Agatha Christie to Ryukishi07: Linear Whodunits as Games (For NarraScope 2020)

Beatrice and Battler in a screenshot from Umineko no Naku Koro Ni where she's telling him in the red truth that he is incompetent.

Hello everyone!! Here’s my talk on processing linear books as interactive mediums especially in terms of whodunits and detective fiction, as taught to me through Umineko no naku koro ni. You can enjoy the video above, or read the script below, although the two aren’t word for word.

Also a lot of my pictures are missing from my blog due to some aggravating webhosting errors on my part. Hopefully I’ll have time to fix that at some point.

What Fire Emblem: Three Houses Learned from Dating Sims (It’s not what you think!)

The cover of Fire Emblem: Three Houses with the protagonists arranged in a triangle.

“It’s the dating,” I hear you saying. “It’s the romance part that Fire Emblem got from dating sims.” Right?

Wrong! As a matter of fact, Fire Emblem’s support system was in use for Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, released on the Super Famicom in 1994. This game was later remade for the Nintendo DS and was finally released in North America as Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem in 2010.

The first game that founded Dating Sims as a genre was Tokimeki Memorial, released in 1994, the same year as Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. The first Dating Sim made was an eroge (erotic game) called Dokyuusei and was released in 1992, but did not have the impact of creating a genre the way Tokimeki Memorial did.

Regardless, neither of the above games have a mechanic that in any way resembles the support system in Fire Emblem, which operates on characters in a tactical strategy game fighting side-by-side. Tokimeki Memorial is about a protagonist in first-person making efforts to win over the girl of their choice, while Dokyuusei relies on the user being in the right place at the right time for scripted, timed events. 

Placing these games side-by-side, it’s hard to say that Fire Emblem’s original support system was influenced by early dating sims, since the mechanics involved are unrecognizable to the other.

No! What Fire Emblem: Three Houses (and its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Fates) learns from Dating Sims is: the power of Routes.

Yes, routes come from Dating Sims! Modern American Dating Sims often miss the mark when it comes to navigating romantic routes between different characters. In Dating Sims from Japan and other developers from Asia make it a habit of showing pieces of a larger narrative puzzle along the route of a certain romantic interest. The only way to get the full picture is to play through the story of each one, often because there is a “true route” at the end that is only unlocked through variables that are triggered in the code on completion of said routes.

To lay it out carefully: if you choose to date Eiko, you might see Biko get up to some mischief in the background because she doesn’t want to concern you. You’re having such an interesting romantic life now, after all! When you start again and date Biko, you find out what’s going on with her, but meanwhile, Eiko never gets up her courage to try out for the school play or whatever. You understand her, because you saw it through on a different route, but when you’re not on that route, her potential goes unrealized because you aren’t a part of it.

In hbomberguy’s video essay on Pathologic, he observes aspects of the multi-perspective structure and remarks that “When you aren’t in control of the character, he makes worse decisions than you did.” This is also the case when it comes to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. On their route, you support your student of choice and act as the heart of their community, pushing them on in pursuit of their own ideals of justice. Without you, they struggle, fail, or forfeit, and unless you’ve played through their perspectives, you won’t understand why.

I’m 200 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses and I’ve only played two routes, so a lot more stands to be found.

What’s up with Patriah?

(I made this post available to Patrons on March 6th, but for the sake of accessibility I’m now cross posting it everywhere.)

Patriah has turned into my white whale, in a way, where it’s very difficult to wrangle, but I’m very invested in getting it done. 

WRITING

So far, I’ve been doing all the writing that I can, which is frankly the most triggering part of it. Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve taken to writing this with the philosophy of the Patriah 100, which is a bit of a misnomer. It’s a commitment to writing 100 words, but given that I write the whole thing in Twine, it comes out to being a node or two. Maybe not 100 words, but… I don’t care, haha. Throwing myself at Patriah as hard and for as long as I can bear is not a healthy working relationship considering the subject matter, and is terrible for my mental health. Tiny doses are how this story is going to get done.

Wanna see the WIP?

The twine file is broken up into three because Patriah A was starting to get laggy. 

The Patriah A file contains two complete (albeit linear) routes: Joshua and Paul. This file is 17,500 words.

Patriah B is still a wip, but contains the complete Izzy route, and Samuel’s first two days are complete. This file, as it turns out, is 17,000 words. And it’s not done!

The “Patriah True Route” file contains only that, which is a single day per bachelor. As you can see, it’s pretty linear and will probably stay that way. (It’s a modest 1400 words, but only has a day for Paul so far.)

There’s a lot of repeating words thanks to me being lazy with nodes and variables in Twine in order to make my life easier, but I estimated after Joshua that the game would end up at about 50,000 words, and so far that seems to be the case.

What remains to write?

  • Samuel days 3, 4, and his True Route day.
  • Izzy and Joshua’s True Route days.
  • Character collisions. When you choose a different man on different days, the men respond to this in different ways, depending on quite a few variables. I’ll probably write these in as I code the characters into Ren’py.

So I guess the end isn’t too far off? Just a lot of coding in my future.

ART

I’ve been talking with my handsome wife about Patriah’s visuals, because they’re a designer and I am not. I trust Ella’s advice when it comes to making something pretty and accessible. It looks like the sterile white in the demo might end up looking a bit more like this.

This is a for funsies mockup and extremely unofficial.)

So I’ve been working on some inkwash backgrounds for the areas that weren’t included in the Joshua demo.

Inks are fun and I think they add a lot of character. Who knows what this will look like once we slap a bunch of heavy textures on top? It already feels so much more sinister!

That’s it!

Thanks for supporting me and looking forward to Patriah. I know I haven’t talked about it much, but working on it is a bit of an ordeal, and I want it done just as much as you do. I’ve worked really hard, and I want to show it to you. Maybe next year International Women’s Day?

Prime Quarantine Content, part 1: Visual Novels

Hello, all! I’m having a really hard time concentrating these days, given the state of it all. I have work to do, but it’s challenging to focus. Even in my downtime, I’ve been running around and trying to look after things for neighbors and roommates to keep myself busy. Now I’ve manufactured a new project to help you find something to keep you company in these tricky days.

So for the next few weeks, when I think of things, I’m going to make a post of recommendations by medium for stuff that you might like to check out. I bet you have lots of books to read, games to play, and stuff to watch already, but maybe nothing of the stuff on your queue is calling to you. Maybe you need something fresh? I know what it’s like.

Here are my favorite Visual Novels that I’d like to recommend to you, and a few that I hope to get around to.

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[Metal Gear Solid] The Last Nine Years

The Last Nine Years is a collaboration between playerprophet and cephiedvariable. A look at the highs and lows of Otacon and Snake’s relationship between the scenes and throughout the years. 

To better understand the content, see the working title: “Emotionally Repressed Supersoldier and Annoying Nerd Try – and Fail – to Talk About Their Feelings”.

Order your hard copy here, or message me. I know the storenvy link is down right now…

I’ll never really forgive Jenn (cephiedvariable) for making me draw so many mustaches.

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[Hatoful Boyfriend] Broken Birds 2/2

THERE’S MORE!

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[Hatoful Boyfriend] Broken Birds 1/2

Nanaki Kazuaki and Sakazaki Yuuya are in the beginnings of a strange and unconventional relationship; they’re two birds who will always care about someone else more than each other. Could two people possibly be better off in a situation like this? 

Broken Birds is about healing in an unconventional relationship. The comic takes place in the world of Hatoful Boyfriend, right after the sequel, Holiday Star.

Now that this doujinshi is a few years old, I decided to put it up online for free. You can download the PDF on itch.io, or read it on AO3, or Pixiv.

Really the cheapest and easiest way to get image hosting from my domain is through here. I’m sorry for people who come here for narrative criticism.

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Death Stranding, and a little Healing

Content Warning: This post contains spoilers for the end of Death Stranding, and conversations about my personal experiences with abuse, neglect, and daddy issues. This is some very personal crap that does little by way of analysis or critique of the story.

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Save the World — Grow Fruit Trees from what you eat!

A 10-page zine collecting information on how to grow trees from fruit seeds. That way you, too, can help to save the world! While eating something delicious! I’ve been working on this zine a little while as a collection of information I’ve uncovered while foraging. After collecting sumac seeds and apple seeds, I thought I could share what I learned!

If you’d like to enjoy this post as a downloadable PDF instead, please access it here. Thank you!
Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/playerprophet#NQKck
itch.io: https://playerprophet.itch.io/grow-fruit-trees

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6 Tips to Using a Planner for your Mental Health

Hello, I’m Dawn and I’ve been battling my own mental health as far back as I can remember. I struggle to this day with depression and anxiety.

I’ve kept a journal off and on for much of my life. I decided in 2018 to keep one to track my days, so I could stop beating myself up about how much I didn’t do. A few months in, I used it for exactly that, and it worked, pulling me out of a downward spiral of self-hate. In my depressed haze I was discrediting how hard I was working, and looking back in time, I was grateful for what I did manage to do.

Depending on your particular hangups, my routine might not work for you, but I think it could help others. I recommend that you use a daily log, be it a spreadsheet, phone calendar, or physical day planner. Make sure it has all 365 days a year. Other than that, you can use whatever you please. I use a Hobonichi Techo because it had a cool Earthbound jacket, and getting something expensive held me hostage to make use of it.

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