So with a little over 2 hours left in Ludum Dare judging I’m sitting down to talk a bit about the game I’ve worked on. It’s called rot, and it’s a short interactive fiction piece about menstruation, coming of age, and the post-apocalypse.

If you haven’t played and/or rated it yet, I’d be super pumped if you did.

rot

You can play it here.

I’ll include a longer post-mortem after the cut, but don’t want to bog down the front page. If you’re interested in hearing more about the subject, about using the interactive fiction engine ink or about trying to create a varied experience everyone will still undoubtedly comment is too linear – read ahead :)

 

I’m going to be talking about the content of the game, which covers menstruation, and has trigger warnings for blood, gore and sexual abuse. They’re not really heavy handed, but they’re definitely there.

Picking Engines

I like to start Ludum Dare by setting some basic goals for myself. This time around I wanted to use the interactive fiction tool/engine ink. Ink is a really fascinating engine developed for use in the game 80 Days. One of the things that differentiate it from a few other common IF tools is that it allows for really fine tuned control of where the narrative goes. When you’re working in interactive fiction, the narrative is the mechanic, so finding a tool that worked like this was really interesting.

inky from inkle

I’ve used a lot of different engines for different games during Ludum Dare, from Twine to Tyrano Builder to good ole Unity, but I had a lot of fun learning and adapting ink to suit my needs. The first day or so was spent both wasting time and reading ink documentation, which probably could’ve been cut down. You live and you learn.

Ink is free and if you’re at all interested in fine-tuned adjustments in dialogue systems or in interactive fiction in general, I’d suggest checking it out.

Making A Game About Periods 

Earlier in 2016 I participated in the Train Jam. It was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the Midwestern United States heading to GDC and haven’t somehow already heard about it. It’s a 52 hour game jam across the United States, on a train. During the ride I happened to start my period which was uncomfortable and awkward as those things normally are.

Combined with discussions about Snowpiercer that were happening at the time, I began to focus on how I really needed to make a game about the post-apocalypse and menstruation. Nothing was firmly in place before the jam started, but it was an idea I’d been knocking around for awhile. In addition, one of the better movies I saw this year was the VVitch, a Puritan witch horror thriller. Both of these experiences came together to create rot.

cigarettemen

One of the people at our jam site started doing free-association with words on the white board. When she asked us what we thought of when we thought about the term “one room” I thought about “wombs.” From there I remembered my earlier experiences with the Train Jam and realized that that was what I was going to make a room about. My original thought for this Ludum Dare was to work on making a sweater into a game, but with the theme I just didn’t feel inspired at all. So I started working on a game about menstruation instead.

With rot, I really wanted to touch on the alien feeling of periods, specifically for the first time. I was also struck by how, especially if you had no concept of what was going on, the idea would be really horrifying and gross. I mean, even if you know what’s going on it’s not pleasant. There’s a really old Tumblr post I can’t find where a woman describes her period to someone who is a man, where she breaks down all of the pieces of what it feels like — the stickiness, the smell, the pain. The memory of that description was a big impetus for me writing this. Women don’t talk about menstruation, not openly. Not really. At least not where I live. And yeah, that’s probably cause getting into the chunky bits is a bit gross, but it’s also something that happens every month.

So I wanted to write a kind of body-horror game about what it would be like in a world where you aren’t raised with female role models, where the women are taken away when they reach some odd arbiter of “sexual maturity” and the extreme discomfort and horror of the first time.

handhold

What would I change

The game suffers for lack of background music. About an hour before the end of the compo, I realized I didn’t actually know if ink exported to a playable form by itself (without say a Unity shell). Luckily for me it did. Unluckily it doesn’t really natively support pictures or sound, so I had to spend the last hour inputting images manually in the javascript file. It’s not hard, just tedious and I didn’t have time to add in sound effects as well.

If I publish a definitive version, it will have audio. But that’s the big thing I wish the game currently had.

Anyone, after reading about periods for a little bit you’re still interested in playing rot, you certainly can. The game can be found and rated here.

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