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[Dev Log] Stormtouched

A topic by Suryce created Dec 30, 2017 Views: 604 Replies: 6
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Submitted (2 edits) (+1)


For this jam, I'll be making a twine game with a linear story following the struggles of Milie-34, a clone made for war who must learn to cope with their trauma and their aversion for touch, while reconnecting with the humanity that used to be denied to them. As a trainee in the military branch of the foreign nation that welcomed them, Milie's story will focus on their relationship with Huan-Yue Liang, a fellow trainee and self-proclaimed rival who sees Milie's previous training and experience as a challenge. As the two get to know each other and connect, the player will have a few choices allowing them to determine whether or not Milie is okay with touching Huan-Yue or being touched by her, in a few different contexts. Neither options will ever be presented negatively, as the choices will be about Milie's agency, rather than any "make the right decision" type of choices.

All the characters in the story will be asexual, though of course the story is centered on Milie and Huan-Yue, who will be the ones discussing and exchanging on their pretty different and opposed perspectives.

I expect a few challenges when it will come to writing this down. First of all, I don't identify as ace myself, so while I'm confident in my writing abilities, I would be more comfortable having someone who's ace taking a look at the story before I publish it for a jam centered on that very subject. If you're interested, let me know (you can message me on the Discord server if you wish), otherwise I'll probably ask around on Discord once I've finished writing the first complete draft of the game.

The second challenge that I'm slightly worried about is the amount of lore I need to introduce to explain the context that the characters inhabit, even if I try to keep it to the relevant bare minimum. Ironically, I never worried about this for my previous game, The Wolf's Shephard, where this was the opposite of a problem because its fantasy lore was very "personal" in nature, and could be introduced piece by piece to directly inform the characters' relationships. With this new project, the sci-fi lore has to mention things like the vague history of entire nations just to set-up certain scenes and basic characters introductions, and without necessarily immediate emotional pay-offs, which makes TWS's efficient approach to lore difficult to emulate. Anyway, I'll continue to think about this as I write in the following month.

Edit: ... Oh yeah, third challenge: I still haven't found a title for the game!

Hi, I'm not a game dev and I'll only be playing the games resulting from this jam... because I know nothing about development and nothing about coding, but I'm interest in your idea especially as an ace myself. Or, well, ace-spec. 

I have a few questions that might help you with the characterization: is your protagonist romantic or aromantic? Are they on the "completely asexual" end of the spectrum or do they experience sexual attraction sometimes, or given certain conditions (like with demisexual people they only experience sexual attraction once a strong emotional bond is established)? Since you said every character is going to be ace, I'd personally like it if each one experienced asexuality differently (and there are a lot of variables to pick from: you have aromantic asexuals, heteroromantic asexuals, homoromantic asexuals, gray-aces, demisexuals, aromantic asexuals... also asexuals with high libido or non-existent libido, asexuals who are sex-repulsed or not, asexuals who just don't care, and these are just variables off the top of my head).

So, if their orientation is a relevant theme in the game, I suggest making yourself questions about how these characters feel about attraction, and since they're all asexuals I imagine their web of relationships would be very different from the kind of relationships we're generally used to (like, more on the platonic side?).
Also, you probably know this but I think it's very important to say that ace people can choose to have sex with someone for reasons outside of attraction, like having a child or making a bond with someone get stronger (given the multiple purposes sex can have, there are just as many reasons why someone would want to have it)...
But other than this, I'd say write the characters like you would any other. In the end, sexuality is only a marginal part of someone's identity and unless you're going to center the narration around it you don't need to worry about it too much.
I really like that the choices will be more about agency than "making the right one", btw! This is gonna be interesting. Hope I didn't say anything superfluous and that I was of help, in any way!


Hey, thank you for taking the time to write down these questions. It's always good to bounce off ideas with someone, so I appreciate it!

So, as currently planned, I'll go with all the named characters being "fully" aromantic and asexual. I've been wanting to write about other ace/aro labels for a while now myself, but for this story, I'm going with this for reasons that are a mix of happenstance and convenience. Huan-Yue (along with one secondary character) is actually an expy heavily based on a character I previously invented for roleplay purposes, and I'm re-using the version of her that was "fully" aro-ace. Based on that, I'm also making Milie the same, because I want to focus on what makes the two main characters different from each other while they share the exact same orientations. For instance, and answering another question at the same time, one difference that will be explored will be their sexual activity.

It's really going to be about how these two very different persons interact, and how they end up connecting and completing each other despite the initial tension between them. It's hard to predict how I'm precisely going to write the details, but I imagine their orientations will be one element among all the things the two characters will exchange about. Both because there's a lot to unpack about the characters besides their orientations, and because I don't want to focus too much on the theme of aceness when I don't think I have first-hand knowledge of it.

(As for why the secondary characters are also "fully" aro-ace, it's happenstance. One is an expy with the same circumstances as Huan-Yue, the other is an android. Also, lately I've been wanting to write a story where "everybody is X". I was initially thinking about "everybody is agender", but as currently planned, this game will do it with two other things instead, including "full" aro-aceness.)

I think this answers the general intent of all the questions?

Ah, that’s cool! Aroace characters are always welcome (I’m aroace myself, after all). But anyway  sure! I mean, it’s your game so ultimately  it’s you who should be satisfied :) i’m very much looking forward to seeing a story focusing on touch... as a bonding experience, I gathered? It’s interesting, so I’ll be waiting for it!

Submitted (1 edit)

Good news, the game now has a title: Stormtouched

I'm not gonna talk about its meaning too much here. I already did on the Discord, and I'm hoping the story will make it clear enough as it is read.

Besides this, writing is going along well. I tend to have a hard estimating how long a finished game is going to be, and consequently, how much is left to write, but I've probably written between a third or a half of the game so far.

And finally, I've spent all my writing time today massively rewriting an early portion. They say you shouldn't get too attached to an idea and I guess they are right because I decided the game would work better if I cut one of the two secondary characters out of the story entirely and instead fused their role into the remaining one. Because of this, I had to rewrite a lot of exposition, but I already think it works a lot better, with less unnecessary info to dump on the player, and putting more emotional connections with the narrator's feelings. Plus, the remaining character has a lot more leeway for appearing regularly (and now has more personality), and this will help me set things up for the main characters when needed for the rest of the story.

Submitted (3 edits)

So, progress report: Stormtouched is currently at 8500 words and I would say I have a quarter left of the game to write (or potentially a little less than that). I've also divided the game into four distinct chapters, and to compensate for a lack of saving system, the title screen has links to the beginning of each chapter. There's exactly ten days left to the Jam and all is left is for me to write chapter 4 and edit/polish/play-test the whole game. I should be finished in time at the pace I've been going, but I'll unfortunately not have the time to have the finished game be beta-read before the deadline like I said I wanted in the first post of this thread. 

But! I've made a replacement for that plan with a quick demo for Stormtouched that I initially made in order to gather feedback on the game's representation of asexuality and aromanticism, but I figured, hey, this can work as a demo for the game in general, so here it is for anyone who wants to check it out!

I recommend playing it before reading the rest of this post if you want a clear picture of the mechanic I want to talk about and that I've tried using for the first time. For now, I'm calling it the arrow mechanic. It allows me to control the pace at which sentences, or even parts of a sentence, are revealed, and has proved a very useful tool for helping me set up the mood of various emotional beats, or create suspense as the narrator unravels an information or their feelings. Initially, I implemented this mechanic to make the game more accessible to people with ADHD, based on what Nadia did in her own game for Yuri Jam 2017 "can you say my name again." But in the end, I also took inspiration from visual novels where the text is often revealed sentence by sentence in order to achieve the effects described above.

The way it works is extremely simple, the code look something like this (I'm working with Harlowe, I don't know if it would be any different with something else):

(link: ">>>")[Some text. (link: ">>>")[Even more text.(link: ">>>")[  [[This is the usual link in Twine leading to a new node]]  ]]]

The more "links", the more closing hooks at the end of the entire sequence. 

Also, it makes the code looks like (even more) garbage, but I like to press the Enter key just before each arrow (within the "") in order to put all the arrows in a relatively fixed position at the start of the next line, under the current sentence. Otherwise, each arrow will be right at the end of the currently shown text, making it move horizontally a lot and requiring more mouse movements of the player.

Now, the initially unforeseen complication of this seemingly simple code is that it's everywhere as I've implemented it, so it requires a lot of polishing to do when editing. It's easy to forget a space between two sentences, or to misjudge how a line should be paced, necessitating to add or remove links (hopefully without forgetting to adjust the number of closing hooks at the end) and play-test the entire sequence again until it feels just right. It took me around two hours just polishing this demo, and the full game is going to be about 15 times bigger than this, so yeah. The way I use that mechanic turns out to have a noticeable cost in time. 

Also, this makes the implementation of If Statements harder, as I have to pace them within the confines of the links' hooks. Because every link is necessary for the player to progress the text, I can't have a link be optional within a block of text added by a If Statement. The way I dodge this problem is by making as many micro If Statements as necessary within the hooks of each affected block of text that is added by a link.

Also², while I find this mechanic very useful for the effects I've talked about, and hopefully the increased accessibility it brings to the game, it might not be usable in every type of narrative structure possible for a Twine game. For instance, it wouldn't work in one of my previous work, The Ghost's Drum, which has a very cyclic structure where the player goes through the same node several times and doesn't need to re-read the entire text of that node every time and is instead expected to directly scroll down to the choices at the bottom.


Here we go, Stormtouched is out and complete!

This is makes it my fourth Twine game and my favorite project so far. I feel like I took things a step further compared to my previous projects in terms of presentation, but also on the delivery of the themes. Plus, I finished just in time, which is nice. 

I have a bunch of thoughts about how the themes of this game played out in the end. I wrote these thoughts down twice differently before deleting them each time. Once in the author's word inside the game, and a second time here. What stops me from sharing these thoughts is that it makes me feel like I'm telling people what they should think of the themes of the story instead of letting them make their own opinion about the game by playing it. What I'll say is that I very much like the story I wrote and I'm confident in the strength and sincerity of the themes and their delivery, even if not everything is quite what I originally aimed to do with this project.

Looking forward, this project has inspired me into continuing to take things "a step further", and it's probably about time I move on from Twine games and on to visual novels, which have both a personal and global appeal that Twine games just cannot match. I came up with an idea for an episodic project while finishing up Stormtouched that I want to try making a pilot for in Renpy. Having an actual project to put together will be a good motivation for finally learning it too, and if it takes a satisfying form, well, I'll consider various "steps further" to take from there.

Anyway, a big thanks to Metaparadox for organizing this jam, it gave me the motivation to make my project for Stormtouched happen and I'm glad I participated.