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:
Even using only the most basic range of tools, Twine gives you a lot to work with. You can produce a fully featured interactive story with nothing more than plain old hyperlinks, and if you’re willing to sink just a little time into learning how to use variables, you can introduce some very sophisticated adventure game elements with minimal effort. But those tools only take you so far. No matter what you do with them, games produced with only hyperlinks and variables will always be entirely deterministic: the same sequence of actions will always produce the same effect.
That’s actually a perfectly good way to go. Sometimes – if anything most of the time – you want people to know that what happens in the game will be a direct result of what they’ve decided to do. But an element of chance can spice things up, and if the player is going to be coming back to the same passage again and again (maybe it’s a room they pass through several times, or an action they must take repeatedly) then it never hurts to vary the text they see. There’s a really easy way of doing this:
The (either:) Macro:
Simply writing (either: “one thing”, “another”) is enough to display one thing or another. If you don’t have a whole lot of possible options in mind you can just stick this in the story where you want the random text to appear and it’ll do the job nicely.
This looks like a mess, but the text it generates when played is perfectly serviceable. It might look like this:
We All Saw It Coming, my Flash Fiction Month anthology for 2017, is now available as an ebook through Smashwords. It’ll be available through other retailers shortly, but I haven’t yet assigned it an ISBN because I’m still confirming that everything is working as it should.
The sheer scale of this year’s interactive fiction challenge, Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny, meant that I had to set up internal hyperlinks just to make it navigable. There was some extra faff involved in making sure I didn’t end up with all 48 of those listed in the book’s table of contents, and although everything seems to have worked out fine, there were enough opportunities for things to go wrong that I don’t like to assume they haven’t. Still, whether or not this story turned out perfect first time, I’ve definitely got a better grasp of how to handle interactive fiction in this format than I had before, and so at some point I expect I’ll be going back and giving the same treatment to Robocopout‘s interactive fiction piece, Inquisition.
The next job will be to format and publish the paperback, and when that’s available I’m strongly considering having a launch party of some kind! This book completes the six-colour cycle I’ve been working towards (I’ll be sticking another orange object on the cover of whatever I write for 2018), so although I’ve never made all that much of a song and dance about the release of these books in the past, I feel as though this is a good enough occasion to start.
Since this is pretty much the first book launch I’ve ever organised, I’m keen to get an idea of how many people would be likely to turn up, as well as where they’d be able to get to. The poll above allows multiple answers: feel free to tick as many as you like. In fact, ideally don’t be too picky: if you really could make it to any of these places, that gives me more options to work with. Conversely, picking only Southampton because you live there could screw things up quite a bit: if 30 people only pick the closest Hampshire town, they could quite easily be outvoted by half that number in London.
Promoting Ten Little Astronauts has put my work in front of people from much farther afield than before, so I’m really not sure where most of my followers are based at this point. My guess is that most know me from various local open mics – and I’d probably prefer a local launch myself – but the biggest events have been in London, and those are generally the ones where my name’s been on the flyers and whatnot. Ultimately I figure the thing to do is to hold the launch wherever people can get to it, so that’s why I’ve put out this poll. Tick whichever boxes work for you, pass it on to anyone else you think might like to come along for readings and live interactive fiction, and if you’ve got any other thoughts then leave those in the comments. As always, you don’t need an account or even an email address: just type words into the box, hit “Post” and it’ll get to me.
Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure is now complete! It took 25 months to write and is comprised of 1023 passages of text totalling 181,029 words (107 of which are “nuts” and 62 of which are “balls”). At least 1,024 of those words are simply “The End,” which should give you some idea of the range of alternate endings available. If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll know that it was always planned to have 512 of the things.
I’ll be attempting to screenshot the entire flowchart at some point to give some idea of the scale, but don’t currently have the necessary hardware attached to my computer. The full thing – even at the minimum level of magnification that Twine allows – spreads across eight monitors, so the only way I can actually capture it is to spread it across two and use those to grab the four corners of the chart, which I later stitch together. Continue reading
You might recall that Craft Keep VR, the virtual reality game I ended up writing for after EGX 2016, was up for a Game of the Year award at Login Vilnius a while back. Well, it’s happened again, and this time it’s through the TIGA Games Industry Awards!
This time around, Craft Keep VR is right alongside big names like Forza Horizon and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Even just in its own category – Game by a Small Studio – there’s Yooka-Laylee and The Flame in the Flood, both of which have quite a bit more clout behind them than “Small Studio” would suggest: the teams behind those include some of the people behind Banjo-Kazooie, Halo and BioShock.
I hesitate to ask people to vote in this because I’m aware fairly few will have the VR hardware necessary to actually play Craft Keep, but if you’re in a position to compare the games in the shortlist (maybe you got a go at EGX or EGX Rezzed), then here’s the page where you can vote for your favourite.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 30
“Great Lord Satan! Ruler of Hell! Chap with the really awesome horns and rockin’ goatee! Accept this virgin tribute as a token of our servitude.”
“Yeah,” said Cindi. “About that…”
“Look,” said Arch Anti-Bishop Dave, pulling down his hood. “If you’re going to play the ‘Actually, I’m not a virgin’ card, you can just stop right there. The first thing anyone does in this situation is claim not to be a virgin to avoid getting sacrificed, and I’m telling you now it’s not gonna work.”
“Oh, no, look. I’m not trying to avoid getting sacrificed. Why would I have responded to your Craigslist ad if I was? I’m just saying, you never specified that you needed a virgin, and I’m not sure that I am.”
“How can you not be sure if you’ve had sex?!?”
“Well,” Cindi shrugged, which was awkward on account of hanging upside-down from the ceiling over a portal to Hell. “What counts as sex?”
“You know…” Dave did that “finger going in and out of finger-and-thumb ring” gesture. “Sex.”
“Yeah, obviously, and I’ve never done that. But are there…other things? That would count in this situation?”
Dave narrowed his eyes. “Like what?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 29
Challenge #13*: David Bowie Day. Write a story including a character in mourning and exploring the theme of religion. It must include at least three David Bowie film titles, a swan song, and a character who speaks to the audience only in David Bowie song titles.
Everyone had been sad about it, naturally. To so suddenly lose a figure so beloved to so many. But it had struck Hades more than most. To him it was deeply personal, somehow. It shouldn’t have been—until it had happened, he’d never even been in the same room—but it was. He bet Baal never had to put up with this sort of sacrilege.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Virgil to the reader.
That was Virgil’s imaginary friend: “the reader.” Hades wasn’t sure when it had started, but he suspected it had something to do with his still-alive friend Dante waltzing off to Purgatory and leaving him stuck here. That or the linguine incident. That had been hard on everybody. Hades himself didn’t much like to think about it. He turned his attention instead to Charon, still trying to lift the deceased into his tiny little canoe.
“Have you tried using a lever of some kind?” yelled one of the shades.
“For the last time, Archimedes, enough with the levers!” Hades yelled back, then turned to Charon once more.
He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 27
Challenge #1: Write a 369er set in cloudcuckooland in which the protagonist is the only sane character.
“Moo,” said Snarf Garfunkel.
“Moo,” said Mews Willis.
“Moo,” said Melissa McKitty.
“Is there, like, something… up… with our cats?” asked Farmer Jones.
“I think… Um, I think… I think… Um…” Farmer Bishop squinted at the field of large, black and white cats grazing among the fronds of pink, alien foliage rippling in the breeze. “They seem fine,” she continued at last.
“THOSE ARE COWS, YOU IDIOT,” yelled Olivia.
“Gentlemen.” Junior Vice-Badass Chad Buckley addressed the Committee for the Neatification of Fiscal Awesomeness. “A new planet calls for, like, a new currency. Or something.”
“How about…” Spreadsheet Glaminator Richard Smith tented his fingers. “We used to put money into machines to get coffee. How about we put coffee into money… to get machines?”
Buckley did that finger-snap-pointing thing. “I love it!”
“YOUR ECONOMY IS TANKING RAPIDLY,” yelled Olivia.
“Okay,” began Lead Science-Maker-Happener Lauren Harper. “I’ve confirmed the strange yelling noises are emanating from Gasulon VII itself, but it’s safe to ignore them.”
“MY NAME IS OLIVIA, AND IT’S REALLY NOT.”
“And the reason the atmosphere is so good is… it’s just really good. Science over!”
“IT’S ACTUALLY BECAUSE I’M 47% THC.”
“Anybody got any Doritos? I’m super hungry for some reason.”
“THAT WOULD ALSO BE THE THC.”
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 26
“Yarr!” cried Long Schlong Silver, one hand on the hilt of his mighty cutlass. “I be on a quest for booty!”
The crew of the boarded vessel stared in awe at Silver’s glistening pecs, peeking coyly from his open, billowing shirt. For a moment, all were too distracted to speak.
Then the captain stepped forward, loosening his cravat. “Have heart, men!” he announced. “I’ll take care of this rogue.”
The captain spoke with a heavy accent. Silver couldn’t quite place where it came from, but he knew with every fibre of his being that it was deeply and innately sexy.
“So ye think ye can handle the legendary Long Schlong Silver?” he demanded, raising an eyebrow.
The captain stepped closer. “I’ve got a few ideas what to do with you.”
Silver took a step himself. He was now so close to the captain that their nipples were practically touching through the one shirt between them. “Do ye now?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 25
Challenge #11: Write a story set in a board game. Its word count must be a multiple of 13.
“Well well well…”
Inspector Whiskers’ big round ears caught the unmistakable sound of a revolver being cocked.
“Looks like I’ve got a tail.”
Whiskers turned. “You’ve been keeping up this game of cat-and-mouse for quite some time, Officer Nibbles.”
“Longer than you know.” The mouse stepped into the pool of light beneath the streetlamp, streams of rain leaving hard lines in the fur of his face. “Too long to have you rat me out to the big cheese.”
“Why’d you do it?” Whiskers didn’t really need to ask, but he did need to buy some time. “You only got a couple more years on the job. Why risk your retirement plan?”
“Retirement plan?” Nibbles gave a short, squeaking laugh. “The way things are going down at the Department, I’ll be poor as a church mouse—and so will you! No, Inspector. This…” he gestured about the docks with the barrel of his gun. “This is my retirement plan.” Continue reading