Magium - WIP - Interactive novel


#1

Hello!

I am currently working on an interactive novel which will be available on android, but likely also on steam and on iOS. I’m not programming it in choicescript, but the gameplay is similar to that of Choice of Games . You read text and you make choices.

I’ve written the first 3 chapters of the first book, in a series of at least 5 books that I am planning. This book will likely have at least 10 more chapters. The story is about a banshee and a girl, forced to live in the same body and coexist, while they struggle to stay alive. The world is filled with mages that have different types of magic powers. The girl and the banshee also have their own magic powers, one using fire magic and the other water magic. The game is set in a D&Dish fantasy setting, with goblins, trolls, ogres, dragons and mages.

At first you will be busy with fighting monsters and surviving in general, but as you play, you will get involved in the different wars that are being waged across the continent (there’s currently a war between the animals and the monsters and another between the animals and the humans) , you will learn about the history of the continent, and you will meet characters that have shaped the history of this continent, many years ago. You will also have to make certain choices that will alter the fate of the continent, as you progress in the game and get involved with certain characters.

The two main characters are a sort of straight man- funny man duo, with the girl being cheerful and goofy, as opposed to the banshee’s seriousness and overall cynism. You get to make choices for the banshee (and perhaps the girl too, in one of the later chapters) , and you get to hear her thoughts. The narration is in second person, but all of the narration is made from her subjective point of view.

The link to the first 3 chapters can be found here: http://gamesmakeyousmart.com/?page_id=5 .

I apologize for the somewhat clunky user interface. I am programming it for mobile, and it doesn’t really translate very well in HTML5, therefore the buttons will often be a bit further down then where the text ends. You can scroll up and down by either dragging the game screen with the mouse (it’s how you scroll on mobile devices, where you only have a touch interface), or by using the mouse scrolling wheel.

The main menu which is visible on the top of the game interface sends you to a menu where you can save and load your game, although there’s practically only one save slot right now (I will make more in the future). When the save game button turns gray, it means your game was saved, and you can return to the game. When you press load, it will send you back to the point where you were when you made your last save.

As fellow interactive novel readers, I would like to hear your opinions on what you think of the game so far, and if you find any expressions that seem off to you (I am not a native english speaker). If you run across any bugs while you play I’d also love to hear of them.

Thanks for your time! The first book will likely be finished in the next few months.


#2

It throws you into action immediately. Sometimes this can be good, but in this case It felt odd. I think giving the reader a little time to get used to being a banshee - possessing a few easy targets before trying it on this weird fire girl for example - would make being a banshee feel less strange.


#3

The thing is, I already kinda have the banshee’s backstory in mind, and she didn’t really do anything interesting for a few decades before meeting the girl. She sort of just possessed animals and lived off the land. I couldn’t really make any interesting choices out of that. Plus, she spends at least a few years in the body of each host until it deteriorates, so there’d have to be huge timeskips in order to show even one previous possession. The interesting part of her backstory is a few decades earlier, where a certain event caused her to avoid possessing humans for a long period of time. She possessed this girl because she was in the wilderness, there were no animals to possess in the vicinity, and the banshee was running out of time.

There’s also the danger that if I made the pacing at the beginning slower, some people would get bored because the action didn’t start soon enough or the first choices were boring. I guess this is one of those situations where I’ll just have to take the risk and hope whomever finds the beginning weird will still keep reading and get accustomed to the writing style later on…

But thanks for your honest opinion. I appreciate it!


#4

Playing a pre-defined character with a pre-defined backstory is a tricky thing to do in a medium that revolves around choice. I would suggest trying not to limit the thoughts and reactions of the banshee, who is the Main Character, much at all. Even if we have to go down a certain series of events, a character feels more ‘ours’ if we have plenty of opportunity to voice our thoughts.

“What do you think about this little girl?”
–> “It’s nice to have someone to talk to.”
–> “I don’t really care either way.”
–> “God, her voice is annoying.”


#5

It depends on whether you like role playing or not. In Dungeons and Dragons for instance, you can choose to role play as a certain character, or to play as yourself. In RPGS there are games like Mass Effect where your character is practically devoid of personality and you get to make every choice for him, and there are games like the Witcher series, where you get to make choices for a character with a defined personality and backstory.

I did notice that most Choice of Games tend to use the Mass effect formula for their main characters. But that isn’t always necessarily a good thing. You give the player more freedom, but in reality, most of that is just an illusion. Allow me to give an example.

I don’t know if you’ve played Choice of Zombies or Choice of Dragons, but in both of those games, you are from time to time given choices like: How do you feel after that incident with the zombie outbreak? Are you scared, disgusted or excited? Why did you kill those villagers? Was it because they defied you or did you just do it for fun? What is the color of your scales? What do you think of x, y, z?

None of those choices have any bearing on the story whatsoever. The most you’ll get out of them is one phrase from the “narrator” , making a witty comment on the choice you’ve made and then you’ll never read of it again. Many of the choice of games are filled with false choices, that barely change a few words of text in the entire game. This is a direct effect of giving the player too much freedom. There is no way to make a satisfying impact out of all those choices the player made, because they are too varied. In the end, most of them will be completely irrelevant, and if you replay the game you will see that whichever choice you’d have made, the story would have progressed in the exact same manner.

You can’t have any interesting and meaningful interactions with the characters around you if you have complete freedom over what your character feels. In Choice of Zombies you will notice that there’s only the most basic level of interaction between the main character and most of the other survivors. You will be asked what you think about some of them, sure, but that won’t change the way the character actually interacts with them, because that would influence the story too much, and it would get off the rails.

I try to avoid this as much as possible. I try to avoid giving the player meaningless choices that have no influence on the actual story. With the exception of two or three dialogue options, most of my choices change the flow of the story to a certain degree. Some will just switch a scene with another, some will seem insignificant at first but they will completely change how a later chapter plays out. Some will start a completely different branch.

The funny thing is, in a later chapter I will actually ask the player exactly that question you said there. But it won’t be some narrator asking this. It will be an estabilished character, asking the banshee, while the girl is asleep. And it won’t be something as trivial as : “is she annoying or is she nice?” . The character I’m talking about will ask the main character what she thinks of the girl, and you will be given an in character choice of : “1)She is loyal and trustworthy” 2)" She has her uses" or 3)“She is a liability”

If you say she is a liability, you will find out some information that will help you undo the soul fusion you have with the girl and that will allow you to get rid of her later on. If you say she is loyal and trustworthy, the character who asked you this will be disgusted with you, and tell you that you’re no longer the cold and heartless banshee she’s raised you to be.

This kind of choice and level of character interaction would be impossible without having a set character personality. In many instances, giving the player too much freedom would ironically give the choices he makes a lot less weight.


#6

Well, this sounds like the kind of story I won’t be interested in then. Sorry. I’m done here.


#7

Fair enough. Thanks for the input!


#8

Maybe freedom of choice come off as this to you but to others its completly different. Personaly I like the little things like colors and such because it let me be the character I want to be. The problem with linear games is that sometimes things about the main character come off as stupid to some readers (I’m not talking about your game though, I didnt try it yet) for example, I could barely play the witcher serie and many visual novels because of this. You cant enjoy a story if you cant even support the character you are supposed to guide. Giving more freedom remove that. And most games with a lot of false choice are just plainly bad written. Lords of aswick, life of gangster,life of wizard and tin star (and more) for example give a lot of freedom and still deliver amazing stories with diverse paths. Freedom is not a bad choice if done correctly.


#9

I wasn’t saying it’s a bad choice. I was just saying each of the two writing styles has its pros and cons and there is no style that’s better than the other. Ultimately it’s a matter of preference. Personally I like both styles. I loved the Mass Effect games and I also loved the Witcher games.

I have no problem with little choices if they have more impact than a line of text… For instance, if some character were to compliment you for the color you chose later on. Or if you see yourself in the mirror, and it properly shows the color you chose. If it just gives you the choice and does absolutely nothing with it later on then I call that a false choice.

I didn’t play any of the 4 games you listed there, although I have heard of Tin Star, so I can’t really comment on them.

As a fan of both styles, I found that the predefined character style with deeper character interactions and character development was sort of left out of the choose your own adventure genre. This is part of the reason why I’m trying to use this style here.

If I write my books and see there is no market for this style, I will also try the more freedomish style in a different setting, later on.


#10

Well if it end up on the market I will probably buy it anyway. Honestly you should give to a try though, it might give you ideas for your game. If not then its still hours of fun. But to come back on you game I’m not saying to remove what you already have either though. Your game does seem interesting, specialy since we’re playing both characters. What could be done would be to give more freedom to the banshee and more linearity to the girl but I dont know how it would go with your story. Oh well, i still wish you good luck, who know, maybe it will make enjoy linear game more.


#11

I recommend that you spend the $5 on Tin Star if you want to see an example of interactive fiction done well, and especially if you want to see some effective ways that the author has made the reader’s choices meaningful. You should probably also be familiar with Beyond Two Souls (see a trailer here), if you aren’t already. It has a similar premise.

I found only one expression that seems off to me.

The girl appears shocked and is just standing there like a lemon.

You can delete the phrase “like a lemon,” and that sentence will make more sense. Other than that, this game could have been written by a native English speaker.

As for the rest of the game, I had some trouble getting invested. I don’t really know anything about this girl. I don’t much care what happens to her. That goes double for the demon/banshee, which is a malevolent predatory spirit. I played until I got killed by a couple of mages, and I thought, “Dead banshee. Good! That’s a good thing.”

I suppose that I should feel bad that Flower died too, but come on. A nine-year-old with fire magic? That is a tragedy waiting to happen. How many innocent lives were saved because some kidnappers took that little walking fire hazard out? We’ve seen stories about little girls with fire powers before, and they never have happy endings.

They only way I am going to ignore thoughts like these is if I really like these characters.

Some random ideas/suggestions:

  • Make Flower more afraid of danger. Even when it is danger she can handle. It is still danger. She can still be hurt. Children are afraid of being hurt.
  • Make Flower intimidated by adults. For children, few things are more upsetting than an angry or hostile adult. As a child she should feel a strong impulse to yield to adult authority (or to run away), even if she knows it is a bad idea, even if the adults are out to get her. This would pose a much more interesting challenge for the banshee than what kind of magic to use in a fight.
  • I think Flower should be terrified of the banshee, at least at first. A stranger has intruded upon, and violated, the most private space she has—her own mind. Her life will never be the same. At the very least, this should be disturbing. Both she and the banshee should be confused and frustrated at this situation, and it is worth spending some time on them coming to grips with each other. Forget fighting. How is she going to go to the bathroom with some spirit watching her? How is she going to go anywhere, or do anything, that is contrary to this intruder’s wishes, without fighting it for control over her own body?

I think a more realistic and vulnerable character is a more likable character. Then, when there is a fight, the reader can feel like there is something worth fighting for.


#12

Thanks for the compliment regarding grammar and spelling.

The thing is, when I create a story, I always start with the characters. I first estabilish what the characters act like, what their motivations are, their beliefs, their moral code, and the events that made them into what they are now. After I do all of this, I think of various situations and plots, and think how my characters would act and interact with each other in each scenario.

I am currently at a point where I can’t really change the fundamental traits of the characters anymore, because I have a lot of the story in my head already, and it all revolves around these two characters, and all the other characters they will interact with.

I can’t make Flower be more afraid of danger, because her bravery/foolhardiness is a key aspect of her personality. She had to become this optimistic and brave in order to remain sane after all the hardships she’s been through in the fallen utopia she comes from. If she weren’t this strong, mentally, she would likely have become pretty broken by now, and that would be a story I would not like to tell.

This girl has been a pickpocket for a gang of hoodlums at the age of 5, and she’s been forced to do various jobs along the years, like scrubbing the decks of ships, doing cleaning duty in the army and even participating in the circus. Orphans like her are exploitable resources in her city of birth, and she’s probably been through more hardships and seen more tragedy than most normal people see in their entire lifespan. These kinds of things mature people beyond their age, but in her heart she still remains a 9 year old girl (actually she is almost 10, but will never really reach that age because the soul fusion stops the aging process) .

This is why the girl will constantly switch between childish ideas and well thought-out plans, because she has matured more than other people in certain aspects, but remains a child in other aspects. Her naivety will also play a role as the story progresses.

Furthermore, the girl is also highly interiorized, which can be seen by the fact that she practically lives in her own mind, and considers the real her is the one living inside her own mind, and not the one in the real world. This is one of the reasons she was able to confront the banshee, and why the soul fusion occured. Highly interiorized people tend to mature at a younger age than extroverts because they spend a lot of time with introspection.(although they will be more awkward with social interaction)

The fact that the banshee is a malevolent spirit is a reasonable assumption to make, given the fact that she possesses creatures every few years. The reality of the matter is a little different, however. Banshees are basically like parasites. They are magical beings that have been cursed to live in the material plane (most other magical beings live in the magical plane of existence). As they do not have a body of their own, they cannot live in the material plane unless they acquire a body. Had she known how to do soul fusion in the past, our banshee may have considered doing so in order to not kill the host. Until now, she didn’t know of any other way to survive except taking over other bodies completely. There was only one documented case of soul fusion in the past, and that was about 600 years ago.

If I were to classify Illuna’s alignment on an Evil-Neutral-Good axis, I would place her somewhere between neutral and evil, but leaning more towards neutral. She does not actively desire the harm of others. She is ruthless, and will not hesitate to do what is necessary in order to survive, but she also follows a sort of personal code of honor. She wasn’t ruthless and cold for all of her life. It’s a direct result of having been hunted by humans for decades, and also of having been betrayed by her mentor figure a few years back.

Now, you say that you have trouble getting invested in the girl’s character because you don’t really know anything about her. But think about this. In what story when two characters meet, do you immediately find out about their background stories? Don’t you usually get a chance to see them act in various situations and find out their history bit by bit as the story progresses? Would you normally stop reading a story because you don’t find out soon enough about a character’s backstory?

I think this is less about not knowing about the girl, and more about not liking her personality. And I have no problem with that. I got into this knowing that this is a hit or miss kind of thing, and that there will probably be a lot of people who won’t really like the writing style or like the characters enough to consider finishing the game.

I just hope that this won’t be the general opinion after I’ve finished the first book.

As always though, thanks for your feedback!


#13

I will have to agree with thoose above me. I think the whole plot as a banshee is great but i find the whole already set character with a pre-defined backstory, not for my taste because experience wise from other games were i feel like the Mc, here i dont feel like the banshee at all.

I just feel forced to play a Banshee, that i dont even have the control over with either its name or gender. Actually gender locked isent a problem initself, nor is the namn locket. Just look at the Guenevere (WIP). However what does bother me is that i am already a water Banshee. And that my options for character growing is so limited and bland.

(I ment no harm, just giving my options xD)

Either way good luck with youre game @Nemeean_lion and have a great day!


#14

What I’m going for with the opening chapters is not really to make the player identify himself with the main character or get attached to the main characters. It is more about keeping the story, the characters and their interactions entertaining enough to keep you going. It’s not supposed to get you emotionally involved at first, it’s supposed to make you curious enough to want to see what’s on the next page.

Once you find out more about the characters, and once you see how the main character will start to change the more choices you make, you may start to actually get attached to the characters, which will catch you by surprise.

You can’t just expect a character that’s lived for more than half a century to instantly start changing her personality at the beginning of the story just because you get to make some choices. First of all, as in every story, you first need to find out about the character more, so that the character development of that character actually means something to you. Secondly, in order for her to actually develop as a character she will need to be pushed to her limits, and be conflicted. How she acts in those key situations and how she develops as a result will mostly be up to you.

The same goes for the girl. Once you get back into her town of birth, she will be forced to confront her past and make decisions based on that.

I think, as you say, that one of the main problems I’m having here is that almost every single one of the other interactive novels available has you, specifically as the main character and there are no real examples out there that allow you to make choices for a predefined character.

I am going against the current here, and that’s always rather risky and dangerous. Regardless, I’ll keep going in the hopes that people will give this a shot out of curiosity, and gradually get captivated by the story as they read on.

Thank you for the encouragement.

The only actual interactive novel I’ve seen so far that gives you a somewhat predefined character is Wizard’s Choice, by Delight Games. I am curious, did anyone here play or like that game?


#15

firstly, i would like you to know that you are by no means ‘going against the current’. that simply isn’t true, considering most interactive fiction works have a predefined character. yes, most. cogs, in this respect, are the odd one out, providing more customization in character development than most other works in this genre ever do. so, while a lot of people on this particular forum might have some difficulty adjusting to the way your game is played, that is simply because it’s not what they’re used to seeing on this forum. it’s not because you’re daring to tread new ground.

you want a captivating read and you do have that, but the format you chose makes the story nearly unreadable for me. the font is unnecessarily massive and touches the edges-which is both distracting and irritating-and, in combination with the straight black-and-white color scheme, the ui is less clunky and more plain hard to look at.

interface issues aside, i honestly think you’d get on better if you likened it to cyoa books, because that is essentially what it is. people go in expecting something similar to cogs, when cyoa books and cogs are very different in their approaches and nuances.

story-wise, i think it’d be much more appealing to younger folks than someone like me. i find the story charming, though incredibly silly, and i honestly can’t invest myself in the events that happen to either of the main characters. i also feel iffy on flower’s development, because it just seems like you railroaded her into being the character you want her to be. the reasoning, to me, seems underdeveloped at best, and the way it’s presented seems… arrogant? like you’re talking about things you have a limited view on. that said, i am generally biased against ‘x happened so she’s like this’ as a presentation for a character to begin with.

i commend your attitude regarding the feedback you’ve received, and i appreciate that you clearly know what you’re going for, as well. that’s valuable, and it’s refreshing to see someone so driven, but right now i really think you need to consider who you want your audience to be and tailor your presentation to that audience. i hope none of this came off too harshly; that is not my intention, and i apologize that not much of this was about your actual game–there isn’t enough content for me to say much about it.


#16

the Girls quite iritiating. i can only hope that in future this game will no push you into certain choices so much.
Also possibility of evil route ?
Also as for making decisions for both girl and bansee.
have look and this old game of thrones RPG.
it shows how dialogues between two PC can be done.
http://www.gameofthrones-rpg.com/


#17

Could it be that I have finally met someone who writes longer posts than I do?

You’re probably right about keeping Flower’s backstory out of the game. Backstories are useful for authors, but they have little to offer readers.

So I played through a couple more times (after a bit of sleep), and I realized something: I like the banshee just fine. Maybe I don’t actually like the banshee because it has an unpleasant personality and it just tried to kill a little girl, but I understand the banshee. It has feelings and goals, and its actions make sense in light of those feelings and goals.

Consider a character from a different game with a similar premise as yours (strong female protagonist is possessed by an Irish spirit and lives a hard life in a dangerous world): Beyond Two Souls, chapter 3. We meet adult Jodie Holmes for the first time. All we know about her backstory is that she is possessed by a spirit and was subject to a lot of scientific testing as a child. In other words, we know practically nothing about her as a character. But this game has some extraordinary writers. It takes them exactly 55 seconds to establish her character (video).

Bam. Fifty-five seconds. Now you know Jodie Holmes. She’s a complex character with a lot of backstory, but that can wait. They’ve captured enough of her personality to establish the character. Now you can play.

It might be that the issue I have with Flower is not that I don’t like her (I don’t dislike her either), or that I don’t know her. It might be that her character isn’t established in that first impression. If I only use the information available in the game itself, I get a different picture of Flower than the one you offer in her post.

As you stand there, frozen, the girl shows you a big grin and says: “Phew, That was a close one! I thought I lost you there. I’m Flower, by the way! Nice to meet you! What’s your name?”

Flower’s response to the invasion of an alien force is to engage it, welcome it, and ask its name. This is a girl who is extremely trusting of strangers, and who feels no need to protect her own privacy. She has lived a sheltered life, and has probably never been hurt or betrayed by anyone.

“People don’t call me anything,” you tell her bluntly. “I never talk to them.”

The girl appears shocked. “But then, don’t you feel lonely?” she asks you, concerned.
[…]
I don’t know what that means[,]" you tell her, starting to get annoyed. The girl mistakes your statement for an invitation to explain the term to you.

“Loneliness is that feeling you have when you have no one to talk to when you’re sad, and no one to help you when you’re in trouble.”

This is probably my favorite part of your demo. It shows a very human side to both characters. The banshee is a loner and an extreme introvert. Flower is an extrovert. She does not understand the appeal of avoiding interaction with others when you are sad or in trouble. She probably has supportive parents and a lot of friends. She is open and comfortable sharing her feelings. Shy children probably find her intimidating.

“How are you here?” you ask the girl.

“Pardon?”
[…]
“I’ve done this possession thing dozens of times before, and I’ve never encountered any sort of resistance. You almost had me dragged out of your mind, and then you appeared here, in front of me, like it’s perfectly normal.”

I’m sorry you almost got dragged out…it wasn’t intentional.

She Pauses.

“You are the one that gave me all these magic powers aren’t you.”

Flower reacts to her possession, with its attendant magic powers, in much the same way she might react to an unexpected guest offering her a new hat. This means that

  1. Magic powers are extremely common, and
  2. Unlike the banshee, Flower sees nothing wrong with this situation. She has complete faith that nothing bad can happen to her. A response this extreme implies that nothing bad has ever happened to her. She has lived an extraordinarily sheltered life, after all.

a few dozens of trolls and goblins start emerging one by one from behind the trees.

This is not a chance encounter. These creatures approached stealthily en masse, revealing themselves only when they were about to strike. This is a coordinated assault by a presumably armed band of roughly fifty monsters. They must be attacking the girl’s home. (You never established the physical setting, and Flower’s demeanor suggests she is in a safe and familiar place—most likely her home.)

This makes sense. Someone as sheltered as Flower probably comes from a wealthy family. The fact that Flower is unfazed by this indicates that such assaults on her home are frequent, and never have negative consequences. She lives in a very safe, secure, well-defended place. Flower has never been in serious danger.

As much as you hate taking orders from a little girl, her logic is sound, and her plan is exactly what you were about to propose.

Flower is smart, and probably well educated.

You can see why it might be hard to relate to a character like Flower. After a first impression like this, any attempt to to portray her as introverted or troubled may risk coming across as inconsistent writing (rather than depth or complexity). Keep the personality, but maybe tweak the first impression. Let us see some hope, motivation, or feeling. We don’t have to like her. (We know she will develop as a character.) But we do have to care.

Absolutely. Other authors have posted demos here, ignored requests for more customizable characters, and still produced successful games. Customizing characters is a CoG thing.


#18

@OfficerRattlesnake

Yeah, I think I might have underestimated the overall unreadability of the web interface when I uploaded it, and looking back, I think it may have caused a lot of people from here to just take a glance at it and then turn away. On mobile the font scales accordingly to the screen and the writing doesn’t actually hit the border like that. I will also add a dark mode, with white writing on black background later on.

I will try to remake the interface when I add chapter 4.

I don’t know how old you are so I’m not sure what you mean by “younger folks” . Do you mean people in their twenties or teens? The story gets a little violent later on, so my PG rating may turn out to be a bit high. The story sort of alternates between lighter and darker tones as it advances. Which part of the story do you find silly? How the girl acts, or the fantasy and the combat part of it?

You’re right about me railroading the girl’s personality, because I first thought of her character and then her background, which explains her character. I needed her as a comic relief character who is naive but intelligent at the same time, and who is the strong optimistic type to contrast with the banshee’s cold cynism. Perhaps there wouldn’t be any realistic person in the world that would have the necessary character traits to end up how she did. I probably couldn’t find any way to prove it if I wanted to, so maybe it’s best I close the subject. I didn’t mean to come off as an arrogant know-it-all. Most people will likely stop at the “I like the girl” or “I don’t like the girl” and won’t think any further anyway.

But thanks for the encouragement and the honest approach.

@CaesarCzech

It depends on what you see as an evil route, really. I don’t think there will be obvious evil/good choices like you see in most rpgs nowadays, but there will be several options that could be considered evil. Even now, in chapter three, you can decide if you want to leave your attackers alive or not, and if you want them to suffer as they die or no.

Depending on your personal moral code, and where you draw the line at being evil, there may be several options of interest to you. You will get to break your promises, betray your friends, kill the girl and take her body, smash through a city’s defenses and conquer it, kill other different characters, and join the villains at the end for your own benefit, with the option of betraying them at the last second in order to try and take all the power for yourself. I think there may also be an option to help the dragon that’s been terrorizing the lands somewhere in there. So there will be choices that can be catalogued as evil. As I write all of this and remember at which point the story is now, I realize I have a very long way to go.

As for making decisions for the girl, I’m not sure if I’ll do that yet, but if I do, it’ll probably only be for one chapter towards the end.

@BabbleYaggle

Wow. I can see you put a lot of work in your last post, especially since you can’t copy paste any of the words from my site, so you had to write all that by hand. Looking at our two posts, I’d say it’s a close call, but I think yours is still longer. You’ll need to work hard from now on if you want to hang on to your title, though!

Flower’s response to the invasion of an alien force is to engage it,
welcome it, and ask its name. This is a girl who is extremely trusting
of strangers, and who feels no need to protect her own privacy. She has
lived a sheltered life, and has probably never been hurt or betrayed by
anyone.

I can see why this comes off as the first impression, but I’m not sure exactly how I would work around this. You only get to see how the girl reacts to Illuna, and that is not a good generalization. The girl is currently in her own mind. She’s never had someone come visit this place before. She is really excited to finally have a visitor in here, because this is her favorite place in the world, the only place where she truly feels at home. And she is not wrong to feel safe here either. In all of the instances where you try to fight the girl in the first few chapters you will fail completely. The girl is very confident about her powers and the degree of control she has in this place, and has never treated the banshee as a real threat. If you try to fight her, and keep fighting her in the beginning, you will see the girl treats this all as a game, which infuriates the banshee, but she still can’t really do anything about it.

The girl acts rather goofy most of the time, but when things get really serious, she knows how to act serious too. I tried to evidence this in the first chapter, where you have to fight the goblins, after you’ve exhausted yourselves fighting each other. It’s a bit difficult to show all of the exposition in this CYOA format, so some of this info will get lost on the way.

I tried to summarize all of this at the beginning of chapter two. If you chose to talk with the girl in the first chapter, you will get this dialogue sequence:

“Girl, do you spend a lot of time here, inside your own
mind?”

“Oh, I do! This is my favorite place in the world. It
does feel a little lonely, at times. But not anymore! Now you’re here with
me!” she grins.

This must be why she was able to fight you in this
conceptual realm. Look at her. Look at this place. She’s practically living
here. No wonder she can interact with you inside her mind.

“But not anymore! Now you’re here with me!” --> This is where I try to show that the girl is really happy to finally have a companion in this lonely place she calls her mind. She’s wished for a companion in here for so long, that she is willing to delude herself into thinking the banshee is actually a good person, and that she’s just acting how she is because she is grumpy, or socially awkward. There will be more discussions between the two of them that will put emphasis on this, but a bit later on.

This is probably my favorite part of your demo. It shows a very human side to both characters. The banshee is a loner and an extreme introvert. Flower is an extrovert. She does not understand the appeal of avoiding interaction with others when you are sad or in trouble. She probably has supportive parents and a lot of friends. She is open and comfortable sharing her feelings. Shy children probably find her intimidating.

Flower is by no means shy, but being introverted isn’t really all about shyness. I’m not sure what your experience with social awkwardness is, but there are certain kids that can’t manage to really make friends no matter how much they want to, and how long they try. They would love to make friends, and are very open with other people, but somehow they are always misunderstood and alienated. That is the case of Flower. She would like to consider all the other orphans she’s talked with her friends, she calls them her friends, but deep down, she knows none of them really are. Despite the fact that she acts the way she does, being constantly alienated by others, and going through all those hardships has led Flower to add more and more substance to her little home in her mind. She made her own room, the room she knew she would never have, she decorated it, and soon she started considering her real self to be the one in her own mind, and the body to be some sort of puppet she controls with strings (there is a sequence in the first chapter where she fights the ogre and pretends to control a puppet on strings and not her own body).

Flower reacts to her possession, with its attendant magic powers, in
much the same way she might react to an unexpected guest offering her a
new hat. This means that

  1. Magic powers are extremely common, and
  2. Unlike the banshee,
    Flower sees nothing wrong with this situation. She has complete faith
    that nothing bad can happen to her. A response this extreme implies that
    nothing bad has ever happened to her. She has lived an extraordinarily sheltered life, after all.

Magic powers aren’t “extremely” common, but they are common enough that everyone in the world knows about them. The girl discovered her magic powers a few weeks ago, so she had a lot of time to test them. She’s been very surprised when she got them at first, but she has been practicing how to use them pretty much nonstop from the moment she got them, so there’s no reason for her to be shocked or reticent now. She knows she is in full control of them, she knows the full extent of her powers, and is confident that she won’t hurt herself using them(actually the fire is magical in nature and can’t hurt its wielder, but that will be explained later on). She is acting so calm about it, because the only thing that was missing from the puzzle for her was how exactly she got her powers. She finally gets it now, after she’s met the banshee, so she asks her just to make sure.

The banshee is shocked by this because she’s been in a dormant state for all this time. She hasn’t really possessed a human in a long time and she’s forgotten that getting magic is one of the side effects. This wasn’t really of much consequence to her in the past, since she’s never had any trouble with the awakening process, so she hasn’t really paid much attention to this side effect before.

This is not a chance encounter. These creatures approached stealthily
en masse, revealing themselves only when they were about to strike.
This is a coordinated assault by a presumably armed band of roughly
fifty monsters. They must be attacking the girl’s home. (You never
established the physical setting, and Flower’s demeanor suggests she is
in a safe and familiar place—most likely her home.)

This makes sense. Someone as sheltered as Flower probably comes from a
wealthy family. The fact that Flower is unfazed by this indicates that
such assaults on her home are frequent, and never have negative
consequences. She lives in a very safe, secure, well-defended place. Flower has never been in serious danger.

Ok, now you’re taking stuff out of context to fit your previous assumptions. I did not estabilish the setting. I only did that in the second chapter. They were fighting in a clearing in the middle of the forest. I’ll have to go back and edit that in when I first describe the pillar of flame and water, because as you imply, it is a bit confusing for the reader.

But it’s going too far to assume the girl is at home from the lack of description. If it were the case, then the pillar should have completely obliterated her house and left only rubble around her, with maybe the corpses of her family lying somewhere around there. Even if she weren’t inside her house but in her front yard, there still should have been some sort of charred remains of her fence, at least some people running around scared, her dog whimpering in the corner. Something… The complete lack of description on the effects caused by the pillar should at least hint that she is in a place relatively far away from civilisation.

The monsters did not approach stealthily, they came from within the forest. I’ve already stated in one of the previous paragraphs that something as large and unnatural as that pillar of flame and water is bound to attract some unwanted attention. Looking back, I didn’t outright state that the monsters came there out of curiosity to see what generated the pillar. I stated it clearly in the path where you fight the girl, but here I guess it could be understood that they just randomly popped out of the forest, with no link to the pillar you just made disappear. I’ll edit that in too.

So, no, it is not a chance encounter, because they didn’t all just happen to be there, but it wasn’t an organized assault either. It was just a bunch of monsters that were minding their own business in the forest, who saw that pillar from a great distance and approached it to see what was going on.

Flower is smart, and probably well educated.

Flower is indeed smart, but I wouldn’t really call her well educated. Her plan comes from the fact that she’s fought these kinds of monsters before. She’s done a lot of that in the past few weeks while she was out testing her powers. That’s why she knows trolls are vulnerable to fire. Before she had her powers she was forced to hide, and make use of her acrobacy skills she got from the circus to escape from the monsters and stay alive in the wilderness.

So Flower has been in serious danger, only enough time has passed that she is now confident she can handle a few lowly monsters with her newly acquired powers.

So in conclusion, I am not sure I can change the first impression Flower makes except for the few minor tweaks I need to edit in to make the setting more clear. At first, her purpose in the story is mostly comic relief. The only thing I’m banking on for the first chapters is that the readers will not be bored, and will be curious enough to keep on reading up to the chapters where things get progressively more serious. And that’s where I hope they will start actually caring for these two characters, without realizing it.

Maybe that is a bad idea. Maybe most people will decide they don’t really care about either of the characters and they will quit the story because of that. It may certainly be the case judging by the few reactions I got on this forum. But then again, it may also be that some people from here that might have liked it were driven away by the horrible interface. I cannot know. I’ll try to fix the interface by the next chapter, and will continue posting here on the off chance that there are some people here who would actually like to keep reading but have not made a comment.

I am also thinking of writing another story with a character that’s lost his memory and tries to find out who he was. Since he won’t really know much of himself, he won’t have previous events to base his decisions upon, and there will be a lot more freedom with the choices he makes. I could then ask the player how he feels about certain things, and make the game more akin to other COG games. I am probably going to keep the gender, appearance and name locked, though. I don’t really feel like making a character creator sequence in a text game.

I’ll have to decide if I’ll write this second story while I write the one with the banshee, or after I’ve finished it.

And with all of this said and done, I believe I may well have unknowingly won the title of most verbose poster…


#19

fantastic, that would help the readability immensely! also, thank you for elaborating on how it appears on mobile.

and, in this case, i don’t mean ‘black-on-white’ literally–that is, i don’t mean that you should simply change black to white and white to black. i mean that you should change white to a light color and black to a dark color, and then add a mode that reverses the new colors, instead of straight #FFFFFF or #000000. i recommend you look through and/or try out a few two-color palettes, see what you like.

i’m 33, so yes! young adults and adolescents.

the premise, the tones and themes–so… all of it, really. but more specifically, it is primarily the fantasy and combat parts of it, yes, though flower’s attitude also plays a part.

i figured that much, but i would also like to say it is entirely possible for someone to realistically end up the way flower did. @BabbleYaggle outlines one way she could, in fact! a lot of children end up like her–their naivete comes from their lack of experience and very limited view of the world, even if they are academically and practically intelligent. and, you know, optimism is just her general disposition toward things. spend a bit more time thinking on it if it’s important, because i think there’s a lot you could do with this.

by the way, the reason i said you came off as arrogant is because the things she has been through don’t necessarily have to have been bad or difficult for her to go through, and, once more, the presentation of ‘x happened so she’s like this’ is very unappealing.

also, this particular line came off as disrespectful and ignorant, considering the examples you provided as being tragic.

i’m going to ask you some questions on this–if she’s been a pickpocket:
-how did she feel about it? how does she feel about it now?
-was she forced into it? did they manipulate or threaten her? did they just ask her and she complied? did she willingly join? did she willingly steal things before and get away with it, and the gang was just like ‘kid’s cute and good at this, let’s get her on board’?
-what did she do to be successful at stealing (and thus useful to the gang)? or did she need assistance? was she the assistant, rather than the doer? i mean… you’d have to be a freakishly tall toddler if you’re reaching into adult pockets.
-did she trust them and enjoy their company, or did she loathe them? were they like her family? did she feel safe around them? did she have mixed feelings on any of these things?
-did she, at that point, know stealing is wrong?
-did she hate stealing from people? or did she love it? (optimistic people can still be amoral or immoral, and i find a little that more interesting anyway) why or why not?
-did she need to steal, or did she do it of her own accord? did the group need to?
-did she have a code as to who she stole from, and rebelled against the gang when they asked her to break it? did she break it, deciding not to rebel?
-how, when, and why did she leave? or was she kicked out/abandoned?

depending on the answers, she could have had the time of her life. i don’t know! it doesn’t need to be a bad experience in her eyes and memory, even if pickpocketing and child labor/exploitation are awful things. and i could go on! i could tell you how she might have loved cleaning up the decks of high-class ships and meeting so many different kinds of people, or how she devoted herself to cleaning simply because she loves it and she really needed the money and she got free meals and the army men were really nice to her. i could tell you how she knew orphans are exploitable resources in her home city, and made the most of it, working hard and using her cleverness to stay out of bad situations, keeping the other kids out of bad situations, becoming a hero.

let me say it again, none of the experiences she’s had need to be bad in her eyes, and if they can’t hurt her she doesn’t need to be strong to live through them and be okay. at this point, it’s entirely possible that a girl whose parents told her they ate all her candy has had a harder life than flower because that girl knows what betrayal and disappointment feels like.

and, in a similar way, being an introvert does not necessarily make her more intelligent, more mature, or more socially inept/awkward. it makes her introverted. she could just as easily be less intelligent or mature than her peers because she spends all day in her own head, daydreaming. she could also be a real charmer when it comes to social interactions! we just don’t know.

also, though you weren’t addressing me, i want to bring up some points in contest to yours–

  • if flower has never had anyone come to her headspace, is she
    necessarily right to feel safe? how does she know things will be
    fine, that she has everything under control, if she’s never
    experienced this before in her life and presumably doesn’t know what
    banshees do, or, in general, what mental illnesses do? how does she know that meeting a stranger in her mind and meeting a stranger in real life is different?
  • would it be necessary to work around this, if what you’re trying to convey is that she’s naive? it shows that pretty well!
  • along those lines, perhaps you mean to show she’s overconfident, rather than brave?
  • almost anyone can act goofy most of the time and get serious when
    things are serious. all this is really telling me is that she is capable of expressing herself in more than one way, and that’s sort of expected of most people.
  • if she can control everything in this place and it all feels real to
    her, why hasn’t she imagined up a companion for herself? is she smart
    enough to know imaginary friends aren’t entities of their own and
    thus can’t really be friends, but not smart enough to understand what
    a banshee is and does? she seems a bit young for an existential
    crisis, even if she is in a constant state of dissociation.
  • if her headspace is essentially just a room of some sort (or it appears so, from what i’ve read), why isn’t she working toward recreating it as best as she can in real life and then invite a friend over?
  • why don’t any of the other orphans like her? she doesn’t seem that
    hard to get along with or socially awkward, for a child, and she
    seems to understand well enough what’s expected of her in certain social
    situations. when i think of social awkwardness i think of things one
    would legitimately cringe at. i mean, i was the definition of a
    socially awkward kid, so i know! i can empathize, but i have nothing to empathize with. what’s
    the deal with flower?
  • i suppose there is a difference in how we define ‘extremely’ and ‘a
    lot of time’–which is fine, but makes communication a bit difficult.
  • if everyone in the world knows about them then they’re probably
    extremely common, particularly with a fantasy setting not having the
    ease of finding information that real life has. if absolutely
    everyone knows about them, then they’re probably as common as…
    trees! or something similar!
  • well, really, how many subjects are there that you can master within
    a few weeks, especially something as complicated as magic has the
    potential to be? how does a little orphan girl think of and test
    every single thing that is possible with pyrokinesis within the span
    of a few weeks? how does a little orphan girl have such extraordinary
    control? how does a little orphan girl get as good as a legendary
    battlemage within the span of a few weeks? i mean… it’s… okay?
    but it shouldn’t be a surprise i find the story silly and think it would appeal to a much younger audience.

i would also like to let you know that constant comic relief can make a story unappealing, or yes, even boring. i personally was with the story until flower came into the picture, in fact. you should never make a character appear to exist just for comic relief, because even though your intended audience is probably relatively young, they’re not children. i would say a fair few are likely to tune flower out, and that pretty much kills your story since that’s them completely ignoring your deuteragonist-who is there for large portions of the game-and not caring about anything that happens to her. make her important, not just a literal vessel to carry the story forward. there is a difference between someone not liking a character personally (‘i’d dislike/hate them if i met them’) and not liking a character as a character (‘this is just a bad character’).


#20

I think I may have oversold it with the tragedy and the hardships. I didn’t really mean it in the sense that she has underlying trauma and that she has matured by overcoming it. When I was talking about the fact that she’s seen more tragedy than most people, I was referring to the place she lived in, and the things she’s seen, not to the fact that tragic things happened directly to her. She’s seen orphans die of exhaustion because they were overworked, she’s seen people die of hunger on the street and she’s seen slaves being beaten by their masters in broad daylight. You probably haven’t personally witnessed any of that stuff unless you’re living in one of the really bad third world countries, which is why I made that comment. I didn’t want to get into too much detail as my wall of text was big enough as it was.

Some of those things, she processed, some she didn’t. Not sure if you managed to play it till the end, but at the end of the third chapter, the girl suggests breaking both legs of their attackers so they won’t bother them for a few days. When questioned by the banshee, she simply answers : “That’s how they did it back in my gang, when they wanted to teach people a lesson.”

As you say, Flower is a bit amoral. She hasn’t really had proper education. Actually much of said education comes from this gang. The rest of it comes from the little time she spent with her parents before they were killed. So she can have very strong morals on one side, and on the other side be completely oblivious to the immorality of some of the actions of her gang. She is strongly opposed to killing people, because that is one of the things her parents taught her, but she still believes some of the justifications used by her gang when they did immoral stuff. They said they just stole stuff from the rich people because rich people didn’t really need it. They broke people’s legs and waved it off as if it were nothing more than a slap on the wrist, because you could simply get it healed by white mages. And she believed most of that. That’s where her naivety comes in.

The gang sort of took her in after she lost her parents. They took pity on her when they saw her scrambling through the back alley dumpsters, and they taught her how to steal, and how to survive. So I guess she kind of sees them as some sort of a family. Some of the members she likes more than others. I’ll admit I haven’t really worked out the technical details of how she picked the pockets, how she stole stuff and whether or not she was more the assistant than the doer. She got separated from them when she got captured by some guards when she was out stealing. Since all orphans that have no home or parents are required to work in this city, she was sent to the army, at first, then the ship, and then the circus. She liked the circus most of all, and when they wanted to take her out of the circus and get her working for the ship again (which she loathed), she fled the city in her circus clothes and started living in the wilderness, occasionally sneaking back into the city to get some food.

So she liked her gang, she kind of liked the army, she despised the ship and she loved the circus. She’s seen some bad stuff, been through some bad stuff, but she didn’t let it affect her. She managed to keep her cheerfulness and naivety despite all of it.

I didn’t really make up all of this story just to explain her personality. I already knew what kind of stuff happened in the city she was born in, I knew she was an orphan who ran away from her city, so I sort of filled in the rest of the details. It’s not a perfect story, but it gives me something to work with when the two of them will enter the city.

Now to address your other points:

  • Personally I don’t think the girl was right to think she was safe. She was right in hindsight, because she had blind luck. She had no way of knowing 100% that she would best the banshee, even if she were in her own mind. It just happened to play out that way. Half of that is attributed to her little home sweet home inside her own mind, and the other half is attributed to her natural talent. I think there’s a very fine line between bravery and foolishness. Bravery is when you understand the risks very well, know you’re at a disadvantage but decide to go in anyway. Foolishness is when you go in without even bothering to weigh in the risks. The girl crosses the line between bravery and foolishness quite often, which is why I used the words brave/foolhardy when I described her. The fact that she thinks herself stronger or equal to the banshee before they actually clash is indeed because of her naivety and overconfidence(although overconfidence may be too strong a word here, since the end result is that they were evenly matched after all)
  • about the imaginary friend thing. To me, this isn’t about being smart or stupid. She is both smart enough to know that imaginary friends aren’t real, and smart enough to know banshees can be very dangerous. The key word here is can be dangerous. She knows full well that imaginary friends can’t exist. It is impossible. The banshee being good is however not impossible. She has, after all, her own personality, and can make her own choices, so she can choose to be either good or evil. The girl understands the banshee, and the fact that she needs a body in order to survive. When the banshee attempts to leave, the girl stops her and asks : “Leave? But where?.. You have nowhere else to go…”. She wants to think the banshee is, in her heart, a good person, and that she just needs someone to be her friend. This takes some level of self-delusion, but in my opinion, not as much self-delusion as would be needed in order to convince yourself an imaginary friend you created yourself is in fact self-conscious. Plus, the banshee isn’t all bad. She doesn’t do anything out of malice. You get to choose how bad she actually is as the story progresses. The banshee is neutral enough that she could actually become the girl’s friend by the end of the story, And most of the stuff she did couldn’t really be classified as evil. I mean, she’s possessed humans before, which ended with them being killed. But she has to choose between animals and humans. To her, animals and humans aren’t all that different(especially since animals and monsters are pretty sentient and can actually talk in this setting). Just as we humans don’t really make much difference between the animals we kill in order to eat them. Survival is survival. Nothing less and nothing more. Or at least that’s how I see it. And the banshee doesn’t really have the option to become a vegetarian.
  • Flower never really had her own room, which she could decorate at her leisure, she’s mostly slept in crammed places with lots of people sleeping in the same room, whether it was the gang, the army, the ship or the circus. As for the socially awkward part, girls tend to be less cringy than boys with their social problems. They won’t say anything out of place, they seem to act normal when you talk to them, but something about them is off. Something minor. It’s usually something in their facial expression, their smile, their tone of voice, the look they have in their eyes, their movements. Small things that can make you completely misunderstand a person’s intentions. It only takes a few of those blunders to get completely alienated from people. The banshee is completely blind to human social norms, so she has no such problems with her. She doesn’t really look at obscure body language like most people do subconsciously, so there is less risk of such a misunderstanding. Since the narration is being done from the banshee’s perspective(and since I myself, like the banshee, am rather blind to these kinds of social norms), all of the little things the girl is doing wrong are not shown in the story.
  • The reason I said “not extremely” is because they are not as common as something like trees. It is a well known fact that mages exist, because you can usually find at least a few in most cities, and many of them tend to travel a lot, so even if a city lacks mages, the people within it will have seen, or heard of them in their lifetime. The mages don’t form some sort of secret society, and they are not burned for witchcraft. They are quite powerful, but most cities have the means to kill them if they ever go on a rampage. Some of them are mercenaries, some go on trips around the world to help people, some go on adventures, some just try to live their lives as normally as possible.
  • Call me lazy, but a big part of the justification I’m giving for the girl’s extraordinary aptitude with magic is her talent. She is literally a genius regarding magic. There will be a certain point where a very ancient spirit demonstrates to the banshee and the girl how to make food out of thin air, which is a spell that only said spirit and a few others still know how to cast, and the girl simply mimics the spell with absolutely no effort at all, leaving the spirit and the banshee dumbfounded. When asked how she did this, she simply answers: “Well, I just looked at how she did it, and did the same thing…”. In this world, you can either become proficient with magic through learning and a lot of practice, or through sheer dumb luck. The girl happens to be one of the luckiest members of the latter group, having been born with latent magical talent that rivals that of very learned mages. She is nowhere near the level of legendary battlemages, however, and there are many extremely powerful mages in the world that have not yet appeared in the story.

You may be right about the comic relief thing. I’ll be honest here. At first, I didn’t really plan for this to be the first story I write. This was supposed to be a prequel to my main story. It happens some twenty years before the main story commences.

The main story is about a normal guy named Barry who’s had an obsession all of his life to become a mage. Unfortunately he does not have the tiniest bit of magical talent in his veins, and you can’t become a mage in this world through pure willpower and determination. So after a lifetime of research, he finally manages to find a way he can become a mage. It is by accessing “Magium nodes” that can be found on the continent the girl and the banshee were born in. (the concept of magium nodes will be explained in the 4th chapter of this book)

He finally finds a way to access one of these nodes. The catch? In order to be given access to one of these nodes, he will have to win a tournament against the most powerful mages in all history. The kings of Varathia organized a tournament and invited all the mages in the world. The Magium nodes are legendary enough that even the strongest mages will be tempted to join this tournament in order to gain access to them, as they will greatly enhance their powers. And in the middle of all of this is Barry, this simple guy who is willing to sacrifice everything for his obsession to become a mage. Even if it means joining a tournament against the most powerful mages in the world. Crazy though he may be, he is not completely stupid, and he goes in with at least some idea of how he may win. Mostly he’ll be using the incredible knowledge he’s amassed about mages from ever since he was a kid, and he’ll bluff that he is a part of the stillwater race, the legendary, very powerful mages from whom you could sense almost no magic, and who were very hard to differentiate from normal humans.

Because, all things considered, if you see someone with no magic in front of you in a battle royale magical tournament, which of these two possibilities seems more plausible to you: that some random guy was crazy enough to enter this competition suicidally to gain something that is thought to only be of use to learned mages? Or that what you see in front of you is one of the legendary stillwaters, who could obliterate you with one flick of their fingers?

Flower and Petal are two of the characters Barry meets during this tournament. The main story seemed a bit long, because it will also revolve around stats you can level up. (you will have a magical device that enhances different things like your strength, agility, speed, and even gives you premonition), so I decided to start with a prequel of how two of the side characters met each other. Turns out this story is running a bit long as well, and the two main characters aren’t being so well received. Flower will be a bit less comic reliefy in the main story because she’s grown up a bit (even though she still retains the form and the demeanor of a 9 year old because she doesn’t age anymore), and Petal is a bit less grumpy.

So I’m thinking maybe I should start writing the main story first, and continue this as a prequel, later on, as I had originally planned. I’ll think about this.

Thanks for taking the time to read and write all these comments. I really appreciate it!