Writers Are Not Strangers Mini Post Mortem

Because Writers Are Not Strangers is part of my PhD thesis, I’m not going to do a full post mortem just yet, as my thesis will probably count as that! I’ll hopefully be able to put the website for that live around March 2019, and it’ll contain the design documentation, game files and analysis.

What I will say is I’m very grateful for everyone who played, reviewed or otherwise offered feedback on WANS. I’m aware it’s a pretty weird piece of work (very different from my usual shitpost-style games!), and I’m glad so many people were willing to give it a go.

WANS was influenced by Creatures Such As We by Lynnea Glasser (relationship-based choices), Fair by Hanon Ondricek (inspired the idea of certain events always happening, but with the ability to interact with & experience them with different people & in different ways) and Life is Strange by Dontnod Studios. (I was particularly interested in trying to capture the quiet, meandering quality LiS has, which was hard in text!) I was also influenced by a review of LiS I read where the reviewer wished someone would make something like it, only without the superpowers, so it was also an attempt at that (although I couldn’t resist a few hints at superpowers!)

The main things people seemed to dislike were the fourth wall breaks and Alix herself. I think these are both fair. I was a little surprised the 4th wall stuff came up so often - I hadn’t thought there were that many instances of it, and it’s definitely only in a couple of the endings, but most people seem to have encountered it. Since WANS is 45000 words & you encounter maybe 5-7000 in a single playthrough, I thought people may have experienced more variation than they apparently did. I think this was mainly down to the way I set up the opening chapter - purely inexperience with CS on my part (I wrote that part before I’d fully go to grips with everything) and perhaps not enough balancing of variables (although it seemed to work well during testing, but i suppose that’s never quite the same as releasing it in the wild!)

I’ve already said way more than I intended to, so I’ll just wrap up by saying I am aiming to do a post-comp release, but I’m not sure when it’ll be. It won’t be a big overhaul, but should at least make some things a little more transparent, since that seemed to be another issue. I’m also aiming to finish off my introcomp entry and will put that in whatever eligible comp is around at the time. Finally, one of my shitpost games is in Ectocomp. It was just a way of getting to grips with Texture, so it’s in Grand Guignol purely because of the time it took - it’s far more Petit Mort in terms of scope and polish!

I replayed again today and I finally understood! My confusion arose from the fact the part I think everyone was referring to isn’t one I think of as a 4th wall break.

The short story where Alix addresses the reader directly. To me, that’s just how most writing is - an address to the reader, even if it’s not always presented that way. So I didn’t even register this section as a moment of 4th wall breaking

Anyway, I’m glad to have solved the mystery of how everyone encountered it!

I finally got to sit down with Writers are not Strangers.

[spoiler]I loved it. It was moving and beautiful. I’m normally not a huge fan of the long-form writing that works best in ChoiceScript, but the writing skill on display got me in and held me.

I was worried this would be really sad, and specifically so personally because RL I am currently in the same type of situation as the protagonist here. Therefore I was so happy about the magical realism and the surprises of the story. The interaction:read ratio was lower than I usually like, but the choices are paced well and I enjoyed the unique feedback the game requested of me.

I love how the story upends the normal perspective of mortality. The protagonist has a life. The protagonist must divide her time between building her own career in media with a long scrape of a death watch for her mother. Harrowing. There’s also a fucking meteor planning to wipe out swaths of humanity and it’s too far away to panic and too close to do things that don’t matter. Terrifying, cosmic horror. Warm mana rains when someone reads and rates a story she wrote. That’s where the you come in.

I was comforted by brief glimpses of order in the Universe, and this is exactly the kind of message I needed.

Thank you, LyndaC![/spoiler]

I also love:

Writers are not Strangers provides random short story essays on subsequent playthrough. There’s one that combined Kafka Metamorphosis with Sonic the Hedgehog. What! A+! :laughing: