Codename Caerus – my portfolio-building game project – has had a phenomenal level of interest since I announced it a couple of weeks ago, and although I’ve yet to look through all the example pieces people have sent in, I’m now pretty much certain we’ll be able to get a great team together. Every role has at least one person going for it, and in most cases more than that. I’ve been hugely impressed by some of the work people have chosen to share.
However, if you’ve been meaning to put your name forward to work on this game and haven’t yet got around to it, don’t worry. You haven’t missed your chance.
In a way, you’ve actually got more of a chance than you did when I first announced this project because I’m extending the deadline to apply. When I decided to stop taking applications at the end of the month, I neglected to consider that I’d be attending Feral Vector from May 31st to June 2nd. Continue reading
So I made a trip to London for EGX Rezzed last month, and up until now I’ve totally neglected to write anything about it for two reasons:
- I’m still just a little freaked out over how many people recognised me as “that Girth Loinhammer guy.”
- The event gave me an idea for something big and it took a while to come up with a plan for it:
I want to get a team together to make a game.
At this point I feel as though I’ve got a pretty good number of games to my name – I’ve even set up a separate website as a portfolio – but it would really help to have a few more team projects out there for people to enjoy. I expect plenty of other people are in the same position. So far I’ve mostly worked alone, and (with the exception of the two commercially released videogames I’ve had a hand in) when I haven’t it’s generally been for Game Jams. Game Jams are great, of course, but the results are never particularly polished and they don’t really demonstrate the ability to work with a team on an extended project. As a writer, I don’t feel as though there are all that many opportunities already out there. Some, certainly, but far from oodles.
That’s why I’m planning to set something up: not having a title for the game itself yet, I’ll refer to this whole endeavour as Codename Caerus for now. This will be an opportunity for anybody who wants to get more of a foothold in games to work on something polished and substantial as part of a team. Continue reading
As you might have guessed by the suspicious timing, Project Procrustes (and its accompanying competition) was my April Fools’ prank for 2018. This one was subtle, and unless you worked your way through a substantial portion of the game, chances are you won’t even have noticed what was going on. However, two people managed to finish the thing on April 1st, so given the challenge involved I’d consider that quite a success.
Phil McArthur completed the game staggeringly swiftly, tweeting a line from the final passage within a couple of hours of release:
However, since he already owned Kingdom: New Lands (the game I was offering to the first person to complete Project Procrustes), he very kindly decided not to share a screenshot of the ending, giving someone else a chance to solve it and win the prize.
That person was G. Deyke!
Don’t go clicking for the original tweet if you still want to explore Project Procrustes for yourself: the screenshot (necessary for me to verify it had been properly completed) contains both spoilers for the story and some hefty hints on how to complete it yourself.
Despite having been made as a joke, I’m hoping that Project Procrustes will serve as a portfolio piece when I’m looking for work in games. As well as being a substantial piece of interactive fiction in general, it includes a sophisticated character creator, a very versatile battle system, and easily the most refined design of anything I’ve made so far. It’s very finely tuned and I put it through a lot of testing.
Revealing the joke here would also reveal quite a chunk of the solution to the game, but if you’ve been trying to work your way through and have found yourself hopelessly stuck, here are some very general clues:
- Project Procrustes is tougher than you think it is. Find yourself hitting the back button looking for a choice that won’t kill off your character? You can stop looking: there probably isn’t one.
- Reaching the true ending of the game will take a lot of lateral thinking. Focus on what you have to do, not what you’re supposed to.
- There’s a reason Project Procrustes has such a naff title: a little familiarity with Greek myth could help you out a lot.
And one more thing. Don’t expect to get anywhere importing the flowchart back into Twine:
Project Procrustes is my latest work of interactive fiction, and I’m pleased to say that (besides Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure), it’s the largest yet! It clocks in at 23,649 words according to Twine’s built-in counter, though I’ve put considerable effort into making the text of individual passages react to past choices, so you’re not likely to see most of those words unless you play through many many times.
Like the other titles in my “Project” series, Project Procrustes focuses on one particular element of player interaction and explores it as fully as possible. In this case, that element is character customisation. All my previous Twine works have seen you taking on the role of a particular pre-selected character – whether that’s the nameless officer in Blacklight 1995 or the far too fleshed-out Girth Loinhammer in Exponential Adventure – and then the story branches out from there. Project Procrustes, on the other hand, provides you with a very sophisticated character creation tool up front and lets you begin your adventure as one of four classes (each with their own strengths and weaknesses) with points distributed across four essential stats. You can alter your character’s name and appearance too.
These early choices will prove extremely important over the course of your quest: the default barbarian protagonist might be able to casually blunder through enemy encounters, but a rogue would do better to try and avoid getting into such scuffles in the first place (and, to that end, is better equipped to avoid being seen). I strongly recommend trying a few different classes with their stats distributed in different ways: the prospect of flinging spells about may be very tempting, but you’ll be missing a lot of the game if you only ever play as a mage.
To make things interesting and hopefully get this game some extra attention (as it turned out to be a far, far bigger project than I initially planned), I’ll be sending a Steam key for Noio’s excellent Kingdom: New Lands to the first person to share a screenshot of Project Procrustes’ true ending. To avoid any confusion (since there are a couple of occasions in the game when your character can choose to simply walk away from their quest), this is the passage that ends with green text and does not include a “Restart?” or “SAVE GAME” link.
Happy questing – and may the best barbarian, rogue, mage or hunter win!
Please be aware that, having released Project Procrustes with this little competition in mind, I’ve taken certain precautions to prevent cheating. Revealing my methods would almost certainly make them less effective, so I’ll simply say that I believe I’ve been thorough enough that if you can reach that end screen without progressing through the game in the intended fashion (and without me noticing), you’ll have earned your Steam key anyway.
The launch event for We All Saw It Coming will be at The Railway Inn, 7:30pm on the 3rd of April. The Railway is a great venue – I’m there at least once a month since they host the Poetry Platform open mic – and if you fancy catching some excellent stories, music and/or poems then you can stick around afterwards for that very event (starting at 9pm, with sign-up for slots in the half hour beforehand).
If you’d like to come along, you can RSVP and get updates through this Facebook event, or you can just show up on the night. I’ll be bringing copies of all my books, though probably not a huge number of each: I’ve written enough by this point that it’s getting difficult to cart everything to events. If you’d like me to sign something, you might be better off getting hold of it beforehand and bringing it with you to avoid disappointment. I’ve run out before! Continue reading
It’s here at last! The paperback version of We All Saw It Coming, my flash fiction anthology for 2017.
If you’ve come across previous anthologies in the series, you’ll know the deal: 31 stories, each written on a single day during July as part of Flash Fiction Month. The stories are generally funny, sometimes serious, and don’t really match up to any kind of theme. Except on this occasion, maybe, when you might be forgiven for thinking that the theme is bananas. Continue reading
The Dragon and The Dying Stars, my final piece for Flash Fiction Month 2017, was selected as a Daily Deviation over on deviantart.com today! If you’re not familiar with the site, that means it’s been prominently featured as something that’s worth checking out: it’s not an award as such, but still it’s nice to know that my story has been selected and it’s already getting a whole lot of new readers as a result. This has happened a few times before, and it’s always a real boost.
Also worth mentioning is that saturdaystorytellers recently released a recording of another dragon-related story of mine, The Chalice and the Swords. This one was written in 20 minutes as part of a “write-off” challenge in which that’s all the time you get. Those aren’t running any more, which is a shame because I feel as though I got a lot of great stories out of them despite the tight time limit. This incarnation of the story was narrated by Don Socrates, and the image you see above is Awaking by AhhhFire.
Since We All Saw It Coming wraps up the first hexalogy* of my flash fiction anthologies, I’m planning some kind of launch event to mark the occasion. Part of that planning involves trying to work out where would be best to actually hold the thing (provided I can get a venue in any of these locations):
Feel free to tick more than one box. If you can make it to Eastleigh, Winchester or Southampton, that’s great. If you’d only make the trip if it were just down the road, go ahead and tick only the relevant box. Also, if you’re local and would like to help out further, there are two things you could do that would really help get this book off to a great start:
- Share this poll with your friends (especially if you think they might like to come).
- Let me know of any venues that might be happy to host the event.
I’m not sure when this’ll be happening, but I hope not too long after I get the paperback finalised. It depends partly when I can secure a venue, and the place I opt for will largely depend where people can attend, so go ahead and have your say!**
*A series of six books. I know the word sounds ridiculous but honestly I think that kind of suits them.
**You can comment right here on this post without needing an account or even an email address.
Joe Wright just sent over this absolutely fantastic Ten Little Astronauts artwork! It’s based on a scene from the novella that a very small handful of people will have heard me read at the International Agatha Christie Festival.
Chances are you’ll have come across Joe Wright’s work before, as he also produced the image I’ve been using in almost all my promotional materials for Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure. This one’s very different in terms of style, though:
I was trying to make something that was reminiscent of old sci-fi pulp novels, which I understand isn’t exactly the aesthetic you’re going for, but I think it’ll help catch the eye.
It may not be a direct representation what’s described in the book (in which the U.N. Owen is not much to look at), but for the overall tone I think this is a great match. The pulp style harks right back to the time of And Then There Were None, and the image itself certainly captures the tension at this point in the story. But to find out what’s really going on here, you’ll have to pledge for the book!
If you’d like to see more of Joe’s work, one handy place to look would be his profile on deviantART. He’s a writer as well as an artist, and regularly takes part in the same Flash Fiction Month event as I do: you’ll see his stories referenced in a number of my own, typically those written as part of a challenge involving another author’s entries for the event.
Ten Little Astronauts has been making spectacular progress recently. So much so that it’s actually a little difficult for me to keep up: by the time I actually managed to record the 225 supporter book draw, the count was up to 233. That’s a good chunk of the way towards the next draw, which will be coming up at 250 (if we reach 250!). That next draw, by the way, will be for a brand new story written specifically for the winner: quite a prize!
This is the kind of sudden surge of interest that the book needs to reach 100% by Christmas: a tight deadline, but one that’s looking more achievable than ever now that we’re already more than two-thirds funded. Right now Ten Little Astronauts is just a hair away from 70%, and if we can reach that today there’s a chance that Unbound themselves will even step in and start promoting it more.
Basically, whether you’ve put in a pledge or not, doing something to share the book would make an absolutely massive difference to its chances of success. Tweeting it or sticking a link on Facebook helps a little, but actually sending a personal message to someone you think would enjoy a sci-fi murder mystery in particular would help a whole lot more. With so many people behind the book already, I know there must be more out there who would be willing to support it: the only challenge is reaching them in time!