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

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 https://red-autumn.itch.io/a-christmas-party-part-2. 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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