WARNING This is a “multiple-choice” style game. Continue at your own risk!
Still reading? Okay, that’s a step in the right direction. One hurdle down; perhaps a dozen or more to overcome . . .
Vendetta: Rise of a Gangster is, as warned above, a “multiple-choice” style game, currently under development using the (IMHO) quite excellent ChoiceScript system. Why ChoiceScript? do I hear you cry in dismay? If so, the answer is simple–I consider myself to be a professional games designer and an amateur writer, but a programmer I most definitely am not (believe me, I’ve tried!). ChoiceScript therefore suits me just fine and is about the limit of my technical expertise.
But this nagging doubt remains–is it good enough to truly be ranked as “Interactive Fiction”? Sure, to date the game has been extremely well received on ChoiceScript’s own forums, but I’ve been on the net for around two decades now so I’m well aware where the real talent resides. The burning question remains: does it make the grade?
If you can spare the time to take a peek at the first two of nine planned chapters, I’d greatly appreciate your opinion and any advice you might be willing to offer. Any questions, please feel free to fire away.
I poked around for a short time and got the sense that this a game I might enjoy playing. However, I think you need to pay a little more attention to how earlier choices affect the choices available to you later. For example,
when I spoke to the lawyer I never asked him about selling the poolroom. When I got to the poolroom, as I was talking to the one-armed guy suddenly a choice came up to go upstairs and ask Panzarelli if he wants to buy the joint. I assume that if I had asked the lawyer about selling, he probably would have mentioned that Panzarelli might be interested – but since I never went down that road, I never heard of Panzarelli so the later choice made no sense.
Robert Rothman (AKA Roberto Uomorosso AKA Bobby the Doorman)
EDIT: One other mechanical issue: As far as I can tell, if you go to the screen to check out your stats, you cannot go back to where you were. Instead, the only option is to move on to the next screen (based on whatever choice was checked when you moved to the stat screen). This is very annoying. I hit the button to check stats before making a choice (which means that, by default, the first choise in the list was checked; I didn’t want that choice, so instead of hitting “Next” I tried to go back. Hitting the “back” button kicked me out of the game. One should always have the option to go from the stat screen back to where you were before checking your stats.
Neatly spotted, thanks. I’m fairly certain there aren’t too many of those still lingering. I do find it fascinating that this is the first time that one’s been spotted!
Hitting the “back” browser button is never a good idea in multiple choice games, true enough (and is disabled in most browsers), as you’re supposed to live (or die?) with your decisions! Once again a valid point from a “ChoiceScript Cherry” point of view (says he, frantically taking notes). Thanks.
Starting out. My first instinct – and this is a very standard line, here, but it’s a very common problem – is cut, cut, cut.
Here it feels as if you’re saying three things where one would do the job quicker and more powerfully.
The first people who wrote this kind of fiction were actually involved in that world to some extent. They didn’t have problems of authenticity. But anybody writing now does have a problem of authenticity, and it’s really important that you don’t seem to be trying too hard. Otherwise you come across as the equivalent of a middle-class white boy from suburban Maine claiming he gangsta, only, y’know, a gangster from ninety years ago. To quote the poet, real gangsta-ass niggas don’t flex nuts, 'cause real gangsta-ass niggas know they got 'em. Say less. Imply more.
Now, I could be reading your tone wrong; it might be that what you’re wanting to do is comic-book, Technicolour gangsters, all Tarantino-style, the sort of gangster who exists mostly to be punched by Batman. If so, keep right on. But I associate Prohibition-era gangster fiction with less schlock and more understatement, so if that’s your genre, cut cut cut.
The other reason to cut is that people who are playing a game have their expectations set for shorter attention-spans than people who are playing a novel. That’s just how it goes. If you’re offering choices in between your prose, that prose needs to be more compact.
Also, that ‘barely yet flowering into womanhood’? Creepy way to talk about your sister. If your protagonist wants to bang his sister, that’s one thing, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean to suggest there.
So, for example, this:
can be chopped down to this without losing any information; it’s a pretty crude job, but it gains impact by waffling less:
‘Showed that you belonged’ is pretty generic and limp-feeling, too; it’s the sort of thing that really should be slang. I’d use ‘earned your stripes’, but I’m fairly sure that’s not period-appropriate.
That is not what a parasite is. Parasites prey on bigger, stronger things than themselves. (Gina may not know that, but still.)
This is a big old hodge-podge of styles: ‘stud-muffin’ sounds pretty modern to my ear. The clash between high-falutin’ ‘veritable’ and street-slang ‘dames’ could be explained because my character’s got the college-graduate background, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s the same for every background.
Max Décharné’s Straight From The Fridge Dad suggests the following slang terms, of varying appropriateness:
You quickly showed that you could cut the mustard
You quickly showed that you were a big barracuda
You quickly showed that you were solid
You quickly showed that you were tough enough to trade punches with a power shovel
I personally recommend:
You quickly proved to be a stand-up guy
I considered hotter than a two-dollar pistol as a good way of conveying that the protagonist is a popular fella, but it also connotes that he could be wanted by the law, which is probably not yet the case.
RE ‘stud-muffin’: stud on its own is fine, and stud dog was used in sleazy 1960s pulp novel Scandal High.
Okay, I’m done on the first playthrough. (Apparently with my crappy Firearms skill there was no way to get past the Jewish-shopkeeper mission short of refusing it.) I like the cycling what-do-you-do-this-week structure, although it seems as if individual plot threads aren’t always tied to that quite as closely as they might be. But it feels as if there’s a good solid range of options, and there’s a real sense of opportunity cost. It’s fun. You get a good sense of investment in your character.
More generally… hm. It feels as if information about the landscape of gangs isn’t conveyed in quite the right order. The protagonist is a guy who grew up on the streets and has a good understanding of which gangs are which, where the balance of power lies and so on. Further, he’s intending to make his way in the world as a mobster. In other words, whenever he thinks of something, the first thing he should be considering is what its context is in terms of gangs, as a matter of survival. Sometimes this comes across well, but often it doesn’t; we only learn about whose turf the poolroom is on some time after you take ownership of it. Even if the protagonist has been out of town for a while and isn’t familiar with the current state of things, it seems as if that would be the first thing he’d want to find out.
I’m mildly appalled by the maze, though. Mazes are hard enough to do right in parser IF, which was originally designed with mazes in mind; in CYOA they’re a pretty horrible idea. In general, it’s lame to give players totally arbitrary choices in a CYOA, and making them go through a whole succession of them is much worse.
Thank you very much. Some extremely thought-provoking stuff there, and nothing at all I would actually disagree with. More to the point (and my main reason for posting / inviting feedback at this particular stage) it will be a great help in fine-tuning the Demo and also provides some solid “things to bear in mind . . .” for moving forwards.
The tiny maze, in particular, was similarly received on the ChoiceScript forums, and for exactly the same reason. While it was an enjoyable technical challenge for me and I learned much from its creation, that, sadly, is its only merit. It is unlikely to remain a feature of the game in its present form.
The other thing that occurs to me is that the way you’re structuring your narrative feels, in certain places, a bit more like Varytale than the typical ChoiceScript structure. (The character-creation stuff at the beginning feels very standard-ChoiceScriptish, but the cyclic what-do-you-want-to-do-this-week structure is more Varytaley.) You might want to check that out; of course, porting from one to the other might be far too much work, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you do similar projects in the future.
Thanks, I’ll keep an eye on the Varytale project. It seems to be under development still (e.g. it looks great in Chrome but not in IE8) and there’s no real information available to prospective authors without first signing up, but it certainly has potential. It reminds me vaguely of that ‘inklebook’ project in overall style–although I’m not sure which came first or (for lack of information) what the actual differences are.
Also re. Varytale, there’s quite a bit about the toolset and intentions for the website at Varytale’s blog: blog.varytale.com/ . Some of this information was posted last summer, but much of it still to the best of my knowledge reflects Ian Millington’s intentions for the site. Blog articles cover more than I did about things like player feedback, collaborative writing, book promotion, etc., and also include some screenshots of the tools.