Alphas and Iotas WIP (updated 7/08/19)

Updated 7/8/19 (New build - new opening sequence)
Substantial changes if you try the new opening. A little more info if you use the old one.

Hello, I’ve been reading these things for a long while and meaning to write one of them for almost as long. Now having finally gotten something far enough along to present I give you…

Alphas and Iotas.

Humanity is lost. You’re quite dead yourself. So is the universe, but a funny thing happened on the way to extinction. Mankind uploaded its best and brightest, storing their minds in the computational framework of a generational ship which is basically a Dyson sphere constructed around an artificial star, hiding in a higher dimension to avoid the death of the universe. Now the best and brightest are being awakened to do something about the whole extinction thing.

I have no idea how close I am to being done, other than not very. I suspect bad coding on my part has quite skewed the word count I’m getting, but I’m guessing about 20k for a playthrough in the demo which at the moment is introductory stuff, character creation, and a taste of my writing style and world building.

There’s way more world building and background info on the setting viewable through the stats page.

To play the demo, go here: https://dashingdon.com/play/justhefax/alphas-and-iotas/mygame/

Features:

  • Sci-Fi in a very distant future
  • Rich history for that very distant future
  • Customizable main character (and recustomizable… eventually)
  • Partly randomized side characters
  • Around 7 romanceable characters (see post 10 for more info)
    • Mamadou Aoki - Premier of Oceanic Republic
    • Mercedes Skorupski - mid-transit era Captain
    • Abraham Carvajal - Deathwatch Transit era Chief Engineer
    • Penelope Zaboul - Bio-tech Professor during Post Transit Renaissance
    • Jibril Rosenthal - Chief in Post Nomad Era
    • Esther Farid - PhDM in Post Nomad Era
    • Taylor Alcantara - Professor in Post Nomad Era
  • Dialogue heavy with focus on character interaction
    • Update basic views of MC toward characters determined by your choice (Not all dialogue has been updated to reflect this)
  • Lots of meditations on the nature of humanity and/or AI
    • Introduced Hamid Gustafson: new AI on the Labrador

Any and all thoughts are appreciated. I hope to update this on at least a monthly basis.

Update #1
  • Added very first part of chapter 2
  • Added one last name (Udoh)
  • Last name choice now has small impact on stats (very small) family description should indicate what profession the families are affiliated with.
  • Improved recognition of gender change selection in subsequent dialogue.
  • Added two choices to chapter 1 fleshing out relationship with colleagues
  • You can now actively loathe or at least cordially disrespect colleagues
  • Small additions/changes to background information
  • Fixed erroneous description of the number 29 Quintillion
  • Miscellaneous typos
  • This close to getting out of that room
Update #2
  • Finally out of that room
  • Added new stats to reflect MC’s views on economics and governance
  • Extended discussion on status of the Beagle
  • Introduced a few legendary figures that mostly won’t interact with your character much
  • Discussed the future evolution of basketball
  • Introduced the future home of the humanity
  • Added chance to define romantic preference(still no actual romance)
  • Miscellaneous typos (hopefully fixed, possibly created)
Update #3
  • Added new opening sequence accessible via the first choice after selecting era of origin(old opening still accessible)
  • Realized I should probably consider introducing the romanceable characters earlier
  • On a related note have introduced romanceable characters(still can’t actually romance them)
  • In new opening, the old opening is shown via flashbacks
  • Introduced annoying roommate for MC
  • Changed naming system for non-Beagle vessels. All are now named after dogs
  • Introduced the Labrador and its AI
  • Introduced ability to learn specific skills, which may eventually be important
  • Added very pointless rock, paper, scissors minigame as alternative to page breaks
  • Still don’t have this page break structure down
65 Likes

O-OoH! We get to be AI? Romance an AI? Or romance a human? Count me in!

1 Like

Im sure the whole Humanity will get extinct when I play this lel

Ah destroying humanity, long time hobby of humanity.

The goal is largely to unextinct humanity, how you manage that and whether the resultant people are in any way similar to the nice folks here on earth, for that matter whether they’d really count as human anymore… Well that’s sort of the point of the exercise.

The game has a very interesting concept, and it’s clear that a lot of effort was poured into worldbuilding.
However, it has some issues:

  1. Large walls of text without page breaks or choices.
    a) This would be fine in a regular book, but not, say, on a smartphone screen - it will take forewer to scroll and looks overwhelming to a new reader.
    b) This fiction is supposed to be interactive, but there are little possibilities for interaction and player’s choices compared to all the massive text.
  2. Confusing dialogs with little player’s input.
    a) MC enters a room with people and is immediately bombarded with lines of dialoge, mostly consisting of names the character should know, but the reader doesn’t.
    b) The player can only choose a reply for the player character, how many, 2 times? So that scene consists mostly of other people arguing and the main character speaking without player’s decision.
    c) Half of the time it’s unclear who is speaking to whom. Very confusing.
  3. There is too much and too little exposition at the same time. It becomes very difficult to relate to the main character and understand the world.

I should explain the last point. There is a lot of information about the world and characters in the demo, but it is not delivered to the player effectively. And the player has to make desisions based on the information the character knows, but the player doesn’t.
For example, “choose your era” choice.

  • The text of the options tells nothing to the first-time reader about the eras themselves, besides years and name of the era.
  • Choosing an option does provide you with some interesting, if hard to understand, text, and I liked this “the summary says one thing, but I remember my era differently” bit.
  • But it doen’t have the choice between “Yes, that’s my era” and “Let me review other eras”, so it is hard to piece together the sequence of events and meanings of different eras relative to each other, and you need to restart the game to choose a new era.
  • The player might try to read the history option in stats, but it is not very helpful for choosing an era. Because it is a list of “person A became a captain”, and “person B organised a rebellion against an organisation C” , and “Technology D was installed”. The list is long and not clearly separated by eras.
  • Long story short, a new reader needs a few restarts, a full look at history, notable figures and glossary to even make a first significant choice in the game!
  • And it continues, so instead of enjoying an interesting story in a cool sci-fi world I went “Wait, what does this technology do and why it was installed on Beagle?”, “Wait, your last name associates you with notable historical figures? Who is ‘that’ Zonneveld, again?”, “Why don’t you do teleportation anymore?”, “Who are you? Who am I, at this point?”
    The worldbuilding looks very interesting and unique - but also very confusing and hard to get into. Hope you continue to develop your story.
8 Likes

First, I wanted to thank you for reading and your detailed post. I agree with nearly all of your points.
There’s no shortage of issues I have with the demo. However I didn’t want to load up my first post with so many critiques of my own work. Many of which you’ve hit on.

One of the reasons I tried to load this thing up with excessive worldbuilding is that I like being thrown into the deep end of a world and figuring things out. I was particularly thinking of Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series where because of an unspecified historic cataclysm none of his characters have heard of anybody we’ve ever heard of but there’s still a vibrant history within the universe that McDevitt feels no compunction about casually throwing into his writing entirely fictional historical characters. Which I will grant you is easier to get away with in a full novel than Interactive Fiction.

As I’ve just thrown out a very long sentence as part of a wall of text I’ll just say that verbosity is part of my writing style. I have disputed exactly what qualifies as a complete thought as it pertains to sentence structure with nearly every English teacher from fourth grade onward, a Math professor, and a few Law professors. We have all agreed to disagree.

I am very interested in reforming the demo. The excessively weird character creation system bugs me all the time, but at the time it felt more organic than the systems I’m used to seeing in CoG and Hosted Games. I don’t like the attributes I’m using, but because of the artificial nature of the characters adding some of the usual options like speed or strength wouldn’t have made any sense. If anybody has better suggestions for my attributes than the leadership - technology - charisma - ingenuity quartet I’m very open to it.

I am interested in adding another choice or two to the introductory section, but one of the reasons you may feel like there’s a lack of interactivity is intentional. Your character is new here, only has a handful of people to interact with, and feels annoyed and helpless with the whole situation. Another reason is obviously that I’m new to this writing format and still doing a lot of learning as part of the process.

Apologies for the length. Again thanks for reading and the feedback, I do tend to go on once I start writing.

3 Likes

Small update, described in first post. Most importantly I corrected an erroneous description of the number 29 Quintillion. Also a few new choices and the very first part of chapter two.

Thanks to everybody who has read and if you only clicked through once feel free to take another look, there are 12 significantly different versions of your meeting with your first two colleagues thanks to the magic of random numbers. I’m not happy with them all, but there are 12 of them.

5 Likes

Small update described in first post.

A small list of things currently bothering me with this project.(feel free to ignore - writing this out helps me, don’t know that it would be interesting to you)

  • I mention it at the very end of the demo, but wow there’s no action, hardly any drama, and a lot of exposition. I can explain why that’s the case and it’s convincing to me, but I don’t know if a reader would feel the same way.
    • The MC was woken up before there’s really anything to do (other than playing chess and watching movies) and frankly I enjoy world building as much or more than constructing the stories that inhabit the worlds themselves which is a problem with my writing.
    • I want this to be unlike your typical sci-fi or post-apocalyptic story. What always happens at the beginning of those is that you have something interesting and exciting to do. It seems to me that the more likely scenario for what I’ve described is that your character would spend most of his/her time complaining and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
  • I really do throw a lot of lore at you with little to no warning, heck I just introduced 2 fictional sports(4 if you count flytoss and elasti-jousting - slamball is real) and gave you a choice to make about them with literally no information available. (Need to provide more context on that, it changes stats)
  • Because of the dialogue heavy style I tend to have long chunks between choices, which I’m getting less excited about but I feel it would really bother me to have choices for every line of MC dialogue and I tend not to see a lot of spaces to insert new choices.
  • The new section doesn’t feature much involvement of your attitudes towards your colleagues mostly because there still isn’t much one-on-one interaction with anybody.

I’m sure there’s more that’s bothering me, but in any case thanks for reading.

I appreciate any feedback and/or questions, being challenged on these things helps me reexamine the setting, the universe, the characters, and whatever else I may have overlooked.

6 Likes

That’s good, now you can add even more choices!
Dialogs are still confusing because of lack of indication who says what. It may be clear to you, the author, who is speaking at the moment, but not always to the reader.

Well, you have 12 introduction scenes thanks to the magic of random numbers. If you apply the same creativity to writing more choices, it could work. Readers of interactive fiction usually like interactivity and dislike when thoughts and actions are assigned to the character without their input.

Need more options

For example:

  • 'Lovely,' you thought, 'my cyber nanny is lazy.' Hardly reassuring.This reply could be a choice. What if the player doesn’t consider the computer lazy and instead agrees with minimizing strain on our computational resources?
  • The place where someone calls the engineer MC a glorified electrician - there should be more options to answer than one!
  • After you meet holografic Dr Tonde MC is asked How did you feel about this legendary figure being alive and possibly running things?, and there are 2 options for an answer, one positive, other is `#I have seen enough films about AI run amok to be mildly terrified by this whole thing. And there is no option for “Dr Tonde seems to like the idea of herself being worshipped as a mother goddess too much”.

Also, there are a few places where effects of choices are strange:

Why?
  • We're also back. But who or whatever brought us back doesn't feel the need to immediately inform us of what's going on. MC has two options which are very similar, but only one gives
    scifavor + 1.
  • Policician MC can say #I did terrible things to get elected and it gives them scifavor + 1 for some reason? The MC from one era shouldered all the scientific work on another person.

Strange MC’s reactions:

Readers might not agree with these
  • If MC changes gender and is suggested to adopt new name:A new name? It had never really occurred to you. Why hasn’t it occurred to MC? What if a trans player who changed their name reads this?
  • At some point, the game says that people on Beagle live inside a sphere, and it’s unnatural. But it shouldn’t be unnatural to MC, since they presumably spent their whole life like that. To them, living on a planet surface will be strange.

Good, let the readers enjoy that, too. But there are some problems with how worldbuilding is introduced.

The lore confusion:
  • It would be nice to change the era selection sequence a little. It currently goes like this: the choice, short era description, MC looking for their name, instead getting expanded era description with MC’s comments. If you add an option to either select this era, or go back to the are list, it would be less confusing for a reader to understand the history of this place. I suggest something like this: the choice, short era description, Yes, this is my era/Return to era selection choice, MC looking for their name (is chose that era), instead getting expanded era description with MC’s comments.
  • A Brief History of the Beagle and Notable Figures need some reorganizing. Given how lore- and name-heavy the game gets, a new reader will spend a lot of time switching between those sections. But we can’t do that directly, we need to return ti the game, show stats, choose another section. It would be good to have the navigation menu available after each section, not just after crew list, so we could switch directly.
  • Notable figures name order: looks chronological now. It makes sense for you, the author, because you know who lived in which time period, but not always for the reader. Consider someone seeing an unfamiliar name in the game, going to the people list, getting confused by name’s order, trying to use search function, returning to the game to read the name again, going to the list, typing/copying the name, finding the name, going to history section to pin down the era… Maybe you could arrange the list in alphabetical order.
  • A Brief History of the Beagle is reach on names and years, but poor on explanation, it makes it harder to read. 2352 CE - Ryuichi Kimura is elected to the Satsuma Tribunate on a platform of returning the Beagle to the rest of humanity in the Prime Dimension. So, did the Beagle get isolated from the rest of humanity until the Martian transit? Why? What’s Satsuma Tribunate, a part of civilian government? After being disqualified from a second campaign for the Tribunate Kimura launches a rebellion against the corrupt establishment marching in lockstep to the dreams of a dead woman. Who’s the dead woman? Who is marching in lockstep to her dream, rebellion leader, or establishment? How does getting isolated benefit the corrupt establishment?

Another likely scenario is that there is something to do. The Beagle is ancient. What if something is broken, and MC needs to fix it/organize people to prevent panic? What if someone is glitching, because their file got corrupted over time, and MC needs to help them? What if leaving T-space for new universe didn’t go as planned?
The exiting events and movie/game night could take turns. Introduction - something happens, tension builds - the problem is resolved - breather moment with games/movies - new problem arises.
Anyway, wish you luck and inspiration!

1 Like

Hello, sorry to not have a new build to share, but that’s mostly because I’ve been distracted by things further along in the plot. Somewhat because I’ve been distracted by the Women’s World Cup… and Copa America… and the Gold Cup.

So what I lack in tangible progress I’ll make up for by sharing the historical record’s view of your seven romance interests. The romances are likely a bit different from what you’d be used to as most characters on the Beagle were downloaded at 100-120 years old and with very few exceptions their significant others didn’t come along.

Mamadou Aoki was Premier of the Oceanic Republic of Pacifica roughly 300 years before the fourth transit. After a long career in the nation’s environmental agency he was first elected during a wave of bureaucrat and technocrat leadership following a series of bribery scandals.

Mercedes Skorupski was the Captain during the 26th Transit and the only of these characters to be from a great family. Had very high marks for tactical proficiency and leadership. Author of a bestselling reimagining of Sun Tzu and a very popular memoir.

Abraham Carvajal was widely regarded as one of the most gifted technological minds of the era. He made marginal improvements in efficiency and the organizational structure of engineering.

Penelope Zaboul was an eminent Professor at Grand Doha and among the leading figures of the Third Post-Transit Renaissance. Zaboul was the preeminent mind in biotech of her era. She had a great impact on the era’s attitude towards tech enhanced biology.

Jibril Rosenthal - Esther Farid - Taylor Alcantara - The other three members of the DBS class of Captain Charles Duckworth. (The character you interact with most from this group is determined by your romantic preference. Jibril if preferring men. Esther if preferring women. Taylor if flexible. A random selection from the three will be in your group if the MC is not romantically inclined.)
That was longer than I meant it to be, sorry about that.

4 Likes

Hello all, this time I have an updated build.

Most important and most obvious update is an option to start aboard the Labrador (an ice hauling vessel meant to capture comets for their water) that you’ll eventually have a hand in building. While you can still use the old opening it is connected with less new content.

Introduced the romanceable characters and the chance to play rock, paper, scissors with Carvajal.

Most of the old opening sequence has been coopted for the purposes of the new one which can make things a little awkward and I’d like to change the character creation stuff to make it a better fit for the Labrador opening.

As ever thanks for reading, it is appreciated. Equally as ever apologies for the walls of text, poorly spaced page breaks, and grammar that I assume is terrible.

4 Likes

At the end when everyone is introducing themselves it starts looping after I introduce myself

Got it, did something stupid with my counter variable and something else stupid in not disabling the reusability of a different option. Should be fixed now.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

1 Like