Night House postmortem

Hi! Not to flatter myself too much, but just in case anyone’s curious about the backstory for my game, Night House, here’s a little about how I put it together!


My good friend Steph Cherrywell introduced me to Quest last year when she was working on her first game, Whitefield Academy of Witchcraft. I thought I’d try my own hand at using the system, so Night House began as an experiment just to get the hang of how to use Quest. I worked on it on and off for about about a year.

I’m a big horror buff, so I wanted to try to make something a little bit creepy. The feel owes a lot to some of my favorite fantasy/horror media like ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Krampus’, ‘The Gate’ and ‘The Hole.’ One of the scariest things I remembered was waking up in the middle of the night as a kid, hearing a thunder storm raging outside, and knowing that I needed to go to the bathroom – but that there was a dark hallway between me and relief. I started by just trying to recapture that childhood sense of dread and just built from there; the story began to take shape as I went along. I wanted the game to have a definite sense of place, so I set it in my own childhood – which is why it has a late 80s/early 90s vibe to it that a few reviewers picked up on.

I wanted it to be a game that would reward you for exploring, so there are lots of clues hidden everywhere that gradually reveal different parts of the story (many of the reveals aren’t even integral to the story, I just wanted the world to feel real and fleshed out)

Originally I toyed around with a few, much darker, stories for Night House – one of my early ideas was that it would ultimately turn out that the player was the only survivor of a murder-suicide or a cult ritual, but ultimately I wanted to tell a story that was creepy but not depressing. I wanted it to go to some surprising places, but ultimately finish on a more hopeful, light-hearted note whichevever ending you chose.

–Making the Game–

Not much to say here: I wrote it in Quest. I’m not a programmer, so pretty much everything you see in the presentation of Night House is a standard Quest feature. Since this was my first IF game, I relied on the experience and feedback of my very kind beta testers who all knew a lot more than I did. I’m indebted to all my awesome beta testers Andy Joel, Egghead Cheesybird, Steph Cherrywell, Norman Rafferty, Rich Finn, Holden Crick, and Khatoblepas!

My background in IF is mostly playing classic click-and-point Sierra and LucasArts adventure games, so in retrospect I think I assumed too much that most players would, like me, think more in terms of using the compass and I didn’t realize until later how much IF players love to test a game’s limits and seek out the cracks, so hearing feedback both before and during the Comp was a great learning experience for me.

Unfortunately it was only after IFComp opened that I realized a Quest game can only be played online by uploading the game to UK Adventures. And while I really like that site, it’s got that pesky session time limit that frustrated so many players. That combined with the fact that a lot of reviewers didn’t like Quest’s combined click-and-parser interface left me pretty pessimistic about Night House’s chances. But I’m very happy to see that some people enjoyed the game and that it did as well as it did. I’m really stoked to be 8th place! :slight_smile:


You can find Night House for post-comp playing (or download!) at … ight-house

I’d recommend downloading (or making an account to sign in) to avoid the site’s time out. I guess that’s it, but please feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or suggestions! Thanks to everyone for playing and for all the great feedback!

Thanks for this, Night House was my second-favorite game in the comp! I am relieved to hear that the Stranger Things influences were intentional; that would have been too weird a coincidence! (Though the use of Benguiat for chapter titles was a bit of a giveaway…) Also, as a member of the Atari Generation myself I appreciated the Temple of Apshai namecheck.

I thought the PC’s gender confusion was interesting, and well-done-- I was confused myself, even as far as wondering if the PC’s self-description was a mistake, e.g. an overlooked remnant from a story change during development. But I found the gradual reveal to be very satisfying. I’m curious, though, did you intend the game to be a metaphor/parable of gender dysphoria, in part? The story didn’t quite seem to have a straightforward reading that way, but things like looking at the family photograph and being surprised to see a boy made me wonder if that was a conscious aim.

Thanks for the kind words! Yeah, I thought the Benguiat font might be a little on the nose, but I couldn’t help myself… XD Definitely wearing my influences on my sleeve there. And it’s always great to find someone else who remembers Temple of Apshai! Though I never got far in it, darn swamp rats always killed me…

That’s actually a good interpretation! I didn’t consciously intend it as a gender dysphoria metaphor, but the game is about someone who wants to break free of the role that they’re born into and tries to create a new, more true identity for themselves. So in that sense I think it might work as a metaphor, and I certainly don’t have any problem if anyone reads it that way! I wanted it to have the feel of early childhood where the world is a bizarre and confusing place and things don’t always make sense, so the gender confusion was intended to make the player feel a little off-kilter going into the game as well as being an early hint that things in the house weren’t all what they seemed. To that end, I did intentionally try to write the early stages of the game to have a male voice – which is why you don’t recognize a lot of the beauty supplies in the bathroom and the constant talk about action figure toys – so that players would only gradually start to piece together that, in fact, they WEREN’T playing the boy from the photographs. Thanks for so much for playing and also for the really interesting questions! :slight_smile:

I had some feedback that is not enough to be a proper review, so I thought to post it here:

This is weird because the game placed so high, but I agree with some reviewers. You know, there are some lacking in implementation here and there. But the most important point for me (about the lacking) is that the literature and description lacks character. If the player is a little boy, where are the huge furniture? The long hallways? the high ceilings? That is, where is the point of view of a boy… but maybe is my fault, maybe the PC is more ten to twelve than 5 to eight, I don’t remember.

Another important lacking is in the main motivation for the PC and the player. As soon as the door is mysteriously shut, my main motivation is to return to my room and try to open the door. However, door were not implemented! So this was a breaking point for me. But again, maybe I remember bad.

Some notes about usability on mobile. Quest is surprising playable on mobile. It is not pretty, but I think that Quest has demonstrated now that it could deliver great IF with great UI. However, the use of the easings that Quest provides must not detract from a solid object and verbs implementations.

So, I look to see your future games with the platform. I found Quest and you, as an author, very promising.


Thanks, Ruber, that’s valuable feedback. I’ll try to improve on that next time. My background in IF has mostly been playing the point-and-click games from Sierra and LucasArts, so I guess I assumed people would play like I do and concentrate on the objects that are highlighted on the object list rather than objects mentioned in descriptions. So this has been a good learning experience to see that’s not always the case! In any case, thanks for playing!

In second read of my criticism,… I didn’t mean to be so harsh. I meant that it is weird for me to criticism and give feedback to a have with a great position in the comp, and from me, that I’ve placed very bad in the comp :slight_smile:. So, that’s is. I’m totally fine with Night House to be placed that high.

But I’m glad you found it useful!

No worries, thanks for the feedback! Like I said, I’m pretty new to IF so it’s really useful to hear how other people play it.

And honestly, the Skyscraper and the Scar was a really solid story with some interestingly complicated things to say about choice and morality in dire circumstances. I think the only reason it didn’t place better is because people are starting to have zombie fatique, but there’s nothing that would make me think your advice wouldn’t be worth listening to.