Monstr and Ludum Dare 33 – Notes

I did Ludum Dare for the first time this weekend!

Kent, Rosstin, and I organized a team for the Jam section of Ludum Dare (the compo is for solo submissions; the jam is the part of the event that allows team work). We found a bunch of friends who were willing to do art, and the final result is pretty amazing.

The theme this go-round was “you are the monster,” a theme I was admittedly not a huge fan of. (I predicted that a lot of people would just make sprite-swap combat games where the player character was a dragon or something, and¬†boy, was I right!)

We decided to make a game where you are a monster seeking other monsters on a monsters-only dating service similar to OK Cupid or Tinder. We cranked out a randomized game with 60 different monsters in it, 52 of which you can fall madly in love with. Like the other two projects I’ve made with Kent and Rosstin, this game was primarily focused on humor, and used randomized text snippets as a good way to divide up the work and make the project approachable during the limited time of the jam.

Anyway, the final result is here! It is called “Monstr.” We plan on making a polished web version AND an iOS-based Tinder clone out of this project. Stay tuned! The final version will make you cry with joy, I bet.

And if you participated in LD33, please vote here!

Some additional, meandering notes:

  • Ford (the guy who composed the song with whale music in it for Slaughtertrain) did the music for us again. The track for Monstr contains ACTUAL HUMAN SIGHS OF UNREQUITED LOVE and it is absolutely 100% amazing
  • I grow increasingly convinced that the only reasonable kind of text game to make for team jams is one consisting entirely of short randomized text snippets. I want to write a Gamasutra blog about how wonderful these jams can be, someday. It is very easy to incorporate many team members into a game based around randomization. So long as you have a competent core coding team, everyone else can engage to the extent that they are able without screwing up the rest of the group. It makes the jam more relaxed and makes the final project better, too.
  • Games about sex seem to do MUCH better in my twitter sphere than games about literally anything else. I’ve been joking for over a year that if I only wrote sexy stories I would get a lot more attention, and LO AND BEHOLD, it’s true! Please don’t mistake me, I’m not bitter about this– it’s just that Monstr seemed to strike a nerve in the same way (but at a much smaller scale) that Verified Facts struck a nerve several years ago. Some things align with the stars to magically become Internet Candy, and other things do not. I struggle to get even five retweets for interactive short stories about space aliens, but I got a shit ton for an OKC clone full of ridiculous sloppy jokes. It’s a good thing I enjoyed writing all those sloppy jokes, though. ūüôā
  • We used @mrfb’s Twine port of Tracery, a javascript library for making randomized text. It’s super easy to use and very rewarding to work with. Give it a shot!
  • This was probably the eighth or tenth game jam I have done. Not all of them ended up on the internet so it’s hard for me to make a final list, but I’ve done a LOT of game jams recently and they are definitely making me a better developer. I was talking to a writer at another games company about five months ago and when he revealed that he’d never done a jam, I think I scared him with the force of my enthusiasm. Game jams are GREAT. They make you better at working in teams, better at scraping yourself off the floor after a failure, and more confident in your abilities. Game jams generally make me feel great about myself, even if I don’t do so well. Relatedly:¬†I can’t believe my alma mater still doesn’t do them!¬†They have a games lab/tiny games company there and people who worked for it told me as recently as last winter that they had no idea what jams were. What?? As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing a games program can do for its students is build their confidence and give them shit to put on a resume, and jams do both.

Current Project(s’) Status(es)

I’m currently juggling two different major Twine projects! GREAT! (I am absolutely the worst at limiting this kind of shit.)

Six Months

I’m still chipping away at Six Months, and I’m still on the horror marathon of Month Three. It’s been very hard to write Month Three– it contains a lot of violence and other upsetting stuff, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to present this content in a way that works with the overall tone of the story.

One of my big goals was to present¬†characters who live in a fantasy world but who are just as pathetic and squeamish as real people are in real life. Depending on your decisions, your protagonist, Simon, may have¬†to watch a suspect get tortured in Month Three, and I wanted¬†that shit to mess him (and the reader) up.¬†I wanted to write a torture scene that focused on how miserable it is to see other people in pain, but I didn’t want it to be a gross-out scene, because that’s not consistent with the rest of the story’s style and mood. I think my final decisions work well, but it took me a while (and a few rewrites) to arrive at the strategy I finally selected.

i honestly spend more time thinking about this project’s mood and “style guide” than I do about story-lore questions like “what does a map of this kingdom look like?” or “how does the government work?” or “what is the king’s first name??” (This is 100% true! The king is a major character and I still have no idea what his first name should be. I wrote up a list last month but couldn’t come up with anything that sounded pathetic enough while also sounding sufficiently kingly.)

Anyway, this project is taking me a long time to finish, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully you’ll see it within a year! It’s going to be Mega Long.

Other Orbits

Other Orbits is the name I’ve selected for a collection of sci-fi interactive short stories I’m working up. The first one will be The Hive Abroad, which I released in January. I’ve already completed the writing and Twine story structure design for the second one, which I’m calling Redundant. I’ve commissioned art for it and it will be released before the end of the year.

I want to write one more nonlinear story for this collection and release all three of them as a pack on Itch. The third story is maybe 40% written and is gonna require a LOT of editing. It’ll be much less linear than The Hive Abroad and will be hard to “balance,” so to speak– it will be possible to read this story in a lot of different ways, and I want to make sure that it is only confusing in exactly the ways I want it to be confusing.

I made a trailer for Other Orbits which appeared in the Alternative Digital Arts Festival a few weeks ago. It’s complete bullshit and I made it in about two hours. You can find it in the ADAF archive.

Other Shit

The second of the three interactive sci fi stories I mentioned above, Redundant, is Really Fucking Good in my opinion– I think it’s the best sci-fi I’ve ever written, to ¬†be honest– and a friend of mine who writes screenplays told me it might work as a screenplay?? I’ve been trying to write screenplays for a year now. I wrote two last year, actually, which both¬†sucked. You will never see them. But I’ve been trying to write Rendundant up as a screenplay off and on for the past few months. I think I’m getting better at this.

I also wrote a horror story for inclusion in a Twine horror collection a few months ago. The collection will be out eventually, but I don’t have a good idea of when. I’m pretty excited for you to see that one, because it was an absolutely joy to write. It’s an unconventional “horror” about mass hysteria, mass denial of mass hysteria, and mass-self-doubt, and one scene contains an outburst of passive-aggression which was the most fun-to-write dialogue I’ve written all year.

I’m scouting around for more game jams to do, too, so if you’re in LA and need someone for a game jam, please reach out to me at @lmichet on twitter. I’m trying to get in touch with more people in games in Los Angeles and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m making more friends, anyway, which is nice.