Mirror|rorriM CYOA - Looking for Opinions and Critiques

Hi there. I’m new to this forum, but it looks like it could be an interesting place to play.

A course I’m taking in school (Storytelling for New Media) had me putting together an interactive story for a final project and I find myself both loving and hating it. In the time allotted for the project (only a few weeks) I’ve managed to put out one of the two stories I want to form the whole of what I’ve called MirrorlrorriM. The name… could probably use changing, because as I wrote, I strayed from my original idea quite a bit, and found myself burning out a lot sooner than I’d hoped.

While I do plan to connect up the second story once I’m done with finals, I’d love to get some opinions and critiques and the like from any of you who might be interested! With a little luck and some perseverance, maybe I can find people with the technical skills to match my writing and make something bigger than the simple WordPress text I’m currently stuck with.

mirrorlrorrim.wordpress.com/ <-- That’s the link to MirrorlrorriM

Thanks so much for anything you can send my way here!

Edit: Links to pages with errors or breaks would much appreciated! I didn’t title things so as to keep the pages uncluttered. Perhaps not one of my best decisions to date.
I know I’m a bit prose-ish, so it’s more experiential than puzzle based. Not to mention I’ve had a heap of writers block you wouldn’t believe.

Standard warning: Choose Your Own Adventure is a registered trademark, the series is still being published, and they have been known to sue. Casually referring to your game as ‘a CYOA’ is one thing, putting ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ at the top of your intro page is another. I doubt that this is likely to matter all that much for a school project, but it’s probably worth a mention.

I’d suggest looking at a custom-made CYOA language – given that visual presentation seems important to you, I’d recommend Undum, but Choicescript is also solid. Both of these require a little simple coding, but it’s very simple.

S/fairs/fares.

Under-construction female path: if this is an alpha, that’s fine. If you’re planning to present this, just make the character male and skip over this step. If you want to talk about your future plans for the work, tuck them away in a game notes section – don’t offer the player a major choice and then apologise that they can’t take it.

My general feeling about the prose is that it’s somewhat overwritten and could benefit from some paring-down. Take this, for instance:

Would it really lose anything by being turned into this:

Don’t pile on redundancies in your writing, and particularly don’t use lots of overlapping adjectives. “Dank” already has an implication of darkness; “murky” and “sickly” are gesturing at the same thing. Adjectivitis makes writing look uncertain, as if description is a struggle; and it bloats your word count, which is rarely a good thing (and is especially troublesome in writing for games.)

The second sentence is a fragment. Either combine the sentences with a comma, or change “giving hint” to “give any hint” or similar.

Hyphenate ‘silver-lensed’.

I’m not sure what a hearty mumble would be like. Perhaps you mean “heartfelt”?

Arbitrary decisions are not interesting. This is a general problem of the piece: the just-a-dream framing means that the player character never really seems to have any motivation or significant angency, and there doesn’t seem to be much connection between individual incidents. (I say this having played through once; possibly things make more sense after several playthroughs, but there isn’t much to suggest this.) There are hints that the idea is learning-by-dying (the key I chose doesn’t match up with the staircase I chose), but I’m not really given any reason, in or out of character, to want to solve this puzzle. If you want to make a pure-experiential piece, that’s cool, but combining pure-experiential content with puzzles is unlikely to work well.

Sentence fragment. Do you mean “will be forever…”?

Some minor stuff…

[spoiler]You breath* in deeply

*breathe[/spoiler]

[spoiler]trying hard to reach for the light their larger kyn* block far above

*kin[/spoiler]

[spoiler]She leans back into the water and float* on the surface

*floats[/spoiler]

[spoiler]It’s* mouth hangs slightly open in what you image must be a smile

*Its[/spoiler]

A slightly more serious error…

After choosing “Navigating the Forest to the Water”, the “Join Her” option doesn’t seem to work.

This one is kind of subjective, I admit…

[spoiler]She is tall, thin and wispy, her skin gleaming alabaster against the black pebbled sluice at the riverside. Long silver tresses, loosely plaited, drape down her back, curling gently against her hips and buttocks before dispersing delicate tendrils out across the top of the water. The lady turns her head and sees you watching her. She titters girlishly, smoothing loose silver curls over her perky breasts.

This description of the silver-haired woman is a little bit inelegant, what with the direct references to “buttocks” and “perky breasts”. Whenever I hear the word “buttocks”, I think of Forrest Gump: “Where were you wounded, soldier? In the buttocks, sir.” It is possible to make a woman sound desirable in prose without resorting to saying straight out that she has nice T&A.[/spoiler]

Overall thoughts…

It would be nice if there were some sort of revelation or explanation or something at the end other than, “it was all a dream,” especially considering we already knew that it was a dream at the beginning of the story. There are already a ton of games and stories, the plot of which could be summed up as, “you’re in a dream; random and/or symbolic stuff happens; you wake up”.

I altered the header. I’ll have to give those engines a glance. To be honest, I’m not sure how far I’ll pursue this CYOA style, much as I do plan on fleshing this one out some more, it’s so easy to burn out, and I never had much luck with good endings when I read the darn things. XD

Due date + writers block = bs like crazy. I definitely understand what you’re saying. All of this is first draft really, so I’d need to be able to walk away for a day or two and come back to edit. No doubt there’s a LOT that can be simplified.

I had meant ‘gives’ rather than ‘giving’, which still may be a fragment, but I’ve always liked fragmented sentences if they portray something that doesn’t need to be complete. Even though it’s not grammatically correct.

Heartfelt is a much better word. ^…^

The X-O, dagger-star thing was my own personal rant against all the point and click games I’ve tried that leave me at a point where I have NO idea what to do and no possible way to figure it out, so I end up madly clicking until the spiderweb in the corner falls the ground so I can wrap it around a stick and light a fire with a pocket watch to crawl through a tunnel that I can see the other side of anyhow… Yeah. Game rage. So my own twisted mind connected a star radiating with an O, and a dagger’s point with the single connected point of an X. I’m not sure how to change it. I suppose I could make it more obvious and just hope that people are reading to experience everything, rather than wanting to get to the ‘proper’ way out.

Yeah. I hate when I can’t breath.

Kyn is actually the Norse spelling of the English cyn which is modern day kin. ‘Kyn’ has a special place in my heart, so I use it in place of the more modern spelling.

Fixed the break. Thank you!

The description is supposed to portray a sense of ‘too much’ beauty, the way an overly thin supermodel stop looking pretty and starts looking ill. It’s a slight reference to the fact she’s not human. And I was trying to stay away from anything too raunchy, not meaning to strike your Forest reflex. XD If you have a suggestion as to how it could be changed, I’d appreciate it.

Yeah. I’m not really a big fan of the dream thing, and potentially, if this were fleshed out to the extent of a short novel like the CYOA books, then a lot of things, especially that, would be changed. Maybe when I get a chance to get away from it and recover from school I’ll be able to take a more leisurely approach and lead it away from the dreamstate concept.

[spoiler]I agree with trojo that this doesn’t really come across the way you intended. (Though I have less of a problem with ‘buttocks’: none of the available words here are ideal.) You need to work in something that makes the description seem uncanny. Yeah, the description’s got touches that are a little creepy – ‘alabaster’, ‘titters girlishly’, the vaguely-fetishy attention to hair, the way that her immediate response to being seen is to giggle and grope herself – but these are all things that a writer would be likely to write because they think it’s totally hot.

There’s no obvious fix here: writing attractive women without coming across as creepy is a pretty delicate art. And your aim here is a bit more complicated than simply writing an attractive woman. The focus on T&A does make it seem as if the player character’s reaction is meant to be a straightforward boner; toning that down might leave more room for a more complex reading. One approach might be to go over the individual words and shift them to words with a similar meaning but a slightly more negative sense, or. Another might be to just say what the effect is, although that’s obviously not ideal.[/spoiler]

Yeah. It’s much easier to read an established author’s description of slightly creepy, ethereal beauty. I’ll tab it on my list of things to revisit when my muse gets back from freaking out.

I really appreciate the suggestions. It’ll help when I get back around to it.

I’m noticing a fair number of grammatical mistakes and a whole lot of could-be-betters. How much are you looking for editing and how much are you just looking for general feedback? Either way, you need to watch your comma splices. I’ll agree with you about fragments as long as they’re very short and to-the-point, but comma splices never have any virtue.

If you’re looking for detailed editing, I could just post comments on the pages themselves, if you like. (I wouldn’t do this without asking because I don’t want to clutter up your game with criticism.)

Overall, my criticism is that this game has no hook: We’re not given any reason why we should care about what’s happening–doubly so since we know it’s all a dream and thus lose our concern that the PC might be harmed, killed, or suffer any other kind of negative repercussion. That leaves you with an extremely high burden to fulfill with your descriptions: You’ve got to convince us that we really want to find out what’s at the bottom of the mist, even if we don’t think it matters. See the issue?

Yeah, this whole experience has been experimental for me, and its a first draft as it currently stands. The project is more a combination of storytelling elements, player interaction, and potentially real world elements in a new media, read internet, format.

I have to admit, it’s been a long time since I played any mini games / ARGs / point-click / CYO / etc where I felt any level of dedication to the character or story, maybe that’s where I’m failing. I never had much luck with those darn CYOA books either. I used to read them constantly, but can’t remember ever getting to a ‘good’ ending, and I can only remember one page of one of the books - some chick who wanted the character’s face for its own…

For the time being, I’m looking mostly for general critique. I’m thinking to take out the couple of moments where the character’s gender is mentioned and merge this story with what I was going to separate as the ‘female’ story. It would at least double the size of it all. And potentially allow me to incorporate my original mirror idea (hence the title before it went horribly off track and turned to mist) as well as move away from the dreamstate, though I’m not sure how to bring a world of portals, fantasy and myth together into a whole without it having that dream-like quality. Perhaps a meditative state or something…

Dream states are not the problem (I obviously don’t think so, given that my only completed game is a dream sequence); the problem is dream endings: Waking up and finding out that nothing you did actually mattered. Even something as simple as implying that there’s a goal to the dream, something the PC has been trying to find but never can, would work.

I suppose I’ve been linking waking up with success in my mind. I definitely see what you’re saying. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream where I knew the purpose before I found it. It will definitely take some pondering to figure out how to incorporate something so the reader can feel more invested in the character and outcome.

You could just remove the word buttocks altogether instead of trying to find a synonym. If her hair curls around her hips, then it’s already implied that it curls around her butt as well. “Breasts” could be replaced with the more circumspect “body”. And to make her sound inhuman, you could replace the word “lady” with something less human-sounding, e.g. “creature”. (Note that “creature” is not always used in a negative sense, e.g. “lovely creature”, but here would be intentionally ambivalent.)

Something like this:

“She is tall, thin and wispy, her skin gleaming alabaster against the black-pebbled sluice at the riverside. Long silver tresses, loosely plaited, drape down her back, curling gently against her hips before dispersing delicate tendrils across the water. The creature turns her head and sees you watching her. She titters girlishly, stroking the silver hair clinging wetly to her body.”

I guess it’s not so much the dream itself as it is the feeling that a protagonist character should be changed by the experience of a story. That’s harder to do with a dream than with a story about an actual physical experience. Also, dream stories have been done a lot.

Also, it isn’t clear if the endings where you “die” in the dream cause your character to die for real, since the link back to the beginning says “Perchance you will dream again.” It’s like, oops, the mermaid ate me, I’ll just go to sleep and try again. Maybe the bad endings should say, “You never wake up again” in scary red letters. That would at least seem to raise the stakes for the protagonist.

Waking up doesn’t feel like winning or succeeding, at least to me, because:

a) It’s a foregone outcome. If you start out asleep, you’ll end by waking up. At the very least you need to make it clear–at the beginning–that there are possible endings where you don’t wake up.

b) It’s an essentially random outcome. None of the choices in the game encourage the player to weigh the options and decide which one is likely to turn out better. Consider “take the star key” vs. “take the dagger key”: You’re given no basis to decide except “Well, I like stars…”

c) It’s a meaningless outcome. You end up exactly where you started (for that matter, we don’t even know anything about where we started), and nothing has changed. All stories except vignettes ought to change the world in some way so that it matters whether the story took place or not–eg, trojo’s apt suggestion that the events of the story should change the protagonist.

(Two random things about the website: First, I think you made rather clever use of Wordpress, and second, get rid of that hit counter. It is not 1999 and Wordpress keeps track of your stats already.)