Social Lycanthropy Disorder

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A well-designed, timed Twine game about social anxiety and more, November 9, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game in the Grand Guignol part of Ectocomp 2020 was pleasant to play and looked good. It's written in Twine (I assume), but it's been heavily styled with colors and background graphics.

The design is tight and there are real choices with long-lasting effects. You have a specific deadline and a lot of options.

In this game, you're a werewolf that is at a college-type party trying to fit in, have fun and leave before you transform in an hour and a half.

The lycanthropy can easily be read as anxiety (especially given the name of the piece), and I've had the feeling many times of being at a party and trying to stay just long enough to feel comfortable leaving.

The one thing that keeps this from being amazing for me is the signalling of choices. My favorite choice-based games allow either deep characterization of the protagonist or strategizing, and it was hard for me to do either one here. I feel like having more hints about the possible effects of choices could fix that, but it may just be a personal design choice and not something that needs to be 'fixed'. I had fun either way, and played through three or four times.

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EJ, November 9, 2020 - Reply
Thanks for the review! I'm glad that you enjoyed the game, and that the depiction of social anxiety resonated with you. (It does draw heavily on my own experience of being uncomfortable at parties.)

The signposting of choices is definitely something that I worried about while I was working on the game--on the one hand, I don't want to make players go "wow, I didn't think that option would do that," but on the other hand, since mechanically there's nothing preventing a player from making the best possible choice every time, I don't want to make it too obvious which one that is. This is probably something that I could have fine-tuned better if I had been able to get more beta-testers, but it's possible that it's also to some degree an innate problem with the concept of the game.

If you feel like elaborating more on the issues you had with this, I'd be interested to know&mdash;it would (hopefully) help me to do a better job with it in the future.
MathBrush, November 9, 2020 - Reply
The first thing I'd say is that I liked this better than What the Bus, which I liked better than Fingertips, so I'd guess that you're just naturally getting better with every game.

I've been playing through every Choicescript game ever and I noticed that what works best (in my mind) is clearly defined choices, but with competing interests set up so that you can't satisfy all of them at the same time (like in Tally Ho, a friend asks you to display a hideous painting that will displease everyone, but they'll be crushed if you don't do it). Because then the player still can't have a 'perfect run' on the first try, but they feel more in control.

But that's just one writing style, and I don't want to force it. Another thing I've seen done effectively is to make 2-3 consistent personality styles and make sure that most options allow each choice, so that players can roleplay a bit. It's more fun if all options have positive and negative consequences so there's not one right one.

But again, I don't want to force any writing style, and other people might disagree with me, and I'm already liking the stuff you're putting out. I think more beta testers would help a lot, and I think that for me it would probably just be small tweaks that would make this awesome and not major overhauls. Sorry if this was too long!
EJ, November 10, 2020 - Reply
Thanks! I appreciate this.

I think part of what's going on is that I'm trying to do, I guess, conversation-based puzzles, rather than a traditional CYOA or the stat-based branching narratives CoG does. So that's partly a matter of taste, but it may also be that what I'm trying to do is hard to do well in general. (I tried it a couple times with parser games and thought that the reason it didn't come out that well was because conversation is notoriously hard to do well in parser games specifically, but that may have just been masking structural issues with the concept itself.)

Anyway, if nothing else I'm definitely hoping to do better on playtesting in the future. It was kind of unavoidable here because, due to being sick for the first two weeks of October, I didn't get SLD into playtestable shape until right before the deadline (and I didn't solicit playtesters in advance because I wasn't 100% sure I'd be able to finish it), but I do think it's a shame that I couldn't get more feedback on game balance and whether the outcome of a given option was too obscure.
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