Wide of the mark? Author reflections on The Long Kill

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…

Concept development

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:

  1. Fixing those last few typos!
  2. Nodding to the British treatment of POWs (the antagonist will have been captured previously and simply be playing out a cycle of violence)
  3. Changing the holding cell from a repurposed stable to a repurposed bedroom, showing (without preaching) how the conflict has changed the home/people/region
  4. 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
  5. Write something less depressing next time? I can’t make any promises, but I consider this particular story furrow fully ploughed.

Thanks for the retrospective! It’s interesting to see the parallels in our IF Comp journey. Maybe we should collaborate for IF Comp 2024 with Potsy and Cuddles in: Oops, too many cupcakes! just to move away from violence and terminal illness.

Good work on The Long Kill and good luck!


I can see it now: Potsy brings cupcakes to afternoon tea, even though Cuddles said she’d bring cupcakes…

For what reason could Potsy have made such an oversight, slighting their closest friend of thirty years?

That is… If it was an oversight.


You play as Kittie, hearing the unfolding mayhem second hand from mutual friend Precious.

The player messages Precious, an automation receiving and scanning the messages for keywords and conditionally expanding the tale in different directions dependent on the focus of player inputs.


Ooh, thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the game (and didn’t find it “too depressing,” whatever that says about me), and it’s fascinating to hear more about your process and reactions. Not that people have to write from their own lives but I was wondering if the author had military / sport shooting experience. I appreciate that you took the time to share!

minor spoilers

I wonder how apparent the element of chance was to people? I only realized that there had been an element of chance when I got to the walkthrough. In my playthrough, I made the selections that gave the best odds of getting the effect I was trying for (further evidence of my immense skill at puzzles, take note!), and luck was on my side so I never was prompted to wonder. And I could see people who got an effect they didn’t intend concluding that they had messed up the calculation before the concluded that there was programmed to be an element of luck . . .

technically, ballistics IS an exact science, but a target range isn’t exactly a laboratory, and a battlefield perhaps is the farthest thing from a laboratory, so indeed the role of fire control equipment, from iron sights to the most complicated fire director, is that of reducing the miss chance

my apologies for the pro bias driven OT, and
Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I know this happened to one of my testers actually. They made a correct calculation and missed a shot before undoing and trying another option (of course missing again).

I could well have the father mention something about it early on to underline that particular mechanic, thank you.


Thanks for writing this up, it was a great read!

I personally had reservations about the probability system at first, but decided to give it a shot (no pun intended) as I wanted to experience the ‘most immersive’ version of the story, and I didn’t want to potentially miss out on any other aspects of the game. I didn’t regret my choice, but I’m biased because I never got unlucky!

It seemed clear to me from the get-go that Sniper was luck-based and Spotter wasn’t, but looking back at how they’re described, I see how players could have missed that distinction – especially if they made up their minds immediately about playing as the Sniper and didn’t closely read the other descriptions.

I find it very moving that you used the impact of war on your family as inspiration, and I loved the game’s depiction of important issues like bottled-up trauma and struggles returning to normalcy.
If you don’t mind me asking, how is your cousin doing?

P.S.: I call dibs on being a playtester for Potsy and Cuddles! :wink:


He’s doing great thanks you for asking! He’s been attached to. UN peacekeeping force across a couple of western African countries. He’s done some literal peacekeeping (patrols designed to keep two hostile forces away from each other) as well as assisting in the building of hospitals and bridges etc. I’m concerned he might get roped into mine clearance but he assures me that’s quite unlikely.