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
We did it! Ten Little Astronauts has all the funding it needs to make it into print (and then some!). Unbound has just moved it over to the paperback list, which means it now has 131% of its target. That’s pretty incredible, and it’s all down to the people who pledged or just generally helped to get it in front of enough readers to make this happen. Continue reading
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.
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:
I said a while ago that I was planning to take part in the Global Game Jam in Southampton this year, and I invited anybody interested to join me and possibly form a team before getting to the event. My approach last year was pretty much just to turn up and improvise, so I was really glad this time around to be able to tackle a project with people I already knew.
This was a first for me for two reasons. One was that I had a fairly solid idea what kind of skills people on the team would have going in, and the other was that I ended up not really writing very much at all in the end. All four of us are writers, so when it came to producing a story – even an interactive one – we were all set. My job was more or less just to come up with the Twine gubbins to keep track of everything that’s happening in that story. Continue reading
Back in my first Twine for Beginners tutorial (which I recommend at least taking a glance at before tackling this one), I mentioned that it was possible to do just about anything you see in the classic Fighting Fantasy books using only passages and hyperlinks. These gamebooks use a system of numbered passages and references, and choosing which passage to turn to performs exactly the same function as choosing which hyperlink to click in a Twine game. In addition to these standard choices, however, the passages will occasionally say something like “If you have a dagger, turn to 294. If you do not have a dagger, turn to 334.”
There’s a totally obvious way to do this in Twine, and that’s to directly copy the method used in this Fighting Fantasy book. “[[If you have a dagger, click here]]. [[If you do not have a dagger, click here]]” will do exactly the same job and involves absolutely no Twine know-how that wasn’t covered in my first tutorial. If you’re happy to simply ask the reader to keep track of their previous choices (or note things down on some kind of character/inventory sheet) and don’t fancy reading on, then you can just do that. Continue reading
From the 26th to the 28th of January, you’ll find me at the University of Southampton for the Southampton Global Game Jam, working on something that should at least vaguely resemble a videogame.
2018 will be my third year joining in with the Global Game Jam, but unlike the last two I won’t be making a trip to Brighton for the occasion. There are a handful of reasons for this:
- Brighton is kind of a hike for me and between promoting Ten Little Astronauts and exhibiting Girth Loinhammer’s Exponential Adventure I’ve already travelled around a TON over the past few months.
- I feel like I know a good chunk of the Brighton crowd by this point (and it’s pretty likely I’ll see some of them at other events later in the year).
- I actually don’t know all that many game developers based near me, and this seems like a good opportunity to sort that out.
Because of all of that, I’ll be staying in Southampton this time around! One other upside is that I figure it’ll be easier for anyone I know who maybe doesn’t already make games but would like to have a go. My usual approach to these things is to turn up (possibly late, if the journey involves trains), wander about chatting to people, then join whatever group will have me and/or seems to be thinking through the neatest idea. However, on this occasion I figure I might actually be in a position to take a team with me! Continue reading