Arcane Intern (Unpaid) Postmortem

First time doing a post-mortem so I hope this isn’t too bad a format. Let me know if there’s anything else you guys would like to know about the game.

What went wrong?

1. Development Timeline

I learned about IFComp mid-July, and started brainstorming immediately. I told myself I was going to enter this year and by August, I had a neat little timeline of how I would get things done, taking into account the 2 week trip I had already scheduled for middle two weeks of October. The plan was to get it done before I left for that trip. The relaxed version of the plan was to get it written by then, and then coded afterward.

The real plan ended with me getting spectacularly sick for all of August, and having to do all of the game in the two weeks after I got back from the trip. My plans were shattered and the only reason I was able to enter at all was that I had been SO sick, that I didn’t plan much out, and therefore didn’t need to cut much out.

2. The Maze

The Maze in Arcane Intern was my first attempt at anything remotely game-like in one of my projects. My first game, You Are Standing at a Crossroads, has a looping structure, but nothing quite like this. I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to implement the maze and I still missed several bugs (like the infinite pens/books bug). I also cycled through some problems with how to write the links that I should have foreseen.

3. Typos

I am a bad speller. Like a really bad speller. Not so much because I don’t know how things as spelled, but more because I tend to write faster than I think and reading my own work barely helps at all. It wasn’t until someone did a Let’s Play of my game that I heard the typos being read out loud and almost died of embarrassment.

What (I felt) went right?

1. The Endings

I felt people really resonated with all three endings. I was concerned that one would be considered a ‘good’ ending above all the others, but there was actually really great response to all of them. Super pleased about this. Won’t say more because some people still haven’t played, but if you ask I will discuss in spoiler tags any of the endings.

2. Readability

I set out to make sure that the text in the game really large and readable, and I got some really great feedback on the game being nice to play. People also seemed to enjoy the light/dark inversion between the real world and the magical world, so that was great.

3. Harry Potter References

One person got my Pillar of Storge reference and mentioned it in a review. That’s a win for me.

What did I learn?

  • Give yourself more time, girl!
  • Get More editors! Also I learned that I can make my computer read my script for me as well. This helps A LOT.
  • People like cardinal directions and making maps.
  • More player freedom means more writer restrictions. More work goes into making a world feels open than it seems.
  • [EDIT] Also forgot to add that a lot of people seemed to feel it was too small. Idk if this was good (I want more) or bad (This didn’t tell me enough), but it was interesting to know.

I was pleased when I played “Arcane Intern” and found it blessedly low on typos. (Not absent but very low on them.) Thank your testers again.

I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that the whole thing was a thinly disguised “Harry Potter” fanfic. Is that just me? I like fanfic okay, but I sort of wish people would write more original stuff.

Definitely liked the

tattooing the “magery” sigil on yourself and various other people

ending. That was refreshingly unusual. I would indeed have liked more than just 3 endings, especially since the choices made early in the game seemed to have little impact on the final outcome. Solving the mongoose puzzle, for example, should make some difference.

I liked the “maze”, it had lots of interesting things to look at (the tortoiseshell pens were my favorite), but yeah, it needs a little work to smooth out the loops and dead-ends, and make it more clear how to go back.

The feel and the narrative rules of the universe (as opposed to the worldbuilding rules) were very different. It’s definitely in conversation with Harry Potter and influenced by it, that’s plain to see, but having read plenty of fanfic (and played some fan-games… and written one…) in my time, I’m not really feeling the HP fic angle personally.

I actually think this is why so many reviewers said they were ‘surprised’ to enjoy the game; they expected HP fanfic, which is often terrible Mary Sue junk, but they got something very, very different, more like Dilbert’s Heck scenes (in my opinion).