Pageant (interactive fiction/dating sim, released 2020-11-24)

I didn’t click through everything, but I enjoyed it so far! I am, however, left wondering as to what the name of the pageant is and what is the prize.

Is it the Miss Choice City Scholarship Competition or is it the Miss Choice High School Beauty Pageant? (I’m just using Choice here because idk. XD) A few words make a difference! Does Miss Choice earn $5000 in scholarship money which can only apply to her school funds? Does she win a modeling contract and a new car? Oh, and most pageants do have practices that you are supposed to attend with your fellow contestants where they coach you on how to write your platform, practice interview questions, learn walking patterns for evening gown and swimsuit/fitness routine, etc.

Oh and the diversity of the area one is in obviously reflects the makeup of the contestants. Some areas will have a bunch of blonde white girls, but other areas not so much. The last Miss America’s Outstanding Teen was actually Chinese and one very popular Miss California is Crystal Lee who was first runner-up to Miss America her year. :slight_smile:

Edit: It’s possible the prize was mentioned and I missed it. If so, I apologize. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thanks! This is some really great information. I sort of deliberately left the pageant details vague so far, partly because I didn’t want to make it too obviously based on any one real pageant. I think I’ll add in more details though. The unnamed pageant in this story is exclusively for high school-aged girls, and has regional, state, and national levels, with increasing scholarship prizes for top contestants at each level. I haven’t decided on the exact scholarship amounts, but until the nationals, the scholarships are very low compared to full tuition at a private university. And agree on the diversity part - I think there was a gay Miss America state winner in 2016, which is pretty cool too. This won’t be a story about the pageant industry being racist or anything like that. Although in Karen’s case, there are other factors that will probably make it harder for her in the pageant (like her gender non-conformity and social anxiety).

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Well, fir character and settings descriptions i rhink it may pass as it is with current style, but for dialoguess i think you should expand them. I’m not an expert or anything, but even with shorter writing, some dialogues felt really jarring how glossed they were. For example the “party” in the basement as far as i remember. It starts with “normal” dialogue between characters n give the impression that it will be written that way, but then suddenly it’s fast forward and it’s over and you are going home. It felt weird to me and i lost my bearing for a second, like “wait, what just happened?” :slight_smile:

So the character is not only introvert but also suffering from anxiety disorder and/or more? Hmm… I’m really not an expert on this one, but wouldnt being forced to perform in social event, being center of attention, like beauty peagant, be almost a torture for such a person? I mean given the protagonist reaction to two people being on her birthday, how will she survive on the stage of beauty peagant, without some serious mental health repercussions? That just my speculations, nothing else, and i think i meant to ask if you researched those topics better and know how it would go?

But either way i think i hate her parents even more for forcing her to do it, with everything she is suffering from. That kind of abuse is awful:(

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Just pushed a small update, expanding the conversation/branches for the first weekend event, and adding some details about the pageant. Does this address some of the issues? And are there any other issues/things you liked/disliked about the game? Sorry, I’m really slow at writing dialogue and descriptions especially…

Side notes: A lot of the elements of this story besides the beauty pageant itself are autobiographical. Karen’s social anxiety is heavily based on my own. I think Karen is okay at dealing with strangers that she’ll never have to see again, and she’s especially bad at open-ended social interactions like the party, so she’ll be better at a strict, practiced ritual like the pageant. And I don’t want to portray Karen’s parents as stereotypically abusive. But they are ignorant of her mental health issues (and her sexuality). There’s an impasse where Karen doesn’t feel comfortable talking to them about her problems, and they have no idea that she even has anything not “normal” about her. I don’t think they consciously do what Karen thinks they’re doing (in the “stories of china” subplot), but it has that effect nevertheless.

Some other notes:

  • there will be four relationship paths (romance or friendship): Aubrey Gao, Ashley Davis-Coen, Emily Chen, and Miri Brooks. There might be poly routes too
  • there are two “negative” variables: stress and loneliness. when these levels become too high, there will be events to reflect that, and you might be locked out of other events. every activity increases stress some amount, while weekends decrease it.
  • performance on the pageant will be based on how much you’ve prepared, and preparation often comes during the social activities. I haven’t tried to “balance” the different routes though. The best possible result is winning the state pageant.
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Just wondering: would the game work better in a 1st person perspective?

Possible advantages to 1st person:

  • makes it clear that the protagonist is different from the player, and is not a player self-insert
  • makes the writing flow more naturally, especially in the more “stream of consciousness” moments
  • more opportunities to give voice to her thoughts and feelings

Possible advantages to 2nd person:

  • genre convention
  • decreases distance between player and protagonist, allows for more empathy
  • protagonist’s voice might seem too “whiny” in 1st person, as if she’s fighting with the player

Also, is anyone still interested in this game? I’m just wondering, is the story itself uninteresting, or is it that the design/writing is bad? Or, would there be an audience for a game like this? Sorry for being negative; the story is important to me personally, but if there’s no interest, then perhaps I should spend my time elsewhere.

As usual, any feedback is helpful. Thank you!

btw i’m probably going to put Pageant on hold for at least a couple of months because I would like to try something different for Yuri Game Jam.

Small update - current word count: about 20k. Expanded some of the dialogue in the earlier sections, and added more activities. Is anyone still interested in this game? Thanks!

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This is excellent. Please continue.

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Thanks! Actually I’ve been updating the story little by little. I’ve rewritten one of the first scenes, and I’m still adding some content beyond week 3. Also I’m working on completely rewriting Ashley’s character; it turns out that I had no idea what her story arc would be. Expect that update sometime soon-ish.

Current word count: 22837

Believe it or not, I’m still working on this, albeit pretty sporadically. The updates have been minor and the game is still very much incomplete, but hopefully…

current word count: 25694

the story is turning out to be not much about the pageant at all. it’s become more of a general slice-of-life lol

I’ve also written a sequel-ish/AU story, set a few years afterwards:

Thanks for your attention!

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“You hear a knock on the door, before it opens without waiting for a response.”
As a Chinese,this is definitely familiar to me
Except my mom usually doesn’t bothering knocking at all :joy:

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if anyone’s interested, this story continues to move forward at an excruciatingly slow pace.

The story is about halfway done from a chronological point of view, with about 6 out of the 12 weeks of content. Word count: ~33000

Problems: a lot of the activities still exist as sketches, without much in the way of detail. Should I add more details, or would that just make things drag?

The story is increasingly becoming not so much about the pageant at all; it’s basically a slice of life, which consists mostly of “doing homework and science”. I’m also having a hard time starting the romance routes. Karen is so profoundly awkward that I can’t imagine her initiating anything. The problem is, so are all the other characters.

About that, are the characters distinct enough? I’ve been favoring Emily at the expense of the other romantic interests.

How’s the writing style?

pls tell me if you want to see this continue, or what should be improved…

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Believe it or not, I’ve been continuing to work on this in the past few years (God, it’s been a long time). The story is almost done, but I’m not quite ready for an “official” release yet: all of the events and activities should be finished. Same link as above.

New features:

  • If the name “Karen” has been ruined for you, you can pick a different English name in an early scene.
  • You can skip to later weeks from the beginning.
  • Achievements! (but only viewable at the end, after finishing the game)

Current word count: ~77k, average playthrough: ~25-30k

If you play this, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know what you think. I’ve made a feedback form at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScdzmxae1pPKjGw3oZcNNnSXDVaEjgE41-ZAND8D2DqgJ6Htg/viewform?usp=sf_link . Or just reply here. Thank you!

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Thanks to the people who made comments! I’ve pushed a new version that should fix some of the typos (except the Chinese; see more below), and add a couple of non-relationship achievements. If you filled out the form in detail and would like a mention in the credits as a beta tester, I’ve added a field in the form, or you could just dm me.

About the Chinese text: honestly it was more of a personal exercise than anything else. I’m a “legacy speaker” or something like that, so I was challenging myself to see if I was capable of writing basic dialogue. There were definitely grammar mistakes and typos! Thank you so much to the person who suggested all the corrections!

It was also very inconsistently included; basically I included Chinese whenever I felt like it on that day (this is one trouble of writing a game over 4 years). For consistency’s sake, I should either remove all the Chinese text entirely, or add it for all the regular italicized text. Removing would be much easier; should I go ahead and remove the Chinese?

About repeating events: yes, there are options that can be repeated. Some of it, like the lonely weekend or stress/loneliness events, represents daily drudgery or common occurrences in Qiuyi’s life; sometimes it might be a bug.

I’m not sure if I would call any ending a “good” or “bad” ending. I would consider any ending where Qiuyi manages to make connections with people as a good ending. Success in the pageant (or anything else) is not expected, and shouldn’t count against you too much.

Maybe there should be some clues in the introspection events as to what the player could try to do, and what the current pageant chances are?

Spoilers-ish on winning the science olympiad and winning the pageant:

In order to get a gold medal in an event, you have to study for that event at least twice. The second study session will be different from the first; I changed the choice to reflect that. It’s not possible to get four gold medals.

Theoretically, it is actually possible to win the pageant. You have to do all the preparation events, and pick a ball gown and try it on beforehand. Also go shopping with mom. Plus do interview practice with Miri or Emily (some of the awkward conversations with Emily count as interview practice lol). You have to pick the correct option in the interview, which only shows up if you have at least 5 interview points.

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Sorry, it feels like I’m constantly talking to myself here…

This is probably the last update before an “official” release. I’ve fixed a bunch of bugs and typos, and added some minor content, like progress checks for the pageant and science olympiad preparations. Also found a couple of bugs in the dendry engine which should be fixed now.

Again, the feedback form is at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScdzmxae1pPKjGw3oZcNNnSXDVaEjgE41-ZAND8D2DqgJ6Htg/viewform?usp=sf_link.

Also, I have an interactive fiction tumblr at https://pageantverse.tumblr.com/, or follow me on main at https://cyberpunklesbian.tumblr.com/.

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so I’ve been a long-time lurker on this forum but I finally caved and made an account so I could comment on this game, bc I’ve honestly never seen a game like this before—one that has Asian & mixed-race characters so emphatically at the forefront of the narrative, one that included lesbian, bi & trans characters who were all portrayed in an interesting and nuanced way, one that allowed me to play as a character with social anxiety…there were really so many intersections of identity and experience that hit very close to home for me on a personal level. and imo the the entire story was pulled off wonderfully—I found myself wanting to know more about the characters (Emily in particular seemed like she could be the center of an entire YA novel) and where their stories would go in the future (I was very happy to read that a sequel is in progress!). I could see a lot of similarities to Emily Short’s Bee, which is another favorite of mine even in its incomplete state, and yet Pageant’s so completely unique in its storytelling and execution. I honestly lost count of how many times I replayed over the past few days. just…thank you so much for dedicating your time to writing this lovely game. :black_heart:

(I did find a few bugs/typos while I was playing, but I’ll have to look at it more closely to give you more helpful feedback/fill out your feedback forum. sorry I don’t have more constructive comments right now! :sweat: I got excited and wanted to comment while the story was fresh in my mind)

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Wow, I want to cry now :sob: :sob: :sob: This is the best comment I could have ever received :purple_heart: :purple_heart: :purple_heart:

Thank you so much, and I’m glad the story could resonate with you…

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I’m really surprised I liked this. In my case having an established character for the game was actually a plus - I felt like I was trying to guide someone to have the best life they could, rather than playing as myself. If it were a blank-slate female character, I don’t think I would’ve been able to play - as a trans man it would be kind of dysphoric for me.

As it is it’s like having a really cool window into someone else’s life, and I came to care for Karen. And her social anxiety was very relatable to me, sadly. I’m excited for sequel. Do you mind telling me what it will be about? The state pageant?

On romance routes, I like them all, more or less. Emily’s definitely my favorite character, partially by virtue of our shared transness (she feels very real and sympathetic), partially by virtue of having the most chances to spend time with her, and partially by virtue of her personality. Aubrey might be my favorite route though.
I like the “childhood friends” and “rival” (although that’s mostly a dynamic pushed by Karen’s parents?) tropes a lot. None of them really feel quite like “complete” archs, but I’m guessing they’ll continue in the next game.

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Thank you so so much! I really appreciate all the feedback.

Agreed about Emily getting more attention than Miri and Aubrey. The latter two deserve more complete stories too but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to implement them. Karen’s “rivalry” with Aubrey is pretty much one-sided; she considers Aubrey an academic rival but Aubrey knows nothing of this. The rivalry is also at least partially fueled by Karen’s crush on Aubrey.

The sequel is going to take place after a 5-year timeskip (in the winter of 2019/2020), when Karen and all the others are back home from college. It’ll take place at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Aubrey’s family, kind of like the Christmas Party/Thanksgiving Party scenes. I would like to write it for IFComp 2021, which will probably be in October of next year. There will be more player freedom to just mess around at the party, or just stay in the bathroom the whole time. It will potentially have about equal time with all of the three main “romance interests” (Aubrey has a boyfriend at this time so…), with the ability to further a relationship or let it stagnate. Also a Miri/Emily polyamory route is a possibility but don’t count on it :slight_smile:.

In the meantime, there is a mini-sequel/AU with Karen/Emily at A Christmas Party, part 2 by red autumn. It’s probably not in the same timeline as the aforementioned sequel though.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever write about the state pageant because many playthroughs will not end with a regional pageant victory, and I want defeats in the pageant to be just as valid as victories. Not totally excluding the possibility of a side story though.

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So, I guess Pageant is “officially released” on itch.io. Which is not to say that I won’t make major changes or add new content to the story, just that I’m done with it for now.

I am still interested in feedback (the form link can be found at the top or a few posts back).

I also wrote some design notes for the story: https://red-autumn.itch.io/pageant/devlog/199953/design-notes-and-postmortem. Basically dendry has turned out to be a decent platform and I honestly like the syntax and workflow better than choicescript, at least for this kind of story.

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I’ve been working on the stand-alone sequel to Pageant, and I’ve written approximately the first third of the story (~15k words, it’ll be shorter). The story takes place five years after the end of Pageant, when Karen Zhao et al. are in their fourth year of university, and have returned home for winter break. The story will take place at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Aubrey Gao’s family. Emily and Miri will be there too. It’s a story about becoming an adult, and not knowing what to do. Like Pageant, this is written in dendry, but with some updates to the engine.

If anyone would like to be a beta tester, please DM me (whether or not you’ve played Pageant before). Due to ifcomp rules, I can’t share the link publicly.

Thank you!

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