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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.
In preparation for my very first Yuri Game Jam, I found myself browsing some of the best-loved entries from jams of years past. The one that stuck with me most is undoubtedly Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. This is a cute and quirky adventure with a mildly romantic tone. You play as Syrup, a self-proclaimed candy alchemist and the owner of the only mundane candy shop in a village occupied entirely by witches and magical creatures.
Syrup is an endearingly grumpy character, devoted to her discipline but a little lacking in social skills, and surrounded by an equally endearing supporting cast. Her best friend Pastille is her only employee, in charge of dealing with customers and all the aspects of managing a shop that Syrup herself just isn’t very good at, while she works in the laboratory, creating fanciful candies. She carries on a friendly rivalry with the witch Butterscotch and her familiar Toffee, who are also her best customers.
The plot begins when Syrup enters her workshop and discovers a stranger there, a girl made entirely out of gummy pink candy. Being the suspicious character that she is, she immediately assumes the candy construct is a spy sent by her nemesis, Butterscotch, to discover how she makes her fabulous candies. Butterscotch is vain enough to accept the credit for creating such a complex piece of magic, bringing a candy girl to more-or-less autonomous life.
How the plot progresses depends largely on the player’s choices, unlocking one of several endings based on Syrup’s behavior towards both her friends and her enemies. Some of the endings are sweet and hopeful, some of them are quite depressing, and a few are ambivalent. All in all, the theme of the game is more around friendship than romance, which perhaps makes it an odd candidate for a yuri-based game jam, but I found it to be just the right kind of heart-warming for me.
Being a completionist, I made a decent stab at pursuing all possible endings, even the aptly-named “candibal” ending. The bad ends bring the good ones into focus, although I wouldn’t recommend playing them all back-to-back. There is also one friendship ending that’s only attainable after you’ve already unlocked one of the other good ends, and it even happens to be one of my favorites.
You can download Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet through itch.io or play it online through your browser. The browser-playable version has a slightly different interface, but I found both versions very playable. For a better look at the game’s art, check out Nami-Tsuki’s Deviant Art account, or find the game’s music on Bandcamp.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
The first Girlfriend Material demo is now out on itch.io. The demo introduces our protagonist, Lavinia von Adeline, and her ambition to design and build a robotic girlfriend AI for herself. Other characters appearing in the demo include: Jenny Jones, Lavinia’s mythological ex-girlfriend; Professor Eugenia, her mother; Ms. Margaret, her gossipy yet well-meaning neighbor; and Kasper, the helpful clerk at the hardware store.
Girlfriend Material is a hybrid visual novel dating game where you the player get to build a robot girlfriend and determine her personality from three predefined archetypes. The game is written in the Ren’py engine. Our team includes myself as writer and programmer, TellerFarsight as co-writer, and blankd as character artist. We hope to release the full free-to-play game in early November 2017.
It’s Yuri Game Jam season! A season to be especially queer in.
I know I mentioned before that I adore game jams. Deadlines tend to bring out my best work and I love the opportunity to potentially work with new people, not to mention I will jump at any opportunity to stretch my creative muscles. Yuri Jam is dedicated to stories centering queer female characters, which is familiar territory for me. The project I elected to develop, though, is something of a romantic comedy, which dips just slightly into camp territory.
Our protagonist is a self-styled mad scientist, a brilliant scientist who abandoned the world of academic research to recklessly pursue her own projects with no oversight. While she makes her living from the patents she takes out on her gadgeteering, she now faces her most ambitious invention yet. After years of romantic strikeouts, a phone-call from a concerned ex-girlfriend prompts her to take an entirely new approach to matters romantic, and she decides to build herself a robot girlfriend.
Yuri Game Jam is a two-month jam which takes place over the course of September-October 2017. I hope to complete the game, with three full romance routes, by the end of the jam. Accounting for last-minute complications, the estimated date of release is early-to-mid November. I will be posting progress updates on the Zinc Alloy Tumblr blog, and updating more regularly on the ZA Discord channel.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.