Over the weekend, after sulking into an existential abyss of holiday depression (my regularly scheduled Christmas one that just kind of happens because of traumatic incidents that happened in my adolescent, formative years) I got an idea for a game.
Some sort of texting-simulator akin to Emily is Away but a modern version (so iMessage/Messenger ghosting and depressing-distance stuff?). It reminded me of Tumblr accounts that documented last conversations/intense ones and it seemed fitting.
I didn’t write the code for Scratch this time as I had built a framework months ago for a game of this nature (message-sending, interactive fictive kind of sorts). Before beginning to outline the story, I was actually considering making it on Twine so I could focus more on the content at the expense of some of the customizability — since it’s much easier to have an engine and build in all the necessary effects and whatnot than to suffer through Twine and tweak a bunch of things in Sugarcube for some scenarios that will only happen once. Deciding to focus on the text feel and because I wanted to also finesse my coding skills a bit more since it’s been a long time since I made a game, I picked up the old engine and took it from there.
In the first place, the branching dialogue/text is taken from one of Orteil’s experiments. I scoured through the experiments and dump games on his site and it was on one of them — partly from the Tea Party game and one of the older, very unfinished experimental ones that I can’t find at the moment. I looked through their code (which I find, is readable enough and semi-strange) and took to implementing the messaging in my game, specter with the same concept. So, it’s really bad but with each one it specifies the text, possible replies, etc. and I formatted it to look like a messaging screen yadda yadda. There’s also a timestamp that can appear and I added a quick thing to each node that can perform actions such as clearing the board/changing text color/shifting the background.
I use that Japanese pixel-like font since it looks edgy and stuff. Initially I didn’t use the traditional messaging colors and have white text/border against a black background but I can’t bare to play an entire pretentious game like that the whole way through so I just went on the safer route. I don’t know if I’ll change the font to a more readable/traditional one since I kind of like the broken vibe it gives me right now with the beauty that is mspgothic. That’s literally the entire interface, though. There’s a response selection at the bottom of the screen, the messages get cleared and scroll if overflowed, and there’s nothing else.
What I want to implement soon, after fixing the story is a better branching system; this would probably require me to rewrite the game since the code is very buggy and disgusting, moreso for the large story that I am inevitably going to make and finish within the next few hours. Another is better specifying the time delay between messages (those are disgusting to work with in general but ya’know), adding a typewriter effect when selecting options, using the text input user response option more often, and very soon: adding delivered/seen stamps to truly emulate the pain in messaging.
As for the game itself, it’s pretty much an interactive fictive and coding experiment that’s angsty as heck. From the name, you can guess that it’s about loss/distance/ghosting and it’s hopefully going to be some painfully-relatable experience which I hope it would be since I’m 17 and don’t want my suffering to be the only suffering out there.
Simple, powerful games get to me a lot. I hope to see more games that focus on empathetic experiences, especially for teenagers or people to share the distraught and pain in their realities — it’s connective, immersive, and with specter I know this surrounds a common anguish that lots of people have shared, so hopefully it goes well even though I’m writing it with my heart a bit too large on my sleeve.
I hope it goes well and I hope I feel better.