12/31/15

Critique my Writing

Since I'm taking a more "relaxed" approach to game development for now, I thought it would be a good time to improve some areas I might be weak in.  So I'd like feedback from anyone and everyone on about where you think my writing could improve.  I'd like to hear issues relating to characters, story, prose, or narrative that you have with any of my games.  Please leave them as comments down below (you do not need an account to leave a comment).

Only thing I ask is that your feedback is CONSTRUCTIVE.  This is not the place to vent your anger at me or my games.  That's what Steam reviews are for, it seems.

53 comments:

  1. In relation to the writing, I wish the games had more dialogue and narrative interactions with the environment around. I'm going to cover both points to full explain what I mean. Be aware, I have not yet played The Music Machine and A Wolf in Autumn, so some of the stuff I'm saying may not apply to them.

    Dialouge is always a strong tool in games for understanding of characters and the story. While a lot of your games that I have played usually involve only discovering after the events like Fingerbones or Moon Sliver so there may be only internal thoughts, I wish there was more dialouge to support both these narratives. If I remember correctly, both of those contained mostly note finding, which is fine of course, but does weaken narrative a bit. Even more internal dialogue of the characters could improve the narrative even if they are in a isolated situation. I don't remember a lot in either of the two games I mentioned, but I could be wrong since I have not played either game in a month or so. The Music Machine finished downloading as I write this now and I heard that has a fine example of dialouge helping the narrative, but will have to play it after I finish writing to be sure.

    Secondly, I wish the environment told more of the story or even if there was more objects to interact with that would give greater understanding to the narrative. I remember while playing fingerbones and opening the safe, feeling terror and interest seeing the bones laying there. It's such a powerful moment with that simple object and more moments like that could improve the writing. The ending of Moon Sliver as well when you see the monster also had a powerful narrative moment that made me scared, yet even more intrigued to the story after seeing. Moments like those of course require other forms of narrative building up to them, but I feel if several were placed in the game even as simple as leaving a flashlight in a place a previous character was is a powerful narrative device. So as I say, it's not that you don't already use this as a strong narrative device, I just wish to see more of it to make your games that much more memorable.

    Hopefully, I provided something useful for you to think about and remember it is my personal opinion. I've never developed a game before, nor written a complete story, but this is what I've experienced in other games that really stand out for strong narrative. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Your games are literal masterpieces and with every new release it's incredible seeing your work improve. I wish you luck on all your projects and have a happy new year.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! I'd like to hear what you think of The Music Machine and A Wolf in Autumn, since I actually tried to do a lot more with both dialogue and environmental storytelling in both :)

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  2. Hello Jefequeso. I just finished The Moon Sliver, and I'm gonna go right ahead and disagree with many others. The writing is really good. I think the problem might be that some people are impatient and others lack the guidance common in games today. I interpreted the goal of the game as for me to piece together a puzzle to figure out what had happened. That, to me, implies I need to piece together the parts in a certain order, just as one would the pieces of a puzzle in specific places. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out the most probable chronology of the prior events and the more time I spent doing that the more unnerving the story became. In my opinion there are plenty of insinuations of happenings that make the story even deeper, once you figure out what happened and in what order. On the subject of characters, I thought that you gave plenty of hints as to their respective traits and painted a pretty good picture of them as individuals all through the game. While I don't want to spoil anything here, I could give you a more detailed account of it in private (via email if you like). I will also pass the game by my girlfriend (who writes) and ask her opinion. She would probably be able to give you more valuable feedback on the writing. Either way, if the problem with peoples' reactions lie with the above mentioned possible reasons, then it's not impossible that they simply didn't manage to piece together the story as you intended it. Then again, maybe they did, and I'm just reading more into it. Either way, people on Steam mention the game taking between 40 minutes and an hour to finish. I spent over two hours before I was done.

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    1. Yup, you nailed it. The idea was that piecing the story together and clearing up the order and way things happened (and why) was the real "gameplay." And exploring the mostly open island was the virtual interaction that led to that gameplay. I'd love to hear what your girlfriend thinks about the writing. Thanks for your own feedback :)

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  3. I just finished Fingerbones. I thought the narrative was the perfect length for the type of scares I believe you were going for And the atmosphere was appropriately creepy and the environment puzzles and passwords not too hard to figure out and also not super simple, was a good combination.

    It took me about half an hour to complete, which was what was suggested the time would be in the instructions. Again, the simple interface added to the tension since I can only interact one click at a time. Not having to focus on box puzzles or things like that really gave me the focus on what in the world is going on.

    High level of horror as the character writing the notes changes from start to finish. Don't want to write spoilers though I was rather unnerved by one of the implications of what he might have done, and I'm not referring to the final act.

    I don't think it was out of place since in this type of story though it just made me feel a bit squicked out.

    All in all I enjoyed the story and the game.

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  4. Hello!
    First of all, it's a pleasure to see how much you've grown as a game creator. I personally enjoyed A Wold In Autumn a lot and I can call it your first real game, because as I think, all waht you did before was more of testing grounds which is also fine, really.
    So, speaking about the topic, I've noticed that you are very interested or maybe even personally obsesses with family themes such as family dramas, conflicts, etc. Despite somehow interesting plot twists you present (such as one that Fingerbones has, it's raw and it's amazing) I consider this family themes pretty boring anf predictable (also, I can't speak for everyone, but I play games to escape from family matters, from my mother al all, so you know...). It looks like you are good at game writing and creating really creepy atmosphere with very basic elements of Unity engine, so, I strongly suggest you to move on with your creativity to something else, leave family and parent-child relations behind and create another kind of drama - there it a lot of untouched by the game developers themes, I may say, and stories about a child and a parent, well, it's becoming a cliche by now. I want to see more games from you, but to keep my attention you'll have to try something else.
    Allringt, next is visuals. I must admit I've been impressed with the way you used bright colors in A Wolf, though it might look weird for someone, I consider this choice of yours to be an outstanding art decision (how a little girl sees the world, am I right?). And sure, you should work more on the visuals and by that I mean experimenting. Don't be afraid to use some weird stuff, shapes and colors like you did in your latest work, because it maked your game special, this is what attract attention when there are tons of indie walking simulators out there, in Steam, on other sites, both free and not free.
    I'm not saying horror walking simulator is a bad choice for a short indie game, but, as I've said before, there are so many of them (most of them in a cheap and buggy crap), that it's very difficult to present your product, to make people pay attention. I'd sugget you to look at the games such as Stanley Parable, The Beginner's Guide, etc. Maybe some light humour would do the trick? Please, please, think outside the box more, according from what I've seen you can do that, just please leave this family-based plots if you can. The writing skill of yours itself is really good, but I have a feelight that you lack of technical skills.
    Use more of a custom sounds, more enviromentsl sounds in general, because it feels tunberably boring to walk in the game with no sounds, it's just bad, really bad, please remember. What I want to praise is a wolf's growlings in A Wolf - this one is such an amazing thing. Voice actor for gir's mother is also incredible. Yeah, VAs is also very important, so, please try to add as many voices as possible too.
    I wish you all the luck in your work and look forward to your new games! You can do it, man! ^___^

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    2. Odd that you say that, since I don't consider The Moon Sliver or The Music Machine to be about familial relationships at all. And in Fingerbones, the focus is more on the father's philosophical and psychological state, rather than his relationshiop with Katie. In fact the only game I've made that's really focused on the relationship between a parent and child is A Wolf in Autumn.

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  5. I played The Moon Sliver and A Wolf in Autumn today, and I hugely enjoyed the latter. If we're talking just about the writing and such, I would say that I only saw one way it could have been better in both titles (though this might have been a style choice). I often didn't know if what I was reading onscreen was a memory that the character was playing in their mind, a piece of narration pertaining directly to what was going on, or narration that was separate and just being conveyed to the player. I suppose I prefer a clearer line between these things so that I know what the character is going through. Even if I, as a person, have a lot going through my head at any given time--a mix of memories, imaginings, and what's physically going on around me--I always know which is which, so I feel like anyone controlling the character should know as well. One example would be the narrative at the end of A Wolf in Autumn, when the mother's babbling switches suddenly to a straight up story-style narration about the girl and her mother with nothing between them but a page flip. (The perspective also switches strangely between the two--the mother's drying her tears, then we're on Autumn and in her mind but not the mother's--but that might just be nitpicking.) Again, this might have been intentional, but in both games I felt a little disconnected from the character because of how unclear this was. I felt less effect from the story because I was sitting there trying to guess what I was reading.

    I really look forward to playing your other (and future) games!

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    1. In some cases it was intentional, but I definitely get what you're saying. It's not always good for the player to be trying to figure out what's going on. Especially during climactic points in the story.

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  6. I have played sliver, music machine, and a wolf in autumn. Excellent writing in each, with each its own unique mark, with a specific improvement in a wolf in autumn. In AWIA, The mother and daughter relationship and the psychological impression left on autumn that is revealed progressively is easily one of the most intriguing development of characters I've played in the genre. It is very difficult to find anything to criticize in this game....The only thing I can think of in the way of improvement is finding a way to connect the wolf IN autumn as more of a psychological ominous and present danger in the mind of the user. This area was a definite improvement from the other games, but I think it can be done even better. I've played Autumn more than the other games and find it to be an amazing experience! Thank you for the hard work!

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  7. After having played both The Music Machine and The Moon Sliver, the one thing that I really really want to commend you on is the use of subtle but effective horror in both these games. Most modern games are all about just smacking you in the face with blood and gore. (spoilers warning if you haven’t played them) Both these games effectively built up to the “horror moment” at the end. Honestly, I think the one at the end of the Moon Sliver was the better of the two. I have forced other people to play Moon Sliver just to experience that amazing two seconds at the end. It’s just so freaking effective. The ending of Music Machine was also good at its horror moment, but since it was more aggressive rather than passive, it didn’t work quite as well. In Music Machine I had a “tool” with which to defend myself. I felt empowered. In Moon Silver, I had nothing. . just that candle. I felt brittle, terrified, and alone. That was amazing stuff. Although, I must admit, when I came across the Music Machine for the first time and pressed one of those keys – well that was pretty horrible. I think I physically cringed.

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    1. Yeah, I think the ending to The Moon Sliver is the best I've done so far. Probably the part of the game I'm most proud of :)

      I don't think The Music Machine and A Wolf in Autumn did as well with their endings. Especially A Wolf in Autumn. Even I have to admit it was rushed and didn't offer much closure. Sometimes you write yourself into a corner :P

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  8. Hi, David! I've been fortunate enough to play The Moon Sliver, The Music Machine, A Wolf in Autumn, and Fingerbones over the past two weeks (in that same order). They're all fantastic little narrative titles and have left me plenty excited to see what you do next. That said, here's some of that feedback you've asked for:

    The Moon Sliver: Though the visual and audial presentation is not quite up to par with your later games, I feel that this is perhaps the strongest of all your games in establishing a mystery and a theme and bringing it to a conclusion that pays off in both regards without killing the mystique. Unfortunately, the gameplay was not so conducive toward telling a story; the mechanic of text fading in and out as you come into and out of certain "zones" turned the narrative into a bit of a scavenger hunt, the player always having to hunt for the next bit of story in arbitrary nooks and crannies. Later games did away with this issue entirely. No matter: The dry anonymity of the characters and the world they inhabit did well in establishing a sense of emotional desolation, anxiety, and existential crisis. Emotion was communicated without delving into the maudlin, and for that, I have nothing but positive things to say. That said...

    The Music Machine: In regard to presentation and gameplay, this is without a doubt the most elegant of all your narrative games so far. Audio and visuals were not only a joy to take in, but provided the necessary sense of location and atmosphere arguably absent in The Moon Sliver. Objects and areas of interest were easy to spot without the level design explicitly railroading players in their direction. Great balance of linear storytelling and open level exploration. Holding LMB to bring up the cursor and letting go to interact with/examine objects was awkward at first, but by the time the game ended, I was wondering to myself why other walking simulators and first-person puzzlers (including your later games!) don't use the same scheme. Too bad, then, that the story left me with such mixed feelings. In contrast with The Moon Sliver, I could see from the outset that there was gonna be a greater focus on character drama. This itself is not a problem—actually, I strongly believe that games could use a whole lot more of it. Yet as much as I admire the attempt, I couldn't help but find Haley and Quintin unnatural in their banter. The effort seemed genuine; the characters themselves did not. Please excuse the harsh choice of words, but to me, they came off as artificial, as if manufactured perfectly to touch upon obligatory moments of amusing levity and emotional solemnity. I didn't buy it. Both endings left me cold for different reasons: The downer ending for feeling like a rushed non-conclusion, the true ending for the overwhelming schmaltz. Another side note: Receiving the downer ending first and having to load back to pursue the true ending kills the tension and pacing; receiving the true ending first and loading back to experience the downer ending kills whatever impact it would otherwise have had. This is all a matter of preference, of course, but I don't feel that having two endings works all too well unless a game is designed from top to bottom with multiple routes in mind. Anyway, as far as the lore aspect goes, I feel like the game hit it out of the park. The use of religious mythology in games, books, and movies is all too often a lazy crutch for free intellectual brownie points, but in this case, it really brought a surreal otherworldly horror to the table. Props for that. Once again, you managed to explain things just enough to satisfy without neutering the sense of uncertainty. All harsh criticisms aside, if I had to recommend one game of yours to a friend or family member, this would certainly be the one. Yes, I feel mixed on the story; yes, I take rather strong issue with the endings; yes, this is nonetheless the Szymanski experience that left me feeling most satiated overall.

    [...]

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    1. Hi, thanks for the feedback! Could you be a little morespecific about the "schmaltz" of the true ending? Did you feel that its sentimentality wasn't earned? Or did you have issues more with the dialogue itself rather than what was being said?

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    2. Hmm... well, frustratingly enough, I have trouble pinning down exactly what bugged me so much. So much for feedback, eh? But lemme give it a shot.

      First off, I definitely think the issue is more with the execution than the sentimentality in and of itself. Though I personally find the entire idea of transcending or awakening (?) to a beautiful island with beautiful music more than a tad cheesy, other games (such as Gone Home and Dear Esther) did similar things with their endings and only slightly put me off.

      [SPOILERS]
      In Dear Esther's case, the dense ambiguity of the prose lessened the groan factor of turning into a bird and flying off the Hebridean coast; in Gone Home, the overblown melodrama was placed within the context of a teenage girl's private writings—the very definition of innate mawkishness.
      [SPOILER END]

      Maybe (and I really do just mean maybe) it was the act of engaging in mystical combat with otherworldly giraffe-angel-alien things that suddenly made things too literal for me, tainting everything afterward in a light I found too forward? I think I was expecting a climax and resolution more figurative than it ended up being. I guess that says more about my expectations than any fault of your writing. Still, what I appreciated so much about The Moon Sliver was its balance of simplicity and obscurity. I'm not sure if you'd agree with this assessment, but The Music Machine, by comparison, tended away from that cold ambiguity in favour of grander emotional theatrics; a "warmer" narrative of greater intimacy. There's such a risk of crossing the line into overblown gestures when your story hinges on building an emotional connection between the player and the fiction and the characters within. For me, The Music Machine crossed that line into the cliche. As I'm neither writer nor literary critic, I have difficulty putting my criticism into words here. Pinning down why I feel such negativity toward certain aspects of your story is even tougher. The one thing I recall taking issue with were the sheer amount of lines ending in a premature series of ellipses, a literary device that can enhance the drama in measured application but ended up exhausting me with its frequency.

      Apologies for not voicing myself clearly. As I mentioned, this sort of thing isn't exactly my strong suit. You honestly are a gem of a writer, something we need far more of in video games (where the quality of a story is often inexplicably measured in graphics). I'll keep my eyes on this post to see if you've asked for more specifics and what not. Take care.

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    3. Yeah, this is actually a rather frustrating issue, because it seems like everyone reacts differently and it's nearly impossible to get a general consensus on how much of X is too much. A lot of people complained that Fingerbones and The Moon Sliver were too vague, actually, and felt that the characters weren't given enough time to develop. So I was trying to solve that in The Music Machine by making it very character focused.

      I think I overwrote some interactions in The Music Machine, and I'm also not sure how I feel about the climax in hindsight. I thought by that after my last two games, people would be tired of climaxes without an actual tangible threat. Again, I got a lot of complaints about that. Maybe there was a better way to end it, I dunno. The more games I release the more I realize that writing is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of thing.

      I can understand feeling like some of the interactions were forced. Although I actually think there were worse examples in A Wolf in Autumn. Problem is I still haven't figured out how to communicate enough information to flesh out the story, without being so subtle that nobody understands it, while still keeping everything as natural and effortless as possible. I mean, there are parts in both The Music Machine and A Wolf in Autumn that I knew were awkward and forced even as I was writing them, but I just couldn't figure out a better way to get the information out there.

      And we're not just talking plot points, either. For instance, Haley and Quintin actually had to exhibit a RELATIONSHIP. A relationship that was tense, but had enough chemistry that you'd believe they were once friends with an intimate history, and you'd believe that their current relationship could go either way. So, while building the world and the greater cosmic story (which was already difficult), they also needed time to banter and show the player what their relationship was like. What's more, both of their (very different) individual personalities had to be developed, AT THE SAME TIME as their relationship and the greater conflict. And all of that had to be communicated through dialogue only. And it had to be as natural as possible, too. But still quirky enough to be memorable. But not so quirky that they turned into cartoons. And that's without even getting into problems of the actual gameplay flow and narrative structure and how said dialogue would fit in.

      I'm not saying I completely succeeded at this, I'm just saying that the task I laid out for myself was WAY more difficult than The Moon Sliver, where the characters didn't really need to be anything other than simple archetypes with just enough personality to compliment the mystery at hand.

      ...

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    4. ...


      You'd think I would have learned my lesson with A Wolf in Autumn. But no. It was both a character study of a damaged young girl and an examination of the complicated relationship between her and her mother, told as a surreal Lynch-inspired nightmare full of metaphors and symbolism, with stream of consciousness bookends. Because that's a GREAT way to appeal to a broad audience :P. So once again, you get some moments are are just kind of awkward. And a lot of parts that felt good while I was writing them, but don't work in hindsight (what was I thinking with the whole overlapping text and audio in the tunnel, again?). I think by that point I was so exhausted and frustrated that I was just throwing things at the wall and hoping they would stick. Or at least that people would see some value in the sum total of everything.

      I'm working on Dusk next, which is an FPS. So I can do pretty much anything I want with the story and it will be fine, because shooting things will still be fun. After that I don't know what I'm gonna do. I've certainly got plenty more ideas for stories. But I also need time to catch my breath, which is why I'm getting feedback from people and maybe identifying areas I can work on in the next narrative-driven game I make.

      So... yeah, sorry for the long rambling. And thanks once again for the feedback.

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    5. Back again. I just wanted to say thanks for the insightful response, and whatever you do, please don't cave into the opinions of others (including my own)! There's nothing wrong with seeking advice, but your work will always be at its strongest—warts and all—when you make what you want to make without compromise. There are chances you took with The Music Machine that appealed to others but left me cold, and others you took with A Wolf in Autumn and The Moon Sliver, seemingly considered your "lesser" titles, that I loved and others cared little for; this sort of thing, in my opinion, should have little bearing on how you go about making your art. Integrity goes a long way; you wouldn't be half the artist you are now without it. Best of wishes in your future endeavors, friend.

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    6. Yeah, I figure I just do stuff the way I like, and hopefully there are other people who like it too. But, you know... it's still good to get feedback. Like if everyone complains about the same thing, maybe it's worth reconsidering :)

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  9. [Continued...]

    A Wolf in Autumn: The game of yours I feel most conflicted about. On one hand, you have an awkward experiment in first-person puzzle gaming marred by performance issues, shoddy world geometry, and a story that ends before it starts. On the other, you have gorgeous art direction, an intense voice performance by the apparently fantastic Julie Hoverson, and the criminally-underrated benefit of ambition. What little story there is works, especially the stark, repetitious run-on text monologues. This is a game I appreciated more than I enjoyed. That, however, is nothing to scoff at.

    Fingerbones: An unnerving exercise in interactive short fiction. The gameplay did nothing for me (running back and forth from room to computer got old quick) and maybe even managed some considerable damage to the story's pacing, but being put in the shoes of someone of utmost reprehensibility made me uncomfortable in a way no game since Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has. Where your other games somewhat suffer from their brevity (The Music Machine has enough interesting things going on to be about twice as long, I think), this one's 15-minute length felt perfect for the story being told. Plus, you can't argue with that price...

    I'm sorry this came out as more of an opinion dump than the feedback-offering I had initially planned, but I hope it's of some help anyway. You're a wonderful writer and game developer and I can't wait to see whatever more you have to offer. Feel free to message me at http://steamcommunity.com/id/corpeenliveswithinhimself/, if you so desire. I'll check here regularly to see if you've responded, too. Keep up the great work!

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  10. I liked A Wolf in Autumn. It was a well told story, but it almost seemed like you NEEDED the walkthrough to be able to figure out some things (ex. finding the wrench to tighten the metal pole to get into the dog room/figuring out the position of the valves to get into the basement; was difficult for me at least). I enjoyed the subtle ways of showing that we only had one arm. Another issue (for me) was when the mother was speaking to us about working her life away to give us everything she didn't have, there were similar subtitles. I wasn't sure if it was 100% what the mom was saying or if it was something slightly different, not a big issue but I was confused about that as well. I also lost my scissors in the grass a few times. I think there should be an option for very very slight "object glow" to find things in the dark just a bit better and easier to find.

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  11. I am a huge fan of all your work. I love the gameplay, I love the stories, and I love the soundtracks. I know you're taking your developing easy now, but one day I look forward to even greater stories, and more in depth gameplay. I know that this is supposed to be a blog page for criticisms, but there are none of those here.

    Keep up the excellent work, I look forward to playing more games that you have developed!
    ~Your Loyal Player,
    Gavin F. (Nekotaku)

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  12. Just finished The Moon Sliver.. I'm in absolute awe of what you have accomplished in narrative with this game. Truth be told.. And I feel kind of terrible for this, but the graphics in the beginning had me thinking nothing much of it, but as I walked around the map and pieced together the story it just touched me.. With so few words painting an entire lifetime in such a short length I really can't say how much I appreciate this work. And I am not a person who likes to read! But with that being said I felt like at least with The Moon Sliver, that there may have been some missed opportunity in a few places. Not plot holes per-se, just opportunities for more narrative, but I understand it would be kind of a pain to read every 5 steps of the map though I did quite enjoy the ending (wow once I got to the end and read the last line it was unnerving..).

    Other than that, I can't complain. I felt like I received so much more than my money's worth with this game. This is more of a thank you than a critique, but thank you anyway.

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    1. Thanks very much! If you plan on playing The Music Machine and/or A Wolf in Autumn, I'm interested to hear whether or not you feel they improve in the area you mention.

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  13. I played Fingerbones a while ago, and just now completed A Wolf in Autumn. Fingerbones is short and effective. The narrative for A Wolf in Autumn is fine. The written page in the cellar seems a bit of a media break since there is no other writing in the game, and maybe it wasn't really necessary. From a mechanical perspective, having an object in hand usually prevents me from examining objects: while the usual response I get from interacting with an object empty-handed is something I should also be able to learn with a tool in hand, all I get is "that is not useful here", and that is both useless and breaking immersion. A way to do this differently might be to display the regular description, but provide an audio cue that an attempted action failed? The descriptions of the objects are narrated through the mind of the protagonist, and while you're doing this in places, you're missing out if you replace that with these mechanical messages once I have an object in hand. Be that as it may, the writing is good enough to bring the narrative across well and to provide good cues to players about their objectives.

    I'm looking forward to playing your future games!

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    1. Hmm, yeah that does seem like a bit of an oversight. The idea was to drive home the vulnerability of your character only having one hand in that situation. So annoyances associated with only being able to carry one item at a time were intentional. However, there really isn't any logical reason why the player shouldn't have been able to examine the environment regardless of whether or not they're carrying an item. I was trying to keep the control scheme as minimalist as possible. But I probably should have just had a dedicated examine button instead of using left mouse for examine AND interact.

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  14. Of the four games of yours I've played, The Moon Sliver was the strongest. The small size of the game world and the graphical look perfectly fit the setting and circumstances of the story. The lack of other characters to interact with was a source of tension because you didn't know who you were playing as until the end. The almost storybook simplicity of the narrative belied its profound themes. And the ending left you considering not just the final moments but what the story had to say about human nature. Every aspect of the game just worked.

    That's not to say I'm putting down your other games. Fingerbones is a great short horror story. A Wolf in Autumn is almost a feeling state captured in interactive form, which is fascinating. And The Music Machine feels like a culmination of your earlier games in many ways.

    But I think what makes The Moon Sliver work so well are its clear narrative (once you've mentally shuffled everything into the correct order), compelling concept/setting, and its fundamentally human themes. I enjoyed and puzzled over A Wolf in Autumn and The Music Machine, but the experience that hit me hardest was arguably the least abstract.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. You've earned a fan.

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    1. Thanks! Interesting that you say that, because I've wondered if A Wolf in Autumn and The Music Machine ended up too complex for their own good, compared with The Moon Sliver.

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  15. You're easily one of my favorite new indie developers, mainly because I think you put a lot of heart into your games, and really care about what you do. But there's one thing that bugged me. I wish that your games had a "sprint" option. I recently played The Moon Sliver, and the part in the basement maze, while quite frightening, was incredibly slow, almost to the point of being painful. Other than that, I loved the game. I played A Wolf in Autumn, too, and loved it, but I forget if there was a sprint option there. I know you wanted constructive feedback on your writing, but I figured this was as good a time as any for my to relate my opinion.
    Thanks for hearing me out, and thanks for making such great games.

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    1. Thanks very much! There's a sprint button in both A Wolf in Autumn and The Music Machine :)

      That will probably be a feature in every game I release from now on, unless I have a good reason.

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  17. First off, I want to thank you for creating such immersive and thoughtful games. You've earned a loyal fan. I have yet to finish The Music Machine, but I've waited far too long to write this, so here goes.
    As others have mentioned, your story telling is on point. You've made reading notes and exploring feel like a joy rather than a chore, it is obvious that you carefully craft your stories. With each game released there was something new to look forward to; Fingerbones was very minimalistic, it set a great foreboding tone and left me thinking about it for days. The Moon Sliver does the same, but improved upon what Fingerbones already accomplished. The game felt larger, more ambitious while still being linear. It's themes of religion and infidelity, along with the characters that we only know of through notes and memories, bring this story to life. A Wolf In Autumn, to me, seemed to combine elements of the previous three games but condense it into a game that is very reminiscent of Fingerbones. I wish I could speak of The Music Machine but I have yet to reach past the first ten minutes or so.
    I hope to find even more ambition in your future games, on a possibly larger scale. Combine the elements of story telling and this environmental gameplay into a larger adventure. If I find a new title released by you, just know that I won't hesitate to purchase it immediately.

    One last note, regarding The Moon Sliver. The Moon Sliver touches me in ways I don't know how to describe. It's so beautiful, so melancholy. It does a great job at projecting fear of damnation and loneliness, the feeling of hope and desire of a better life (or afterlife.) Two games often enter my mind, specifically their endings, and fill me with such spectrum of emotions, so many feelings I simply cannot describe with words. The first, is Silent Hill 2. I'm sure you need no explanation for why this is so. I will often think about the endings in my everyday life, the implications, every theme and every possible meaning and I cant help but let my tears flow. The second game, is The Moon Sliver. I'll go back to the last moments of the game, the music will play in my head, I'll imagine the last paragraphs, and I will cry because my mind is swept in it's beauty. Thank you, for giving me this to enjoy. Thank you for sharing your work with me and the rest of the world.

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    1. Wow, it's really great to hear that! Thanks very much :)

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    2. Any time! :) And I'd like to elaborate on A Wolf in Autumn briefly. I saw you wrote that people agree that it isn't your best, however I hope you don't think that it is a disappointment because it's the opposite. It reminded me of older adventure games with a horror element. I was at a buddy's house trying to figure out these small puzzles and a great feeling of curiosity as well as fear was building inside me. I don't really know why but when that first excerpt was given at the beginning It reminded me of The Scarlet Letter, I'm not sure if this was any inspiration to the game, but I just thought I'd throw that in there! I really hope you don't think you did something wrong with A Wolf in Autumn because that simply isn't the case! At least, that's what I believe! :)

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    3. It was actually inspired by Faulkner's writings, specifically The Sound and The Fury. But I do enjoy Hawthorn as well :)

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    4. I'm sorry if i'm dragging this post out, but I'd just like to say that my brother found Fingerbones about a year back, introducing me to your games. We played it together and both felt just as uneasy. My brother was controlling it and towards the end started to close his eyes and didn't want to walk through the final hallway. Now, keep in mid that he doesn't freak out much and he doesn't get interested in most horror games. He told me that Fingerbones scared him more than anything had in recent memory, especially for it's duration and linearity. He loved it, I just wanted you to know! Thanks again for replying to me! :)

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    5. Awesome! Thanks for letting me know :)

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  18. Here is a positive review from me. I have just finished 'Wolf in Autumn' and since you are asking for feedback about writing, I want to say that the script was breathtaking and actually my favourite part of the game. Most important thing to say is that I am not that kind of a person who would search for good script in games, I go there for action usually because I have books to read and as for games - they inspire me in a different way. So, here I was actually taken and even had a desire to write all the words down. I don't think that you should change anything.
    Though, actually if to think of it, I can say that I have to re-read a few times the comment about chipmunk parts and dog attacking unprovoked. I still didn't quite get the meaning, would be nice if it is elaborated. Actually I liked that there were comments almost about every object in the game, very sweet, thanks for that.
    About the whole game, my second favourite part is music and sonuds though it usually presides but your writing managed to win me over :) It adds a great depth to the game and makes it more ominous, yes, this word exactly. The atmosphere is also great, lets you relive the lives of mother and daughter. I myself is interested in such kinds of relationships between parents and children for my own project, that's why I chose to play your game. Would love to know more details about Autumn's story though. It's still great but great things always leave me crave for more.

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    1. A lot of people seem to agree that A Wolf in Autumn isn't my best game, but I still think it has some really cool elements. Glad to hear you liked it :)

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  19. Hi. I've been following your stuff and was actually pleasantly surprised to see you request constructive criticism. I've sort of used your games to practice writing reviews. It seems only fair that because I want to get better at reviewing, that I offer my two cents and see if I can help you.

    I've read through quite a bit of what's already been written here and I have this to say: I'm glad to see you genuinely react to criticism, however I don't necessarily think that you're "damned if you do, damned if you don't". Yes, you'll never be able to satisfy everyone and that's good to get a grasp on, but there are things that can be done to avoid some of the pitfalls you may have found yourself subject to.

    I've held in my reactions to your games that there's a disconnect between the writing, the setting and the game mechanics at one point or another. I happen to think that The Moon Sliver is your best story overall, The Music Machine has the best setting, and A Wolf in Autumn is a clear attempt to blend the two strengths. (I haven't played fingerbones yet, but i plan on it.) I think your writing hits snags in two situations: when you write outside of your experience and when the game's set-up interferes with the narrative. What I mean by that is this: Oftentimes, when you're writing female characters you go too far in describing their physical experiences. This is very difficult to do as a man and still come up with something that feels realistic. That isn't to say it's impossible, just that I would find a way to focus on the perspective you're writing from as you do it. Let me put it to you this way, lest you think I'm just insulting your ability to write women: A Wolf in Autumn came very close to doing this very, very well. Your exploration of Autumn's mother was very abstract and, therefore, intriguing. If you had let her character remain ambiguous while still abusive (something you did accomplish for awhile) it would've been an amazing piece that challenges the player to cope with the fact that she's hurtful but she's still human. Your writing at the beginning and the end of the game was pretty strong. I think integrating it to the game weakened it a little. Personally, I found some of the reveals as too jarring to maintain the subtle unnerving atmosphere I think you were going for.

    I also want to say I hope my viewpoints don't come off as negative or antagonistic. I only share all this because I see something in there, a great potential. You obviously care about the stories you craft and the settings you put them in. You just need to polish your skills and continue being open to criticism and I think you'll produce something quite unique and interesting. I think structurally you're well-versed in writing. You also seem good at making interesting game environments. Just stay sharp and maybe even consider an editor to help suss out small problems and you'll likely do just fine.

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    1. Hi, thanks for the feedback. Not quite sure what you specifically mean by "when you're writing female characters you go too far in describing their physical experiences." Could you explain that a little more for me?

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  20. I have played Moon Sliver and I enjoyed it. I liked the pacing and how the story unraveled, and I actually re-walked through parts of the game to see if I missed anything and how the story would have felt if I had taken another path. My only idea ( just a thought that may or may not work) would be to think of ways of incorporating any Easter eggs or special details or any other surprises in the game itself. One of the things I enjoyed most about the game was the back story- details like the seeds, the underwater buildings, etc. I wanted to know more about that world and how it came to be that way (maybe another game). I know not everyone is into longer stories but maybe there is a way to make the detailing optional... Perhaps my idea doesn't work for your vision (I'm not a game developer) but I thought I would mention that besides an interesting story that's one of the other things I enjoy about some of my favorite games- the surprises, Easter eggs. and details. Thank you.

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    1. Yeah, I agree with you.

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  21. I like your game the moon silver ut on long time now need update because game must offer more than now.

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  22. I think game the moon silver have old graphics but on engine unity are good graphics, example: stranded deep. Maybe game must have new better graphics for new players.

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  23. Hi, what with your old games - are dead, what with updates in your old games?.

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  24. Your the best game it the moon silver. I think game the moon silver need update, why?, because story is too short, need better graphics, world is too small. I know maybe you say game is too old on new update but it good gift for all players with the moon silver.

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  25. The moon silver must be game with story and survival elements because now is not very good but no very bad. Thanks for your hard work and waiting on more.

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  26. Hi David!

    So far I have just played Fingerbones and A Wolf in Autumn. I found them so thought-provoking that I ended up buying The Moon Silver and The Music Machine.

    I want to play those games as well in order to give you a proper feedback. Nonetheless, I was wondering if you were aware of the existence of this blog:

    https://shellgamesblog.com/

    The author reviews your games thoroughly (I must point out that I didn't read the four posts to avoid spoilers) and, though the conclusions seem a bit harsh to me, I found some of the ideas about gender and sexuallity in your games very interesting.

    I would love to know what is your point of view regarding those critiques.

    I will write to you again once I finished the other games. Thank you for your hard work.

    P.S. The atmospheres you create and the soundtracks are absolutely stunning.

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