The Weight of a Soul Dev Diary #32

Feedback from Spring Thing 2021. My floundering attempts at self-promotion. Appearing at the Oxford/London IF Meetup. A working (but not fully polished) current objectives window.

Spring Thing 2021

It’s exciting times for The Weight of a Soul. More and more people are playing and reviewing it, and I’ve spent most of last week managing the game’s presence on social media and forums: making myself and my game known, recording and responding to feedback, and uploading a hotfix for the game to fix a major bug (that nobody noticed, thank god).

Most of the major reviewers of the interactive fiction community have gotten around to playing The Weight of a Soul by now, and the reception has been astonishingly positive. I’m still dealing with impostor syndrome so this has been absolutely incredible and I’m not quite sure how to feel about The Weight of a Soul being regarded so well.

MathBrush, Victor Gijsbers, and Rovarsson have posted full-length reviews for The Weight of a Soul, which can be found on the game’s IFDB page.

So far the reviews have been almost uniformly positive, praising the game’s worldbuilding, prose, and polish. MathBrush noted that the game doesn’t include difficult puzzles, but that that’s more an issue about the target audience The Weight of a Soul aims to reach than an issue with the puzzle design itself. The Weight of a Soul is intended to be an “interactive novel,” not a puzzle game, so that’s an issue I can live with.

My initial thoughts are that The Weight of a Soul has succeeded spectacularly with the “traditional IF” audience: the sort of people who are likely to hang around intfiction.org and write thoughtful reviews and talk about how text-only parser games will always be superior to the latest Call of Duty. In some sense that’s not that much of an achievement — The Weight of a Soul is very consciously a work of genre fiction, in exactly the kind of genre and style that this audience is predisposed towards. But at the same time, it’s heartening and self-affirming to know that the most hardcore audience for this game considers it a worthy addition to the interactive fiction canon. Not every game can claim that.

Self-Promotion

Since The Weight of a Soul‘s Spring Thing release is a moment when the game is likely to get lots of eyeballs, I decided to expend a lot of effort on self-promotion on every possible avenue of social media. This included posting on intfiction.org and engaging with the hardcore IF community, maintaining The Weight of a Soul‘s IFDB page, and promoting the game on my Facebook and Twitter with punchy slogans and retweets and #hashtags. I also put The Weight of a Soul on textadventures.co.uk, a website which had flown under my radar for the most part, but which seems to be a fairly popular community for casual text adventure enthusiasts.

The fruit of my labors has been a fair amount of exposure. Not many new Twitter followers, but important and influential ones: Emily Short is the creative director of Failbetter Games and one of the biggest names in narrative design, while Gwen Guo is a major figure in the Singaporean indie game dev community. These are the kinds of connections that will really help to amplify The Weight of a Soul‘s presence on social media, signal-boosting it for a wider audience that might enjoy my game but don’t necessarily know that it exists.

Oxford/London IF Meetup

Speaking of Emily Short, I’ve been invited to join the next Oxford and London IF Meetup, a periodic gathering of extremely nerdy (but also, academic and important!) interactive fiction enthusiasts. Interactive fiction games are traditionally played at the meetup, and The Weight of a Soul has been picked as one of the games for the upcoming event. The meeting is open to the public and will be held over Zoom on 25 April.

Actual Game Progress

With all this Stuff going on I’ve hardly had time to work on The Weight of a Soul proper, but I did put together a current objectives window. This is a floating quest log that shows the current objectives from the Journal page, and behaves exactly like you’d expect.

There’s just one problem with the current objectives window at the moment: it’s too small for Day Two, when Marid is investigating four different sub-mysteries and there are a ton of objectives all going on at once. I’m working on some special UI for this but it’s going to take a bit more time.

Since I read some articles about accessibility, I also downloaded NVDA to test how the premium version of The Weight of a Soul will work with a screen reader. The answer: surprisingly well. Not the best — the large number of GUI buttons is likely to be confusing for completely blind users — but partially sighted users are likely to be able to navigate the game much more easily than I expected. And of course, completely blind users will be able to play the Glulx version of the game, which outputs a single stream of text for screen readers and runs on basically anything.

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