Re: Re: Absurd Chain

Last weekend i spent most of the time trying to write a game for the narrative-driven jam #13. I only had two or three days because i assumed that the next narrative-driven jam would be between August and September, and only saw it already in progress by chance.

It was clear that i would not be able to write a small adventure game in just a weekend. Also, i think i am a little burnt out in the art department, because i have not touched a tablet since i have finished Pepper&Carrot: The Wizard a couple of weeks before, going back to paper and pencil for awhile.

The theme this time was text message, and that reminded me of an idea i had three year ago or so, after we released My Little Roguelike and started coming up new ideas for games. The idea was a simple digital version of the cadavre exquis in the form of SMS or email.

Cadavre exquis, French for exquisite corpse, is a method by which a collection of words is collectively assembled in sequence, with only being able to see what the previous person contributed. My idea was some kind of Words with Friends (“Exquisite corpse with Friends”? I do not think this title would work), where a group of friends would collaboratively write a short story by sending SMS or email messages to a ephemeral mailing list, everyone would take turns to write their part, but could only see the part from the last person, therefore composing text without the full context. I assumed the resulting stories would be a terribly absurd, but also very funny to read afterwards.

This was one of the many ideas we rejected at the time, and i thought this would be the perfect chance to try it out, as a prototype or experiment. I also did not like the idea of missing a narrative-driven jam just because i am an idiot….

Screenshot of Re: Re: Absurd Chain
Writing a story part in Re: Re: Absurd Chain.

I have not enjoyed any part of developing this game.

Maybe it is because i used the wrong tool for the job: Even though i knew that i had to use HTTP for the game, as it was a multiplayer game that i intended to be playable in the browser, i wrote the client it in Haxe and Heaps. I chose Heaps because i wanted the interface to be playful and a bit wacky, with wobbly effects all around and letters being thrown away when deleting them. I do not know how to do that with HTML5.

The problem is that Heaps does not provide almost any help for writing user interfaces: It has a TextInput class for simple input, but no buttons, or lists, or any of the widgets that are staple in UI libraries. Also, TextInput can not work with smartphones in JavaScript, because it has no way to open the phone’s virtual keyboard. In other words, i had to spend hours to manually draw a smartphone-inspired user interface that can not work with actual smartphones.

There are Haxe libraries for writing user interfaces, but i have never used them before, did not know how easy it would be to add the effects i had in mind, and i was a bit pressed for time.

I wrote the server back-end in Go. In this case, i think it was the tool for the job, and i had not much trouble during development, but writing such code is already what i do for a living, so it was not very interesting to do the exact same thing i do almost every day. Felt like i was at work.

The worst is that, at the end, i did not like the game. It does what i wanted it to do, and its interface does the job, although it is not as amusing as i imagined it would be — at least is not a boring HTML form —, but i had no fun when testing it. I hope it is only because i had nobody else to test it with, and i had to write short stories part by part, waiting for the game to tell me it was “my” turn on a different browser session. This gets old very fast.

In any case, i took part in the narrative-driven jam, which is what i really wanted, and now i do not have to wonder anymore whether that game was a good idea or not. I was not.