Pageant (interactive fiction/dating sim, WIP)

gender-locked-female

#1

Hi everyone! I’m working on a choice-based game, and if it sounds interesting, it’d be great if you tried it out…

Pageant is an interactive fiction story with dating sim and time management elements, featuring a lesbian protagonist. It’s a choice-based HTML game written in the dendry language, with a lot of elements that might be familiar from choicescript. It’s a slice-of-life story with a realistic, modern high school setting, heavily influenced by Chinese-American culture. (I’ve noticed that these kinds of settings are basically nonexistent among choicescript games lol). Currently, there are ~14000 words, which is around 10-20% of the content. And hopefully the game will be updated regularly.

Synopsis: Your name is Karen Zhao, and you’ve just been signed up by your parents for a beauty pageant. You’re not ready, not even close, but you don’t have a choice. But perhaps you can make the best of it. Maybe it’s the one opportunity to create a hook for your college applications. Maybe you can reinvent yourself, become the metaphorical butterfly breaking out of its cocoon or something like that. Or maybe you can find true love (or some approximation thereof).

Link to demo

A few things I would like to hear feedback about:

  1. is the story interesting? i’m guessing a lot of people won’t care for the premise, but otherwise, does the story live up to it so far? would you be interested in reading more?
  2. Is the narrative voice interesting? is the protagonist likeable or too whiny or sympathetic in any way or …?
  3. Most of the relationship “routes” have barely been started, but based on what is there, are they worth pursuing? do you like anyone in particular?

Also please tell me if you find any typos or bugs, or if you have any other comments about the story, writing, etc. A lot of parts are unimplemented and sometimes a storylet might cut off in the middle.

Thank you so much!


#2

Haven’t played it yet but you got me at “lesbian protagonist.” The idea of a Chinese American protag is also great- there isn’t of a racial diversity in IF IMO.

I’m on Mobile and the game doesn’t seem to work to well so I’ll try later on my laptop.


#3

Thanks! Representation was part of the reason I wrote this story (there are few stories about these sorts of experiences in any media). But I certainly hope it’s not the only thing going for the story, otherwise the audience size is… practically zero lol.

The game works on mobile for me (firefox and chrome on android). Is there something specific that doesn’t work well?

Also, there’s a non-canonical short side story here, if anyone’s interested. It was originally going to be part of the main game, and shares the main characters, before I changed the engine and the timeline.


#4

The story sounds pretty interesting so far, I haven’t played it yet. I feel like you should add the option to change your name though. Otherwise it could feel more like a written out story, other then a choices game. Like you were reading someone else’s story or perspective. Just trying to give some tips.:sweat_smile:


#5

…this is interesting to me as a half Chinese pageant girl, lol. I’ve been dabbling in the Miss America system for three years now and am always curious to see what people’s opinions on pageantry are. :wink:


#6

Thanks for your comments! There won’t be an option to change your name because the player character is a fixed character with a predefined background. Also, she has both a Chinese and an English name, and they might be a plot point.

Also, the game is not a static story - there will be multiple endings and many different paths through the story.


#7

That’s really interesting! The pageant in this game is probably not accurate at all lol (but hopefully everything else is; there’s a lot in the story that’s not directly about the pageant). I very loosely based it off of http://maoteen.org/. Actually I don’t even remember how I came up with the idea of a beauty pageant; missed experiences maybe? :smiley: Any thoughts so far?


#8

Uhm, the game is ok. I guess.

Thats a joke reference to main character :slight_smile:

Well, i like the premise and i’m interested hiw the game will grow.
As of right niw the game seems pretty railroaded with set character, not only her name, but also her personality, so there isn’t much of a real choice so far. The MC’s personality is something different and it takes a moment to roleplay into her character. I mean, i consider myself an introvert, but even i saw her as rather extreme case with some of the reactions you see.
The story also lack a bit of descriptions and actual content in conversations. Although the lack of amount of actual writing perceived is negated somewhat by different format of the game (atleast when i played on cellphone), with smaller space taken by actual writings and bigfer “interface” (?) than in other choice games on the site.
Other thing that put me off a bit was parent’s emotional abuse, and inability of my character to respond to that the way i wanted to respond, but i understand that this part of character’s profile so i think i may get used to roleplaying that. Maybe.

Overall not bad for a start, but there us still a lot of work required to put into it, and i’m interested in how it will go. Keep up your work :slight_smile:


#9

Thank you for the feedback!

I guess I should clarify some things about what I want for this game. It deliberately eschews most of the CoG house style; the player character’s background and personality are fixed, and she’s probably not going to be a self-insert for the player. She’s not just an introvert, but also suffers from an (undiagnosed) anxiety disorder, and probably other mental illnesses. Through the course of the story her personality might change (and there are hidden personality stats), but subtly at best. There will definitely be moments of denied agency, where you pick an option and Karen just… doesn’t do it, even if she knows it’s good for her.

The main form of interaction in the story is in the choice of activities. There are several main groups of activities: pageant prep, research, science olympiad, family dinner, and the various social activities. This allows the player to choose where Karen focuses her attention: does she try hard for the pageant or work on science-related extracurriculars? Does she try to make friends, interact with her family, or sit at home and play video games? In the end, her performance in the pageant, her extracurricular activities, and her relationships with her friends and family and possibly romance will become part of the ending.

Within each activity, the path tends to be linear, with mostly aesthetic choices. It’s basically the “quality-based narrative” style, where each activity is a storylet. Emily Short’s Bee was the main inspiration for my design (and honestly if you’ve played Bee then my game will look like a total ripoff lol).

Thanks for the comments about the writing style. It’s just… how I write I guess. Should there be longer dialogues and more descriptions of characters and setting?


#10

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:


#11

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).


#12

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:(


#13

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.

#14

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.


#15

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!


#16

This is excellent. Please continue.


#17

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