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.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 20
Challenge #9: Write a story featuring every sense but sight. It must have a palindromic word count and not use any adverbs ending in “-ly.”
“Bugger. There go the lights.”
There were a few seconds of vigorous clicking while Harper tried the switch.
“Oh well. Absolute last resort I suppose…”
I fished about in my pocket for the lighter. What I found instead was most disconcerting.
“Harper, there’s a hole in my pocket.”
The silent dark of the Alterworld was polluted by a string of graphic obscenities. Continue reading
Back at EGX 2016 I got involved with virtual reality game Craft Keep VR. A certain portion of the game was already available in Early Access before I even heard about it but over the past few months I’ve been writing story and dialogue and gradually seeing the whole thing take form. At this point my work is done and, not only that, the finished game has just been released! You’ll need either an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive virtual reality headset to play it, but even if you don’t have one of those knocking about I highly recommend checking out the trailer.
I got a chance to play a very nearly complete version at EGX Rezzed this year, and the experience was…strange. Amazing, but strange. I don’t have the VR equipment necessary to play this sort of thing at home, so beyond a few YouTube videos I hadn’t really seen the work in progress while I was writing. It’s quite a shock to go from “Ha ha! This’ll make for a fun bit of dialogue,” to “Oh wow! There’s the guy saying it!” with absolutely nothing in between. It would be weird if the jump were simply from page to screen, but when it’s from page to 3D people walking around in the room with you, it’s especially striking. Continue reading
You might recall Craft Keep VR from my writeup of EGX 2016, where I was lucky enough to try out the virtual reality fantasy artisan game first hand. Well, there’s some exciting follow-up news. First of all, Craft Keep is coming to Steam Early Access on the 10th of November: that’s less than a week away!
Second, I’m writing this thing! At EGX I got talking to the developer, Arvydas Žemaitis, who said that he was looking to include an interesting story as the player travels about setting up shop in all these weird and wonderful locations around the world. Naturally I sent off an email about it after the event, and here we are! Continue reading
A week and a bit since the launch of Ten Little Astronauts on Unbound, and I’ve just put out my first Shed update. This one – Why Sci-fi? – focuses on the reasons why I chose to take the premise of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and take it to interstellar space, and should hopefully be a bit of an introduction to the book for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the basic idea. That said, if you haven’t seen the video for the book already then I highly recommend giving that a watch:
If you’d like to read the Shed update – Why Sci-fi? – it’s available publicly through that link. If you’d like to read future Shed updates, I highly recommend pledging to support the book: some of them will only be available to subscribers, and I’m already having a good think about what I’ll include in those.
If you are planning to support the book, you might like to know that Unbound is currently running a promotion that offers £10 off any pledge. That’s £10 that won’t actually go towards getting the book into print, so if you want to do your bit to help out then I’d recommend looking at it as £10 worth of extra rewards rather than £10 off the cost: for example, I’ve just used the code myself to get a signed hardback of this David Bowie anthology for the cost of a regular hardback.
The code to take advantage of this deal is rio16, but do be quick: it expires at midnight on Sunday, UK time!
It’s been an interesting morning!
Getting permission to film on board Britain’s last surviving WWII submarine for my upcoming Ten Little Astronauts campaign was actually far easier than expected – the people at the museum were extremely helpful the whole way – but it was still a bit of a rush to get everything sorted on time. Because of that, although I only found out for sure yesterday that I’d be able to film on board, it was actually 6:30 this morning that I set out to record the pitch video.
If you go to visit HMS Alliance as part of the standard tour, you’ll see and hear much the same things illustrated in the video above. My visit to film from 7:45 to 9:45 – in the two hours before the museum opened – was a little different. Continue reading
July 1st, as always, marked the start of Flash Fiction Month, but for me personally there was also some very big news: I’ve had a book accepted for publication!
If you’ve subscribed to my newsletter or have spent some time in the Flash Fiction Month chatroom, you may already be aware of this, but the Winchester Writers’ Festival this year went a little better for me than I initially let on. One of my one-to-one meetings was with Scott Pack, an editor at Unbound. He passed on the manuscript for Ten Little Astronauts, my MA novella, to the rest of the team. A week or so afterwards I found out that they’d decided to go ahead and launch it.
Unbound is a crowdfunding publisher, which is pretty much why I decided to approach them: it is nearly impossible to get a novella published by conventional means. The couple of weeks since they accepted my work have mostly revolved around organising a campaign for it, which alongside Flash Fiction Month and my regular job have resulted in more than a couple of very, very long nights. I’ve been working on a pitch, thinking up rewards for supporters, and – for reasons that will become apparent below – arranging the use of an Acheron-class submarine.
Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 1
Challenge #1: Community Mashup.
“A variety of breakfast cereals + nihilistic dystopian setting.” ~distortified
“Fairies and NASCAR” ~Megan1289
It has been eighteen years since the Final War. Eighteen years since the mushroom kingdom vanished into mushroom clouds. In the days before, the races were mere sport: entertainment for spectators grown fat on crunch. Now, the races are survival. An endless struggle between the Coco Tyrants and the Sugar Crazies. Those who gain the approval of the ganglords survive. There is nothing more. There is no right or wrong. No mercy or restraint. No choice.
The wheel burns within my grasp. The pedal screams beneath my boot. Beneath the hood, a dual-linked pair of solvent-quenched shredcannons; in the hold, three hundred kilos of high-octane Frosted Flakes.
The Coco Tyrants want them. The Sugar Crazies want them back.
If you’ve been following for a while, you may have already seen my first and second articles on the Early Access version of Epistory, an open-world typing game by Fishing Cactus. Well, now that the game is out, and now that my computer is capable of reliably recording gameplay, I thought I’d try a video review.