The following is a guest post by Oli Jacobs, whose book Deep Down There is currently funding at Unbound. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, so have a read of this then go take a look!
Mention the likes of sci-fi and horror to your average layman, and they’ll probably think the same things – aliens & spaceships, monsters & gore. Most readers who don’t dabble in genre fiction already know why they don’t like it; they know the tropes, seen the marketing, and don’t consider it as something to invade their nice little world of romance or crime (or, indeed, both).
Well guess what, layman or laywoman, you’re about to be shocked to your very core. For, you see, genre fiction has evolved within the last few years, especially in the literary world. Science Fiction has become Science Fact, meaning that the so-called Outer Limits are now very much over the horizon. Horror has become an everyday reality, with a cocktail of 24 hours news and the internet presenting us with all manner of modern monsters and terrors.
And in many up and coming indie authors, these scenarios are being twisted to bring their works to readers who would normally steer away.
The master of this particular domain, Damon L. Wakes, has done this with his clever spin on an old classic. Ten Little Astronauts takes the classic Agatha Christie And Then There Were None, and throws it into the empty arena of space. Much like the franchise movie approach of taking something and blasting it into the galaxy, Wakes presents a known tale and adds the cybernetic enhancements of sci-fi onto it, effectively giving a gateway to those that know the classic, and fancy something a bit different with it. It is much like giving an old, much lived-in abode a fresh coat of paint – suddenly we are presented with a whole new tale that doesn’t feel as invasive as an Arthur C Clarke epic. Continue reading
This is quite a different sort of game to the things I’ve made with Twine. It’s a parser-based text adventure, meaning that instead of simply clicking links you must control it by typing things like “go north,” “take key,” and “hit shoggoth with inflatable novelty hammer.” I’ve got no idea if that last one is ever an option in the game. I’ve got no idea what’s in the game at all beyond the one room I designed, to be honest. It might be terrible! The opening text suggests that it is (and that that’s part of the fun).
It also offers quite a list of objectionable content that appears in the game, so maybe not one for the squeamish. It is cosmic horror after all!
You might be wondering how there can be a Project Pandora 3 given how Project Pandora 2 ended. You might also be wondering what Project Pandora even is, and if that’s the case then I recommend starting with the first one.
That said, familiarity with the series isn’t essential and this wouldn’t be a terrible place to jump in (especially compared to Project Pandora 2, which will not even function if you haven’t played the original). My Project titles in general have always been about exploring one particular (usually fairly meta) game mechanic and how the player interacts with it, and developing an epic multi-game storyline isn’t really a big part of that.
Basically, have a quick go at the first two beforehand if you want the full experience, but don’t be afraid to get stuck in with Project Pandora 3 if you just fancy playing something vaguely sinister.
I’ve been pretty heavily focused on getting Ten Little Astronauts ready for publication recently, which might be why I never noticed that two of my interactive fiction games were on the People’s Choice shortlist for Wonderbox’s Opening Up Digital Fiction Competition.
You can play either one by clicking its icon above.
I sent in a whole bunch of games back when the competition was open for submissions, but wasn’t particularly confident in any of them making the cut. To see two in there is a real surprise, especially since these two in particular are very different in tone.
Because I discovered this pretty late on, not only has voting now closed but the winners have already been announced! Sadly neither of my games are amongst them, but there was some pretty serious competition: the winners look absolutely top notch, and I encourage you to check them out.
This is hardly the first time something I’ve worked on has been up for a prize, but it is the first time it’s happened specifically for an interactive piece that wasn’t a team project. It just goes to show that it’s usually worth taking a chance on these things even if you’re not sure what will come of it. Also, do keep an eye on Wonderbox specifically: the competition is annual so if you’d like to take a shot at it yourself then you’ll have a chance next year!
Back in May I set up Codename Caerus: a game project bringing a team of people together to make something better than any of us could have produced individually. That something is still in the works – it’ll take more than a couple of months to see it through to the end – but we’ve made great progress and Codename Caerus now has a title: Wolf at the Door.
Our efforts so far have been focused on getting a demo prepared for submission to AdventureX. At this stage, it’s not in good enough shape to share – this one’s just to demonstrate that we have the bare bones of a working game – but it can be played start to finish and most of the gameplay that’ll appear in the finished version is already present in some form or another. In some ways it’s already more ambitious than what I first planned, as we’ve got in-game sound: something I wasn’t even sure was possible to do in Twine back when I organised this! Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 19
Challenge #9: Write a story in collaboration with at least one other author. It must feature a ragtag bunch of misfits, a humanoid abomination, as well as MacGuyvering and a character being punished for doing a good deed. Of these tropes, one must be played straight, one inverted, one subverted and one exaggerated.
“Hi. My name’s Steve, and I have the face of an eldritch abomination.”
A mumbled “Hi, Steve” made its way around the room in acknowledgement. Steve, indeed, had the face of an eldritch abomination. Tentacle-beard and all.
“I wasn’t always this way,” Steve explained. “I mean—obviously. Can you imagine what my mother would have said if I’d come out like this?”
The room tittered nervously.
“I’ve always had skin problems,” Steve continued, “but, like, conventional skin problems. Not go-mad-from-the-revelation skin problems. I try to stay fairly upbeat, but…” Steve trailed off dejectedly, staring into the expectant, if uncomfortable, faces before him.
“Anyway, there was a sketchy clinical trial in Fresno and here we are.” He scratched a tentacle. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 16
This is Professor Granham of the Department of Xenobiology at King’s College London, recorded July 16th, 1930. I leave this message partly because others will doubtless come looking for me, and partly because the…the [inaudible] compels me. There will be those at the University who know the nature of my latest avenue of research and may be able to retrace my steps. Please do not attempt to do so. If you were to see what I had seen…such glory, such hideous—
[Here there is a knot in the wire where a length has been excised. Staff are reminded to check all wastepaper baskets thoroughly before emptying.]
I have wrestled with the possibility of making my discovery known. Part of me wishes to reveal what I found, to allow my colleagues the opportunity to…to make it safe somehow. To stand against the horror I could not. But I know that at best this is foolish. At worst, the will of… Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 11
There was once a city with wealth beyond measure. Its streets were gardens, with statues in every alcove and trees in every square. By day travellers marked the place by the mist that rose from its fountains, and by night the smoke that rose from the palace spire. The city was a lighthouse to the desert’s sea: those who passed by knew no bandits dared to stalk the roads in the places where it watched, and those who passed through knew they were sure to find cool water and a warm bed.
Though this city was home to many guards who manned towers set about its border or patrolled its roads on horseback, the king himself would often watch over the land from the palace spire. His advisers were wise and the court’s demands few, so the lord of that high palace spent his days in much the same way as the lowest of his soldiers. He did, however, have one luxury they did not: an ingenious device—a gift from an alchemist—that allowed him to view passers-by on the horizon with such clarity that they might have been walking through the gardens below.
One day, while watching over the desert, the king happened to notice a figure upon a camel, robed in garments of dust-stained linen. The sight of such a traveller was far from unusual, but this figure did not seem to be travelling at all. Observing him through the alchemist’s device, the king saw that he was indeed merely seated upon his camel, motionless in the desert. Fearing some misfortune, the king sent for a guard to ride out to meet him. Continue reading
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