During my first conversation with Ian and Giles, I pitched to them a fully-imagined story that combined my deep interest in environmental economics and interactive storytelling. It was to be an Edward Gorey-inspired gothic tale that borrowed from the narrative philosophy of Punchdrunk’s theatrical productions. The setting would be crucial to the story, as would the details the player could find if they paid close attention to the action and the world around them. As a playwright, I was thrilled by the idea of diving into dialogue and subtext, leading to a dramatic ending that would leave the audience curious as to what had really happened. It was perfect in my head, but there was one issue: this needed to be relayed as a text-based game.
I’ve always been the kind of writer who is lost without an outline, so putting together a design document with references, inspiration, and instructions for mechanics was something to look forward to. I probably even overdid it with the amount of work I put in (a slide show for props and setting, a slide show for characters and conversation mechanics, etc), but I knew that there would be days when I didn’t feel like writing, and having visual cues to put me in the right mood for this style would help. One recommendation that Ian made was to ‘cast’ actors for the roles of the different characters, as giving a face and demeanour to your roles often helps out a team to understand your intentions. This would turn out to help me a lot as I started reaching out to artists.
Things were going smoothly and I had put together a nice little vertical slice of The Dinner Party, when it became apparent that the scale of the game would not work in Twine. The program started taking several minutes to open my files, and lagged and crashed whenever I tried to make the smallest changes. Ian suggested that I switch over to Ink, as it would offer a more flexible way to set conditions, as well as support the size of the game. I was hesitant about this change; I am not a strong coder, and past experiences dabbling with writing in Inky did not go well. But I took a week to sit down and commit to figuring it out with tutorials and practice scenes. Eventually, it made the most sense to go with Ink, even if it would take extra time to learn.