Inspired by BrettW’s heartfelt reflections on Hand Me Down, I thought I’d explore how my game came together, what I felt was successful, and what changes I’ll be making based on the community’s excellent feedback.
Beware, there is much navel gazing below…
Rewind to 2021… I dipped my toes into creating IF with The Corsham Witch Trial, a depressing faux investigation in which you trawl through paperwork to explore a child protection case.
It was long on narrative and limited in interactivity. People appreciated the thrust of the story but wanted to have more influence on events. I vowed to take this on board and return with something more interactive.
I began creation of a long, long police procedural focussed on three officers surveilling a house. Conversations branched, diverging events were created, case threads dangled… And the project quickly became too unwieldy for me to track.
At the same time my youngest cousin, a member of the UK armed forces, was shipped abroad. He is a lovely, cheerful young man that’s never so much as uttered a cross word. The idea that he may return forever changed by events outside of his control began to play on my mind (something I’d seen negatively impact my own father, and uncle, and grandfathers).
A narrative was born.
As a child sent to military school and plucked out to join the county and regional shooting teams, I had some experience with rifles and thought making sight adjustments would lend itself to a puzzle format, giving me a gameplay loop/hook. To explain the mechanic I’d lean on my own youthful experiences, weaving in an explanation of the mechanics of shooting to the player.
The Long Kill, as a concept, came together very quickly after that.
Aspects I was pleased with
I was keen to step up my twine game in all respects, I devoured more tutorial videos than anyone has any business watching and poured over the Twinery site for tips.
I felt that adding the music (itself a mini project close to my heart) and media (after hours of wrestling with DallE to establish the spectral, yet photography-adjacent look I was going for) really lifted the project from “a bunch of text” to something approaching a complete experience. To see reviews comment positively on the media in each instance gave me the warm fuzzies each and every time and it’s now something I would consider “MVP” in future.
I was, and am, pleased with the comments stating that users felt the endings received were a natural conclusion of their choices. I was very certain in my mind of the protagonist’s journey and character so to join the dots whilst factoring in player autonomy (where appropriate) was imperative. Even in players that found aspects of the narrative a struggle, the endings and impact of choice seemed to ring true in most instances. Nobody even complained about the element of chance in the shooting!
Things readers taught me
The quality of reviews I received were superb! Readers, rather than share a bare score, outlined their whole experience of the narrative as well was their points of view. The context allowed me to interrogate my intentions as a writer and see the work from outside of my own perspective. As such I’ll be making a final revision of the game with the following alterations:
- Fixing those last few typos!
- Nodding to the British treatment of POWs (the antagonist will have been captured previously and simply be playing out a cycle of violence)
- Changing the holding cell from a repurposed stable to a repurposed bedroom, showing (without preaching) how the conflict has changed the home/people/region
- Tightening up some of the shooting explaination. I don’t think the core of this needs to change, as all you have to do is a little maths and then select the correct number, but nodding to the turrets and clockwise/anticlockwise will ensure readers feel secure that they know what they’re doing
- Write something less depressing next time? I can’t make any promises, but I consider this particular story furrow fully ploughed.