Category: my work

Update, and Spring Thing preview

There’s been a whole lot going on and not a lot of time to post about it (not to mention that I wanted to review more IF Comp games than ended up happening – that’ll teach me not to bite off more than I can chew), so have some IF related cliffnotes:

  • I spoke on a panel at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas about interactive fiction where we discussed audience complicity, combining interactive and static literature, and the longevity of digital literature. It was very well-attended and it was great to meet and chat with my co-panellists Saci Lloyd and Kate Pullinger as well as the Creative Writing Anglia Ruskin University lecturers, who were the kinds of lecturers I would have loved to have when I was doing my degree!
  • I did a talk at WordPlay London discussing Sam Kabo Ashwell’s Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games, and moderated a panel on worldbuilding. The British Library was a great space, the conference was super busy, and I got to listen to some great talks and hang out with a bunch of online IF friends who I hadn’t met in person before. All in all a wonderful (though exhausting) day. Fingers crossed that WordPlay comes to London again!
  • I switched from working 9-5 five days a week to four which, although not a magic bullet, has done good things for my health as well as for my writing work.
  • Recently I started a contracted IF project which I’m over the moon about! More on that in future.
  • Aforementioned project is taking up most of my writing time, which means that I most likely won’t be able to enter IF Comp 2017 as I’d hoped – however, the annual IF festival Spring Thing 2017 is nearly upon us and I’ve entered for the first time! My entry is made in Texture, and is a short scifi noir game about a cop whose torch singer informant (and illicit girlfriend) is in trouble. It’s inspired by several Dessa songs, notably Dixon’s Girl and Alibi, as well as, loosely, LA Noire. Below is a little teaser, in the form of the cover art by Irina Goodwin. Keep an eye out for the festival entries when they’re released around the 6th April – it’s set to be the biggest Spring Thing yet!

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Bring Out Your Dead: The Wedding Party

Bring Out Your Dead is a game jam for unfinished work that never quite worked out. It’s primarily for IF pieces, but has expanded out to non-IF games, prototypes, and pen and paper storygames. As a rampant perfectionist and someone who has a habit of keeping projects clutched close to my chest, this jam makes me very nervous, which is exactly why I figured I should enter it.

The Wedding Party was my first non-Twine, non-mod IF piece. I wrote it during 2014 until it stalled. Its setting and characters are roughly based on those in a novel I was drafting at the time.

There are things I like about it: deciding the PC’s preferred address rather than their gender, the characters, the setting, the ridiculous intricacy of the breakfast scene in which vast nests of conditional text display depending on who you’ve spoken to and who you happen to be romancing.

However, in my excitement to get the story down, I didn’t really plan it in advance, resulting in a lot of early quest-giving and not as much problem-solving. There’s a fair amount of binary choices which are clearly “do you want to raise X stat or Y stat?” and I’m not sure about how well the PC signalling their intent works. Ultimately those things could have been fixed (maybe will be fixed at some point in the future?) but the lack of planning meant that I had, and still have, little idea of the project’s scope or where exactly it’s going. Which resulted in stalling and other, smaller projects being more appealing.

Still, I’m fond of it and it certainly taught me a lesson: keep a strong plan and outline in mind at all times, as it’ll help with pacing and story structure.

Enough, Rest, and TinyUtopias

The other day I wrote Enough for the very informal and unofficial TinyUtopias IF Jam. True to the theme, Enough is very small, just over 100 words long, and took a couple of hours to put together.

It’s about comfort and encouragement, and the world being exciting rather than overwhelming or frightening, and resting being something to luxuriate in. I found it rather calming to write, thinking about what I’d like to have enough of.

With an eight month old baby, energy and rest are at the forefront of my utopian visions. It’s notable that several of the jam games have that theme: TinyHillside by Emily Short ends with sleep, while Tiny Utopia by Astrid Dalmady describes a gently energised morning wakeup. I’d love to see a TinySleep Jam sometime in the future.

It was really enjoyable to write for a prompt in such an unpressured way, and the rest of the TinyUtopias games are lovely – a varied batch of moments, situations, or wordplay. They’re all very small, so do take a few minutes to check them out!

Heretic Dreams notes

Heretic Dreams was entirely unexpected. I had other projects on the go, there were various baby-shaped demands on my time and brain, and I didn’t need anything else on my plate. But then I read The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson and couldn’t get it out of my head.

Elements of the novella kept racing through my mind: a protagonist touched by the power of a god, a romantic bond between the protagonist and their captain, a disastrous journey. So I wrote Heretic Dreams: a very different setup, setting and story, but still strongly inspired by Wilson’s work. This is the first fantasy interactive fiction I wrote, the one with the most lethal stakes, and the first that I wrote with the intention of submitting for publication.

Spoilers below, but first take a look at this gorgeous fanart by Irina Goodwin!

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Heretic Dreams on sub-Q

I’m delighted to announce that my brand-new piece of interactive fiction, Heretic Dreams, has been published on sub-Q!

It’s a fantasy game about a diviner, a mining expedition and the vengeful god that will tear everything apart.

This is the grimmest and most lethal of the games I’ve written, and I’m immensely proud of it. Have a look, I hope it’s enjoyable!

Baldur’s Gate 2 modding

During our teens, my now-wife and I made NPC mods for Baldur’s Gate II. Modding taught me a lot! I learned about putting work out for an audience, handling criticism, coding and scripting, interactive writing, and making friends online.

Faren Blacknall
A former adventurer of Trademeet, stuck in the cells for starting a bar brawl, Faren is going nowhere – but joining up with the PC is the perfect way to get back on the road. Easygoing, cheerful and with a nose for trouble, Faren is just right for players who want a laidback but heartfelt romance and friendship. (Dual-classed Fighter/Thief)

The Luxley Family
Sebastian, a worldly, frivolous playwright, drags his cousin Andrei, a naive monk, into the PC’s life. Afflicted by their centuries-old family curse, this pair of NPCs are in need of help – and mysteries, revelations and dilemmas ensue! (Bard/Monk)

Nathaniel Aplin-Fletcher
Nathaniel was our first project, and has the honour of being the first gay male romance in the modding community. A former guard hailing from the city of Baldur’s Gate, Nathaniel is an earnest, sincere person with a lot of feelings who wants to do the right thing. (Kensai)