My Old Kentucky Home: Post Mortem

December 22nd, 2013 1:04 am

My Old Kentucky Home (MOKH) is a Twine based work of interactive fiction written during the compo. It’s my first completed work in Twine, though I’ve attempted work in the medium before, and my second Ludum Dare entry ever. Previously I’ve worked in HTML and in card games. The games soundtrack is also performed by me.

This is meant to be read after you’ve played the game, so it does have spoilers/etc in the contents. If you care about things like that, then you shouldn’t continue reading until after you’ve played. The playthrough’s I’ve watched take about ten to fifteen minutes. You can play the game here.

MOKH is a story about a fifteen year old girl named Emily who lives in rural Eastern Kentucky. Two years ago a massive calamity took place that she refers to as the Happening. It’s a class-A, post-apocalyptic event — think zombie invasion, Rapture, I am Legend. Whatever has happened has left her alone, living out of a coal mine in the woods above her empty town, and she is running low on supplies. The basic premise of the story is a take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

What Went Right 

soul studioThe music went over shockingly well. I wrote almost the entirety of a game inside a defunct soul studio, so I had a feeling I was going to be including some music into it. I researched the type of songs that I wanted to include, as well as remembering what songs were actually performed at the Eastern Kentucky funerals that seem to have been staples of my childhood. All of the songs were recorded in a single take, and they have a shaky quality in them because I’m terrified of performing. Thankfully that lends itself well to the character.

I also feel like I managed to capture a cultural memory of Eastern Kentucky. A large portion of my family is from, and continues to reside in, the area around Pikeville. I attended funerals where family slept in the funeral home the last night of visiting, have sang Amazing Grace at several funeral homes, and have seen the function of coal as a life blood to an area. Some of the strongest women I know are from Eastern Kentucky, and it is that spirit that I wrote Emily. When I read the story aloud, I hear the timber of their accent in Emily’s voice. I say a cultural memory because most of the included details are either from childhood visits or stories told by my mother.

The ending of the story also seemed to work well. My original draft called for a longer, extended scene wherein terrible things were happening to you that you were unable to control, but a macro would push you through those scenes quickly so that it was almost as though the moment was whizzing by. I wanted to simulate the effect that I actually managed to achieve with the final scene — the death blow with the frying pan. Those couple of lines are some of the best that I’ve strung together, if simply by effect alone. I wanted the player to feel as I imagine the character felt, hopeless, slightly vengeful, and knowing that this was necessary. The feedback I have received has stated that that moment functions overwhelmingly in the way I intended, and because of that, I feel successful.

What Went Wrong 

Due to the quick nature of the event (48 hours) there wasn’t the amount of time I would’ve normally spent polishing my work and ridding it of minor things like typos, but also major things like making sure the continuity was strong and editing out events that were not as important. The fire starting event in game took a very long time to write, but almost all of the play throughs I’ve seen have resulted in a successful fire start, thereby rendering the alternative paths from that point in time unnecessary. In a related note, some of the branches near the fire starting tree don’t function the way they are supposed to — the first song is meant to be almost an Easter Egg and because of the way the game functions, almost everyone encounters it.

I would like it to be longer. For some, the pacing was slow, but I really did want to build towards the moment where the player feels the desperation of the character. Right now her decision to go down the mountain seems almost like a whim, and I really wanted it to be a need.

I wish there were more possible outcomes. Near the end, I was contemplating an ending wherein Emily fails to fend off her attacker, and he kills her. I had already mapped out how the scene would take place, but removed it because I felt that a player that was invested in the outcome of the game would feel cheated or thwarted. If the game built in such a way that that was an option, I feel it would be more accepted, but didn’t think that it would work in the context of the game as it stands currently.

The Future 

I plan to continue working on MOKH, from the minor (fixing typos and grammar) to the major (more music, some minor graphics, etc).

If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them, and you can play My Old Kentucky Home here.

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