Sophia de Augustine's EctoComp Corner

Life’s gotten in the way, as ever- (being a hemophiliac is an exercise in learning to expect that whenever is the worst possible time for things to go wrong, they will!) and I do intend to play through the IFComp games I’d earmarked in my other thread- but for now, wanted to make a cozy little corner for some thoughts on EctoComp. The Petite Morts should hopefully be easy enough to dig through- being on the shorter side and all: and I wanted to share some thoughts behind writing origin of love in subsequent replies.

Hope everyone is staying healthy and happy during Halloween!

  1. ZIT, by Amanda Walker
  2. MARTYR ME, by Charm Cochran
  3. Something Blue, by E. Joyce

ZIT, by Amanda Walker

I picked up Amanda’s game first because I figured it would be a pleasant, friendly parser romp. She’s really good at making that sort of thing! Given the time constraints of the category, I think including the walkthrough was really helpful, especially the portion that lists the commands you can do. I did try flubbing around with guessing the verb, and did an okay job of it, I think- but it was really nice being able to pull up the text file if I got hideously stuck.

It was a really smooth experience, especially for someone who still hasn’t gotten the hang of parsers- and playing it inside of the frame on was a lot nicer than the awkward sized, usually searing white webpages Inform games load on, on people’s personal websites(?). I liked the menu implementation with number choices- I remember something like that being used in Russo’s Sting and felt like it worked great for conversational stuff in Inform- very elegant way of dodging around the horrorshow of ‘TALK TO/ABOUT.’

Inform games still aren’t the prettiest, but I did like the touch of the title art being above the game window. That’s something I’m not so fond of on, that by default you can’t really see the coverart once you’re playing- so it was a nice way to get around that teeny bother.

Story wise: it’s pretty straightforward- you’re supposed to be helping the protagonist deal with this annoying little issue before her interview for a new job, of like, a monster zit. The real heart of the story lies in her interactions with people in her family and her friend: I felt really, really sorry for her. This poor woman!

It really captured the everyday despair that I’ve heard older people talk about- the way friends fall out of focus, your kids grow up and don’t have much need for you anymore, and with a crumbling marriage to a person you’re suddenly looking up at and realizing you hardly know after the gruelling slog of parenthood: it’s a nightmarish awakening from a life you thought you could coast on by comfortably in: maybe not as shiny and exciting as your early twenties, but that sort of thing’s behind you, anyway- and being content’s okay, right? And sure, you haven’t talked to your friends in forever- but that’s just like, part of growing up, man. And going back to work after the unhinged battle of trying to raise little kids can wait, because your family unit’s comfortable enough right now, and you’ll always have time to return to the idea, maybe when they’re a little older and a little more independent… Until there isn’t.

I’m still supposed to be in the sparkly-shiny bit of life, y’know, where you have your friends and all that, and pre-kids or marriage and a white picket fence: but God, if this isn’t a depressing future portent of how things could go, and have gone for lots of people. I just feel sad for her, really. I hope her interview goes well, but someone needs to introduce her to a writing club, or a gardening group- or something where she can speak to nice ladies her age over yummy snacks and commiserate over being a single parent. I want to take her to one myself! She’s a very sympathetic figure.

It really sets out what it tries to do, and establishes a character and her struggles really well in such a small span of time. I’d suggest picking it up if you have a few spare minutes.


MARTYR ME, by Charm Cochran

Oh my God, I feel absolutely rancid after playing this.

I’m someone who enjoys horror- especially of the gothic variety. I’m not someone who shies away from body horror, (as those of you who have read Sweetpea will be aware of: Michael, my beloved little meowmeow with entirely too many eyes for that darling little face), and I definitely have orchestrated my fair share of gory moments in both individual, and collaborative writing (think campaigns, that sort of thing.)

But oh my GOD! I want to peel my skin off after reading this. It’s so viscerally offputting. I was tense and hunched up in my chair as it progressed- and as someone who really actually does enjoy the Saw franchise, and the general guts and gore of slasher flicks- I was left feeling squeamish and icky after reaching the end of this game- hot and flushed all over, stomach nauseous. It’s the same awful feeling as reading true crime news reports that go into detail ad nauseam- something about the way the character delighted in lingering over the details of the attack feels so awful and wrong. Bravo! It’s absolutely disgusting (in the most respectful way possible.) For an atmospheric horror game, you nailed it!

I also totally want to show this to my friend Kat, since it reminds me of one of their original characters (Aeron) and in general of the Art Without Blood Universe.

Once I’ve recovered my appetite.


Thanks, Sophia! I had an absolutely monster zit at the beginning of the month that made me have to hide for days, and I was like, this is so unfair. The only good thing you get out of being old is that the acne calms down, and now I don’t even get that. And then I thought, it could be worse. You could have a job interview. HORROR.


Something Blue, E. Joyce

There’s this one Emily Short game, that’s similarly built around the conceit of sending off letters: and Something Blue reminded me quite a lot of it, (perhaps helped by the fact that they’re set in very vaguely similar old time-y periods.) I think this is supposed to be a Bluebeard retelling? I haven’t read it in forever and a day- but I was very happily at home in the Gothic-esque trappings: a suspicious husband who sucks at loving his wife, a giant scary house with locked doors and dust, watchful paintings, and a beleaguered fresh-faced wife shipped off far away from loved ones, who probably needs Prozac.

Surprisingly, for a Petite Mort- I felt like there was (at least the illusion of) a great deal of choice/interactivity/clickity-clackity dopamine in this. I got the ending where we end up being rescued in the nick of time, and whisked off to the refreshing seaside- (how very Victorian,) because of our hysterical nerves. That was nice- I half expected our sister wouldn’t believe us, and we’d wind up axe murdered in the attic!

I especially liked the touch of feeling like we had control over the degree of closeness we felt to her- how much we would reveal about how we really felt about being married off and our parents pestering her about it, whether we were willing to trust her in asking for help- plus the vague background fear of our creepy husband spying on us and intercepting the letters- or perhaps the ghosty ghouls of his dead wives haunting us: telling us to get out?

Really pleasant romp. If you were a fan of that Short game, which I’ve found- First Draft of the Revolution, you’ll like this one! Or if you’d like a longer take on a similar tale, I suppose. I had fun with this one! And if you like the gothic- I imagine you will too.


Seconding this one being absolutely disgusting in all the right ways. Shoutout to Sophia for the Aeron shoutout, you’re the funniest person alive actually.


I’m glad you enjoyed the game! It is indeed a Bluebeard retelling; it’s a story that I have Some Thoughts about that maybe I’ll get into after the comp is over. And it is, of course, also heavily influenced by gothic fiction, as you’ve said. So it’s not doing anything very original, but I enjoy wallowing in the familiar gothic tropes sometimes and I hoped other people might too.

When I initially conceived of the letter mechanic, I wasn’t consciously thinking of First Draft, but I did eventually realize that I was probably subconsciously cribbing from it. (I may as well admit this because I have no plausible deniability about having played First Draft; I wrote a review of it when it came out.) It was probably foolish of me to invite comparison with Emily Short (especially in a game created in four hours, but also just in general), but by the time I realized what I was doing I had already committed to the idea.

I decided on the letter conceit because I was thinking, essentially, about how I could squeeze a maximum of interactivity out of a minimum of code (well, Twine markup). Mechanically, it’s a very simple game: each choice increments one of three variables, and then the relative values of those variables determine what ending you get. It’s all “cycle” macros plus a single widget that converts the selected options into points towards the various endings (since I don’t think it’s possible to have a cycle macro affect multiple different variables). Maybe I shouldn’t reveal my secrets so early in the comp, but on the other hand it is Twine, so if anyone really wanted to know what was going on under the hood, it wouldn’t be hard to find out.

There are three endings–one in which you do get murdered and one in which your husband has you institutionalized (and might still murder you later). The one you got is the best one, although I felt like I shouldn’t make it too happy.

Anyway, thank you for the review! You pretty much nailed what I was going for with the game, which is always very gratifying.


This isn’t the formal writeup for God is in the Radio, because I need time to emotionally peel myself off of the floor (and achieve the Genesis ending! My meowmeow…) before I can puzzle together coherent thoughts.

Yes, I’m totally biased- in both subject matter (I just wrote a series of heretical homoerotic vampire poems for Ectocomp, after all) and author (Kat is my friend!)- but trust me on this one. Play it. It’s good.

(My absolute favourite bit of interaction is where the Star is chilly, and her brother offers to let her borrow his coat- plus the sweetness of the siblings’ interactions, incorporated so casually. And the music’s very atmospheric without being distracting. And those graphics!)


Hey, thanks so much! That’s exactly the reaction I was hoping for! I’ve written a lot of psychological stuff, and I wanted to try my hand at something that was just bloody and gross. Here’s hoping for a reasonably quick appetite recovery.