Well, so my game placed higher than I would’ve ever guessed (part of me is still not unconvinced it’s just some statistical fluke). A sincere thanks to everyone who played it! Also, I want to thank two (separate!) people named Brian, whose encouragement and willingness to test this game were incredibly invaluable.
I had written up this post-mortem, then figured I wouldn’t post it due to my unrelenting anxiety, but hell. Here it is.
a sidenote(?) about this game/Morris
So a few years back I went through this phase where I was really, just really, suddenly into hardboiled detective fiction and noir fiction. I read a ton of the classics and watched the associated film versions. Probably couldn’t articulate why it appeals to me, but it does, the tone and visuals of the films, and the over-the-top-ness and sometimes cheesiness of the novels and everything. I love the moodiness and the cat-and-mouse games and the rain (though honestly, I admit that’s maybe overblown, even though I adopted it and played it up in Grimnoir. I remember a lot of wet streets in the old films, but not quite as much actual raining).
But, man, one trend that was abundantly evident, when I consumed it like all at once, and that I wasn’t really prepared for, was how well they reflect the values of their time. All I’d ever heard was criticism of the sexism, but not the blatant homophobia and racism. I suspect the genre’s reputation avoided strong association with this stuff in the modern consciousness because the film adaptations toned down the racism and homophobia //a ton//, but you read the originals and man, it’s hard not to notice how often our straight white American (anti-) hero encounters queers and non-white Americans and foreigners as degenerate killers, pathetic lackeys of criminals, obnoxious associates who get in our hero’s way in his quest (or sometimes they’re not even in his way? James M. Cain is consistently maybe the most horrifically blatant of the lot). So, anyway, Morris’s sexuality wasn’t meant to be any sort of a thing, especially not in the story. It was more just personally satisfying. I emulated the terse, sardonic style of Chandler, a bit of Hammett, made a character who was overly turned inward, jaded and disconnected from others, but he’s a protag who their protags would’ve hated; one who’s like me.
Anyway, on the topic of noir, two other classics that are faves of mine and influenced Grimnoir: Dorothy Hughes’ “In A Lonely Place,” a noir told from the point of view of the killer, and done with incredible flexibility and humanity on the writer’s behalf, and Ross MacDonald’s “The Chill”–that’s one where some minor characters and their relationships behind the scenes are more surprising and important than it first seems (I know, I know, that’s vague and could cover a lot of the genre, but…it’s especially true).
IDK if I should admit this or not, but I’ve never read an urban fantasy piece, the genre of which Grimnoir I think is. Since making Grimnoir, I’ve been recommended The Dresden Files and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by friends. I plan to check em out (and am open to more recommendations, if anyone reading this feels like shooting em my way…), but my heart belongs, for whatever reason, to those shadowy, cold 1940s streets when it comes to detective fiction.
Oh yeah, some non-noir influences: The Witcher (as at least one person noted) was definitely an influence on the Grimoire, especially the way it’s organized. Also, folklore was a big influence, obviously! Doing research on that was a lot of fun. I have a thing for folk monsters and bestiaries, apparently. And for some, I took some artistic license when writing them up, of course, to adapt them into this world. I wanted the Grimoire to have the quality of something actually written by people: some things they debunk as myth, some things they just don’t know.
[b]Anyway, about the game, I guess:
In the earliest conception of the game, which I did not implement, Dermot’s Diner was something of a front, with Clem running a secret shop for hunters where you could buy the tools/weapons you need to kill monsters. That was how I came up with Clem: she was a real good at working the diner, but also she just happened to sell weapons quietly on the side to monster hunters. I decided I didn’t want to make this a game where you need to buy things to proceed, but I kept Clem. So Clem in the game doesn’t sell weapons, but she’s still a pal of Morris, and one that he desperately needs (All that coffee…he doesn’t really need so much coffee all the time. That’s not why he goes. Prob doesn’t admit it to himself).
(He does actually like coffee a lot, though. I imparted that to him from me. Along with my preference for whiskey. What I think I’m saying here is that I have the tastes of a stoic detective instead of the academic nerd that I am).
Grim was gonna be a considerably shadier character, full of glib charm and with more emphasis on his sybaritic nature; this version of Grim’s motivations toward Morris were much more ambiguous, and Morris only trusted him as far as he needed to. Honestly, IDK if I can even fully articulate why I changed this except that I kept trying to write it and it didn’t seem to fit. He just kinda ended up becoming the Grim you see in the game.
How do you make a game where people have to figure out things? I don’t know. I think Erstwhile did something pretty cool in that regard.
For my part, I thought about it a lot, and I decided what I didn’t want to do was that thing that is this:
have player navigate character around to find clues -> find the clue(s) -> protagonist figures it out once you have enough of them
What I wanted was something like this:
have player navigate character around to find clues -> find the clue(s) -> player figures it out (hopefully)
So the whole thing is based around allowing the player to go around and find things, and piece it together on their own, in their own head. Morris won’t tell you what the monster is. He won’t comment on what the deal is what that one character.
Does it work? No idea. Some people liked it, some didn’t.
I was intrigued by the people who mentioned they felt like the reason phase amounted to guessing, because you can never know for sure. In my head, it made total sense: Morris //is// guessing. No one can ever know for sure what’s up with people (I say this as a psychologist, where even in my non-clinical corner of the field it’s my job to try to figure out what’s up with people). The way I see it, unless you’re in, say, Skyrim, it’d be pretty unrealistic to come upon a journal or something with exactly what you need to know written out explicitly. That’s why the reason phase was optional, and you need only to get the name right to proceed.
For example, in The Song Garden, how do you know for sure that Jayla’s father is mostly concerned about her wellbeing, and not jealous of her? Well, you don’t, I think. But you’ll find a lot of evidence for the first one, and none for the second.
…That was my reasoning, at least. I’ll be the first to admit that it might not work as well in a game, or maybe even if it does, my execution was flawed. It’s a real possibility that the reasons are more ambiguous than I had intended/the evidence isn’t strong or doesn’t add up.
Last, some trivia?
-The poster in Marcus’s apartment (in The Sly Grin) that Solene recognizes is meant to be Blade Runner
-If you’re wondering what Morris did on his day off in that same case, try calling him once or twice as Solene
-The weather in the game matches Morris’s characterization path (I do mention this in the walkthrough tho)
-If you played the game with music/sound, and you listen carefully, you can hear my voice somewhere:)
-Some cases that didn’t make the cut, for the curious, I guess:
-Grim’s mission was initially going to be about killing a rival vampire. I ditched it because every time I tried to to write I hated it, and eventually I reworked it into The Gaping Maw
-briefly considered a case where the monster was a transformed animal, probably someone’s pet. Pretty quickly ditched that idea
-a city-dwelling peryton picking people off of rooftops. I just. Couldn’t get anywhere with it. Also the concept felt ridiculous
-a church haunted by a barghest. Didn’t really fit