Thursday, 27 February 2014

Development Diary: X-Men: Amnesia

“I always feel these types of games are risky, simply because you are using characters with well-established personalities. You run the risk of completely butchering them for fans of the series (such as myself), or not defining them well enough for people who are not fans.” ~A. Bomire in a review of X-Men: First Day at the Institute

The above is some great advice that I am now going to mostly ignore and desperately hope does not come back to bite me in the ass. This is an announcement for a game I’ve been working on to take place in the Marvel universe featuring the X-Men.

Update 3-3-2014: I'm releasing version 0.1 of the game. Note the version number, very far away from anything that resembles a complete game. You can explore the map and see the first few scenes which might give a clearer indication of what I'm going for than my text explanation. If you are looking for a game or any adult content this won't satisfy you. If you want to see the design and where this game is going then a quick little run through might be interesting. It is probably filled with typos and stilted writing, but I'm more worried about just getting the concept down at the moment.
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Why X-Men?: I like adult fanfic, especially when I am writing/thinking about what to write. I’m more interested in putting characters I am already familiar with into sexual situations then writing new characters and then putting them into sexual situations. I’ve been struggling to get an AIF game out for years now and I’ve found that my passion for writing original work doesn’t match my passion for writing fanfic. In part I think this is because I partially disagree with A. Bomire’s quote about the risk of well-established personalities; while there is some risk involved, it can also be easier and more rewarding. I can write a story where the character meets someone named Jean and has sex with them where the ‘payoff’ is dependent upon the writing/build up, or I could write a story where a character has sex with Jean Grey and there is an immediate payoff because the player is already familiar with the character (not that the good writing and build up would not improve the scene, but that the already established knowledge helps).

Once I accepted that I was more likely to get a game out based on an established plot line then creating my own, it became a matter of deciding what to write about. X-Men wasn’t my first choice, but it won out because of, as A. Bomire mentions above, what to do about people who are not fans? We are a small community as it is and I’d like to try and appeal to as many people as possible. One of the reasons I kept trying original storylines is that I wanted to appeal to as many people as possible. I figure whether it is through comics, movie, cartoons, or just random knowledge, there is a broader pool of people familiar with X-Men then if I had just chosen a TV show or video game to write about.

Basic Premise: The character starts off outside of the X-Mansion with no memory. He is a mutant, but what powers are actually possessed is unknown. The school welcomes him in on a probationary basis until he can remember who he is or it is decided to take him on full time. Thus the character begins his stay at the School for the Gifted, but it doesn’t take him long before he notices that his amnesia isn’t the only thing unusual and many of the mutants are behaving in extremely strange fashions.

Game Design: The game will play out over a number of days, probably 10 to 15, and will be broken up into a morning, afternoon, evening, and night period. The character will get to choose what to do during this period; train, study, fight in the danger room, interact with other characters, go on dates, etc. If you are familiar with the PAC/PAF design it is a similar concept.

What I might be doing differently is that I’m envisioning a ‘pocket’ design where each element of the game stands on its own. Each character will have their own storyline(s). For example, pursuing X-23 might require extensive time in the Danger Room before she opens up, while pursuing Jean Grey might involve impressing her intellectually. Both could be done in the game without interacting with the other.

That isn’t unique in itself, but I want each event to be kind of a self-contained storyline. This will be somewhat like the Elder Scrolls games; each ‘quest’ is a story by itself and doesn’t necessarily play into the ending. I had thought about (and am still somewhat considering) having no time limit, with the character freely pursuing who and what objectives they wish before moving onto the ‘end’, I just currently think a timeline works better in imposing some kind of challenge/decision making.

Now I can think of games that have done this (the have sex with a girl and then she disappears), but I’m intentionally making this the focus (though hopefully the ‘girl’ won’t just disappear). The main reason is that I want to see whether an AIF game can be created where additional content can be easily added onto an existing frame. If the design works as intended (big if), and people really want X female added to the game after the game is out, she could be put in without having to reconfigure the entire game. This opens up the possibility for me to do continual improvement, or for someone else to add a storyline without having to design the base. Not saying either will happen, but want to see if it can work.

The idea came to me when I was reading over the collaborative AIF project that is currently out there. Given the workload of AIF it would likely be good for chances of future releases if there were more collaborative projects, except so much of the design/programming has to be done individually that collaboration isn’t easy (and I suspect even harder if you come in after it has already started). This is my idea for how such an idea could work out allowing an author to either come back and add on or for other authors to contribute.

Expected Problems: I go into this aware of the dangers of the ‘pocket’ design. It can easily create a problem where the character does two major events that don’t interact with each other and the conflict never gets mentioned and/or becomes irrelevant to the larger story after completion. It can lead to a scenario where the player thinks, ‘Wait, so Jean Grey fell in love me, but doesn’t care or mention all the other girls I slept with?’.

In a perfect world, everything would tie together, but this is a cost benefit analysis. When things can tie together, great, but I recognize that in creating a wide array of possibilities it becomes likely there will be conflicting issues/lack of payoff at the ending. I think the potential rewards are worth that issue. I’m sacrificing a detailed story for multiple possibilities; that wouldn’t be a good formula for every AIF (or even most), but I hope it will work here.

Random Elements: I hope to incorporate random elements into the game that will make each play through slightly unique. In one game there might be a group meeting/dance on the 12th day, on another the Danger Room might go haywire, and in a third a character powers might go crazy. This might be too complicated though and get dropped.

Timeframe: Another issue I’ve had is what period/universe to set the game in. I’ll solve this generally by limiting mention of the outside world, but it still raises the issue of who is in the mansion. Who is faculty, who is a student, etc? I have three possibilities. The first is that I could just choose a point in some comic/movie and pick that as my setting and go with it. The second is that I can just choose a list of characters, put them in whatever I role I thought was best for them, and don’t worry if this doesn’t match the continuity of the comics. The third is that there could be intentional/unintentional universe crossover/time travel (and I’m really not stepping outside things that occur already in the Marvel universe if this happens). So even though characters A and B never lived in the mansion at the same time, they do now; or even have an adult and teen version of a character simultaneously exist.

Right now I’m in between option two and three. Three might work better as a story for people who have continuity problems, but it adds a degree of complexity.

Updates: In the past, I’ve basically tried to design the entire game in one mammoth project before even talking about it. I’m not going to do that here. I want to release multiple demos to show where the project is going (many of them will likely be incredibly unsatisfying early on) and post outlines about what will be put in. Hopefully that will keep me motivated on the project, but I reluctantly expect there will be periods of time where I completely disappear.

I’m not sure where I will do this. The entire discussion could not be done in a single thread and I don’t want to just keep posting new threads into AIF Central about the same game. I’ve considered creating a blog for the game (and likely other AIF/adult story issues), a document on a google drive, or a google+ page. I’m not really familiar with any of those, so I welcome suggestions on what would work best.

What the community can help me with?: Mostly feedback. If there is a character/time period of X-Men that you think would make great inclusions, let me know. Right now I have a long list of possible characters (basically every possible female X-Men) that I know I’m going to have to cut down for an initial release. If there is a design idea/way the game can be expanded, throw that out as well.

Current Question: To set up the intro of the game, I need both a character in a leadership role for the mansion and a doctor. Being I’m trying to stick to female characters I have
Leaders: Emma Frost, Storm, Jean Grey (Note, I’m not saying these are characters who were the ‘official’ overall leader, but someone who could have been believed to have been left in charge).
Doctors: Jean Grey
If anyone is aware of other options, let me know, I’m not an expert on the X-Men.

Conclusion: Hopefully people like the idea and that I can actually execute what I envision. Please give me your thoughts; I’m interested to hear what people think (especially if I’m on the wrong track).


  1. You forgot to mention what programme you will use? I7, ADRIFT or TADS?
    second that sounds very, very ambitious for a first released project and so I can't help but think that with so many characters at your disposal the games paths and scenes will be very linear as a result.
    Also with releasing demos to the game every now and again to the public to play when the time comes for the final release there could be many people not wanting to bother with it because they feel it will be the story they have already played just with the bugs fixed.
    Nonetheless I didn't mean for this to sound degrading or to put up a barrier with the creation, just giving a couple of things to think about. Good luck!

    1. Adrift.

      Not my first project, had a buggy mini-compy entry a few years back. But yes, the paths of each of the characters will be fairly linear, by intention. That's what I mean by a pocket design. Each of the individual stories (whether they involve one or more characters) exist on their own. Tie ins will happen when possible, but I'm not setting out with it is a requirement.

      Actually, I think this entry is scaling down the complexity because the key is to get a well designed working game in place, then add content. I'm specifically trying to avoid writing multiple paths that all connect with one another.

      As to the demos, I should have been clearer about what I meant. It's more an idea to release portions of the game then releasing near finished beta versions. So when the intro is done that will be released as like a version 0.1. That's why it probably wouldn't be very enjoyable for people to play; not because of bugs, but because there isn't much there yet. For the few who look at it though I'm hoping it will allow for some early feedback.

  2. Okay, so it's an AIF game with the X-Men with some adult content. But on a "pervert scale" of 1 to 10 I guess, where do you think the game ends up?

    1. It will be closer to a sex romp then a dating game. There should be some challenge to getting some of the sex scenes, but they are certainly the 'goal'.

      One thing I tried to do with my mini-comp game was have variable sex scenes that people could pursue based upon their interest in different sexual activities. It was a huge pain to just get the four types I managed to write into that game ('roughly speaking it was: regular', femdom, maledom, and maledom non-consent), but I'd like to do it again; it's just a bit down on the drawing board at the moment.

  3. Yeah, I guess I'm the opposite end of the spectrum. I've never been drawn to "recognizable" characters of popular fiction. In fact, I find recognizability distracting, I think it's just because I don't see them as "porn" characters. As a result I much prefer AIF with original characters. Anyways, good luck with your game..

    1. Yeah, that's always been my problem as well. As soon as any well-established character starts acting against type just to serve the purposes of erotic fiction or an AIF game, I check out. When iconic characters aren't represented accurately, there's not much point using them.

      That's not to say it can't be done, but successful execution will require a lot of authorial finesse.

      Of course, you can always find some way to force the sex on the characters. Then you can get away with anything.

    2. Yeah I recognize that I'm limiting the audience pool. There are the people who would prefer not to see already known characters, the people who don't mind but don't know the characters, and then the people who don't mind the characters being used, but don't like how they are being used. I can't do anything about the first two, but hopefully I can please the third.

      I've never had a problem separating the erotic story from the main narrative. It actually is something of an appeal when someone acts out of character. So and so has secretly been suppressing nymphomania? That's silly, but I'm totally into it fantasizing about the possibility.

      I will try and do my best to reflect the characters. Given mutants though, it easy to find ways that could cause widespread sexual actions that are outside the character norms but beleivable (telepathy, alien influence, demonic influence, tech gone crazy, or random new mutant power).

    3. "Given mutants though, it easy to find ways that could cause widespread sexual actions that are outside the character norms but beleivable (telepathy, alien influence, demonic influence, tech gone crazy, or random new mutant power)."

      To borrow a poker term, you've definitely got a lot of "outs" when it comes to excusing AIF-type motivations and behaviours. By introducing supernatural factors into the story, you can explain away almost anything.

  4. I'm a bit unclear on why you've chosen the X-Men in particular.

    The chief difficulty I see with fanfic games is that players bring their pre-conceptions with them, which affect how much they enjoy the game (or even if they play it at all). But with the X-Men you've got the added problem of having to deal with multiple versions of the characters, retcons, and time travel, so the range of pre-conceptions you have to deal with are going to be broader. Plus, the X-Men have already been done in AIF.

    I'm not trying to discourage you, but it seems like there are easier subjects you could have chosen.

    1. If anything I think that grants more latitude. The X-Men are already a subject that is written about by many different authors each with their own take on the characters. Provided you capture the essential core features of those characters you can pretty much make them your own.

    2. The problem is that the only real core features of most superhero characters are their powers. Their actual personality varies depending on who's writing them (not to mention retcons, and actual character development).

      For example, is Cyclops a dedicated leader who never turns aside from his duty, or does he just have a massive stick up his ass? Is Spider-Man the ultimate hard-luck hero who never gives up no matter the odds, or the whiny little child who gives up and makes a deal with the devil because he can't deal with feeling guilty about the death of his aunt, despite it being the third time she'd 'died'? All of those have been true at various times (and yes, I'm still bitter about OMD).

      There are more iconic characters, is all I'm saying.

    3. Yeah, but because it's varied so much over time the author pretty much has license to just answer those questions. Is Cyclops a dedicated leader? In my story I'll say yes. Simple as that. While a reader may have some degree of cognitive dissonance with other depictions of Cyclops it's no worse than with any actual comic book when they bring in a new writer.

      The key will be to actually tell the story of the character again; establish (convincingly) why the character is the way they are for all pertinent character traits, and so long as it fits within the scope of what has been explored before you can do just as good a job as many comic book writers do.

    4. BBBen has pretty much answered this already; what you see as weaknesses I see as strengths.I also don't think it is that different from other story lines, most fans have their 'ships' that they prefer anyway and people tend to disagree on whether certain characters are strong/weak (though not as much as in comics because of different authors, obviously).

      I had thought of doing a more 'general' Marvel game and have the character working for Shield. The main characters would be original, but other Marvel characters would be around. There were two main reasons I changed;1) I wanted to write a story in a 'school' setting because I'd already worked out many of the elements and 2) I like X-Men more then other comic characters.

      But if you want to throw out specific suggestions for what would be better, I'd like to hear them. I'm locked in on this, but it could affect me/someone else in the future.

      Also, the fact that it has already been done I again see as a strength. With far more failed projects under my belt then completed ones, I'm trying to keep my aspirations under control. X-Men has been done and worked (at least for me, I really enjoyed the games). I'm not treading unique territory on the subject matter, but that's okay with me.

    5. Fair enough. The main reason I asked is that you mentioned that they weren't your first choice but you chose them because they're broadly familiar to the majority of the audience. But I think that can be a double-edged sword, particularly when you're dealing with something that has a history as Byzantine as the X-Men.

      But what I think doesn't really matter since I'm not the author, and if you can pull it off then more power to you. Best of luck.

  5. I find myself looking forward to this, and where you take it. When I first got into AIF, X-Trek was popular. As a Trek fan that was the reward that got me playing the games. Seeing these characters in situations that normally gets you an end scene before it goes anywhere in other media. When X-Trek dried up I tried the other games, but I'm always more delighted when I see fanfic games. From A. Bomire's Tomorrow Never Comes(More parody, but if I remember right it's supposed to be same universe as 007) to Chris Cole's Doctor Who and the Vortex of Lust. Mainly because of that established connection factor, but it also means there is an established knowledge base of sorts that goes with it. Though that established knowledge base only really works in the players favor if they can figure out how the author applied it. As a fan of comics, and adult fanfics it's a bit of double treat. Especially like the area you seem to be leaning towards since it offers some variety, and interesting pairings. So good luck.

    1. "A. Bomire's Tomorrow Never Comes(More parody, but if I remember right it's supposed to be same universe as 007)"

      Tomorrow Never Comes was more pastiche that parody. And it featured a cameo from James Bond (and appearances from Moneypenny and Judi Dench's M), so it was definitely the same universe.

      Personally, I prefer pastiche. Parody has to be dead on in order to amuse rather than alienate fans of the source material, while trying to do a straight copy is seldom as good as the original (eg. the John Gardner Bond stories, which I found very forgettable). YMMV.

    2. Glad you are looking forward to it, hopefully it will come out well.

      I really liked the X-Trek games, even though I wasn't a big fan of Star Trek. Even not being a fan, I preferred the already defined characters.

      I'll add Christopher Cole's Tomb Raider game to the list of good fanfic AIFs.

    3. Chris Cole's Tomb Raider game is one of my personal favourites.

  6. if you really dont know much about the whole x-man background especially about all the women in that, i would recommend the marvel wiki were you can search for interesting characters..there is quite a bunch of hot interesting women who were never shown in the film etc. or had only a siderole ..i really would like to see some new characters 'not movie popular' characters like emma frost etc. or if you are into that invent some yourself .there should be more then enough in a mutant school

  7. ps:emma perhaps isn't the best example becouse you allready mentioned her ^^

  8. You can accomodate the story like you want, but if you follow the comic story Jean Grey isn't a doctor (it happen only in the movie if i remember correctly).
    At the moment i don' think that there is between most famous x-women a right character.
    If you follow idea 3 you can put Jean Grey (movie) with Jean Grey (comic) or choose that one character is from an alternate universe in which she has become a doctor.
    I can think Moira McTaggert as doctor, she is a classic character, but i don't know if for you is sufficiently well-known.

    1. In the comics, Beast is the team doctor, but I'm assuming that the male characters won't be featuring very much.

      I agree that Moira MacTaggert is probably the best option if you need a female doctor, although the fact that she's Charles Xavier's first love might complicate matters (that guy certainly gets around: I think she's also dead in current continuity, inasmuch as being dead means anything in the comics.

    2. Yes, i hadn't suggested Beast, because in a game like Archer described you need a female nurse, the other possibility in comics that i had thought was Cecilia Reyes, but she is even less well known that Moira.
      If you consider all the stories many character have had "bad episodes", for Charles Xavier i remember for example "x-men vs the micronauts".

  9. One thing no one ever seems to take into account when doing or playing around in any established continuity universe's is the concept of alternate realities. The Marvel verse has even written this concept into their cannon with the existence of the "What If..." series of titles along with the Age of Apocalypse universe (I'm about 5 years behind current comic continuity, but I think some characters from that universe are still running around the main marvel verse). Given that the characters have had some pretty drastic difference in personalities from the various media forms, I'd say the X-Men are among the few characters that can easily be broken away from their "typical" molds. The story can take place in one of the infinite alternate realities of the Marvel verse, and by being in an alternate reality, you have much more freedom with character personalities and even powers in some cases (Havok from "X-Men: First Class" is one example of a character having their power altered from the comic norm). This can help with the Timeframe problem you were exploring, being a form of a merge between options 2 and 3.

    With regards to characters. Don't limit yourself to only the established X-Men, but look at the villains as well. Again, by playing off the alternate universe concetp, you can include characters like the Hellions, Hellfire Club, heck even the Marauders. You've also got the side teams, the New Mutants, X-Force, even Generation X and X-Factor. There are also some mutants floating around the marvel verse that can easily be brought into any mutant/x-men based story arc if you really wanted to (Namorita, Firestar [who was an iofficial member of the X-Men in the old "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" cartoon], Scarlet Witch and others I can't think of at present). I would say go for an unexpected assignment for the leader/dr postions. Your suggestions for Storm, Jean, or Emma are pretty standard for female leaders. I would suggest going for more obscure characters. The Stepford Cuckoo's have had some leadership experience if I recall, and Moonstar has already been placed in charge of a team (even after being depowered following M-day). As for the doctor, Cecilia Reyes is already an established medical doctor and surgeon.

    For ways to fix the problems you've presented, use the alternate universe to your advantage. Or even better, just use the PCs unknown powers as the basis for the reason the "pocket" design is functional. Have it be that the PC is a new Omega level mutant who has either a) built a new world around him that only incorporates the females from the school that the PC wants to get with, OR b) have the PCs power alter the females in such a way that they don't question the incongruities with the rest of the game (for example: Jean doesn't care that you've slept with the other girls because the PCs makes her only care that the PC is happy). Option B can be either through reality alteration power, or through some form of emotion or pheremone based alteration of the characters around the PC. Granted, such a method is pretty cliche, but cliche exists because it generally works.

    1. hmm apropos power, the rouge power in combination with sex could open doors for a lot of riddles and features :)

    2. From a purely practical point of view, saying that a wizard did it (or more likely a Scarlet Witch) is probably the best means of reconciling the continuity issues. Of the 'official' alternate realities, Earth-1610 (the Ultimate universe) resembles 616 the most. I've not actually read any Ultimate X-Men, but it was only 100 issues which should simplify matters.

      However, I'd prefer it if it wasn't the PC who was responsible for the reality warping. As a twist it's only going to work once, and probably not even that. More importantly, from a player agency angle, if the PC is helping things along with his uber mind control powers it makes things too easy. Instead, perhaps make the PC the only person who notices that anything's wrong (as Wolverine was in House of M).

    3. To say the truth the ultimate universe is more complicate because they have tried already 2 reboot.

    4. Crikey. So much for it being a less complicated jumping on point for new fans.

    5. Part of the design idea of the game is that more characters can be added even after the game is designed. I'll probably stay with the basics/most well-known to start, but expand the character base once everything else is working. Hopefully that can allow some of the larger Marvel universe to be featured.

  10. Just posting a note here so that it goes out to anyone subscribed to comments; I've released version 0.1 (link in the main post). Not sure if I should have made a new post for that, hopefully my post isn't too far down already that people interested miss it.

    1. I know this is more a proof of concept then anything at this point. So I'll keep my thoughts light.

      General Thoughts, and useless trivia

      X-Mansion is kind of a weird thing to remember. As it's oddly specific. Might consider changing to Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, but really with fractured memory you take what you can get. Another angle to consider might be having the team pick him up. Xavier often uses Cerebro to find mutants then sends the team out to recruit.

      The gate has a call box in some versions of the mansion. It's an odd thing that's mentioned in the Survival Guide to the X-mansion, and a bit funny when you consider most iterations of the Mansion don't have staff to listen for such a thing.

      Overall I like it. Good work so far.

    2. I also don't care for X-Mansion and try to only use it sparingly in the beginning, but I kept seeing the term used as the way to refer to the mansion in all of its various iterations ,so it seemed like the best 'overall' term.

      Glad you like it so far,