So we’re just over a month past the release of “The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory,” and I thought I’d try something new from a promotional standpoint: a bit of interactive fiction called “Kobayanshi Marooned,” made in the platform Twine.
You can download it now from itch.io for free. http://philhornshaw.itch.io/kobayanshi-marooned
Creating the game has been a cool experience, something I might see about doing more of in the future.
“Kobayanshi Marooned” puts its players in the role of a Spacefleet cadet who’s about to complete their stint at the academy. The only thing remaining in their way is the infamous Kobayanshi test, in which cadets are put in charge of a simulated Spacefleet ship and dispatched on a diplomatic mission. But there’s a catch: the mission isn’t just to meet an ambassador from a possibly hostile alien civilization, but to also clandestinely intercept and safeguard a defector from that civilization’s totalitarian empire, and escort them back to Spacefleet headquarters.
The idea originally was to introduce players to some of the key concepts of “The Space Hero’s Guide” — namely, choosing what kind of Space Hero you’ll be, and figuring out the right courses of action through a number of potentially deadly situations. Of course, most of those potentially deadly situations turn out to be extremely deadly situations, since this is comedic nonsense we’re talking about.
Eventually, the idea kind of morphed into something a bit different due to the constraints of it being really much more difficult an undertaking than I anticipated. For one thing, the project started out as something to do for publication in HTML, not for Twine. After that situation shifted some, it got reimagined as a Twine game, and that meant reworking a lot of it.
For another thing, I tend to take on (read: create) much more work than I can handle. In the case of “Kobayanshi Marooned,” it originally was supposed to be three branching stories that intertwined some, each based on a different “Space Hero Archetype” from the book. In the end, it took me so long to do the first story, that of the Roguish Leader archetype (basically James T. Kirk or Kathryn Janeway), that I eventually scrapped the other two. The game would have wound up being longer than the book. In its current incarnation, it’s nearing 30,000 words and features 26 different endings.
There’s more to plumb there, though, and I’m interested enough in messing around in Twine that I’ll do more if people seem to like “Kobayanshi.” It originally was supposed to include a Space Monkey scenario (the kind of hero who is the first to do something, and thus famous for undertaking ridiculous danger more or less for its own sake) and a Bastard Anti-Hero scenario (the smugger/rogue/nerf-herder type character), and Nick and I might go back and create those additional stories if it seems like there’s some interest.
Twine itself has been a cool experience that I’d like to mess around with further (learn more about it here if you’re unfamiliar). I’ve played a few really great Twine games (one of my favorites is Javy Gwaltney’s “The Terror Aboard the Speedwell,” go play it here) and have been looking to try my hand at it for a while. After the GameFront gig ended, “Kobayanshi” — a project I’d originally planned to do under the banner of the fun “Pick Your Path” games at The Escapist — suddenly wound up being my primary focus, and Twine turned out to be easy to use but potentially very deep, even for someone who has almost no coding experience, like me. It’s not hard to pick up but it can be tough to master, which is good.
Ostensibly, the purpose of “Kobayanshi,” despite being a(n unexpectedly) big-ass piece of original fiction, is to encourage people to check out “The Space Hero’s Guide.” I’m hoping pushes like this, that allow Nick and me to expand on the fictional universes that surround our books, will wind up being successful, because I’d like to do more of them. We actually have a number of excerpts from the fake memoir of our made up “Space Hero’s Guide” author, Captain Dirk Parsec, that we plan to drop in coming weeks. Hopefully people like and respond to those, too.
Because I’m always down for Dirk.
Please, check out the game, and feel free to let Nick and me know what you think in the comments below. You can also yell at me in 140 characters or less on Twitter: @philhornshaw.
Top image: Illustration from “So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel” by Aled Lewis.