Specters of the Deep Developer Diary (formerly Hour of Need)

Hi! I’m Abby, one of CoG’s editors and the author of Heroes of Myth and Stars Arisen! I’ve gotten far enough on my next game that I wanted to put up a thread to see what people think. I’m posting the first chapter now, and I’ll keep updating as I go along. Currently, I’ve finished the second chapter, and my plan is to keep adding chapters to the demo once the one after them is complete (so I’ll put up chapter 2 once chapter 3 is done, and so on). This isn’t as far along as Stars Arisen was when I first put up the thread there, so there’s a greater likelihood that things from the beginning will change more as I go along, as a note.

I’m putting the plot summary under a cut, because you’re welcome and encouraged to look at it, but if anyone does want to dive in without reading the summary, I’d be honestly fascinated to know how the first chapter comes across in that case. (I’m not suggesting that anyone has to avoid discussing the basic concept of the game in this thread for spoiler reasons, though, that seems…untenable.) For those who do want to go in without context, I’ll just say that it’s fantasy and it’s unrelated to Heroes of Myth and Stars Arisen.

Summary

You were the noblest hero the nation of Galdrin ever knew, and ever since you fell in defense of the crown, the legends have promised you’d return in your homeland’s hour of greatest need. Now, that hour has arrived. Hundreds of years after your death, you find yourself called forth from the grave by unknown means. The royal family you once served, much reduced in power since your time and little more than symbols but for their magical connection to the very land they rule, is desperate for your help. Enemies surround them on all sides, and you’re not the only ghost haunting Galdrin. Even the longstanding alliance you helped build with the dragons is in jeopardy. Can you shape the royals into worthy successors to the ones you once fought for – and what does that mean, in this new world? What do you mean, in a nation that has spent centuries praising your name?

UPDATE 12/18/2023: The game now uses the built-in ChoiceScript checkpoints, which Dashingdon doesn’t support. (The game still exists on Dashingdon at this point, but it’s an older and shorter version, and I’ll likely take it down eventually.) So, instead, the game is now available as an HTML file. (For more about HTML exports and checkpoints, check out this thread.) You just need to download it, and it will run in your browser. It will still save your progress automatically when you close the browser. If you’re having any problems with the file, please write in to support@choiceofgames.com (more details on why in the FAQ below). Here’s the file:
Specters_of_the_Deep.html (1.8 MB)

Edit 6/22/2023: Chapter 2 is up now!

Edit 8/15/2023: Chapter 3 is up now!

Edit 10/3/2023: Chapter 4 is up now!

Edit 12/18/2023: Chapter 5 is up now!

Answers to a few questions, possibly to be updated as we go:

How long is Specters of the Deep?
The current demo of the first five chapters is about 240,000 words. My full version of the game (not yet up in the demo) includes the sixth chapter, which is another 94,000 words. A million words for Stars Arisen was a lot to handle and I anticipate this game being between the length of that and Heroes of Myth (which was around 500,000 words), but I’m hilariously bad at anticipating wordcounts, so we’ll see.

When will the game be finished and/or released?
A while in the future right now - again, we’re very early on. Even as we get closer, I’m unlikely to give much of an estimate until we’re very close because I know how much things can change as time goes on, but I’ll keep updating this thread with my overall progress.

Who are the romance options?
There are some!

I know this is a popular question, but since the characters have barely been introduced at this point (and some haven’t been introduced at all), I’d prefer not to answer this until you and the PC know more about them. Also, some of the ways the PC’s situation changes significantly in the first chapter make this complicated to answer. But I promise there are romance options. Several, in fact.

Edit post-chapter 2: I’ll confirm a few of them now - Alek, Senna, and Frey are all romanceable. There are others, and in particular there are definitely also romanceable women, but the order of plot events means you either haven’t met them or haven’t spent a lot of time with them yet. But you may be able to make guesses.

Edit post-chapter 3: Vesper is a romance option. There is also another romance option.

Edit post-chapter 4, contains spoilers for the very end of chapter 4: Of course Cecilia is an option.

Will there be a save system?
There’s a chapter checkpoint system, using the new ChoiceScript checkpoints. At the end of a chapter, or at any time from the stats page, you can return to the start of any previous chapter.

Why aren’t all the character and place names included in the glossary on the stats page?
The glossary changes over time, and updates often happen in stages where a lot of entries are added at once, because that’s been easier for me so far. If a name doesn’t appear there as soon as it’s first mentioned, try checking again a little later in the story.

What are you talking about, the stats page doesn’t have a glossary?
You need to get a certain length into the chapter before I will grant you the glossary. :slightly_smiling_face:

The HTML file is showing an error/isn’t showing all the chapters/otherwise isn’t working for me.
Please write in to support@choiceofgames.com with more details and we’ll investigate. I haven’t been having any problems with the file, and most people have been able to play it without issues as far as I can tell, so we’re likely going to have to go back and forth with a few questions to figure out what might be happening there, and that’s hard to do in a forum thread.

A few other notes:

  • A note for code-readers: This is less of a consideration in the first chapter than it will be in later ones, but eventually, looking at the code for this game is likely to give away spoilers for later chapters that may not be posted for a while, and there won’t be a lot I can do to hide them. I can’t stop anyone from looking at the code, and I wouldn’t want to anyway because I know a lot of people enjoy it! But if you guess anything about the plot based solely on looking at the code and not the visible text of the game, please put it in spoiler tags if you’re posting about it.
Content Warnings

I wouldn’t call this a horror game, but it has more horror elements than Heroes of Myth or Stars Arisen, mainly in the form of discussions of death and dying, and also a healthy amount of spooky ghosts, one of which is you. And again, I wouldn’t say there’s outright body horror, but there are body…uh-ohs, in terms of weird ghost stuff, magic that controls human anatomy, and discussions of bones and corpses (once again, some of which are yours). There’s also somewhat more gore than Heroes of Myth and Stars Arisen tended to contain, but nothing super explicit. Also, as a general note, the ocean. In general, this game gets weirder than the others did, so if you think there’s anything I should add here, please let me know.

Also, this will mean nothing to anyone who didn’t read a particular post on the Stars Arisen Developer Diary thread, but for those who did: you better believe I put a weird doctor in this one.

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Inevitably, the description puts me in mind of Vivian from Stars Arisen. Did the idea for this story spring at all from the process of developing his character?

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Oh no. I honestly think it’s TRIGGERING (and in a very good way), like Crisis Hour and such.

The premise is a good follow-up from Heroes of Myth and Stars Arisen, a la Night of the Necrodancer kind of thing.

Congratulations on the launch of your next project! First Hannah’s Honor Bound and now this? Bring it on!

you better believe I put a weird doctor in this one.

That’s gonna be fun.

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I liked writing a ghost, and I determined that I could have more ghost per ghost if this time you were the ghost.

You heard me.

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I’m thrilled to see this. :revolving_hearts:

I like everything I see about this game.

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Ah yes, the all-important GPG metric! I can’t complain. :ghost:

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Haha! I love the fact that you’re writing a “how much of a PITA would it be to be Arthur/Gilgamesh/Beowulf” story!

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Haven’t read through the demo yet, but as a massive fan of your work and also horror themes, I am super excited about this project and just wanted to throw out some early encouragement and support!

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On the plus side, if we don’t like the RO we pick at first, we can just ghost them.

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This is delightful! I think you’ve threaded the needle of nested flashbacks really well - it all feels very organic and flows nicely. The magic feels mysterious and powerful, and it’ll be interesting to see how Senna, Cecilia and Iris’s approaches differ. Plus I’m very intrigued about what catastrophe had occurred in the meantime. (I like the name - it makes me think of King Arthur mythology!)

I feel like although this isn’t directly related to your other games, there’s a common thread of characters grappling with the consequences of the past coming back to (heh) haunt them, which is a compelling theme for me :smile:

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Did someone say consequences of the past coming back to haunt them?

Maverick ALERT!

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There are a couple of reasons why I’m not wild about the title:

  1. It does get at the “legendary hero returning” aspect of the game, but it doesn’t really cover other aspects of the game that grew in prominence after I threw a title on the original one-paragraph concept. Like, nothing about Hour of Need says “ghost,” at least not to me.

  2. The obvious abbreviation for Hour of Need is HoN, which looks very similar to HoM, which is what I call Heroes of Myth, which makes some of my file names confusing to look at.

We’ll see what happens, though! I didn’t think Stars Arisen would be the final title either, for the record.

Consequences of the past are a big thing pretty much throughout, yes!

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Will I meet my rival (love of my life) again?

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On one hand, it’s been at least two hundred years and wizards in this world still have normal human lifespans, so it seems likely that she’s dead.

On the other hand, you are also dead.

Conclusion: Hmm

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:skull: x :skull: romance

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Save slots…? :eyes: I know you’re still somewhat early in development, but I like to try out all the options, haha.

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I’m going with chapter checkpoints I mentioned for a save system - I tend not to implement the Dashingdon stuff because I prefer to stick with things that can be published with the final game.

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All along we waited for King Arthur to return, but never did I think that I was King Arthur :exploding_head: (kidding, of course! but the legend reminded me of that famous one!)

I’m actually so excited for this. If Abby has a million fans, then I am one of them. If Abby has ten fans, then I am one of them. If Abby has only one fan then that is me. If Abby has no fans, then that means I am no longer on earth. If the world is against Abby, then I am against the world.

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King Arthur was of course an inspiration (and Owain Glyndŵr, etc.), but my actual Arthuriana knowledge is pretty casual, so things mostly went in a different direction from there and I wouldn’t expect a lot more Arthur references or anything. But that was the jumping-off point for sure!

:smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Sounds interesting

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