In the opening scenes of "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" Professor E. Gadd's paranormal research laboratory is running smoothly. Ghosts are helping him out with his studies by sweeping, writing on blackboards and doing odd jobs. Even apparently shocking each other with electricity, but it's taken as a great joke and everyone is smiling and laughing. It's a light-hearted scene of idyllic employment, as often seen in family friendly games. Maybe especially Japanese games. People enjoying even the most mundane and repetitive jobs, and knowing that eventually hard work will lead to results.
I'm a tragic fan of FMV games, and you've no idea how excited I was to see a new example other people actually seem to like.
Her Story is a beautiful example of small scope – it knows exactly what it is and isn't. A lot hangs on the performance of a single actress, but she pulls it off. Looking through this character's old interview tapes it at times touching, or chilling, or most often faintly unsettling without necessarily being able to pin down why.
I spent years working as a research assistant, and became good at digging through information. Coming up with appropriate keywords was a significant part of my job. It's an aspect of research that's become more difficult over time, as databases keep expanding. Internet searches in particular are huge and never as smart as I need them to be. I have faith in my Google skills, and ability to trawl an ocean of data using a fishing net full of holes. It's genuinely hard-won expertise.
By contrast, Her Story's database feels rather cute and accessible, despite being presented as a broken '90s relic. Perfect transcripts allow keyword searching, but the timestamps are missing and it's only possible to bring up the first five hits for common words. The limitations are contrived, but make the mystery satisfying to chip away at. The story assembles gradually like a jigsaw instead of following a linear progression.
I'm starting with the obvious choice. It's difficult for anything else to compete with this for me. And not just because I have a Geralt-crush, although maybe that too.
I'll admit I was worried about how The Witcher 3 was going to turn out. I loved the first two Witcher games, but was sceptical about expanding it to such a huge open world. Big-budget games are full of the constant need to be bigger and better, and cram more stuff into each iteration of a series. Coolness tends to trump things like remaining coherent and supporting interesting themes.
In which I dig heavily into the ideas behind my latest creation and why I put myself out there to be judged via this year's Interactive Fiction Competition, even though I didn't expect people to get it.
I won't be addressing all specific criticisms here, but I have been paying attention and appreciate everyone who took the time to write reviews, comments and emails. It's been valuable for me to have this much attention from constructive and dedicated people. I'm going to discuss my intentions in some detail here. Most of them didn't work, but hopefully they'll be a teensy bit interesting anyway.
For the unfamiliar, Choice of Games is a platform for multiple-choice text-based games. Something like classic Choose Your Own Adventure books with added character stats. As someone coming to choice-based interactive fiction via Twine or visual novels, Choice of Games' no-frills text presentation can feel a bit stark, but there are positive sides to such a pure focus on story. Everything here rests on the writing quality and choice structure.
Felicity Banks' newly released Attack of the Clockwork Army, hosted on Choice of Games, is set in a steampunk version of colonial Australia. Which sounds pulpier than my usual tastes but I couldn't help but be curious what that would look like. I decided to go into this with my fun goggles on.