Scarlet Sails postmortem

I began inventing the world of “Rahana” fifteen years ago.

The long version:

[rant]I was 18. It was the year 2000 (there are writers in this IF Comp who didn’t exist yet…) and I was living in Indonesia for six months doing a Bible study course (yep, seriously). There were no other English speakers, and I rarely understood what people said to me. For the first three months we sat in folding chairs on a polished-concrete floor, and listened to sermons - in Indonesian, of course. I read the verses in my own (English) Bible, and daydreamed, and tried not to think about my sore butt in that effing chair.

One day, mid-sermon, I had an idea: why not invent a complex and cohesive fantasy world in which to write lots and lots and lots of stories - like Narnia, or Middle Earth? But of course it had to be utterly different to all the rest. I’d already read dozens of fantasy books that were heavily influenced by Lewis and Tolkien (they influenced each other, of course, being BFFs) - Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, and seemingly everyone with a medieval-ish bent. And all, apparently, white men from the Western world.

So I tried to invent a feminine world - one where art was valued more highly than physical strength, because the world easily supported its population and had a universally human-friendly climate (anyone can grow/pick/catch food; no-one can die of cold). The landscape, of course, resembled Indonesia - a tropical archipelago with wildly different cultures from island to island (so plenty of scope for quite different stories) - and of course that meant there were no white people. At all. (A fact I didn’t emphasize in “Scarlet Sails” because it’s not all that important - and I used gold coins instead of the usual barter system because pirates.)

The magical system was invented with three things in mind - I wanted it to be ordinary; just another skill like having a good sense of direction or an excellent memory. I wanted it to empower women (that’s the main reason for the physical magic of quickensmithing), and I wanted to be able to fudge things I hadn’t researched (which is why there are healsmiths [emote]:)[/emote] ). Emily Short has pointed out that the magically gifted in this world are far too powerful for the balance of the story, so I’m working on that for the post-comp release (of both Scarlet Sails and, which is set in a different part of the same world).

I’ve written six books in that world, and my debut novel STORMHUNTER will be published (print and digital) here in Australia sometime in 2016.

STORMHUNTER has pirates (I wrote it back before Pirates of the Caribbean came out…ie in the dark ages). At some point I realised I should probably bother researching slightly, so I read some books… and I also managed to get a place on Australia’s Young Endeavour sail training vessel (an actual tall ship - and yes, I climbed the rigging. In fact, I was seasick and threw up from the rigging - an incident exaggerated only a teensy bit in the novel).

It was about that time (ten years ago) that friends and family started giving me pirate stuff. I was enthusiastic at first, then tried to stop them, then just gave up and embraced it. So, in 2009, when a historical dance group my friends went to was having a pirate-themed ball, I took a bearded male friend, donned a beard myself (PROTIP: mascara was MUCH better than the glue-on version), and we went together as a pair of Jack Sparrows.

That was the day I met (and fell in love with) the man who would become my husband (only slightly hampered by the fact that he’s straight and I was wearing a beard).

Which is why, if anyone asks, Johnny Depp is the reason I have two children.[/rant]

I wrote the outline in April this year, immediately after finishing “Attack of the Clockwork Army” (my first ever piece of full-length IF).

I wrote the game itself in about six weeks leading up to the contest (so for those reviewers who thought it felt rushed, congratulations on your observation skills).

How do I feel about placing 7th?


Before the contest began, I hoped for first place. Once I’d read some other entries, I hoped for the top ten, and wasn’t at all sure I’d make it. Many of the games I played (and not just those that ranked highly) have had a huge impact on my thinking and writing, inspiring me to (hopefully) write better in future.

I’ve also learnt a lot about the IF community, and I’m now freaked out at how close I came to not entering at all. I would have missed out on so much. I’m still a rank beginner to the world of IF, and Mathbrush’s games are still the only parser games that I’ve actually finished (I adore Synesthesia Factory too, but a bug dropped me out of the game and I loved the experience so much I’m scared to sully it with a second play-through), but I feel overwhelmingly welcomed here as both a person and an artist. That’s pretty amazing.

What now?

So. Much. Editing.

Scarlet Sails is now in the process of roughly doubling in size (mainly in width rather than length). The world will be deeper, the magic more textured (while also less powerful in some ways), and there will be a greater range of choices. One day it’ll be for sale via the Choice of Games web site. (If you’re a fan, please do PM me and I’ll make sure you know the second the bigger & better version is released.)

In tribute to the brilliant, I ate banana-flavoured and coconut-flavoured jelly beans, and a cracker (since I was all out of weevil-infested hardtack).

Is it possible not to die in chapter nine?


You need a combination of two stats for the final challenge (usually one combat, one not). If you know that, and have a look at your stats when you face the final challenge, then it should be clear which option is your best bet. Although it’s also possible not to have the right combination for any successful endings. In which case, die bravely and try again.[/spoiler]

Are you really a pirate?

Me? Nope. Nuh-uh. Certainly not. Perish the thought. No pirates here. No sir. Hey look! A shiny thing over there!

I added a “hint” option to the game, that lets players choose if they want to know when a decision is actually a test, and which stats are being tested. It also insults them as lice-infested landlubbers for doing so. Because pirates.

It’ll most likely be released in some fashion in 2016 (probably the second half of the year). The original length was 40,000 words including code. The new length is closer to 75,000. So, like I said, thar be editing.

My main focus was in expanding meaningful choices (eg you can choose to steal the Scarlet Sails for yourself immediately if you like, and you can kill certain major characters much earlier than you otherwise would*), making the magic system both better and more meaningful (it gives you some insights in the world/characters that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and it is a riskier choice in most fights), and just generally improving the storytelling.

And now I’m going to have a nice lie down. It’s been quite a ride.

*Pause to salute the bloodthirsty WesLesley.