Short and sweet, I can smell the Autumn air just from reading this.
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I have not read/watched JJK but I really liked this. Even without the context of the show the story and characters hold up on their own, and the bits that I do know about it tells me there was a lot of reinterpretation. I really related to the exploration of transness, trauma, self worth, and manipulation/desire. The use of sex work as well, its relation to queer/trans bodies, and the way it was tied into the concept of “Diviners” was really interesting as well. I really liked how that tied into the progression method, how you had to divine in a sense the next word or phrase that would give you another piece of the story.
That method of interaction may be a bit oblique though, I actually had to inspect the twine code in order to progress. I did still try dozens of phrases once I figured out how it worked, but I didn’t really make any headway doing so. There is also one missing passage, ⟪⟪ Good Girl ⟫⟫, which I think also made things a bit trickier. Still, I think its such a cool concept for a piece of interactive fiction, and the high difficulty kind of adds to it. It feels like a locked box of a story, secrets hidden away to be discovered by no one. I almost feel bad for breaking that box open, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate this game as much as I did.
The presentation is also wonderfully minimalist, the use of different text boxes and colours, boxes within boxes, and lack of box to communicate Junpei’s inner thoughts is impactful and well done. The bits of art that we get are also incredible.
Just a really cool game overall, it really got me thinking. Thank you for sharing.
I love bitsy as an engine, its so good for making little contemplative spaces like these. You use it to create such a strong sense of place, it really reminds me to cherish nature and the world around me. The visuals are also great, in particular I love the two travelling screens, so much depth packed into 3 colours and 8x8 sprites!
The music gave me such an overpowering anxiety, along with the writing it felt like a wondering anxious dream with brief moments of respite. Will definitely come back to this to take in more of the meaning, but I really enjoyed it.
Thanks for responding, I’m glad my comment gave you some things to think about!
Mu Cartographer is a very cool example, I think part of what makes it work (at least from a distance, having not played it) is the visual spectacle of the generated landscape. Very much feels like someone was playing with landscape generation and thought “How can I make this game?”. I think it adds credence to the question “Would exploration feel engaging just from interesting visuals?”. I’m a huge fan of Yume Nikki and that type of exploration and I think there’s very enjoyable on it’s own to be in a world of the wondrous and unexpected. There is a bit of concern with same rooms appearing too often and loosing their novelty, but I think that could be solved by giving some rooms small pattern requirements (Valley room next to two desert rooms or something like that) so they have “identity” and are a bit more rare, as well as some rooms that are just rare in general. I think ideally with the right amount of variety, repeated rooms could become comfortably familiar, instead of tired.
My gut does still say there could be something more, some way to get that “balance”… It’s a tricky question and might just require some trial and error prototyping (unfortunately time consuming!). Maybe like Mu Cartographer, you could have some sort of sensor that tells you how close you are to completing the pattern. Could give that fun sensation of: “Agh, I’m so close, but where is it!”. And yeah, I like the idea of giving some flexibility on meeting the “correct” solution, would definitely take some strain off of repeating attempts!
Anyway, I love to read about designers’ thought processes so posts like these are very much appreciated. It’s a huge challenge to ‘map’ out (haha) relatively unexplored areas of design, so its really interesting to see how people grapple with those unanswered questions and think about all the possibilities. I wish you luck working on this idea and others!
I really like what you’re shooting for here; an exploratory traversal mechanic that has friction (is non trivial to execute) but doesn’t require hours of repetition to complete. I really like the idea of setting out to find your next treasure and just being totally stumped. Really having to mull over all of your information and what you’ve tried until you figure it out.
One thought I have the mapping mode is if it tells you outright when you have a successful map it might take away some of the surprise and joy of finding the treasure through the act of exploring. If you know what the solution is, then execution is just a matter of getting the right RNG. Which, I think learning to use the key mechanics to balance RNG in your favour is a very cool mechanic here, but that being the only execution concern maybe takes away some of the mystery of stumbling upon something you were looking for but not quite expecting. I think if your map was able to tell you like, 90% of how to get there and the last 10% was trial and error, I think that could be quite fun. Adding items to partially reset the world so you don’t have to start each attempt from scratch might also lessen the burden of execution time.
Of course, it’s a matter of what you’re going for. If the mapping sections are very difficult to figure out, then finally getting to execute on them could be a bit exhilarating. Plus the RNG mechanics could lend a feeling of overcoming an environment that is inherently hostile to your goal, and give a sense of challenge and mastery, so it isn’t exactly rote. That said, something about combining the two steps, exploring, learning something, then going back to the drawing board is appealing to me personally. It could give the feeling of learning through active engagement with the world rather then finding the answer through study and hypotheticals. However, the separate 2 step method still involves engagement with the world, since knowing a successful combination of rooms is only half the puzzle! There really are a lot of ways you could experiment with this idea and I think each would create their own specific feeling.
Whoops, I wrote a bunch about the mechanics when I actually meant to comment on the story! I really like some of the themes you brought up here with connection vs isolation. Isolation can bring uniqueness of culture and identity but also judgment of outsiders and the unfamiliar. Connection can allow transience; being able to escape an abusive or unsatisfying place to find somewhere you better belong. But like in our world, it can cause cultural homogeneity, large scale domination of others and oppressive social hierarchies (not that such things don’t also exist on a smaller scale in small communities). I also like the conflict of fame vs obscurity. To be very well known is tantalizing, but comes with the burden of others expectations and assumptions of you. As you say, producing art obscurely for and with a small group of friends and collaborators can produce very unique and personal art. Yet without a way for that art to be shared or seen it can’t be found by those who might connect deeply to it.
In general, connection is what allows us to share ideas and grow as people and artists. I think there’s an interesting dialogue here with our lives online, how being able to navigate it, discover new art, new people, and new connections can be so meaningful. Yet something about those levels of obscurity is part of what makes that traversal meaningful, the fact that there is difference everywhere you go. These are pretty powerful themes I think, and very rich for exploration.
Anyway, I wrote a bit too much, but your blog posts gave me a lot to think about. There’s a lot really interesting things here and I hope you are able to find the time to continue working on it!
Incredibly funny and cute. Absolutely love the commitment to the bit. Drifts slightly from the source material with the lack of para-military 16 year olds and confusing political themes. I think it stands strong regardless.
Haha this game is so good! I love how much mileage you were able to get out of a seemingly straightforward concept, and in really unexpected ways! I played this game with my partner and since I didn’t see the game description, I genuinely thought there was going to be like one level; seeing it instead evolve into spoiler warning increasingly absurd scenarios was really funny and entertaining. Also the music was great!
Altogether this is a very cute and charming game, and as someone who also struggles with social anxiety, definitely a bit relatable as well. Thanks for sharing :)
This was a very good experience. I really loved the way it unfolds and all the disparate aesthetic pieces blend together, moving between narrative and meditation really naturally. Ty for sharing :)
Oh that's such a cool idea! something like that was definitely an inspiration for the game, but a full custom reading generator would have probably been hard to for the jam lol
the cards were definitely biased towards their relevance to this reading but im glad they were able to give a new perspective to their meanings!
Veryy cute game, it was super fun to explore all the areas, and I loved how the tarot themes influenced the game both textually and a subtextually!
Also damn... Maybe one day I'll become a keybitch warrior