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Incline Strangeland - new adventure game from Wormwood Studios

Joined
Feb 28, 2011
Messages
3,583
Location
Chicago, IL, Kwa
Sierra were certainly the most high-profile offenders, but I don’t think they were the worst; by the 90s they were making games significantly easier than many of their competitors (Discworld, Black Dahlia, The Space Bar). The infamous Old Man Murray article about GK3 seems to have colored most people’s memories about Sierra. They were certainly guilty of an over-reliance on moon-logic, but not to the extent most people think.
 
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Victor Pflug

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 17, 2009
Messages
154
At some point Vic is just going to make a Primordia sequel without me. :)

Mark thinks he's done with Primordia - that's a funny joke. :D

There won't be a Primordia sequel without him though. We're like Cheech and Chong on point and clicks - and Dualnames is the weed lol...
 

PlanHex

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Dec 31, 2007
Messages
2,022
Location
Copenhagen, Denmark
I liked the word / phone number puzzle.

I only figured it out due to the many hints around it, which left me with a feeling that it wasn't that I was smart for figuring it out, but MRY was smart coming up with it, and deigned to hint enough for dumb-dumbs like me to get through it.
So it must be bad game design, as in my brain I hear Chris Avellone saying something about "ego stroking".
But I still liked it.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
Ha! I appreciate the kind words. Amazingly, as I just recently learned, a substantially identical wordplay occurred in a UK show called Jonathan Creek (there, the phone number prompt was: “Oh when I know to free hate, to sever no one,” which IMO is not as good). As the good book says, there is nothing new under the sun; we are never even half as clever as we think.
 

Darkozric

Learned
Edgy
Joined
Jun 3, 2018
Messages
560
At some point Vic is just going to make a Primordia sequel without me. :)

Mark thinks he's done with Primordia - that's a funny joke. :D

There won't be a Primordia sequel without him though. We're like Cheech and Chong on point and clicks - and Dualnames is the weed lol...


MRY is offering you the unique opportunity to make an actual good game by not including himself in the process of the making and you throw it so generously in to the garbage bin. Man, you are truly a mini studio of idiots...
I can't wait for the moment you face the same fate as Telltale.
 

0wca

Learned
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
306
Location
Not here
Strangeland was great, even though it was short. Love the settings that you guys make, they are actually ineresting and worth exploring - something a lot of studios struggle with today.

Played through the game again with the commentary on and could relate to the whole inspiration for the story. All in all, :salute:

Mark thinks he's done with Primordia - that's a funny joke. :D

There won't be a Primordia sequel without him though. We're like Cheech and Chong on point and clicks - and Dualnames is the weed lol...

Lol

I would love a new Primordia, however I got a feeling that the original's story might suffer from it if done with the same characters. It would be great if you could do a different cast and story within the same setting.

MRY is offering you the unique opportunity to make an actual good game by not including himself in the process of the making and you throw it so generously in to the garbage bin. Man, you are truly a mini studio of idiots...
I can't wait for the moment you face the same fate as Telltale.

Who let in the incontinental asshole? He's shitting all over the topic. Put a dick in it or gtfo.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
Quick news roundup:

Awards
- Nominated for seven awards from AdventureGamers.com (Best Traditional Adventure, Best Gameplay, Best Story, Best Art, Best Writing (Drama), Best Voice Acting, and Best Setting), with Best Adventure nominees TBA on February 18. Not sure when the awards are decided.
- Won Best Adventure Game and Best Screenplay from AGOTY Awards, and was nominated four others (Best Puzzles, Best Screenplay, Best Lines of Dialogue, and Best Soundtrack, Sound Effects and Dubbing).
- Nominated for but did not win the New York Video Games Critics Circle's Herman Melville Award for Best Writing in a Game.
- Won Best Point-and-Click Adventure of 2021 from Welcome to Last Week, a German indie zine.
- Named one of the top 10 indie games of 2021 by Indie Game Reviewer.
- Named one of the top 10 adventures of all time by WebGeekStuff (a site I'm not familiar with). Frankly, a somewhat surprising inclusion.

I think the only other list it'll show up on is the AGS Awards, which will be announced sometime soonish. A better haul than Primordia got, but I think that reflects a continued softening of the adventure game genre and probably an increase in listicles/rankings since 2012.

Translations
- Turkish is done and should be released soon.
- German is in testing, and we hope to release it with the Turkish translation to minimize Steam updates.
- Korean is in testing, but we need to figure out how to display Hangul.
- Spanish and French are in progress.

Port
- Switch is in progress, but not certain date yet. Many more effects and code tricks to handle than Primordia, so it's a harder port.
 

agris

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
5,614
German and Turkish translations released.

French, Spanish, and Korean progressing.

Russian and Polish seem to have been abandoned, but they might pick back up.
Having seen some of Tolkien's notes for translators, I'm curious what yours look like for Primordia. Do you have anything interesting to share?
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
They're just scattered across scores of emails, but it's hard to really digest them. A lot of it related to how to translate the wordplay. A particular challenge is what to do with the suffix "-built." Another is how to do deal with the fact that English "power" can mean electrical energy, political authority, and physical force, but those concepts are sometimes divided in other languages. Translating b'sod, etc., was tricky. Most of this was just done by one-on-one emails back and forth with the translators, with them posing questions to me. With French and Spanish I could read well enough to provide some feedback.

Strangeland I did more up-front flagging of issues, and the annotations make it easier for the translators to know what the references/allusions are.
 

agris

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
5,614
To be honest, that isn't surprising. Glad to hear you could take a more proactive approach with Strangeland though!
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
Honestly, I think the approach to Primordia yielded particularly excellent French and Spanish translations. The sheer amount of back-and-forth made sure that things were close to authorial intent. The approach with Strangeland was much less work for me, but I'm not sure it was necessarily better.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
Quick news roundup:

Awards
- Nominated for seven awards from AdventureGamers.com (Best Traditional Adventure, Best Gameplay, Best Story, Best Art, Best Writing (Drama), Best Voice Acting, and Best Setting), with Best Adventure nominees TBA on February 18. Not sure when the awards are decided.
- Won Best Adventure Game and Best Screenplay from AGOTY Awards, and was nominated four others (Best Puzzles, Best Screenplay, Best Lines of Dialogue, and Best Soundtrack, Sound Effects and Dubbing).
- Nominated for but did not win the New York Video Games Critics Circle's Herman Melville Award for Best Writing in a Game.
- Won Best Point-and-Click Adventure of 2021 from Welcome to Last Week, a German indie zine.
- Named one of the top 10 indie games of 2021 by Indie Game Reviewer.
- Named one of the top 10 adventures of all time by WebGeekStuff (a site I'm not familiar with). Frankly, a somewhat surprising inclusion.

I think the only other list it'll show up on is the AGS Awards, which will be announced sometime soonish. A better haul than Primordia got, but I think that reflects a continued softening of the adventure game genre and probably an increase in listicles/rankings since 2012.

Translations
- Turkish is done and should be released soon.
- German is in testing, and we hope to release it with the Turkish translation to minimize Steam updates.
- Korean is in testing, but we need to figure out how to display Hangul.
- Spanish and French are in progress.

Port
- Switch is in progress, but not certain date yet. Many more effects and code tricks to handle than Primordia, so it's a harder port.
Updates:

- Won Best Programming, Best Character Art, Best VO, and Best Puzzles in AGS Awards (nominated for six others), and Dualnames won a well-deserved lifetime achievement award.
- Won Best Story, Best Setting, and Best Writing (Drama) in the Adventure Gamers reader's awards
- Turkish and German released, as noted earlier
- Korean still stuck on a coding level (come on, Dualnames, show that award-worthy coding!), Spanish and French are progressing
- Switch port is progressing but still no release date

(Also, while it's not really making enough money to justify itself economically, it is comfortably in six figures of revenue.)
 
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Maxie

Magister
Patron
Glory to Ukraine
Joined
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Messages
1,228
MRY just published an article in which he compares litigation to interactive storytelling

Legal Advocacy as Interactive Storytelling



An advocate employs similar techniques to those used to tell

interactive stories in a totally different medium: video

games.



By MRY



It is by now a familiar adage that an effective litigator must be a skillful storyteller. Like all

storytellers, litigators must take the chaotic, tedious, confusing material of life and weave it

into a tale well told—thematic, exciting, and clear. The tale needs a compelling beginning, a

satisfying ending, and a logical through line running between them. It needs a moral. And it

needs a protagonist.



But who is the protagonist? For many years, the advice I received was that sometimes the

protagonist is one’s client (in a traditional heroic story) and sometimes the party on the

other side (in an antiheroic story). In this article, I propose that the best protagonist of a

legal story is the decision maker: the panel, judge, or jury. The decision makers’ act of

deciding takes them from outside the story to inside it. Because their decisions drive the

story’s course and resolve its conflict, the purpose of the story is to give those decisions a

context that leads inexorably to the resolution that the advocate wants.



To effectively tell this kind of interactive story, in which the audience is also the

protagonist, an advocate employs similar techniques to those used to tell interactive stories

in a totally different medium: video games. Examining the parallels can help us hone our

legal advocacy.



Law and Video Games: Interactive Narratives



Interactive stories are fluid precisely because the audience is active. The author of a book

or screenplay decides how the story proceeds; the audience’s only job is to read and watch.

But the audience in a legal dispute or a video game is not passive. The audience decides.

And each choice changes the trajectory of the story. Said another way, lawyers, or video

game writers, act as storytellers for a story that is still unfolding. To bring that story to a desired conclusion requires persuading the audience to choose the path that the storyteller

prefers.



The act of storytelling is, for me, not only a professional necessity but a passionate hobby:

I’ve spent my life writing fiction, screenplays, and especially video game stories. In the mid-

1980s, my grandfather, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineer,

gave my brother and me a computer and taught us how to program it. I fell into making

games and never fell out. By college and law school, I was working nights as a freelance

writer for various computer game companies. After I became a lawyer, I pursued my own

game projects, which to my pleasant surprise found a large and enthusiastic audience. At

the heart of all of these projects was an interactive narrative, in which the player was an

active participant in rich, thematic stories. Working as a lawyer and a game designer at the

same time, I found the parallels between the two roles inescapable.



Constraints and Inducements



When done well, narrative games present players with a host of ethical, tactical, social, and

other dilemmas not totally unlike the choices that a decision maker faces in a legal case.

The appeal of a narrative game lies in the player’s freedom to pick his or her path

forward—as in a child’s choose-your-own-adventure book, but with fewer dead ends. As a

game developer, however, you cannot afford to give the player too many choices or allow

each choice to branch out too much, or development costs will grow out of control. A

narrative game therefore requires constrained choices: the player is allowed to choose but

is kept from wandering too far from the developer’s desired path.



The art lies in making these constraints feel natural. Players should want to make the

choices that take them down the right path and should believe that the outcomes of choices

are logical and reasonable. In an interactive story, narrative magic, like stage magic,

depends on drawing the audience into the illusion as a participant: the volunteer must be

allowed to choose, but the choices must produce the outcome that the magician wants. In

the context of interactive narrative, this allows the player to become the protagonist even

though the storyteller has defined the interactions so that all of the choices draw the player

toward the storyteller’s desired conclusion.



When the interactive storyteller’s magic is executed well, the spellbound player emerges

satisfied. The ending feels like something that the player chose—and something that was

chosen rightly. Seen in hindsight, the game’s story is no longer interactive, and it must have

the features of any other compelling tale: as stated at the outset, it must be thematic,

exciting, and clear, with a logical through line and a moral. Effective storytelling techniques not only steer the player at the moment of choosing, they lend the choices—as seen in

retrospect—an aura of inevitability. Those choices should make logical and thematic sense

from the vantage of the story’s ending,



Legal argument—legal storytelling—can draw on the techniques that make interactive

stories effective. We lawyers do not get to say how the story ends. And the turns that the

story takes depend on the choices of the “audience.” A judge may exclude a critical piece of

evidence or steer the course of an argument away from where we want to take it. The

longer the litigation, the more of these choices the audience will make. But long or short, a

case is always an interactive story defined by the interplay between the advocate and the

decision maker. As storytellers, we must craft a compelling story that accounts for the

choices that the decision maker has already made and frames the next choices in a way that

brings the story back on track for the conclusion that we want.



If the case is a story and its resolution depends on the decision maker, then that decision

maker—judge or jury or panel—is the story’s protagonist. The mess of facts that we have

woven into a tale is merely “backstory” that informs the choices that the protagonist must

make. The actual story is the crisis that has come before the decision maker. It is vivid and

immediate. There are other characters in the story, but their role is to humanize and

embody the dilemmas that we present to the decision maker. In a game, there are often

other characters, but it is the player’s character who must save the day or resolve the

dilemma; otherwise, the story does not engage the player. The player rescues a hostage,

punishes a wrongdoer, lifts up the downtrodden, and so forth. So, too, here. Ultimately, to

fully engage decision makers in a story, theirs must be the role of the protagonist, while the

parties fade to hostages, wrongdoers, or the downtrodden in need of the decision maker’s

intervention.



Just as constraints and inducements are used to guide the choices in a video game’s

interactive story, so, too, in litigation. Law, equity, and procedure are the constraints that

we storytellers use to delimit the choices. Facts furnish the narrative inducements to

encourage the decision maker to prefer one choice over others. As in a game, the

constraints work best when they are not arbitrary but a logical and comfortable

consequence of the narrative scenario presented to the decision maker. Put in more

conventional terms, it helps when law and policy align within the factual context of the

case.



Interactive Stories and the Final Chapter: Justice



Human beings are hardwired for stories. Since ancient times, stories have conveyed not

only information but values. They draw us together and give us meaning: the oldest stories

answer questions like “Who are we?” or “Why are we here?” or “Why has this happened to

us?” By studying the art of storytelling, lawyers learn how to hold the audience’s rapt

attention and how to help the audience absorb and process information by formatting it in

the way that our brains like to receive it.



When we tell an interactive story, we add another layer of power. The decision maker is no

longer just the story’s audience but also its coauthor and protagonist. This takes the

hardwiring in the decision maker’s brain and turns the decision maker into an advocate for

our side. As an audience, the judge or jury wants a good story. If the protagonist’s choices

feel whimsical and the story’s conclusion seems arbitrary, then the decision-maker-as-

audience is stuck with a story that offends the very purpose of storytelling—as if our

foundational myths merely answered, “Beats me!” to the fundamental questions. The

decision maker’s yearning (as the audience) for a meaningful, satisfying story will affect the

decision maker’s choices (as the coauthor of the story). And because the decision maker is

the protagonist, there will be added reason to make sure that those choices seem not

merely right but righteous in the context of the story. When done right, the backstory of

facts, the constraints of law, and the secondary characters of parties all combine to mean

that a judge who wants a good story has to make the choices that the advocate-as-

storyteller wants. And, as with the volunteer who freely picks the jack of clubs to complete

the trick, the result is magical.



To be clear, this is not cynical legal realism. It is, at its heart, idealism. Unlike a video game

designer or stage magician, a lawyer is not an entertainer. It is not enough to weave a deft

illusion that delights the audience. The audience, here, is a decision maker committed to

doing what is right. And we as lawyers must persuade that decision maker in a manner

consistent with our high ethical responsibilities. Ultimately, the stories that ring most true

to legal decision makers are stories in which truth leads to justice. The role of the lawyer as

storyteller is to find justice in the chaotic, tedious, confusing material of life and blaze the

true path to get there.
 

Zombra

An iron rock in the river of blood and evil
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Black Goat Woods !@#*%&^
Make the Codex Great Again! RPG Wokedex Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut I helped put crap in Monomyth
Wow, I didn't think when I finally got around to playing this that it'd be the twitch minigame that stopped me from continuing. Yes, I have the dials set correctly.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
Wow, I didn't think when I finally got around to playing this that it'd be the twitch minigame that stopped me from continuing. Yes, I have the dials set correctly.
Just open the drawer using the knife if you can't handle the mini game, though I'm sort of astonished that anyone could possibly be unable to clear the minigame on slowest speed... I think it's possible you didn't do the settings right, but, as I said, you can just open the drawer and skip the puzzle altogether. (The hint line tells you that if you call, by the way.)

(Essentially all of the "you could get stuck here" puzzles have a bypass like that, except for one wordplay one that you can get the answer to from the hint line.)
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,654
Location
California
(Also, while it's not really making enough money to justify itself economically, it is comfortably in six figures of revenue.)

Six figures isn’t enough to justify itself economically?
:shredder:
No.

Steam takes 30%.

WEG takes 30% (plus gets a bump for paying VO and marketing).

We divide the remainder three ways.

So every $100k in revenue translates to a bit less than $16k per dev.

Strangeland had a three-year dev cycle, though of course we weren't working full time. Let's assume 20 hours per dev per week (probably understated), and 40 weeks of work a year, so 2,400 hours of labor (seem low to be honest). (And, of course, James and I continue to spend many hours a week coordinating translations, providing tech support, responding to player inquiries, etc.) California's minimum wage is $15/hour. (Of course, Vic is in Australia and James is in Greece, but let's keep it simple.) At that rate, to earn minimum wage for the time I spent on Strangeland would require it to clear $225k -- $225k * .7 * .7 *.33 = $36k, $36k for 2400 hrs of work = $15/hr.

My guess is that Strangeland will clear $225k. (I don't have an exact number for Primordia, but I think it's broken $1M by now (we've sold more than 300,000 copies).) But taking a minimum wage job is usually not economically justified for a white collar worker.

The justification for making a game like Strangeland is because you want to make it. In economic terms, it's more of a luxury consumption item than a productive activity. I'd like to think it's productive in non-economic ways, though.
 

Hobknobling

Educated
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
104
(Also, while it's not really making enough money to justify itself economically, it is comfortably in six figures of revenue.)

Six figures isn’t enough to justify itself economically?
:shredder:
Strangeland had a three-year dev cycle, though of course we weren't working full time. Let's assume 20 hours per dev per week (probably understated), and 40 weeks of work a year, so 2,400 hours of labor (seem low to be honest). (And, of course, James and I continue to spend many hours a week coordinating translations, providing tech support, responding to player inquiries, etc.) California's minimum wage is $15/hour. (Of course, Vic is in Australia and James is in Greece, but let's keep it simple.) At that rate, to earn minimum wage for the time I spent on Strangeland would require it to clear $225k -- $225k * .7 * .7 *.33 = $36k, $36k for 2400 hrs of work = $15/hr.

You have to get out of that hellhole. Never been to America but I know that a ton of tech people are moving to Nevada, Florida and Texas. For example, Jonathan Blow moved to St. Petersburg (FL) relatively recently.

I thought about becoming a game developer but the napkin math in your post is exactly the reason why I decided to avoid it. I guess I was just too much of a coward to not value economic stability above creative aspirations. There is plenty of other interesting problems in IT and they pay much better. You game developers have my utmost respect (as long as you are the people who get things done and publish quality stuff).
 

ghostdog

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Dec 31, 2007
Messages
10,841
(Also, while it's not really making enough money to justify itself economically, it is comfortably in six figures of revenue.)

Six figures isn’t enough to justify itself economically?
:shredder:
Strangeland had a three-year dev cycle, though of course we weren't working full time. Let's assume 20 hours per dev per week (probably understated), and 40 weeks of work a year, so 2,400 hours of labor (seem low to be honest). (And, of course, James and I continue to spend many hours a week coordinating translations, providing tech support, responding to player inquiries, etc.) California's minimum wage is $15/hour. (Of course, Vic is in Australia and James is in Greece, but let's keep it simple.) At that rate, to earn minimum wage for the time I spent on Strangeland would require it to clear $225k -- $225k * .7 * .7 *.33 = $36k, $36k for 2400 hrs of work = $15/hr.

You have to get out of that hellhole. Never been to America but I know that a ton of tech people are moving to Nevada, Florida and Texas. For example, Jonathan Blow moved to St. Petersburg (FL) relatively recently.

I thought about becoming a game developer but the napkin math in your post is exactly the reason why I decided to avoid it. I guess I was just too much of a coward to not value economic stability above creative aspirations. There is plenty of other interesting problems in IT and they pay much better. You game developers have my utmost respect (as long as you are the people who get things done and publish quality stuff).
MRY is a family man and a working lawyer, I don't think he'll consider relocating for game developer reasons. Not to mention that these guys don't have offices and stuff for game development, they just work on their spare time from their homes.

I think getting the basic wage for your time, when you're doing creative work you greatly enjoy, is a roaring success. Especially when we're talking about a niche genre like p'n'c adventure games.
 

Viata

Arcane
Joined
Nov 11, 2014
Messages
8,351
Location
Water Play Catarinense
In another words, he is not dumb enough to sacrifice his professional life just to make niche games and later complain about indie apocalypse.
 

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