2015 in Review: My Work
I was originally going to release this year-end rundown all in one piece, but I realised it’s very long and therefore probably best split into three parts. First, the most skippable part: A look back at games and stories I released this year.
This has been a whirlwind year for me; when I wrote Terminator Chaser, I didn’t think I would then release nine games in a year (including the tiny It Is Not So Much a Story and a game for Space Fucking Jam), produce not one but two pieces of commercial IF (sub-Q wasn’t even on anyone’s radar when this year started!), and publish the second-highest rated piece of hypertext fiction in the IFComp. And yet, here I am.
A hard science fiction thriller that suffered from less than great puzzle design (the airlock doors, my God). Terminator Chaser is my first IF game release, but it’s also hard not to rank it at the bottom. I bring it up mostly to remind people that yes, I do write parser fiction.
I think in a lot of ways I enjoy the process of designing systems using Inform 7 (which is a wonderful tool) more than players enjoy the resulting systems. The person who got the most enjoyment out of the airlocks in Terminator Chaser, I think, was myself.
Mere Anarchy is cursed by the fact that I could never figure out how to write a good blurb for it. Nevertheless, I believe it came out as a very coherent piece of work; there’s some clunky writing in there (most of the dialogue) and some great writing in there (most of the descriptions). It also led directly to the development of Raconteur.
Pseudonymous entry into Shufflecomp: Volume Two. Deliberately very limited in scope so I could finish it in time for the comp; WTLGUTW is a sort of love letter to the power of room and object descriptions. It’s also a bit of a sacrilegious stab at implicit storytelling, blending explicit declaratory statements about the history of that place in with its suggestive descriptions.
Lesson learned, though: For the most part, players have strong feelings about being instructed not to replay a game. This isn’t a complaint, mind; I just didn’t anticipate the reaction that came out to it.
The first thing I wrote for sub-Q Magazine this year, a strange revisionist take on Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. Surprisingly hard to write; though it contains a decent chunk of verbatim Poe text, it also has a lot of painstakingly written Poe pastiche.
I’m also very proud of this piece for another reason: It’s part of the first flight of sub-Q stories, written and developed before the magazine started publishing. I’m in good company there, and one of my hopes for 2016 is that sub-Q finds the success it so richly deserves.
A novella-length choice-based narrative about superheroes, politics, and violence; fifth place at the annual Interactive Fiction Competition. Buggy on Firefox on release (I blame Mozilla). My feelings about Cape and the reaction to it are quite complicated, and I haven’t really finished figuring things out yet; particularly, I find it hard to gauge how much of the piece’s perceived issues are things I failed to do as a writer, and how much of it is ideological mismatch between myself and various reviewers. I expect figuring that out will take a long time regardless.
Another revisionist adaptation for sub-Q, this time taking on the Orphic myth. Much, much easier to write without having to pattern myself on a specific writer’s style; Lyreless came out very quickly. I’m very fond of the writing in it, and though I don’t personally think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, this is definitely a sentiment I’ve heard from others.
I wanted to get a couple more games in before the end of the year, and I also really wanted to do a Christmas special; something that would be more intended as a gift to people who’ve followed and supported my work than as a piece of art or entertainment for general audiences. I think of The World Turned Upside Down as a third place game; it’s not quite a private game, but it’s also not fully public. Its audience isn’t “people who play IF” or “people who like fantasy”; it’s people who specifically played both Cape and Mere Anarchy, and even more so it’s people who hang around on Euphoria and people within that group whom I consider friends.
A game about pornography, mistranslation, reproduction, and space. Released only yesterday on Itch for Cat Manning’s Space Fucking Jam.
I hope that out of all this, you enjoyed at least one thing. As always, my Twitter presence is there to take your comments. And finally: If you played, reviewed, tested, or otherwise supported my work this year, thank you so much.
TOMORROW: I look back at things I read, played, or watched in the year that I think are relevant to talk about.
DECEMBER 31st: Before the year ends, I hand out public thank-yous and shout-outs to a bunch of brilliant people.