the year, or even the week, looking back and unable to effectively assess how much progress I’ve made. 2018 is already looking to be a year of big changes for me, and the first one of those is going to be reviving my meticulously color-coded spreadsheets.
I plan to keep writing games and short stories in the year to come. January will bring my very first professionally published work, and hopefully also a review for the last book I read in 2017, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Behind the curve, I’m afraid, but better late than never. I’m also looking forward to the second iteration of Finally Finish Something Jam as an incentive to step up my work on Girlfriend Material.
There’s a great deal to (remind myself to) look forward to.
Happy New Year.
I came upon a link to Reigns 2 quite by accident over Twitter, on the very day it was released. I’d never heard of it before, not the game to which it’s a sequel. It was a fortuitous discovery for me, because Reigns: Her Majesty is exactly the sort of game I liked. I downloaded it the same day and was enthralled for hours. Though the game has a learning curve I was determined to get ahead of it, especially since it comes with many, many unlockable achievements.
The basic premise of the game is that you play from the point of view of a newlywed royal consort, who is called to act as helpmeet to a bumbling but mostly harmless monarch. Successful ruling requires appeasing many factions with incompatible desires, which appear in the form of four metrics for faith, popularity, power and wealth. Failure is lethal, and even being too successful is its own kind of deadly. I’ve found, for example, that by far the most common mode of death in the game is being crushed by the love of adoring crowds.