Wow! I did not expect the outcome this year. I am fortunate to have placed 11th, one spot higher than my entry last year. That is cause for some celebration, as placing higher was my personal goal. I put at least twice as much work into this year’s entry, starting and completing it during the month of August (and bug fixing for long after that.)
I decided to do a sequel simply because so many people asked for it last year. I kept hearing that they wanted more of the world, more of the story. So, I decided to do that. It was either that or something spooky, and I didn’t feel as if Sniff’s potential had been exhausted yet. There were many things I added that I had no idea how to do, but just sat down and decided “I want this in the game” and went for it. I wanted it to feel like you were really in a world you could explore. So you have a town with a day/night cycle, a bunch of different npcs, an inventory system, and, heck, animation, why not?
I was told my entry last year was too linear, and perhaps I overcompensated. Many people mentioned getting lost. I had wanted to code in a map, but that was late into the process and I didn’t think I had time. I ended up doing one in photoshop and adding it to the game zip file, along with a walkthrough I hadn’t originally planned to write, either.
One thing never ceases to amaze me - how much the reviews and comments of players help find glitches in your game. Thank you!
Twine. I really don’t know if I’ll ever use it again. It seems like there is so much you can’t account for, notably the browsers people are using. I tested it in different browsers and saw wildly different layouts appear, but it always ran most cleanly on Chrome, so that’s where I put my eggs. I was surprised to receive a vote as low as 2 (doesn’t that mean the game is wholly broken?) and chalked it up to the sorts of glitches one encounters on different browsers and perhaps those present in the code when the game goes live. I still can’t understand how one could make a game in Twine that appears with the same layout on all browsers (and platforms: some people had been playing the game in mobile browsers, which, I can’t imagine how that would have smooshed the layout).
It’s said that bugfixing never truly ends, and for me, it didn’t. I tested and tested this game and even had some friends play it beforehand, making sure it could be played through to completion for all the various endings, and still discovered that people experienced glitches. I scoured the forum day in day out, anxiously awaiting a post about a gamebreaker, so that I could leap into action and provide the fix. Even after reading it over a hundred times, people still found typos. There are probably typos in this very post!
I’m not sure how many people actually completed the game. Some hangups seemed to be getting lost, dying, and the minigames. Oh, those minigames. I thought they were brilliant, like they were the brightest little idea, and almost everyone universally hated them, saying they were too difficult. I had them tested on multiple browsers and reports game back that they were too easy, so, there was really no knowing how they would be received. In retrospect I should have made them more optional.
Unraveling the mystery is also very, very hard. I guess I imagined players might take notes, but never explicitly told them to do so. I think I would hate if a game was telling me what to do outside the limits of the game itself.
Fantasy is endlessly mutable - there is no reason a gnoll can’t be a detective. I find that most tropes, while perhaps comforting, actually do a great disservice to a narrative, especially a mystery. The more tropes there are that align what the reader expects, the less mysterious the whole thing becomes. I try to avoid simply ticking the boxes of a given genre when I write it. Hopefully that worked out.
I don’t know whether I’ll do IFComp again. But, then again, I didn’t expect to write an entry this year, either. But, don’t worry. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Sniff.