I love portal fantasies. It’s a wonderfully flexible subgenre that seems to be experiencing a well-deserved revival of interest lately. Some of the best classic children’s books are portal tales, pure escapism at its finest. Rereading them as an adult will have an added subtext, intended or otherwise. The Alice books are particularly noteworthy in this respect.
Portal stories written directly with an adult readership in mind are usually more cynical, or at least, they aim to be more cynical. Whether they succeed is a matter of opinion.
Escape to Princess is a portal fantasy. It’s my story of an adult fantasy, not adult as in “having sex in it” but as in “written to appeal to grown-ups”, and also in the sense of “contains many swear words”. Modern life is full of strains and hardships, and E2P is my small escape, as the title plainly says. It represents a promise that magic and mystery can be a part of your grown-up life if you choose them. While it pokes fun at a few common genre conventions, it’s done affectionately, born of the idea that fantasy can be a necessary component of adulthood.
At the bottom line, E2P is a very simple light-hearted tale. You can play it through in just a few minutes and discover one of four possible endings, all base on your escapist fantasy of choice. Find the edited and updated version of this game on Philome.la where it previously appeared, and on Itch.io.
One of the best things I’ve done as a novice game dev is get involved in game jams. Itch.io’s Finally Finish Something Jam motivated me to finish the alpha of my largest Twine project to date, Wreath of Roses, and submit it for feedback. After that was done I took a short break to focus on short stories, and just as I was wondering what my next project should be, I remembered that March is NaNoRenO.
I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo before. It’s a month-long challenge to complete a novel draft, which has been running for years and engaged thousands of writers. NaNoRenO takes its inspiration from there, but is a rather more modest affair. The challenge is to create a visual novel or story-driven game, in one month. While some people can work alone to create all the writing, code and art for their game, most people prefer to work in teams and focus on their strengths.
It is the story of Thalia, a princess on her way to an arranged marriage. The story follows Thalia as she arrives at the kingdom meant to be her future home and gets to know her future husband, tracking her responses to her environment, positive and negative. As the wedding nears Thalia can choose to explore the castle and get to know some of its inhabitants, and at the end of the game the player makes a decision based on Thalia’s overall impressions: to go through with the wedding, or cancel it.
This early version of the game is fully playable and features character customization and four different endings.
An excerpt from the game’s opening will be available on my Patreon later this month.
I have two new games out on my philome.la page!
- Escape to Princess is a light-hearted humorous adventure where you escape your dreary life… to become a princess. Just as advertised. This twine is built in the form of a story with multiple choices. Your previous choices are highlighted and you can scroll back up to see them at any time. Content note: the game is humorous but does contain some strong language, if that’s not your cup of tea.
- Why Aren’t You Happy? is a game where you play a dragon who is trying to keep its princess happy. Give gifts to improve her mood, but remember that the cost comes straight out of your hoard. The game has three settings that determine how many game days pass before your tenure as a princess-minder receives its judgment.
Although I have mentioned it elsewhere on social media, I haven’t discussed my games here much. Over the last few years, I’ve been dabbling in making hypertext games and stories using Twine, a wonderfully simple and flexible platform. It proved the perfect tool for making tiny little mini-games, light-weight and playable in a couple of minutes. Bearing in mind, of course, that the several minutes of gameplay took several hours to write, code and test.
It took some time before I was comfortable enough with Twine to create something that I could call a complete product. Once I did, and uploaded the final product to the lovely philome.la, the page seemed a little desolate. I looked at it and wanted it to be full of links to different games! Well, creating a portfolio of games takes some time and effort, even if they’re the sort of games that can be completed inside of six hours. But if a writer is not going to be realistic about their goals, they can at least be brave for them.
My first complete Twine adventures, the “Unicorn Trilogy”:
- “Box of Unicorns“, a cute cotton-candy colored romp where you collect small colorful unicorns to no apparent end.
- “Box of Unicorns: the Gritty Reboot” a.k.a. Unicorn Hunt, a low-rent grimdark post-apocalyptic parody, based on code almost identical to its predecessor, but with the added possibility of a bad end.
- “Unicorn Wars“, a heroic pseudo-epic in which you are called to defend unicorn-kind against sundry enemies. Slightly more complex gameplay with a countdown and a bad end.