Development Diaries

Owlor's picture

Because You're Mine - Post Mortem


Alright, I submitted a game to Ectocomp, an annual competition for interactive fiction made in under three hours (they also have a category without a time-limit.) And I decided to take the opportunity to submit something written in Inform7, cus I should be able to learn a whole system in 3 hours, right? (Spoilers follow below.)

I'll be putting examples of from my source in quotes like this.

Now, I didn't include the hours I spent browsing through the documentation, only the actual writing process. I'm gonna talk a little bit about what went right and what went wrong from the perspective of a larval parser game-writer.

"Because you're mine" was named after a line in the song "I put a spell on you" by Jay Hawkins. The theme of the comp is Halloween and it's one of the classic Halloween anthems. I was also inspired about old novelty songs by Marie Laveau. Y'know, she's an important religious figure, but in pop culture she mainly survives as a jilted sorceress, pop culture is seldom fair. There's also a bit of Zecora in there; the main character could probably be described as "Zecora, if the ponies were right." Oh, and they are also a Horse.

I should probably explain about that. Most of my text adventures take place in a fictional universe of my own devising that's a spin on the MLP-universe. I thought about justifying it by invoking the Houyhnhnms of Gulliver’s Travels, explaining to anyone who wants to listen that it's actually a brilliant Swiftean satire of... but nope, it's ponies. It's not just Ponyville in disguise though, even if people might be thrown off due to their association with brightness and pastel colors.

One of the things that's struck me about MLP:FiM in particular is how the pony society is portrayed, intentionally or not, as kind of a lacuna of stability in a world that's otherwise inexplicable and terrifying. And that's the aspect I've tried to amplify for my own universe, bringing in influences from HP Lovecraft, Sunless Sea and Ursula le Guin. In my world, this stability is something that's constantly having its edges chewed on by forces both outside and inside.

In this game, you actually play as one of those destabilizing forces, a spurned sorcerer who is trying to perform a ritual to ensnare their lover. Right away, it establishes itself as one of THOSE games; the first sentence includes a piece of jargon: "Rootwork", and there's plenty more made-up Fantasy-concepts, with that one being one of the more comprehensible. (Rootwork is basically voodoo, at least for the purpose of this story.)

In order to not leave people completely in the dust, I included in the inventory a book that when examined turns out to be an encyclopedia.


The description of the book is "An encyclopedia. You can consult the book about unfamiliar concepts. A few pages are bookmarked: Intimidation, Singing, Vatch and Rootwork."

Apart from explaining important jargon (Rootwork, Vatch), I used the encyclopedia to introduce two of the custom verbs: Intimidate and Sing. Intimidation was, if I get to say so myself, a fantastic idea and all games with a villain protagonist should have it.

The supply shop is west of the shore. "The supply shop is fuzzy and damp. The exit is east." The small horse is a woman in the supply shop. "It is staffed by a small Horse sitting in a cardboard box."

Crow's feet is a thing in the supply shop. " Rows of Crow's Feet line the walls."

Instead of taking the Crow's feet, say "'Hey!' the tiny shopkeeper says in an annoyingly shrill voice. 'This is a barter system. You need to give me something in return.'"

instead of giving [thing] to [someone]: say "You couldn't care less about the barter system."

intimidating is an action applying to one visible thing.

Understand "Intimidate [someone]"as intimidating.

understand "steal [thing]" as taking.

After intimidating the small Horse:
now the player is carrying Crow's feet;
say "You give the small Horse a glare and she's reduced to cowering in the cardboard box in terror.

'T-take anything you need!' she stammers from behind the cardboard armor.

You take the Crow's feet, which is what you need to enter the swamp."

This "puzzle" is probably my favorite part of the game, as it introduces the social mores of this place and then requires the player to break them. It helps communicating what kind of person we're dealing with here, one that doesn't even consider regards for others an option. I would've really liked to do more with the whole "intimidation"-thing, I especially like the idea of it being a double-edged sword, giving you stuff but increasing the fear and persecution directed towards them.

Instead of going to the swamp when the player is not carrying the Crow's feet: end the story saying "You sink down to your knees in the swamp, then your stomach. Soon, the filthy swampwater is up to your neck. You are completely and utterly stuck and will continue to sink to your death unless anyone finds you and helps you up, which won't happen. Frankly, if somehorse saw you sink, they'd probably just watch your head disappear under the surface and stay until they were certain you were dead."

The most interesting part about having a villain protagonist was showing their loneliness. People hate and fear them... for a good reason, but this doesn't make their alienation less palpable.

Your lover is a man. Your lover is in the quaint drinking establishment. "Your lover sits by a table, chuckling slightly to himself. Your eyes narrow as you gaze upon this worthless lout. He doesn't appear to have noticed you."

After talking to your lover, say "'You!' he exclaims 'l-look, I can explain, I didn't mean to...' he doesn't finish the sentence and turns his head away.

'It's just... you scare me,' he finishes."

After intimidating your lover, say "Your lover trembles at the mere sight of you."

The scene with “your lover” helps hammer the point home that you are doing a bad bad thing, and that you have no time for subtlety; you just take what you can get. If I had more time, I would've liked a more elegant puzzle here. It's not the worst puzzle in the game, though, that honor goes to the Mandrake Root puzzle.

The gallows tree is north of the swamp. "It is called a gallows tree because it is the right shape and size for it, but the Horses of Creola does not actually hang criminals. Much easier to send them out into the bog and watch as they slowly sink to the bottom."

The corpse is a thing in the gallows tree. "There appears to be a corpse hanging from the tree anyway, so someone hanged someone at least, probably themselves."

The description of the corpse is "It's been hanging here for some time; it looks almost mummified."

Instead of taking the corpse, say "You have no particular use for this corpse."

An underside called under#corpse is part of the corpse.

The mandrake root is a thing in under#corpse. The description of the mandrake root is "It is a root that looks like a face twisted into a constant scream."

In Zork, there's an infamous puzzle that requires knowledge of baseball most Americans don't have, let alone people from other parts of the world that doesn't really play baseball. This puzzle is my Baseball-Diamond puzzle: it requires the player to know something about Mandrake roots that I don't think most people know, and that frankly would increase the ESRB-rating if it was ever articulated anywhere.

I thought about mentioning it in the book, but I liked having it be unstated and something the player either knows or only realizes in retrospect, but I should've put some sort of hint when searching the corpse that “look under” is implemented. (I'm using the extension Underside by Eric Eve.)

Corpsekissing is an action applying to one thing. Understand "kiss [thing]" as corpsekissing.

after corpsekissing, say "You reserve your affection for your lover. And corpses."

Now, this is my favorite part. As a standard, kissing in inform only applies to inanimate objects, but your character in this game has... particular interests that requires a slightly different behavior. I have no idea if anyone ever discovered it; there's no hint anywhere that you can do it, but if anyone tries kissing the corpse, they are in for a surprise...

There's this particular feeling when you look at your code and realize you just implemented necrophilia, somewhere between accomplishment and shame... oh, who are we kidding? I have no shame.

After taking inventory:
if the player is carrying a mandrake root and the player is carrying a Briefling's wing and the player is carrying a strand of hair, end the story finally saying "You cut the mandrake root up, put the hair and the wings inside and then sew it shut. If everything goes to plan, tomorrow he'll be yours."

The ending is a bit sudden and abrupt, and require you to bring up your inventory, which prolly isn't very good design. I've certainly never heard about another game where you take inventory and then you win.

Overall though, I am really happy about it as a first attempt to write a parser game. The results of the comp is still pending, but I hope it will stand up against more experienced IF-writers.

vampirkat's picture

Clickteam Fusion for cheap, let the world see your trainwrecks

Humble Bundle has Clickteam Fusion Developer for $15. Get it in y'all. 2 more days left to purchase! Make your trainwrecks available for all platforms!!!!

sergiocornaga's picture

RIP Mark Gobbin aka rhetoricstu, 1985-2016

It is with a heavy heart that I deliver the news that my friend and collaborator Mark Gobbin passed away on August 1st.

Mark posted numerous games here under the alias rhetoricstu. My first post on this site was a game we made together, and I feel he's partly to thank for the fast and fervorous approach to game-making I've had since. We worked together on so many creative collaborations over the years that I know I'll feel his absence in about anything I do from now on. He was a wonderful friend to me and a constant presence in my life for over 10 years. I will miss him immensely.

I've posted this for anyone to join me in mourning, or just appreciating his work. I plan to post more about his work as the days go by, along with (hopefully) finished versions of a couple of our regrettably incomplete long-term collaborations. Wish me luck...

Blueberry Soft's picture

Internet Archive

Mostly thanks to SpindleyQ all my KNP games are now up on Internet Archive!

Not all of them work great (Colour2 and Castlevania 10 for example), but hopefully one day they will!

I wrote a little guide on how to get things up too: (pretty straightforward, it just took some detectiving to figure out how to tell IA to treat it like a thing to be emulated (Just takes some metadata tags))

Healy's picture

Christmas in June-ly: A (failed) Gravity Falls game

gravi_falls_canned story map.png

Happy Soos's birthday, everybody! To celebrate, have this, an unfinished Gravity Falls twine game I started for Yuletide one year. It's about Stan and Mabel and Dipper and their crummy made-up holiday. It's an unfinished piece of junk, but I decided to upload it anyway because, well, because...

Emily Short hosted a game jam recently called Bring Out Your Dead, where you uploaded long-dead WIPs and experiments in the hopes that someone else could learn from them. The concept really interested me, and since this was the most well-formed WIP I had that I'd likely never finish, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try something out with it. I took the old, unfinished game and added some commentary to it, usually to point out its flaws, but sometimes to discuss Gravity Falls for a bit (or point out a line I liked). It's a very short game, and probably would have been even if it were completed; I only completed one ending, and the other two branches cut off suddenly. Still, I hope you get something out of it, even if it's just "Don't do what I did here, kids."

(Sergio, my man: I have gotten your message, and while I haven't worked on my Knytt Swap lately, I'll probably block out some time for it next weekend. For reasons.)

qrleon's picture

IVR adventure game for Asterisk, plus a Python version

Glad to see GT is still alive and kicking! I will try to post more often.

Here is a small adventure game you can add to an Asterisk dialplan. I'm sure you will agree that every PBX needs a hidden immature adventure game. Works well with RasPBX + a small analog gateway to a physical phone.

I made an alternate Python + Kivy version packaged for Windows. If you want a package for a different OS, let me know. There are some small differences but it's basically the same deal.

ihavefivehat's picture

non-game trainwrecks

I've been feeling kind of uninspired about making games recently, but I have been playing a lot of music. I figured I'd try to apply the trainwreck method to recording songs, since it's kind of intimidating to write and record music (especially since I have no good equipment or talent). This is the first like... actual "song" that i've ever written. I kind of wrote it as I went. It was fun! If you squint a bit, it's a late 70s pop punk anthem recorded by actual musicians. Maybe I'll do more.

If anyone objects to non-games, let me know. But I think this fits with the aesthetic & mission of the site. Maybe I'll post other stuff like art pieces and whatnot as I make them too... we'll see!


PART 2: May 20th 2016

I made an updated version of that song... actually this is my 4th attempt, but this time I had a slightly less crappy mic to use. I'm genuinely trying to make a tight and melodic pop punk song, lol. I'm just actually that bad at playing in rhythm. I'll get there eventually...


PART 3: May 21st 2016

I changed the previous recording a little bit. it's getting towards the mix of raucous goofiness and concerning subject matter that i was originally going for... i'm going to let this sit for a while and decide if i want to re record it again in a few weeks. i feel like i could do better, but i don't want to get burnt out on it.


PART 4: May 26th

I guess I'll post visual art here too. Here's a sketchbook page I like. might keep working on it. one thing on my 'learn how to-do' list is to get better at photographing art so maybe I'll try to figure that out this week.

PART 4, VOL. 2: MAY 26th and 1/2

I just made another song today also. look at me, doing things.

Renaming the game, naming a group of two people who are too busy to work on this, and stuff being finished.

I realized that as I'm not going solo on this, Cyril and I are part of a 'collective,' and I might be looking for an illustrator too. But anyways, yeah, we are. I also have another little side project I think I'm gonna be starting up which would be a lot faster and I'd need his help on too, so, considering we might be working on multiple things together and considering we both agreed, yeah, let's give us a name, one was picked.

The game is now called "Trepan." The collective is "Headache." Dunno if it's gonna be, "... a Headache Games production," or "By Studio Headache," or just Headache but, much better name for the game for a lot of reasons, and I like the name for us as a group.

  • Looked at it on mobile. Weird looking.
  • Got new audio from him, or rather, adjusted/fixed for looping audio. Helps with immersion, so, yay.
  • Got new heartbeat sound, functions musically now. Love it but need to redo the scene it's in now, I think. I want it to last longer.
  • Started to build some assets, namely handwritten stuff. I... hand wrote them
  • Recorded/added in some "outside" noise to add over slightly volume-lowered music to add some immersion to the story. Managed to keep it away from being hacky, I think.
  • Another pass of checking/replaying/note taking. I also end up thinking of problems/solutions while writing here/that first post.
  • Considering a "save" system to encourage people "replaying," and by that, I mean like, just jumping back to see other endings, as that would be really really really really good. Maybe I should just make this less dependent on replay, or more beneficial from replays. No, not maybe. Must.
  • Considering a way for people who choose "give up" or end up with an ending that i WANT there, but that they might not have seen coming, and is early on, to get back before that decision. A "go back to when this was inevitable" button feels weird. Not sure what to do.

First entry? Recapping what's happened so far.

800Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.32.12 PM.png

Let's catch you, mystery reader, up to date on the project. The working title is "Headache," which is shitty, so, I gotta work on something better. But, let's talk about my story/game.

Development started March 3rd. Maybe March 2nd, not sure. Let's talk about how I got there.

But first, I'll summarize a bit, and just say what the game is and where it is. It's extremely visual, and includes a lot of very stylized images. Quite a bit of it has < < timed > > text meant to evoke a feeling or be reminiscent of a feeling (early on example: putting your ear to the door and holding your breath, music cuts out, when "You can hear nothing but your heartbeat," a heartbeat plays (might cut the heartbeat and make it part of the music that plays instead cutting in not sure)).

It's a mystery-solving type deal. There are a TON of things you can investigate if you so choose, and can end up playing this for a WHILE, or finishing it in probably 30 minutes for a "true ending," although really considering it, maybe a bit longer. Before you get there though there are a few other special endings you can end up getting instead, and you can at almost any point in the game decide to "give up and move on" and just end there. You have as much freedom as possible.

It is ultra stylized. The game so far has the first "area" where you can make decisions almost done; rather, I have a bunch of assets to make, now that I've decided to take it in a certain direction, but besides that, some music being changed potentially, and rewriting the actual text to be better. It's currently in like second draft form, the first draft being "THIS HAPPENS HERE SO WRITE IT OUT" basically. I want to complete this before moving to the next stuff, which will get much, much larger in scope. I want to 'complete' it though so I can find the definite visual style of the game, because it's gone through SEVERAL revisions, and having to re-style 90 passages would suck.

Besides visually impactful/symbolic design using images, quite a few little CSS tricks are used. I'm proud of a few things I do with that already, which is rare for me!

A musician is attached to the project, Cyril the Wolf, and has been doing great work. The music is ambience really, not "songs," which loop properly and switches to versions that add or remove elements when impactful moments occur in the story, or functionally to represent what a sound effect would be. Also, some actual defined small bits of music, when dealing with some timed text, so looping music is not needed (as I can tell him, it's 60 seconds precisely that the player has no control and you have free reign music wise, syncing up with text/image), if it's an impactful enough scene. That hasn't been decided or implemented yet, I think some will be done for the current section I'm working on soon.
There won't be like, "sound effects," if you open a door or some shit, every time, I've been a foley artist weirdly, for just few moments in the game that feel appropriate.

This is not a 'visual novel', or close to being one. It is much closer to a game. If replayed, your experience will be much different and technically is needed to "fully" find the answer/all details regarding solving the mystery. It will be free, with a donate button, as a lot of time is going into this. Part of me has the pipe dream of, when finishing it, trying to see if we could get it on Steam, as a few people have done that now, if I get a polished, perfect product at the end. When looking at those games, this will be similar in scale and quality visually and music wise. Like, I will not stop making this until it is visually perfect for the vision I have.

Even when I try to talk about it briefly, I write a ton. This IS me writing about 3 weeks of development and explaining what it is, so it's gonna be a bit long, but damn that's a lot of text.

Now, about the game in depth. A lot of depth I guess.

No one is gonna read all this shit unless this game turns out really fuckin' well, and is like, a THING, and people go back and read the dev log. I'm not counting on that happening, but like, Christ, why did I write so much?

So, I played Firewatch. Life changing game. Learned what Twine was while watching some interviews with some peeps from Camp Santo. It stuck in my head a bit. Skip ahead. I'm a fan of Telltale's games, and I had bought the new TWD: Michonne miniseries. Didn't play it for like, a while, finally did, and 10 minutes or so in, I closed it and suddenly was frantically downloading Twine and learning how to use it. Luckily, it's very simple!

I made a story that night, not styled at all, using Harlowe. It's a game about wether or not you decide to make a Twine game or not, just a dumb little thing. Finished it that night, which I believe would be March 2nd.

Took me to the next day to start the next one. Second game, there are like, 9 different "Stories" for on my Twine home screen, as I kept trying it with different Story Formats.

I knew my basic opener: you wake up, in a house you don't recognize, with no idea how you got there, in extreme pain. Also, someone performed trepanning on you. Is that the way you use that word? I gotta figure that out.

That's all I knew. I didn't know why it happened, or where the story was gonna go. I figured I'd keep this project small as it was my second story. A Spotify playlist of the intro songs to "Tales of the Borderlands" was my inspiration. Also, I couldn't get the cult-based part of V/H/S/2 out of my head. I haven't seen it in years, but it was practically drilled into my head hahahaha get it out of nowhere. I came up with a basic, "It was some MKUltra or some cult shit" 5 days later, but had no idea what to do with that.

The more I learned about Twine, and the more I learned about the different Story Formats, I realized that I'd need to use SugarCube, so this is all using SugarCube 2. As a designer, I decided, this is not gonna be a quick foray into this; I'm gonna make this visually impressive. I have solid knowledge of HTML and CSS; the freelance work I've taken on for a while now hasn't had me messing with that much and I've gotten rusty. SugarCube is allowing me to flex those muscles a bit and learn a lot. Granted, a lot of knowledge that has to do with forcing something to happen when using Twine, and specifically SugarCube 2, where on a webpage something would be simple, and here different rules apply, but yeah. I knew I could get it visually beautiful. Still inspired by Firewatch, I wanted something similar to that, with the background, and some kind of music.

I discussed it with my friend Max, and he helped me figure out a basic rule/style of the game; each storyline can be investigated, and you can investigate either one, without consequence (Unless, yknow, you do something which prevents investigating something else). Also because of that conversation, there are a lot of endings. I'm not sure of the total count, but probably 15 or so interesting ones. But you also can decide, "Fuck this, fuck this mystery, fuck this investigation, I'm leaving it be," at nearly any point after finishing an initial area. You have as much freedom as possible. Also, there will not be "red herrings," but there will be ambiguous or confusing bits of evidence, which contradict what you might to find. He also helped me decide, for sure, there is one "true" ending.

So after that conversation, I mapped out the entire story and the different basic decisions/elements for any particular line, although 60% of those will probably have different branches past that. It looks like a lot for me to write; for the player, the game can last as long as maybe 6 minutes if they so choose, I'm not sure how long otherwise. Probably like 30 minutes. I don't know. Longer, if they decide to REALLY investigate the hell out of this mystery. There are definitively 6 absolute-longest endings. That might increase, might not, I'm not sure.

To really "find out the truth," entirely, a replay is required. I'm not sure if someone would replay it, I dunno. There are two "True endings," each with two endings from that, which one inevitably will have to pick, if they investigate everything possible, then theoretically, they could have four to pick from. The two true ones, though. That gives you one of the two "true" endings. There is one that is "more true" but here's an example of an end game ending.

You decide, "I think the culprit was CULPRIT1." You have to go to a certain location, which determines the ending you see: before going, you can choose to bring something or not.

If you do not bring it, the ending gives the player scrambled and confusing language, seen very quickly, which, while confirming the culprit, doesn't confirm what they did. There is info about what they did, but without knowing on a base level what its about, it's confusing. Details without any definition of what you're reading. Without confirmation of what the information is about, you kind of get a shadow of an idea, mainly, "this is some spooky shit that deals with ____" and it's a semi satisfying ending. You can definitely kind of glean an idea of the true thing but you don't fully know.

If you do decide to bring that something to that part of the game, you get some basic information, flat out, "this is who, this is what, this is why," but you don't know the specifics. You don't know any specifics which makes it still shady and unclear, to a point.

I hope some people will replay it, and be curious about that because if you do both, you now 100% know the culprit, what, why, when, how, and more about the basic mystery. The other 2 possible endings, if deciding it was CULPRIT2, don't explain as much, but have definitive, "And in the end, this happened." Hopefully satisfying.

The other two possible final endings? Very definitive clear ENDINGS, without finding out who the culprit was, but finding out what the fuck the player character is gonna go do next and what this entire story has resulted in, even if they didn't find out the truth behind everything.

Hopefully people replay it, though. I just got the idea to have the end screen include a "Go back to Chapter(or whatever) ______" option, empty out any variables that were set after that point, and allow you to get back to the other ending in that area, or choose the other culprit, in only a few minutes.

I also knew, before this I wanted items/choices to impact the game significantly. One decision, if not made, gives the player 3 more chances to make a similar choice. If they agree on the first chance, the game progresses as usual, if the agree on the second, special ending, if they agree on the third, special ending. If they refuse completely, the game flips over to a different line, which is relatively linear, and ends much quicker than if they were to say "yes" any of the four times they're offered that choice.

All language is gender neutral regarding the player, and their best friend/partner in investigation, aka $bff. That was one of the first things I put in after finding out it was a thing, the choice to name them, which I have done semi-elegantly. Oh, one thing, I've given the game to maybe 4-5 people to try out, and I've noticed interesting differences between the way men and women make their decisions in that area, actually. In the start, you can barrel out of the house, and run away, or, you can quietly check if anyone is there, and investigate. Women universally ran the fuck out, only one guy chose that option, the rest investigated.

I wrote so much shit. I went back and wrote a shorter little write up of what this is. Now I like had that flow of writing broken, so, I dunno what else to say. Oh, the music is fucking great and will really add to the experience, I'm really happy with that! Cyril the Wolf has made some awesome shit. And they're just like, 3 "sketches" for the first area. But they sound perfect.

I have a bunch of assets to go build now, so... I'm gonna go do that.

SpindleyQ's picture

The Internet Archive DOSBox File Browser

So, you're messing around at the Internet Archive, and suddenly you find you've made a sweet Jetpack level, or an excellent Klik & Play game. You're super proud! You want to save it for posterity, or share it with the world!

But, you can't. It's saved _somehow_ on your hard drive so that you can keep messing with it when you visit the page again, but you don't have any way of accessing it!


Introducing the Internet Archive DOSBox File Browser!

Simply drag the following link up to your bookmarks bar: File Browser

Then, when using your favourite Internet Archive DOSBox-emulated program, click the "File Browser" bookmarklet to show a pop-up at the top of the page that allows you to easily traverse the DOS filesystem. Clicking on a file will cause your browser to bring up a download dialog to save it! (Right-click-and-save-as doesn't currently work.)

Possible future enhancements:

  • Upload files INTO the DOSBox filesystem
  • Inline text file / image / WAV viewer
  • Download entire directories as ZIP files
  • Let me know what else would be cool??

* Update: Now hosted on the Internet Archive itself!

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