Days with Shaylin

It would be an understatement to say I haven’t written in a while. I’ve never really used a blog before, so I tend to forget about it. Despite that I really like the idea of blogging, so today I’m going to try my hand at another entry.

As a grade 12 student I was recently tasked with completing an end of high school project, the capstone project. Basically it’s a rather vague and large project that’s supposed to show your abilities and interests, while challenging you. At first the idea of something so open ended was quite frightening.

Then I had the idea. I already knew I wanted to create an interactive fiction game, but I hadn’t been sure about the subject matter. It took a while for it to click that my excessive research on autism (having recently discovered that I’m autistic) could be put to use. My learning about myself could be part of my project.

So I brought the idea to my teacher, an interactive fiction game with an autistic protagonist. He said yes, so I was set to begin making this idea into something more.

First there was stage 1, the ideas and research stage. I’d already done a lot of research so that was covered for the most part. I wanted to do more than read articles though. I set about finding interviewees. I didn’t want the protagonist to be a carbon copy of me. In the end I found 10 people that were interested. The interviews turned out to be the best part of making the game. I’d never really talked to other autistic people before. It was the first time I realized that I’m not alone in how I think and the things I do. The feeling was incredible. Throughout November I also outlined the plot and characters.

It was slow going figuring out the characters. I had a fair idea about Shaylin, but not those around her. In the end I gave her younger brother (I can’t imagine not having one) and a mum that can be a bit much. Her friend came to me next, and I knew what she was like as soon as I imagined her (though I changed her name right before I sent the game out for testing). Then there was the not so great subsitute and awful Max. The only regrets I have character wise is how little her dad appeared and that Nathaniel didn’t appear at all. I’m not used to the idea of a two parent household, so I struggled with the inclusion of multiple adults in the same house. Fortunately Nathaniel will be very present in the sequel.

Once stage 1 was complete I moved on to 2, which was writing the game (and editing that writing). This ended up going past my end of December deadline and into Jauary. Mostly this was because I dropped an episode and then added a different one. Writing the story was emotional for me as I took a lot of inspiration from my own experiences. Also I’m still getting used to writing interactive fiction (this is only my second game). In the end all of the game ended up at about 12,000 words.

The final stage really shouldn’t just be one stage. It included inputting the writing into Twine, editing and recording audio, coding that audio into the game, coding the game’s visuals, getting feedback from beta-testers, and finally a lot more editing. It felt like numerous stages. Putting the writing into the game was slow going and could be rather tedious. I found the editing of the audio extremely overwhelming (I had not anticipated this issue). Coding in the audio and visuals was my second favourite part of the whole process; I loved the trial and error of it. Then there was the beta-testing, which also turned out great. I found some very helpful beta-testers. The editing was once again tedious, fortunately there wasn’t a crazy amount of that though.

That was it. The game was done. It took 3 months. I’d done it. I was actually really proud of the end result.

I submitted the game to my teacher and got…

wait for it…

100%

With the project done I shared it everywhere I could think of. I’ve shared it on Twitter, Amino, a number of Facebook groups, on the interactive fiction forums, and I even shared it with AutismBC. So far I haven’t gotten much feedback, but all of it that I have gotten has been wonderfully positive. I still haven’t shared the game with my immediate family, aside from my brother (who recorded music for the game). For whatever reason I find it easier to share this personal game with strangers. I intend to share the game with my family in March. I just have to work up to that.

If you’d like to learn more about the game, then here’s the link to the website: https://dayswithshaylin.wordpress.com/

Or you could play it online or download it at: https://ann-hugo.itch.io/days-with-shaylin

Eventually there’ll be sequel (who knows maybe even more than one). It’s still in the planning stage, but I’m already very hyped. I might even provide regular updates on the game’s developement if I feel like it.

I think you can expect more regular blog posts from me. I haven’t really written any since I was 12 (excluding the one about the white whale), but this has reminded me how much I enjoy writing blogs. I’ll probably keep it mostly relating to autism, writing, and programming (specifically Twine related at the moment). I might also review books and movies though (I recently watched a movie that turned out to be my second favourite movie of all of the ones I’ve seen).

-Ann