The Emigre: Wagon Train (WIP and Developer Diary) | Updated:11/01/21

Welcome to my epic western survival game demo and developer diary thread. Please enjoy!

Genres:
Epic, western, survival, historical-fiction.

Premise:

In the spring of 1846, almost 500 wagons and thousands of emigrants headed westward from the Midwest of the United States to begin an overland journey to the Promised Land in the West. It was a long and difficult journey — one that often resulted in failure and death. At the rear of this wagon train, a group containing the Donner, Reed and Wolfinger families and their employees left Springfield, Illinois in the month of April. These immigrants were seeking a better life in the hills of California, a place called Sutter’s Mill.

The Emigre: Wagon Train, allows you to join one of these families on their historic journey. This adventure, covers the journey from Illinois to California — 2,500 miles over the Great Plains, two mountain ranges, and the deserts of the Great Basin resulted in failure and death for many of the travelers. For those that succeeded, a life of fame and fortune followed.

What kind of supplies will you take along? What can you leave behind, and what essentials must you bring with you? If you run low on provisions, will you be able to hunt or trade for the food you need? Would you resort to murder and cannibalism to survive? This is your chance to join a journey that has captured the imagination of the American nation for over 170 years. Will you make the life-and-death decisions that change the course of history?

The Emigre: Wagon Train poses these and other exciting challenges to overcome amid one of America’s great stories… will you join the ranks of American heroes, or will you become one of the most infamous villains in the history of the young nation?

Features:

  • Play as male, female, or nonbinary.
  • Tons of character customization and ways of shaping your protagonist MC.
  • Ability to form lasting friendships that will carry over into future games and open up future romantic options.
  • Ability to make your own mark on history, for better or worse.
  • In-game save system enabled.
  • Ability to jump to older save points within the story. (coming soon!)

Feedback Guidelines:

  • (Borrowed from @cataphrak’s feedback thread)
  • Please blur your spoilers.

Low Level Feedback:

  • Scripting bugs: if you think something might be a bug but aren’t sure, report it anyways.
  • Continuity errors: as in, the text saying something which is contradicted by any previous text.
  • Disjointed or missing text.
  • Writing issues otherwise not covered above.

High Level Feedback:

  • Commentary regarding the way the story is progressing.
  • How the setting is presented.
  • Tone.
  • Pacing.
  • Thoughts regarding the: characters, factions (families), and groups within the story.
  • Concerns about the clarity or presentation of certain decision points.
  • Suggestions regarding balance, subplots or specific options which you think might be missing.

Retail Demo Release Statistics:

  • Current version: 1.02.02
  • Retail Demo Word Count:
    • Total including command lines: 315,000
    • Total excluding command lines: 288,000
    • Minimum play-through: 25,000 (no interlude content played)
    • Average play-through: 50,000 (including interlude content played)
  • Plug in save system enabled for multiple saves. (demo feature only)

Changelog:

  • 11/05/21: Small update released deploying various fixes; ver 1.02.02
  • 11/01/21: Release of version 1.02.01 for community feedback.

Coming Up Next:

  • New material involving: Jesse, David and Jill in Origins.

Retail Demo Link: https://dashingdon.com/go/9929

130 Likes

Reserved for FAQ and Developmental info – Coming Soon!

2 Likes

I think that introverted and extraverted stats are reversed. When I choose to stay in MC’s mother skirt and to focus on the puzzle, it raises the extraverted stat and when I choose to go confidently towards Madam, it raises the introverted stat.

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Yes, I inverted the stat chart – thank you for reporting this right away. I shall fix and update shortly.

Fix should be deployed.

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Congratulations for your wip!

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Congratulations! The train is off to a wonderful start!

2 Likes

Can’t wait to read this one… will be back with more reviews, first congrats on putting out your WIP. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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@poison_mara , @Ramidel and @CC_Hill

Thank you all for your support, both here and in the past.

2 Likes

Looking forward giving this a thorough playthrough! Just be a bit patience though :wink:, I’m getting there!

3 Likes

All these comments were made immediately as I read the game and not revised, so apologies if I mentioned something that was later revealed to be irrelevant. I’ll keep them just to show which moments could be confusing while first reading.

• The character descriptions bordered on purple prose at times. Would it detract from the story if “eyes the colour of deep blue sapphires” became “blue eyes”? There’s nothing wrong with injecting a bit of poetry into your prose, but many of the phrases you used (the above “sapphire eyes” or “hair like spun gold”) were clichéd. I’d recommend either constructing an original similee or simply saying “blue eyes” or “blond hair”. Also, few babies are born with full heads of hair - especially blond or ginger hair! Most babies, at birth, are either bald or have dark hair.
• In a historically routed game, I think it does a disservice to the struggles of the people alive in these periods to brush over things such as gender or racialization in favour of flavour text. How do the ideas of westward expansion and manifest destiny, which were the motivators for expeditions like those including the Donner party, and their explicitly racist foundation (the idea that the colonists were destined by God to take control of all of the American continent and bring “civilization” to its native inhabitants) influence characters of colour? And as for the gender selection, I don’t think that intersex conditions were well-known in the mid 19th century - and even if that were the case, the nurse’s reaction of addressing the child with neutral pronouns would seem to imply that being intersex and being non-binary are the same things, even though most intersex people aren’t non-binary and most non-binary people are not intersex. Plus, it seems to remove the ability to play as a transgender character. It would be more realistic (not that you need to take a realistic approach, it’s just one I prefer) to choose the character’s sex and then, when they’re at a later age, add the possibility of them being transgender/non-binary. Like, if this is a world which immediately assumes boys to be brawny and girls to be delicate, surely that has wider implications?
• The mother saying “Argh! I don’t like making decisions” was strange tonally, almost comedic. Overall, your story seems to have a lot of "Ugh"s and "Grrr"s that seem better suited for comic books.
• General note on grammar - when quoting a character speaking, if the sentence they say would normally end in a full stop, it should end with a comma inside the dialogue tag. For example, if Sarah said “I like your jacket.”, that’d be rendered as “I like your jacket,” Sarah said.
• Is the main character’s mother trying to sell them into prostitution ? Bold choice. I’m not against it - it works with the gritty theme that I assume will come with all the potential cannibalism. But I’d definitely add mentions of child sexual abuse in the trigger warning list!
• I’d avoid spelling out accents or dialect.
• Right, I revoke my little speech about ethnicity, apologies! But I’d add the selection to the very beginning and tie it in to appearance. A native character is unlikely to be blond and an Irish character is unlikely to be dark-skinned - and if they were, that would probably seem peculiar to most characters.
• The three options to react to just about everything (anger, fear, or indifference) quickly get monotonous. I’d shake it up a bit.
• Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure the term “ok” wasn’t in use in the mid 19th century.
• The term Native Americans wasn’t used in the 1850s. Most likely, they would have been referred to as Indians or American Indians.

Aside from the above issues, a very enjoyable game, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot will develop.

7 Likes

@lisamarlin – Thank you for taking an interest in my game! I know the game is very wide in its breadth at this point, so taking time is expected; it is great to get feedback either sooner or later :slight_smile:

@fool - I appreciate all of your feedback and stream of consciousness feedback is a very valuable tool to analyze and to use to improve the game with, so thank you!

  • Purple prose descriptions: prior feedback has been mixed; some like it and others prefer simpler descriptions as better… I shall keep an open mind either way; right now, I’m leaning towards revamping it once more, but it is far down my priority list at the moment. It is noted and shall be addressed sooner or later

  • Regarding modern concepts mingling and sometimes conflicting with historical concepts: part of bringing the narrative into the 21st century so that today’s readers can relate to and enjoy it, no matter a person’s knowledge or training, is using the fiction aspects of story-telling to link the past to the present together.
    One such concept added in my narrative is the acceptance and normalcy of non-binary people, both fictional and historical.

  • grammar concerns – grammar is one of my weak skillsets. As such, I thank you for helping identify areas I need to focus on for future passes. Like malinryden does with their games, I plan on having multiple passes dedicated to such improvements.

  • trigger warnings are not yet implemented, but I am keeping a list to include.

This is much appreciated, hearing that you enjoyed the game, thank you!

Knowing that my game has brought enjoyment to a reader is among the best gifts I can receive, and it helps motivate me!

4 Likes

I really liked this! The origins section was fun – I liked how we could determine not only what sort of a thief the MC was, but who they targeted, as well as what else they did to survive like sewing or hunting. Even though our interactions with Jesse, Jill, and David were brief, I enjoyed the dynamic between them and how they fought and teased one another.

I also liked how you develop even minor characters, such as how we get to hear about Dan Halloran’s problem with his doctor. And just through his complaints alone we get a better understanding of the setting, like which drugs the doctors prescribe or who else lives in Springfield. I appreciated how you went into detail not only about important plot points and game mechanics – like choosing to be a trailblazer or personal assistant – but details like what sort of games were played.

This first wagon party chapter was great, especially the replayability and how different the characters are from wagon to wagon. I briefly tried all of them but I decided on the Reeds. Virginia and Luke are my favorite so far. I especially liked how Luke’s story somewhat mirrors the MC’s with his separation from his father.

Regarding the dialogue tags – you know how the overuse of a dialogue tag like “he said”, “says the girl”, etc. can be boring and distracting because it’s repeating the same word over and over again? I got that same feeling from the complete lack of tags (which can be otherwise fine) – it was a bit distracting once I saw the pattern early on. I also felt that having that style for every paragraph broke up the flow of the narrative – because a character’s dialogue never leads into their actions with the signal of a comma, it makes the sentences disconnected. I think adding a few dialogue tags would help, as even the dialogue paragraphs without them would be impacted by their presence on the page.

Although I didn’t mind the fear/anger/indifferent options in the origins section since we were setting up our character, I didn’t really like those type of options (such as the eagerly/neutrally/listlessly choice when asked how we respond to chaotic mornings) after we chose which wagons we were joining. The repetition of these one-word options was distracting because they were so unlike the rest of the writing and other choices.

Specific things

“What does Kim do for a living?” Tugging on George’s coat, you slam the thick oaken door behind your turned back. Following the thug towards your future, you realize you will never hear from your mother again.
The pacing felt a little off here-- I think it’s because the MC is realizing their mother has truly abandoned them, but the question and choice have already moved the story forward. Even though this is clearly an important event in the MC’s life, this sudden shift makes the scene and the MC’s characterization in turn feel underdeveloped.

Defining Moments in Childhood
Since Jesse, David, and Jill are all distinct characters that exist in the story at the same time, perhaps the options to determine the MC’s best friend can add a descriptive word or two to show their personality – otherwise the player is just making a random choice.

“I hate admitting this David, but I no longer trust Kim and their motivations.”
I feel like there’s something missing here – in the previous scene Kim said they’d send a letter and then they did exactly that, so unless there’s another reason for the MC to distrust them, this seems rather sudden.

“Let me go ahead of the gang… see how things are out there… trust me, o.k.?”
This part is also confusing – here the MC says they will go ahead, but then the next morning they ask their best friend why would they drop everything and leave. It seems like the two scenes should be combined, with the choice of motive being put before the MC makes the “let me go ahead” statement.

“I can really help you in butchering the unknown.”
If you choose the cook/baker background, the code passes over the choice to talk to the three people who can give you the cow, elk, or mules. It looks like this is because the skill is set as “Cooking”, but when checking it looks for “Cook”.

Looking forward to Independence! :relaxed:

5 Likes

@expectedoperator – great feedback!

  • I am thrilled that the origins section and the interviews worked well for you :slight_smile:

  • Thank you for sharing that Virginia and Luke are among your favorites. Virginia is an all-around favorite so far, but Luke is a polarizing figure… some people love him and others hate him. @JimD has been an inspiration for all my writing, and it seems his influence shows brightly here.

  • Regarding the style concerns: I’m definitely going to schedule additional passes to address the pattern issues and dialogue weaknesses. One of my earlier testers made me aware of the repetition flaw, and it is high on my review and revamp priority list.

  • Expressing your style preferences for choices is great feedback as well – not only will I review existing choices, but I’ll use your feedback to help improve the choices going forward.

  • Regarding the pacing issues that you highlighted: thank you; I’ll take a look at those areas and see how I can address them.

  • Finally, regarding the code error – fixed! … I guess none of my prior testers (nor I in my own testing) chose cooking … I found the error and I hope it will be fixed in the next upload.

Thank you for the wonderful feedback.

5 Likes

Congratulations! I can’t wait to read this! Just need to get my new demo out in the next few days, then I’ll be sure to give it my undivided attention!

5 Likes

Donner handcart company? My LDS senses are tingling! I always find it cool when our history wiggles it’s way into these stories. I’m interested to see what you do with that. For those who don’t know the history, be warned that joining the donner party will be… Interesting…

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Interesting idea.

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@Schliemannsghost – Thank you for your support; please take your time… you are doing a lot with your games currently, so I know that can be rough.

@Logan_T – Thank you for showing interest in my game; I hope my game keeps your interest all the way until those specific influences are seen, because the journey will be a long one.

@lokidemon007 – Thank you for expressing interest in the game!

Edit:

@OniTale - Thank you for your feedback. I am very grateful you feel this was a great read!

4 Likes

Can’t believe when I saw Wagon Train I thought of a demon slayer game. Anyways this was a great read.

7 Likes

Just looking through the stats screen the scope of this project looks fascinating. I wish you luck in bringing it all together.

I did want to give some feedback on the scene of Kim’s departure because it can feel very strange depending on the play through. The character I was initially going for was one who was motivated by anger towards his mother’s abandonment and what he perceived as her self centered nature for attempting to sell him rather than just giving him up. Then he gets shipped out to the swamp to some highwayman who is rather physical to him and the other kids. With the ability to disrespect Kim in some of the early choices, I saw this as my character viewing Kim as more a captor than anything but understanding that he couldn’t survive on his own just yet. Then in the scene where Kim announces that they’re leaving there’s this sense of camaraderie and genuine care between them as if the character suddenly viewed them as a parental figure/mentor. The interaction just felt a little awkward given the play through.
I wouldn’t mind some more development concerning how they interacted over the years and then grew to respect each other, but I feel like the player should have some agency to decide the tone of their interactions.

I know it’s really early in development and there are still a lot of placeholders and what not, but I just wanted to bring it up because I wasn’t sure if that was planned to be a hard scripted scene or not. I wouldn’t necessarily mind if the relationship was scripted but it is missing something that makes the scene feel like a major leap in a direction I wasn’t expecting.

2 Likes

@Xoromin – thank you for your feedback.

The transition you are referencing has been tinkered with before, and if it is not working for the MC you were playing, then I feel I should at least take another pass at it.

I feel this is the key to what your ask is, so perhaps you can provide me with more ideas of what types of agency an angry/resentful MC would be expecting to express at the time of departure.

What I was trying to do with that passage was to signal, no matter the MC’s feelings at the time of departure, Kim still gave the MC the basic tools to survive on their own.

Thank you for taking time to write your feedback. It is much appreciated.

1 Like