Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Story to be Told

If somehow you haven't noticed, v0.14 is live! Go play it!

That said, when I announced the new version two weeks ago, I mentioned the overarching structure for the game as being a mix between two parts and four parts. I said I'd get more into it later, and I believe now is a good time to explain things a little more in-depth.

My original, barebones concept for MVOL when I conceived it was complete a few versions ago. You play with Lith, you talk to him, you collar him. A very simple game. Early in the design process, though, I started thinking about the issues involved-- Lith has a very large, unresolved problem at the core of his being. I've worked with Lith as a character for many years, and sometimes I find him charming, sometimes I find him grating, but I believe it's high time he gets a little resolution for his age old problem.

As I thought over what could be done with the game beyond the simple simulation of Lith, I realized that this could finally be a chance to explore that resolution fully. If you play on the right path in the current game you can learn a fair deal about this conflict, but it's the content to come that will really explore the depths of the issue and allow you to act as the scale-tipper and ultimately choose how Lith resolves the problem.

So when I say that the game has two main Parts, I mean it in two ways. In one way, the most flexible and open-ended portion of the game is finished. You'll still have access to it throughout the new content, and it will serve as the foundation for everything to come, but it is, more or less, finished. It also represents, to my mind, half of the content in the game, quantitatively. Whether the second Part will actually be longer or shorter remains to be seen --the piece we've seen so far has certainly come out a bit longer than I expected-- but the intention is that they'll be roughly equal.

The other way that the game is split in half is in its role as a decision maker. The defining element of any story, in the long run, is how things change. A story in which everything is the same at the end as at the beginning is unfulfilling-- a story that didn't really need to be told. MVOL is the story of Lith's meeting with a strange person in a strange place, and how his outlook, his self-image, and his life in its entirety is changed forever through this meeting.

So this change will take place in two Parts. In the first, you will decide, through your actions, what general attitude you will use to approach Lith. As you become the most important person in Lith's life, you will influence his thought processes every step of the way until he ultimately becomes a new person, shedding his conflict in favor of something new. So when you collar Lith, though you may not realize it, you are making a profound decision for Lith that he has been unable to make on his own for all his adult life.

The second Part unfolds and explores this choice, and your further choices refine this answer to something more specific. The questions of life are never simple, after all, and there are many interpretations for any grand philosophy of life. As is often the case in life, the simple decisions we make from one moment to the next, seemingly completely unrelated decisions, can ultimately have profound effects on how we see ourselves and those around us. This story has many endings, and your actions will determine when, and how, it ends.

The other way to interpret the story is as a story in four Acts. In the first Act, we meet our two protagonists, and they get to know each other and develop a bond. In the second Act, as we have seen, Antagonists begin to appear and things get very strange. Two more Acts follow: large, separate chunks of content with a different feel to them, to be played through sequentially. Again, the story can "end" at any time-- the first "ending" is now in the game, though I intend to replace it with a more in-depth ending at some point, hopefully soon.

Beyond that, there will be endings in each Act. They will not necessarily be bad endings or good endings, but simply a branch that takes you out of the story as it unfolds, either to a conclusion or a new, more stable state of existence. I do enjoy "playable" endings, and I think you'll find some of these endings pretty interesting, and some will likely leave you frustrated and wanting to know more. I think it's good to have both :3 Although I may draft some kind of epilogue on the far end of all this, to give just a little more information about what happens after some of these endings.

I've used a lot of vague terms here, and I apologize if it's been a little hard to follow. It's hard to talk about these things without spoiling a lot of the peculiarities that are to come-- just imagine how hard it was to talk about the future without hinting at the existence of the doors :p It's my hope that the moment where the world bent in half and opened up into something new and bizarre was a great, topsy turvy moment for a lot of my players-- in the future, a lot of people will probably have that aspect spoiled for them before they play for the first time, but at least for some of you, I like to think it was an intense and memorable experience.

And I hope to offer a fair few more of those before this story reaches its completion, too :3 Thanks for reading, and keep an ear out for more!


Oh, and I believe the survey has pretty much settled to its conclusion, so I've closed it down. The results:
Came out roughly how I expected, though a fair number more Apple users popped up as the survey was slowing down in the end. Assuming that the survey is an accurate representation of my players (which is patently false, as the survey had a much higher incentive toward Apple users) about 14%
of my players have or are interested in getting a jailbroken Apple device and would like to play MVOL on it. This isn't an insignificant portion, and as the game expands in player base and budget down the line, it might become practical to expand into Apple devices, but at the moment, it doesn't look like it would be worth the extra work and overcoming the paywall for development.

If you find this a gross injustice and are insulted to think we should add Android functionality but not Apple, to be honest, the main obstacle is said paywall of $99. If you are both an avid Apple user and a person of means, you can, if you like, make a donation and add a note along the lines of "For Apple Paywall" and I'll note it. If we get enough support to negate or significantly pay off that paywall, then we'll do our best to make an Apple version happen. Otherwise, donations will continue to go to designer sanity maintenance and other investments in the game's future that can be shared equally among all the players. I hope this is a satisfactory compromise for any of you that are frustrated with the current mobile situation :3

Once again, thanks for reading! I hope to have another poll and blog post up soon, perhaps in a week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

v0.14 is Live!

And as a surprise bonus, there are two downloads available under Play the Game: the Flash version and a fully Android-compatible version! This was something of a last-minute development, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to fulfill this request :3 Thanks go to TechnoDragon for helping me set up the conversion process!

With that said, let me talk about this update. v0.14 marks the game's passing a huge milestone in development, and the new content is radically different. In one way, half the game is complete, and we're now starting on the second half. In another, we've effectively finished Act I, and the curtain is opening on Act II, with two more to follow. I'll get into all of this more later, though. For now, go play the game! The rest of this post is going to get into spoilers.

---v0.14 SPOILERS beyond this point---

This update introduces a lot of things that are new to the game: other characters, new locations, darker themes, non-consensual sex, and a different choice dynamic. I'm pretty nervous about how all of this will be received, honestly, but this is the vision I had for this game long ago, slowly refined and brought to reality.

As it stands now, you effectively get a brief glimpse of the world beyond the stone door. This isn't the only destination on the horizon, but it's our first stop, and we'll be seeing more of it. Before we leave, there will be more choices, and there will be the potential to close your story for good. One ending is in the game now, though it's probably the simplest and one of the most disappointing endings you can get. As you progress through the full tale of My Very Own Lith, there will be many chances to reach a conclusion.

Some of these endings might be labeled Bad Endings or Good Endings, but I enjoy making it a little more complex than that. Similarly, I tried not to present my choices as a simple binary between good and evil, but as simply the moments that define things. In life, we often look back and realize that we could have made a different decision at this particular point, and everything would have been radically different. Maybe we should have paid a little more attention, or thought a little longer, or maybe it was just dumb luck that made things pan out the way they did, but we have to see where these actions lead us. It's with that mentality that I craft these decisions, and the innate capabilities of the save file system let you see how this works out from both sides-- an enviable quality for those living out these decisions, certainly.

I might go more into all of this later --have to find something for those awkward blog posts between updates!-- but for now, I hope you find what I've written so far enjoyable, and that I've hooked your interest to see where I'm going from here :3 I don't think it will be easily predicted on the large scale, though the small may be easier to reckon. And no, MVOL is not turning into CoC :p Fenoxo was an inspiration, a foundation, and an advisor to me at various points in the game's development, but this change of scenery has come about for entirely its own, and my own reasons.

And on a final note, I'd like to offer my condolences to users of Apple devices. We looked into it, and it seems that the iPhone is, by design, a great deal less... friendly to unofficial software ^.^;; It may become possible at some point in the future if there's a good deal of interest in it, and I've added a survey on the right so folks can declare their interests in where they want to play the game. I should note that the only Apple devices it will ever be able to work on are the ones that have been "jailbroken," so if you don't intend to own such a device, I'm afraid voting for Apple would do you little good ^.^;; In the meantime, I hope you can find other ways to enjoy Lith's company!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I dearly hope you enjoy the update! :3

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Can You Taste It?

Things are coming along smoothly, and the cracks are filling in. I'm sure there are half a dozen things I've forgotten about, but hopefully I'll manage to remember most of them in the days to come. The prototype has just gone out to my proofers!


We're at 90%! Short of a miracle, I'm probably going to be releasing the game officially on the weekend of the 17th, so my proofers have time to look everything over and I have time for last-minute additions and finishing touches. If you're on my list of premium donators who have been so generous as to donate $25 or more for v0.13+, however, you'll be getting a copy of v0.14+ the very instant it's ready, regardless of the day of the week, so you keep an eye on your inbox! :3

With all that said, I've one more teaser for you all. I'm still exceedingly nervous about the pretty dramatic changes in tone and direction this update is introducing-- I've had all of this in mind for over a year now, but you all will finally be seeing the very first part of the strange ride I'm taking you all on soon x3 Hope you all enjoy!

A form emerges into the pale light, hulking but humanoid-- at least seven feet tall and filling the doorway completely. Its thundering snarls choke back in strange, hollow little giggles as its eyes glimmer ferally in the light.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Summon the Honor Guard!

The game is still crawling toward completion, especially now that I (seem to) have broken my addiction to FFXIV, huzzah! The text portions are nearly completed, and I'm now primarily crawling around in the guts and gears of this strange cyborg of mine trying to get things together and working properly. It's approaching completion!


And you know what that means? It's time to rouse the proofers! I'll have a semi-working prototype hopefully lurching around in the days to come, and I've sent an email to check in on my first and last line of defense against glitches, typos, and inexplicable catastrophic failure! If you're on my list, check your email! If you're not on my list, as ever, I encourage you to consider taking up a position in their brave ranks. You should have just a few days now to complete the initiation if you want to be sifting through the test version of v0.14 for me!

And if you're uncertain of your interest in the coming release, I've another little snippet of a preview ready...

A strange crackling behind you encourages you to throw your face to the dusty stones, craning your head around to spot the feline, his staff raised high and glowing-- no, not glowing, the tip is radiating a fearsome, blinding energy. He raises his spare paw, and the energy arcs suddenly to his open palm, creating-- lightning!