Let’s Talk Alex Dev Log

Last month I explored in a blog post the impact that visuals can have on interactive fiction. I compared and analyzed the visual pros and cons of a number of pieces of interactive fiction in an attempt to identify what makes each effective or ineffective. Last week I considered the lessons learned while writing that post. This led me to determine the direction I want to take for my own piece, Let’s Talk Alex, which deals with confronting a romantic partner about abusive behaviors. In this follow up to March’s interactive fiction blog post, I’ll discuss how I’m implementing the takeaways from that post and my rationale for doing so.

My exploration of interactive fiction revealed that often the best pieces of interactive fiction rely more on their writing than their style. This is why I have decided to go in a similarly minimalist style for my piece. There will be no visual imagery, allowing the words to paint the scene. I am also leaning towards shying away from extensive animations and dramatic fonts. My hope is that if the narrative is well written the feeling of the scene will be conveyed effectively enough. That said, I have not completely closed the door on implementing such effects. I’ve seen them be effectively used before in pieces like Miss No Name, so I am aware that they can have a positive effect. Yet I’m hesitant to employ them as I’m concerned that combined with the visual changes I have already implemented, it will come off to the reader as too flashy and distracting from the story.

I was very impressed with the thought put into the visual effects of Queenlash and States of Awareness. Though minimal, it was clear that their authors gave thought into their choices. The regal purple font of Queenlash’s text constantly reminds readers of the characters’ royal status, along with all the responsibility, danger, and historical significance it entails. In States of Awareness, the light sickly green text color acts as a subtle reminder of the zombie apocalypse that is the story’s backdrop. While I will be changing the font color in Lets Talk Alex it will not be determined by the setting, as a regular apartment is not as exotic Ptolemaic Egypt or a zombie apocalypse. Instead, I looked to color theory to find what color would make players feel tense, uneasy, and anxious. While red can evoke these feelings, I was concerned about its connotation as a “bad color.” It is supposed to be unclear to readers if their perception of the romantic partner as abusive is valid or not, and having the font be too much of a give away. While it might change after getting playtester feedback, I’m currently planning on having the font be a pale yellow, with links being a brighter yellow. Since yellow is associated with frustration and illness it may have the effect of making readers feel uneasy, but will not overtly imply that something is wrong. By having the links to new passages be bright yellow, my hope is that this anxious feeling will be heightened when players are deciding how to respond, thereby making the confrontation feel more real. While the effectiveness of this and other style choices I have made will need to be investigated further through playtesting, I am hopeful that the insight I’ve gained from other interactive fiction will make for a strong starting point.

Let’s Talk Alex is planned to release in Summer 2022 on itch.io.

Queenlash and Miss No-Name are available on the Spring Thing Festival of Interactive Fiction 2021 Website.

States of Awareness is available on the Spring Thing Festival of Interactive Fiction 2020 Website.

Sources

Miss No-Name. Bellamy Briks, 2021. https://www.springthing.net/2021/play_online/MissNoName/index.html

Queenlash. Kaemi Velatet, 2021. https://www.springthing.net/2021/play_online/Queenlash/Queenlash.html

States of Awareness. Kerry Taylor, 2020. https://www.springthing.net/2020/play_online/TheGolden/index.html

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