Playtest - Stepchild

Stepchild is working again, thank you for your help Alexis! It’s not ready for new testers currently, I need to do a lot of painting and ductwork in there.[li]
edited by HanonO on 5/19/2013

Just my initial, subjective impression: That apparent amnesia gimmick mentioned in the intro description made me not want to give this a chance. Amnesiac characters are a personal pet peeve of mine since it’s become such an overdone crutch for beginning storytellers.

If that’s not what you intended to imply with the “Why can’t you remember anything?” part, you might want to clarify that a bit. If it is, then maybe add some kind of hook that will make it rise above the cliche. I’m guessing it has something to do with a succession plot from within or without? Give us the interesting part up front so we’ll be curious to find out more.

Edit: It looks like you’ve changed the description in the last few minutes since I looked and removed the amnesia line. The “Good thing you have an interesting piece of string to pass the time” part is actually even less of an enticement to play.

So my main suggestion at this point is to work up a good description of the game. It might be great, but you gotta give us some reason to want to find out. Give us a taste of the great writing and exciting adventure we’ll find if we step inside.

Thanks for the feedback. I infer the description drove you off at the outset and you did not play?

Updated. Don’t know if its better, but it is different.

Well, now the description tells nothing at all about the game itself. The original description really fit the tone of the game itself just fine to me. Blast_Fantastic immediately notes that they hate amnesiacs and the humor involved, so perhaps the game is just not for them?

Personally, I would like an idea of where stuff is added when you add new cards, maybe patch notes or something. As I’ve tested before, it’s difficult to figure out where I should be looking for these potential bugs.

Well, thanks! Perhaps you are right. I was hoping to get a little more feedback and so far that was all I had to go on, so I figured maybe my description was warding people away.

Currently I’m trying to still (perhaps fruitlessly) make World of the Season so I’m adding stuff and plastering gaps furiously all the time. At least for now.

Just a note - I’ve gone ahead and shut off the code for play-testing Stepchild for new testers. I’ve apparently got a bunch of people wandering around who haven’t provided any feedback, so it’s not worth letting people knock around in there, get lost, stuck, or confused because stuff is not done, then go “this game sucks!”

My current testers, I love you all! Hoping to get some new stuff operational very soon. The passkey card now has a branch that shows what I’m currently doing so you don’t have to dig for new stuff.
edited by HanonO on 2/9/2013

I’ve got the first level of the initial combat quest in the north quarter hotel operational. If anyone wants to drop some feedback, it is appreciated.

Oooh. Magic. Sparkly. Anybody? :)

[quote=Hanon Ondricek]Just a note - I’ve gone ahead and shut off the code for play-testing Stepchild for new testers. I’ve apparently got a bunch of people wandering around who haven’t provided any feedback, so it’s not worth letting people knock around in there, get lost, stuck, or confused because stuff is not done, then go “this game sucks!”
So I’m one of the bunch of people who’s been bumbling around and never saying anything, and I feel very rightly chastised by your remark above. So here, for better or worse, are my initial reactions. I should explain that I haven’t managed to leave the castle yet (just because I haven’t got that far, not because I’ve hit a problem) - so I suspect I’m quite early on in the game.

First of all, you’re really pushing the envelope on what you can achieve with StoryNexus, and some of the mechanics you’ve come up with are remarkably clever. I’m thinking of the Time Passing cards, for example, or the way you’ve modelled clothing using equippable items and QLDs. Plus, you’ve got semi-autonomous NPCs! A first for a StoryNexus world I think… and again cleverly done, by leveraging the randomness of the deck and using Must cards to control their movements.

I’m guessing here, but I suspect you’ve drawn inspiration from parser IF (aka text adventures, the likes of Infocom games)? A few of the techniques, like the passage of time and movement of NPCs, feel familiar from that genre. Most strikingly of all, you’ve used that classic model of moving towards the compass points as you navigate round the castle.

The trouble is though… to make all this happen, you’ve had to salt the deck with cards which are fundamentally there for engineering reasons rather than storytelling ones. And because of the way StoryNexus works, these cards are really very visible. So whereas in parser IF, you’d simply see a message stating that the King has arrived, in SN you have a card to say that the King has arrived - and have to click at least twice (“Go” then “Onward”) to get past it.

Likewise with the movement cards. In parser IF, moving east is two keystrokes (E, Return) and takes less than a second. In SN, it’s three mouse clicks, and feels just that little bit more cumbersome. To me (and it’s just my opinion), that was a mild inconvenience at first, but it added up to an irritation after a few dozen actions’ worth of playing.

So what am I saying? I’d maybe take a look at whether the clever bits of engineering are needed throughout the game, or whether you could just save them for special occasions - to maintain their “wow” factor, and avert the risk that they become an annoyance. And perhaps you could streamline the map, representing rooms by cards rather than areas.

That all sounds a little bit negative, but there were things I liked too! I quite literally LOL’d at the point where one of the characters spotted they were repeating themselves, and the interplay among the family in general is very witty. There are a few things already which intrigue me about the scenario, and I was genuinely surprised by… oh, gosh. How to say it without spoiling it? The thing which, when I tried to avoid it, resulted in me being grounded. That’s a nice plot twist and makes me think there’s a thoughtful strand as well as a funny one.

So, I like the concept and I admire the innovation! But just now, the mechanics are a little too intrusive, for me.

All the best

Thank you for the feedback! Yes I am an old school Infocom junkie from way back so it’s great you picked up on that. Stepchild started in Inform 7, then Varytale and now SN. The castle was the first area I made so I was learning as I went. If you play further you’ll find I have started condensing areas greatly. It took the castle to show me the limits of what could be done. I did want the castle to feel vast since it has been the entire world for the player til now.

I understand that the mechanics are cumbersome due to how the system works. It has actually improved since Alexis gave us a clear hand exotic effect so the game can skip that card draw. That was the most frequent instance of what you describe so I hope it’s improved. I will reply again when I’m on a real keyboard.

Thank you, Richard, seriously. I apologize if my “I’m cutting off the play testing” message sounded cross, but I work on it for so long thinking “this is stupid” and then all it takes is a tiny bit of positive feedback and encouragement to get me going, so really…thank you!


The preamble with the moo friends was fun (they can make chairs! Oi vai!), but alas i find myself unable to progress.

I appreciate you cutting off access to new playtesters but i assure you that i am rather vociferous and will provide feedback on my endeavours, if given the chance.

*Rolls diplomacy chek

You have succeeded in a diplomacy challenge! Provide me with your character name and I will tweak you the key.

Excellente! Arden Terraward is I, look forward to providing constructive feedback and help those poor gender confused cows :D

Arden Terraward should be all set to go. Let me know if you have problems.

Thanks Hanon, I’ve started pestering you with stuff as you will probably find out soon enough :D

Great stuff!

Thanks everyone who assisted with and supported Stepchild! Due to technical difficulties, I have unpublished the game. I didn’t think it fair to have it take up a spot on the front page when I am not working on it. I hope I can get back to it in the near future. Meantime, I have sketches for a couple other worlds that I am toying with.

Stepchild is still there if you really want to mess around in there and know how to get to it. Please PM or email me if you have any questions.

Hm i was wondering why it wasn’t there anymore! Lol no crime in pulling the plug on something if you don’t feel it anymore -best to do something else, come back with fresh eyes, and refine/change/alter what you need.
Personally i felt it had potential, albeit a bit too rambling -the storynexus structure while ambitious doesnt fit well a sandbox game imo. Make it tighter and the pace more snappy and you have something good.
Best of luck in your endavours!