Rage Quest postmortem

Rage Quest: Disciple of Peace was inspired by 80s/90s CYOA gamebooks, in particular the Lone Wolf books, which also start with the PC being the last survivor of a destroyed monastery. It’s also heavily influenced by Choice of Games games, e.g. in its use of 100-point stats. I was already part way through development of the game when I realised that the timing would be right to enter the IFComp, so I didn’t originally write it with the IFComp in mind.

Rage Quest is only my second Twine game and my first in this CYOA style, as well as my first IFComp entry. I’m extremely pleased with how well it did. Many thanks to Litrouke, Mathbrush, and the other playtesters who aren’t on this forum.

The game ended up being about twice as long as I’d originally planned (30k words as opposed to 15k). The structure and mechanics changed significantly during development, as I gradually worked out what I wanted to do. Development notes (minor spoilers):

[spoiler]My original idea was to have the War God in the PC’s head all the time, speaking in specially-formatted text, and for some action links to be commands from the War God which you’d carry out when you clicked on the link. There was also only a single Rage stat, with Discipline being an implied stat opposed to it (like with Choice of Games’s opposed stats). I realised early on that that made it too easy to see what the ‘correct’ choices were, and having only a single stat meant there were really only two paths through the game. I removed the idea of the War God being in your head (except in the dream/near death sequences) and then split the stat into two. I also made Health into a 100-point stat when previously I’d had only a few discrete wound levels.

I started writing without much of a structure in place. I knew the game had to start in the monastery and end in the cave, and involve tracking down the humans and choosing whether to kill them or not, but I wasn’t sure what to put in between. I originally had the player going down one of three paths, with a limited ability to switch between the paths and some content shared between them (e.g. the dream sequence in the Boneyard could also occur in the Village). I realised that made the game too short, so I changed it to let the player do any two paths in any order, and then (after playtester feedback) let them do all three paths in a single game. Late in development I also added a lot of the content that unlocks in one path if you’ve already done another path.

The final structure consists of five chapters: the initial Monastery; then three middle chapters (Road, Village, and Boneyard) of which you can do either two or three in any order; and finally the Cave. There are multiple endings depending on what happens in the cave, and if you survive the cave, there are multiple possible epilogues.

Splitting the Rage and Discipline stats allowed me to add more endings. To get a good ending, you need to finish the Cave with either Rage or Discipline at 90+ (which is fairly easy to get if you play the game consistently). To get one of the two ‘perfect’ endings, you also need the other stat to be 50+ (which is more difficult since you have to raise one stat without lowering the other).[/spoiler]
The next time I write a game like this I think I’ll make a more detailed plan before starting development, and try to stick to it. I don’t think that’s something I did wrong this time, though, because in order to plan a game you need experience writing that kind of game, and writing this one is what’s given me that experience.

If I enter again and write a game specifically for IFComp, I’ll probably make it more linear, so that judges who only play once will see a larger proportion of its content. I’ll also try to find a less ‘generic fantasy’ theme for the game, and put a bit more effort into the cover art.