I think the biggest lesson I learned from making Social Lycanthropy Disorder is that even very silly-seeming ideas can turn out to be viable. The concept of the game started out as an offhand joke when N. Cormier and I were brainstorming Ectocomp ideas, but the more I thought about it, the more the werewolf thing seemed like a pretty good metaphor for my own experience of Being Awkward at Parties. … Then, as I was writing the game, it became less “being a werewolf is a metaphor for social anxiety” and more “the protagonist is a werewolf with social anxiety and being a werewolf is a metaphor for chronic illness and maybe also experiencing a traumatic event,” so the game really came a long way from the initial thought of “Wouldn’t it be funny if the main character was a werewolf who was at a party on the night of the full moon?”
Writing is more my strong suit, but it is definitely still challenging to have a short game with a relatively large number of characters who all need to be distinctive without leaning on one obnoxious quirk apiece. This is particularly true when interactions with these characters are basically the entire game–if players found the characters annoying, there wouldn’t be much else there for them, and I worried about that a lot. I drew heavily on my real-life social circles for inspiration, but it’s easy for “composites of several somewhat-similar people I know or have known” to shade into “caricatures of Types.” I put quite a lot of effort into trying to suggest that there was more going on with all of these people than was obvious in the PC’s limited interactions with them (without cramming in a bunch of irrelevant stuff), and of course that’s never going to work for every single player, but several people did mention that they found the characters endearing or real-seeming and I was very happy to hear that.
Huge thanks to N. Cormier, who was heavily involved in developing the game’s concept and was my one and only playtester, but passed up a co-author credit because I did all the actual writing/coding/Twine-ing. Nevertheless, the game probably wouldn’t exist without her contributions, or if it did, it wouldn’t be as good. This was really the first time I’d worked with anyone else beyond having playtesters, and I think it went quite well! I have a tendency to get hung up on some particular thing and go “okay, I can’t do ANYTHING ELSE until I’ve figured out how this part works,” and when I’m working on creative projects by myself this usually just means I don’t finish them. It’s deeply helpful to have someone else to (1) toss ideas back and forth with until we figure the thing out and/or (2) gently tell me to put it down and work on a different part of the game for a while.
My biggest regret regarding this game was that I wasn’t able to finish in time to get it playtested by anyone else. It came out reasonably polished and free of bugs, but when both you and your one tester have been elbow-deep in a game for several weeks, it’s hard to gauge things like game balance and whether the choices are too opaque. The reason I was right up against the deadline is that I was sick for roughly the first half of October and couldn’t make steady progress on the game during that time, so there’s not much I could have done differently, but I very much hope that I’ll be able to get more playtesters for future games.
P.S.: There is a bit of an easter egg for getting all endings and achievements. I think everyone is currently too busy with/worn out by IFComp to spend that much time on SLD, but if anyone enjoyed it enough to go back to it later, hopefully that’s some motivation to explore it a little more!