Saturday, September 20, 2014

Creatures Such as We


Two people sitting close together, in space suits on the moon, looking off into the stars. Note: This post deals with my game Creatures Such as We. As such, it will contain spoilers.

Main Page: Creatures Such as We
Play or Download: Here

Creatures Such as We was a bunch of fun to design and write. Just a fun opportunity to focus on interpersonal relationships with and a philosophical examination of video games as art, all wrapped up in a semi sci-fi exterior of being a moon tour guide. And then the paralleled storytelling between the game and the in-game game was a whole extra layer of fun to manipulate. The whole thing ended up having so many moving parts that one of the biggest things I struggled with was how to succinctly describe it to friends and testers: Dating sim? Tour guide slice-o-life? Sci-fi things-go-wrong adventure? Video game philosophical commentary? Zombie-ghost gorefest? A cohesive narrative that actually wraps all those different story elements together?

Well, yes, actually. It is that. It is all those things. But mostly, it is a reflection of my internal musings, which are complicated, layered, and interwoven. I gave myself free reign to make whatever weird story came to my mind, and it ended up creating this very real, very human experience.

I've highlighted different aspect of the game design process in the following blog posts:
Potential Future Romance Games?

Creature Such as We won 2nd place in the 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition by a very narrow margin in the 2014 IF Comp. I'm very grateful for that recognition: that this crazy idea for a complicated narrative would be so deeply enjoyed by players and would resonate and would serve as an inspiration.

That said, there were definitely some growing pains attached to the growth of hypertext games, and I was worried about what sort of reaction I would have to deal with. I didn't feel comfortable with some of the discussions. but in the end, I'm glad I entered.

As for the game itself, I'm relatively happy with how it turned out. I think some conversations were a little rough around the edges, and there may have been some minor balancing issues, but I think overall it went really well. Many of the players got invested in the plot and/or got wrapped up in the characters.  And a lot of players appreciated the meta intertwining layers.

Some Things that Went Well
  • The real-feeling depiction of being a tour guide on the moon.
  • The plot of dealing with moon-mergencies.
  • The ability to get close to a tourist, or to remain a strict professional.
  • The philosophical conversations.
  • The merging of the external plot and the internal one.
  • The cover art (minus my poor text overlay).
  • The ChoiceScript design was accessible and easy-to-use.
Some Things that Didn't Land Well
In a way, I'm not all that concerned about things that didn't resonate with players. I created this game as a catharsis exercise for myself to work through game design feelings, as an experiment in creating a story-heavy romance game, and a writing exercise in dealing with people.

A great number of players argued that there were mission options in that discussion, and I'm glad I encouraged outside discussion on the philosophy: I wanted to encourage outside debate of the game, and allow for players to write in with their own answers, to not provide a distinctly "correct" answer to the question, but it was viewed as me not quite getting it instead of me leaving it open to player interpretation. The first conversation about the ownership of a game's meaning belonging to the artist or the viewer could have used one more layer of discussion and perhaps a few more options to have rounded it out more.

Some players were unfamiliar with dating sim conventional mechanics, and approached it as an adventure game instead, and then they were disappointed either that the plot didn't branch more, or that they didn't have time to get to know every designer on a single playthrough. I am happy to have Creatures Such as We serve as a kind of basic introduction, and I hope I encouraged those players to move out of their comfort zone and try more dating sims. Or let them know that dating sims really probably are not for them.

Some players thought there was too much philosophy in conversations. As I said before, I made this game for me, and I made the kinds of conversations I find interesting and enjoy having with people. We just have different expectations, and that's totally fine.

The lack of an ability to save. That's fair.

30 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Thank you so much for this game. It helped me deal with my panic attacks. I can not begin to thank you enough for this game, I have already told those closest to me about it, and I will spread the word about your games.

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    3. Also if you want please feel free to use my music in any future works.
      https://soundcloud.com/pepin-lachance

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    4. Awesome, I'm really glad to hear that. :)

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  2. (Hope I'm not posting this twice...) Hi Lynnea, great game! I was looking for something new and cool to do a Let's Play of on You Tube, and your game was perfect for me. I got so excited I immediately recorded and posted Episode 1, but afterwards I realized you're in the middle of a competition. Is it ok if I continue the LP? Would you like me to wait until after the voting? I don't want to mess you up. On the other hand, I'm a professional actor in real life so it sounds nice (tho I gave Lauress an "overacting-cut-scene" voice, lol), so maybe it will help get the word out? It's totally up to you. Here's a link to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLU4btFpadyekAkEjQaaLSn2GJLYv6UsUT I'd like to keep recording eps but I'll wait to post until I hear back from you. Comment on the vid, reply here, or email me at trillianswan at g mail dot com. Good luck in the competition!!! -- Trillian

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    1. Thanks for asking! It is totally fine to do a Let's Play of Creatures Such as We: the only public restrictions are for authors. Plus I love Let's Plays, so I'm really excited to watch it! :)

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    2. Yay! I'm also excited to keep playing & recording it! Just about to start Ep 2, might get it up later today! :)

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  3. Hey, I really enjoyed your game, thank you for making it! What better way to explore issues in game design and in the gamer/creator relationship than with a game?! :-)
    Your descriptions were really vivid; I could picture everything you described really well (though, I think there were a few too many characters to get to know in such a short game).
    I hope you continue to make thoughtful games that address issues like this one.

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  4. I"m judging for IF Comp this year, and just tried your game. While I'm nowhere near done with it, I am thoroughly enjoying it and am looking forward to not only completing the game but replaying to fully explore it. I rarely feel that way. Fantastic game - keep making them!

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  5. I really liked your game. I loved the mirroring of the love-story in the game-in-game. It was exiting to see how at first, i did not give a damn about playing the text version of this zombie game, but than i could not wait to play again, thinking of the game as a mirror, that would tell me something about my relationship with sh... how could i forget the name already? I've been reading all my life, and i can tell you, this was some great storytelling! Oh yes, you should have added a save button, because, with your game not having it, it's now seven in the morning in Berlin...

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  6. Great game, I really liked it. It made me think a lot and the whole meta-ness, of the story, the video game story and the choices we make in real life, blew my mind. I didn't like James though he was such a wimp.

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  8. Love this game! It felt so confidently smart, and unapologetically subtle in terms of what the different people are thinking about and saying. It was like a great conversation.

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  9. [THIS COMMENT CONTAINS MILD CREATURES SUCH AS WE SPOILERS]

    I have a mind-bending story to recount. I'm partway through Creatures Such As We. Diana is currently asking me whether players value deeper meaning in games, and my answer is instantaneous. My thoughts run along the lines of "yes--yes, I do! Oh you have no idea how much I do value that--how long I've been searching for a video game populated by characters that didn't make me feel like a judge in an amateur Turing test! A perfect example of what I look for in a game, the type of game I've been unsuccessfully searching for for years, is this genius work I discovered recently called 'Creatures Such As..."

    And then I stopped because I realized I was in fact still playing that game, and instead of telling Diana, I ought to tell the real author :)

    Thank you. This game was (is) phenomenal so far. I'd say revolutionary even. And now...back to it.

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  10. One of my friends is convinced that the more meta a game is, the better. I haven't made my mind up, but it clearly works for you! Congrats.

    Felicity Banks

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  11. I must say that I loved the story and the ammount of choices was much impressive, but I was FURIOUS over how I could not reach the ending that would satisfy my needs (feels so meta that this can be applied to both the external and internal game, but I'm talking about the external one).
    I simply wanted to just say "fuck the Moon" and go back to Earth with Ren. Sad thing that she'd always "save" me from being fired...

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  12. Hey, I wanted to ask you a tech question. How did you upload the game as a CS/html file to the IF Comp?

    Felicity Banks

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    1. I'll give a full answer, since I'm not sure which part you're hung up on!

      First, I used ChoiceScript. It takes some finagling to figure out exactly how to get started, but once you figure that out, the rest falls into place pretty fast.

      The zip folder comes with web pages and tools, one of which is a "Compile" web page, and once you've written everything, you open the Compile page, and it spits out an HTML file you can use.

      Now, I've run into some bumps with that HTML file, and here are some troubleshooting things I've run into (these get techy if you're not using ChoiceScript already):

      1) The Startup page has to list every file in its scene_list.
      2) Scene names are case sensitive.
      3) When using the compile page, I get a better result if I hit "Open" instead of "Download" and then find the file that creates.
      4) I've found that some errors only show up on someone else's computer, if they don't have the original files on their computer.

      As for how to upload an HTML file in general to the IF Comp, I just uploaded it straight with the "Upload Game File" tool (or something named like that) on the IF Comp site.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions still.

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  13. This game is the first real IF game I've played, and it's just flat out amazing. Thank you for this.

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  14. I loved Creatures so much! Thank you for the awesome experience! Your inclusion of diversity and really, really interesting philosophical discussion was the best thing ive had the pleasure of being a part of!! It was so inspiring and its definitely going to leave a mark on me and my life. I'm still in high school and I'm not sure of what I want to do yet, but I do know I want to tell stories.. would you recommend going into the video game industry?

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  16. Spoiler

    I really wanted to be able to quit moon and go with Diana... It seems like a realistic ending even though one of the points of the game is that an ending isn't always supposed to be happy in order to be good and send the right message... I feel the same way as the character towards his video game! And I know that it was intended... As I recall, it was an amasing game and I'm now ready to live my own romance in real world! Thank you Lynnea Glasser for that amasing game and I'm looking forward for some more.

    Alex

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  17. I never done this about a game, but I had to look it up and thank the written, I became hooked, I didn't notice time passing, beautifully written with deep unspoken thoughs about life, a really different and refreshing experience, I loved it. I will definitely be checking some more of your work :)

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  18. I have to enter a adjective for one of the endings as nd i can't seem to find it can you tell me it

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    1. Spoiler...
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      "good" works.

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  19. Hello! This is Kei (or Nightmare_writer)
    I played this game recently and I need to say...wow. You have created a stunning, cool and deep story.
    You are really talented!
    I'm amazed about how this simple-looking game has absorbed me with this unique atmosphere and deep thoughts, as well as the situations and characters. It leads the reader to an amazing experience, even with the tear rivers and even with that empty feeling in the end, no matter if it's the "bad" or the "good" one.
    I must write this on capital letters: CONGRATULATIONS!

    Well, I'm here for the following reason:
    This day, I saw that a lot of people that had a hard time reading it (many people said at Google play that they would like a translation to their native languages). They said that they did not understand or they get confused in certain parts, so I offer to translate it into spanish. I know, it's not that interesting at first sight,but I'm telling you...this is an amazing game, and it deserves to be known by more people.
    If you're worried about money, don't worry. I'm not interrested at all, I am just interested on translating (it is my favourite leisure activity,as well as I want to practice).

    Contact me if you have any questions,if you want to chat or just for saying "no":
    [https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009762917160]

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  20. Great work creating an enjoyable story :)

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  21. This was a very interesting game. It had a pull to it. I freaking loved James, he's vulnerable and optimistically frank. Not to mention how he understands what you're thinking not just what you're saying. I think that's what really impressed me. as a side note, the fact that he smelled good completely won me over.

    I absolutely loved the discussions, unlike most games that make a half hearted attempt and and up agreeing with you, this actually made me rethink my choices!

    Exceptional game, and I hope I can find another character like James! :D

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  22. This game... this game... it made me feel feelings. Like heartbreak, because after getting my best possible ending, real life is here to remind me of the soul crushing realization that I will never be a lunar tour guide and since I shall never be a lunar tour guide, I will never meet my life's Diana... This game was wonderful though, made me want to reconsider Nihilism and opt for the more hopeful Existentialism. I wish that games like these were more popular, you must have worked extremely hard on it and it shoes through, this game is a great time killer yes, however, it's more than that, it's a story, a piece of real art. Not many CYOA's are as philosophical and well-written as this was.

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