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Raid on the Silver City – editing phase

Well, it’s not what I set out to make more than TWO YEARS ago, but I’m about to send Raid on the Silver City (RSC), or at least a sliver of it, out to some of my wonderful editors, for that initial sieve.

It makes me feel better about myself when I think of RSC as a learning experience, which it is. To me, these two years have equivalated to a university degree, without anyone pointing the way or giving me deadlines, marks, and feedback. I’ve learnt so much about writing, interactive fiction, general development, and myself, and suffered and sacrificed for it. Overall, I chose a stupidly difficult project for a first project and failed to maintain a balance, terribly. I’ve only recently realised that the quality of my work would be just as high, or higher, if I’d worked (at an actual paid job); placed a greater value on and dedicated more time to family, friends, and my partner; and kept physically fit. I gave myself too much time, and the pressure just wasn’t there. But I suppose all of this is part of the learning process, every month wasted, every rewrite, every nail ripped from my fingertips.

What is RSC now?

RSC is a work of choice-based interactive fiction, and interactive fiction is something that lingers in the unhealthy grey area between a book and a video game. There are many types of interactive fiction, though I designed RSC to read much more like a book than a video game. It’s made of text and hyperlink-styled choices (and some illustrations and diagrams, which are nested in the UI).

How much of RSC is in the editing phase?

In short, 1/9. Haha…

There are three playable characters (PCs) in RSC, and each PC’s story is comprised of three major branches — the onset major branch, the primary major branch, and the second major branch. The onset major branch ends with a pivotal choice between the primary major branch and the secondary major branch, and a “hard” (true/narrative) ending can only be reached near the end of a primary major branch or secondary major branch.

This diagram should help.


structure


This next diagram represents all three PCs and their current progress (when used in conjunction with the diagram above).


RSC Y progress


The interactivity (remember, this is​ interactive fiction) exists ​inside each of these branches, mostly in the form of hyperlink-styled choices. I refer to a body of text and the hyperlink-styled choices below it as a “passage.”

This is a screenshot of how a passage in RSC appears to the reader. It’s simple, as it should have been from the start.


passage


I won’t go into Twine, the program with which I created RSC; the large-scale and small-scale structures of interactive fiction; variables, of which I used Boolean and integer; or anything else “below the surface.” That suffering I’ll reserve for my editors.

What I’m about to send to my editors is only about 55,000 words (as opposed to the half a million sitting in limbo or the bin). It’s a nice, manageable about of work, for everyone.

So, as you have probably figured, RSC is still in development; when I publish it on itch.io, I’ll actually be listing it as “in development.”

Why only publish RSC as “in development”?

It comes back to a lack of feedback and RSC being a stupidly difficult first project.

It’s gone on for too fucking long, and I’ve been in the dark, with repetitive strain injury, for too fucking long. I need feedback to grow as a writer, and I need to move on from RSC to grow as a writer and person. There are far more lucrative projects that I have in mind — some short stories, a novella, a novel, and even a children’s book — and other aspects of my life that I need to pay far more attention to, like adulting and returning the colour to my face. RSC is only one project in what I hope will be a long and successful writing career. I will finish it, yes, but not now, not yet.

When will this “sliver” of RSC be published?

It really depends on this editing process. I’ve never done it before, not like this. On top of that, I’m moving out and away one month from now, so the shit’s an inch from the ceiling fan.

What about some more editors?

If you are interested in editing RSC, contact me. Once it’s gone through the first sieve, I’ll need as many editors and alpha (or is it beta?) readers as I can get.

What about some content?

Well, if it works out, I might return to posting short stories to this blog, like the old days, but I’ll also try and keep you updated on RSC and my other — much smaller — projects, for which I’m excited.

It’s good to feel excited again.

What is and who made that fantastic featured image?

It’s some early concept art for the Storm Wall, a city on Lorelei, the island on which RSC is set.

And Roderick Fernandes illustrated it, of course.

Check out his Artstation profile.

https://www.artstation.com/fernandesart

The Storm Wall (early concept)

Discovering the MUD (and time constraints and RSC LORE)

Time constraints and RSC LORE

Working on RSC seven days a week, I do not have the time to continue writing the RSC LORE series. When I am finished with RSC, I will reorganise my worldbuilding and return to the series.

Discovering the MUD

It is important to understand that I consider all text-based fiction, printed or digital, that allows the reader/player to interact with the story by making choices to be “interactive fiction” (“IF”).

When I started working on RSC near two years ago, I knew little of IF. Honestly, those old “Give Yourself Goosebumps” gamebooks were my only exposure to it.

Now I consider IF a distinct discipline of art, as there are a plethora of forms it can take. RSC, for instance, is a work of choice-based IF, but a more popular form of IF is parser IF, with which you type commands instead of selecting choice text.

I intend to explore the many forms of IF in my article “The making of RSC,” but my intent with this post is to introduce a specific text-based game and discuss its relevance to IF and general writing.

Where to begin?

Researching IF,  I happened upon the acronym “MUD” on more occasions than one, though I hadn’t dared investigate until two weeks ago. To summarise the MUD Wikipedia article, a MUD is a “Multi-User Dungeon,” a text-based multiplayer video game.

Intrigued by the possibility of a text-based MMORPG, I found the r/MUD subreddit, where I made a post titled “Where to begin?” It was responded to with haste and detail, and from all the MUDs there recommended to me, the first seemed to best match my preferences.

Sindome

The MUD first recommended to me was “Sindome,” which is technically a “MOO.”

Sindome has strict rules of conduct which exist to preserve the beautiful and grotesque world created by its game moderators and players. Roleplay (RP) in Sindome is required, and metagaming is prohibited and policed with tenacity.

I do not wish to break rules of conduct by writing about my in character (IC) experiences, though I believe it is acceptable to discuss the general premise of the game.

The premise

As stated on the website, Sindome is “a cyberpunk roleplaying game set 85 years in the future.”

If you are unfamiliar with cyberpunk, do yourself a justice and “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049.” If you are seeking a comprehensive list of cyberpunk artworks, many are listed on the “Inspiration” tab of the Sindome website.

Withmore City, the prime setting of the game, is a futuristic, dome-enclosed city of four layers. The lowest layer is settled by the dregs, while the highest is the domain of the distinguished.

Expect neon signs, holograms, clones, gangs, bars, suicide booths, soup kitchens, corpses, sex shops, video walls, nightclubs, pickles, prisons, factories, dodgy alleys, drug vending machines, pimps, fallout shops, ad-blimps, abandoned buildings, brothels, burnt out cars, street judges, GRID terminals, hobos, tube stations, pickpockets, food stands, scummy hotels, and steaming manholes, and expect all listed above and a million things more to be rendered in text.

If you enter an intersection, for instance, you will be provided with an evocative textual description of the intersection, within which might be sections of differently coloured text indicating something you can interact with. You will also be provided with movement options, primarily in the form of cardinal directions. But what bursts my brain is that if another player/playable character (PC) enters the intersection, a description of them will appear, and you may be able to interact with them, in an IC manner.

IF and general writing

Interactivity

You may be wondering how you make your character interact with their environment.

Sindome uses commands similar to works of parser IF. You can type whatever you wish into the client, though it will only recognise and act upon words and phrases it recognises.

You could type “north” to walk north, “look at graffiti” to inspect at a piece or a collection of graffiti, or “say Where can a guy find some pickles around here?” to track down the true desire of all sane humanoids.

Reading

Reading improves writing, but it is best to read good writing.

Sindome’s prose immerses you with very few lines. It is sharp and brutal, and you will quickly feel the recycled air pushing down on you.

If you want to advance your prose and learn how to generate a cyberpunk tone, heed Sindome’s descriptions. Look at and question everything. Stop and smell the corpses.

Creating and roleplaying a character

Good stories have great characters, and Sindome forces you to create a believable character. In fact, to get certain jobs, your character’s “history” must be submitted to and accepted by the game moderators.

For it to be accepted, you must detail:

– Your character’s date and place of birth.
– Their family (their parents at minimum).
– Their personality traits (strengths and weaknesses/flaws).
– Their education and employment history.
– Interesting past experiences.
– Their achievements.
– Why they have the stats and skills that they do.
– Why they came to Withmore City (honestly, you’d have to be mad).
– Their goals and motivations.

You can also customise your character’s voice, appearance, and how they might look standing in the street or sleeping in the alley adjacent to it.

Though creating your character is a small step towards participating in RP.

Sindome exists in “real-time,” meaning that an hour in Withmore City is equal to an hour in real life. If you exit the game while your character is prancing down the street, they will collapse against a bin and sleep.

By interacting with the environment, NPCs, PCs, and game moderators in real time — by participating in real-time RP —  you experience every peak and trough of your character’s story arc first hand. Every friend and enemy gained. Every triumph and failure.

Some characters have existed since Sindome came online in 1997, to put it in perspective.

Shared storytelling

While other MUDs might focus on game mechanics, Sindome focuses on RP and shared storytelling, and in this way, it is similar to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), for which I might write a similar post.

It is compelling because it is social storytelling — a shared hallucination. But it is also valuable for any writer who intends to collaborate at some point in their career.

Cheap possibilities

I think Sindome interests me because it illustrates the versatility of text.

Text is cheap.

You can write with a piece of paper and a pencil… and you can create an entire universe with a book of paper and a box of pencils.

You can jump from a whispered conversation to an epic space battle in a single page… and you can witness fifty worlds through fifty pairs of eyes in a single book.

Text is possibility.

I can create a work of choice-based IF like RSC… but I could also evolve into a text-based MMORPG.

Now that is an idea.

RSC LORE – Mythos entry 1 – Kiah

Need I apologise?

Forgive me for another short entry. The one I intended to release today, “RSC LORE – Excerpt 2 – The Pale Torturer,” has become a project in itself, and I do not want to rush it.


RSC LORE – Mythos entry 1 – Kiah

Where is Kiah, and what relevance has she to Anwar and the events of RSC? This I might never answer.

The following entry was adapted from my giant offline wiki (which I currently refer to as my “mythos wiki,” if you were questioning the significance of the title). It is a glance at my writing process, a description of one of my planets that I never intended to show.


Kiah was a frenzied world of a thousand islands and few veritable continents. Her greatest landmasses persisted near her poles, while densely vegetated islands mottled her from her knees and shoulders to her waist. Volcanoes spilt from these islands’ centres, forming fresh peninsulas and merging them into an igneous lattice.

Two small moons orbited Kiah and each other, creating irregular and hostile tides, and through her thick atmosphere sometimes pierced the rays of distant and dead stars.

Wild and mighty storms slashed at her, bloating her twisted jungles and sprawling fens. And such tempests grew and fizzled like the rage of the Ancients that once pressed rock and root into her clay.

But more feral than Kiah’s tides and weather were her occupants.

Each of her islands hosted a unique food chain, often ruled by an apex predator incapable of satiation, whose gluttony razed its home and self and ushered in new chains and new predators. Her oceans too were rich with life, and its species were no less glabrous than those of the land. Those of Kiah’s creatures that were furred or feathered supplemented for her great monsoons with oils and arboreal hidings… or expired and added to her their proteins.

“Spiralling towers of cloud whip up the skin of a blue sphere, and for as many clouds as I can see, there are equally as many shards and piles of green. Each is a jungle on shores steep, battered by wind and wave.

To the poles recede caps of ice and snow, vast and deep enough to be worlds of their own. And beyond them is the dark of space, the terrain in which we slept for a million years.

Yes, Kiah is angry this day. But breaks in the deluge let in shapes of light, and I grow impatient for the feel of real sun upon my skin.”

— Alexander Breaker (printed on a piece of glass found by a caster dark and old)