Eventful days

This Monday I released a game called “Black Phone”. It was submitted for a LocusJam, a jam about locations. It is also my first English-first release (that is, there is no Russian version at the moment).

So, my location game is a traditional adventure with a lot of exploration and one medium-difficult puzzle no one has solved yet1. You play as a thief exploring an apartment of some woman he knows by her Instagram account. By the process of examining he can learn something about her life and character, though he won’t meet her to check any assumptions.

You play at your leisure, clicking and reading, and you certainly don’t have to finish the game to “get” it. But there is one puzzle (and apparently not enough hints) to solve that opens the ending. I also recorded some music for the background track.

There is something curious going on under the hood. I hacked Undum to have an additional UI block (the list of exits). I’ve put in a system of hierarchical show/hide functions to clear the screen. And there is a debatable code solution to speed up every click. The source is open, see here.

The release was a mixed feeling because this game uncovered some problems with my writing. Seems like the constant write-and-hide-it approach went the wrong way and I developed some disturbing style features.

1: According to Piwik Analytics. There is a margin of error because it gets blocked by Adblock. IF players tend to be tech-savvy, you see.

Plans for the FUTURE

  • Make a FEEDBACK BUTTON. Just a button for the players to leave feedback. Web games ahoy!
  • Abandon the default Undum scrollback. Clear the screen every new chapter or room. I don’t think a complete transcript is a good idea. Also, the new hierarchical fading effect is nice.
  • A game where you and the other players can leave (and read!) comments on every sentence, Medium-style. There is an Open Source system for these named Carnival, and they have a free web service too. It will be a short experiment.

Cannot do yet

Due to financial reasons. Blame Russian economy. Today 1 USD is 75 rubles and money are still falling.

  • I definitely want INSTEAD’s object model with inventory. Will definitely break Undum into a new engine. I might pull this off step-by-step, one game at a time.
  • Undum saving rewrite with UNDOs and API. Again, breaking the core, but no granular solutions this time. This is big R&D.
  • I’ve revived a seven year old sci-fi project about flying and dragons. The first chapter is done, the rest still needs more designing. I can’t focus on lengthy games without losing some of my job projects. Oh, and this time I’m making it choice-based.
  • Translations. Seriously, no one will proofread big chunks of interactive text for free. Why bother making a translation when you can only hope for the mediocre result?

This Tuesday I offered a twelve year old girl (my friend’s sister) to write a game. I presented her with Twine and she wrote a short story about some girl named Dasha (not the author’s name, mind). I did not watch over her writing, but I did force her to fix the numerous spelling errors.

The adventures of Dasha were mostly deadly or unfinished. Though the author easily grasped the “foldback” concept, she used it only for bad ends. After a spelling sweep the game broke and some passages were lost, but we salvaged what we could. Structurally the game had a distinct continuity with some variations presented to the player.

Dasha could meet her zombie psychopath uncle who could send her to Hell where a succubus would propose her. She could meet her female friend, stop hiding her offence and help kill her (the details were very vague). Or, naturally, she could save her friend with her own life.

Evg humorously named this “the best game of 2016” (because it was quite literally the first game in Russian community released in 2016). The author liked the title but was too embarassed to finish the game.

Today was a bright day of Wednesday. I made some plans for the FUTURE (Tuesday, perhaps), wrote this post and then by some sheer miracle… nothing happened.