Chuk and the Arena Postscriptum

Thanks to everyone who played, reviewed and commented on Chuk and the Arena. I had a great time working on this game and it was amazing to see people enjoy it! I’m also thankful for all the critical feedback I received. Overall, the Comp was a great and rewarding experience to me.

Chuk started out as an attempt to make a game based around an old concept of mine: a wacky space fighting tournament. (I’ve made several rough card/boardgame prototypes with this theme years ago). I also wanted to improve on the puzzle and inventory systems from my last year’s Comp game, Lux, and create a Twine game that would resemble a classic point-and-click adventure even more closely.

I started from the core idea of three arena fights the player has to win, with progressively more complex and involved puzzles required for success. I also wanted to have some gameplay gimmick which would help the game stand apart from other inventory-based puzzlefests – so I decided to give Chuk his colour-changing ability and based many of the puzzles around that. (On a side note, I was extremely happy to see people mention they enjoyed Chuk’s lines changing colour as well – implementing that small function, which isn’t essential for gameplay, took me ages, with so much dialogue!).

Story

I designed some individual puzzles first (for example, the cricket puzzle) and wrote the main storyline later; it evolved from some very silly comic space opera stuff into the still somewhat silly, but more coherent and involved final plot based around the Chairperor’s evil scheme. As the tone of the game shifted, some of the NPCs also changed. Originally, the other gladiators were intended to be your typical “bad guys”; then I realised there was no reason for them to be evil – they were just athletes after all! In the final game, their sportsmanship is an important plot point, as it throws a wrench in the Chairperor’s original plan. Steve evolved as well, from a loyal lackey of M’zzur into the business-minded, but ultimately decent person he is.

(My favourite character to write, THAT’S DEATH’S ROBOT, didn’t change much during the making of the game. I knew what its personality should be from the very start!)

Some thoughts on the endings:

I always wanted Chuk to have multiple endings, but the precise ideas for those endings changed, too. Originally, I planned to include a decision to either save the ship, or escape with the Crystal Moon, leaving everyone aboard the Perfect Paradise to die. However, I felt this second ending, while surprising, didn’t fit the tone of the game, or Chuk’s personality. Eventually, I scrapped the “everyone dies” ending and replaced it with the one where you defeat the Chairperor – but only if you’ve helped the weak, insignificant Quik, who turn out to be more than meets the eye!

Gameplay

The inventory system was the most challenging part of the game to write, with all the possible item/item or item/hotspot combinations. Coding and testing it was tedious and time-consuming (and my “Combinations” spreadsheet was one scary behemoth), but I’m really satisfied with the results.

My favourite puzzles to work on were the insult puzzle and the bizarre CYOA book Tlazl of Danger ; I put a lot of effort into making it as bad a CYOA as possible, with unclear choices, nonsensical fantasy vocabulary and sudden deaths. I added the option to skip to the end of the book after a certain number of “deaths” because I was afraid people might hate this puzzle (a bad game is a bad game, after all, even if it’s a joke), but it turned out that at least some players enjoyed it!

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