I sometimes print letters I’ve received and what I wrote in response. This is usually for one of two reasons: I’d like to pass on what the writer had to say, or the writer asked a question that requires a long detailed answer, and I think other people might benefit from seeing that as well.
I am experimenting with doing this in a more formal way, with a regular mailbag post. Reprinted letters may be edited for length; if so, I will note that editing has occurred. I do not do this without the permission of the letter-writer, so if you write to me and would be open to seeing your email appear as a blog post, feel free to mention that fact. On the other hand, I do not guarantee to print every letter that grants permission.
You’ve once included our game “Code 7” in your article about parser-based games (https://emshort.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/experimentation-in-the-parser-domain/). Thank you very much for that, I appreciate your constructive observations, which we have considered when redoing the game. We have released the remade version (that now features a professional actress for Sam’s voice) again for free. We would be very happy if you would play it again (it takes approximately 1 hour to play through) and let us know what you think about it: http://gamejolt.com/games/code-7-episode-0-allocation/53924
The game has been created on a very tight budget, so we have decided to launch a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the upcoming five chapters. We plan to have more non-linear/multiple solutions for puzzles in the future. You can find the campaign here: http://kck.st/2cUGMID
Thank you very much for your time,
I’m reaching out to you because you wrote some very thoughtful feedback about our game, Timecrest in your blog post about Lifeline 2 in October of last year. I wanted you to know that we took your feedback to heart, and we’re hoping that with the improvements we’ve added over the last year, you’d give our game another chance.
We’ve rewritten the entire story to improve pacing, conflict, and the impact of choices, and with our latest release, Timecrest now has over 200,000 words. From yours and other critical feedback, we developed these writing principles as we learned the craft of writing interactive fiction:
- Choices should feel as though they impact the story. We worked hard to create different paths and interesting choices for the characters.
- Choices affect the story, but no path is the “wrong” path. A lot of the stories we see right now are a single character trying to survive a single scenario. It’s entertaining, but we were looking for something deeper. We wanted each choice to create a different journey through the game, where decisions you make in early chapters can dramatically change what happens in future chapters. A whole city may be destroyed, some characters may live or die early on, and this completely changes some scenes late in the story.
- There should be conflict, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Story structure still matters, even if your choices are changing the story.
- Character relationships matter. On our whiteboard we wrote, “Break a promise to save the world, and that character may betray you later. Follow through on that promise, and lose an opportunity, but make a new friend.”
We developed a complex story with many branches and outcomes to explore, with big changes (people die, entire places are destroyed) and small changes (a character doesn’t trust you, remembering you lied). Yet we strived to deliver it directly and simply, where you just don’t realize the complexity unless you play through the game many times. We have actually plotted out the whole storyline, and the 1000 years of history in the world before the events of Chapter 1 unfold, and have many twists and turns to build.
In our forums, there are many pages of discussion on the plot mysteries. One user, Ben, has played through the game over 100 times in the past year, and has told us that he’s still discovering new scenes and new paths in the last week.
You also commented about free-to-play, and I wanted to discuss this with you. We wanted the game to be accessible to as many people as possible. We’re just a 2 person, independent game studio, without a huge marketing budget, nor connections to Apple, to build out our brand. Without a budget, it is much easier to get people to try a free game than a paid app.
After having worked in the mobile games industry for many years, we began with some design principles to ensure that f2p did not detract from the overall quality and experience of the game. The game is never pay-to-win, and you are never blocked from progress as a free user. All timers are designed to enhance the immersion and realism of the story, that you feel this other world is moving forward and things are happening in real time. We actually believe that the free users get the best experience of the story, and we test our game balance and pacing as free users to ensure it plays smoothly without use of premium currency.
We’ve also created Twitter accounts for several of the characters in Timecrest so we can directly interact with our players. It’s a new twist on interactive fiction that has been a fun experiment that people have responded very positively. You can check them out here:
In closing, we wanted to thank you. We left our day jobs to write Timecrest because we’re passionate about telling a deep story that really resonates with people. Being new to all of this, we had a few missteps, and feedback like yours really pushed us to make our story better, and a year later, we’re proud of what Timecrest has become.
If you do decide to try out the new content, we recommend you delete and reinstall the game to ensure you’re experiencing the newest content we’ve written. (For players that installed it a long time ago, we don’t force update that content until you restart, as it might interrupt someone’s experience of the storyline.) While we recommend the free experience to get the most out of the journey, we can provide you with unlimited premium currency if you want to evaluate the story quickly. Tell us and we can set you up.
We’d love to hear what you think!
I’m afraid my time is busy enough right now that I can’t promise to replay either Code 7 or Timecrest in the very near future.
This is an area where I really wish I had the time and energy to do more: I’m always really happy to hear that authors have substantially revised their work in light of feedback, and I’d like to be able to reward that effort by looking at the new versions. Unfortunately, my stack of games I still need to play for the first time is already large, let alone the backlog of games that I should replay.
Still, I’m happy to share this information with my readers!
5 thoughts on “Mailbag: New Game Versions”
Would it be interesting to build a “replayer team”? People you know and of whom you trust the quality that are willing to take up offers such as the above for you and report on them? As time allows, you could interact with them, share your notes from the first play-through with them, comment on their review, ..
I’d guess there would be more than enough volunteers for that.
Thank you very much for including my letter. It’s been a pleasure writing with you :)
Emily, thank you so much for including our letter. We greatly enjoy your blog, and want to thank you again, because your feedback greatly improved our game.