Domino Club is back! This is a bit of a postmortem of the game I ended up making this time, as well as an update on what I'm working on now, mainly my NaNoWriMo project.


The game itself takes about 5-10 minutes to play and runs in-browser, so what follows will probably make a lot more sense if you just play it now.

The title is from a joke tabloid headline about unanticipated knock-on effects of Brexit, but I also thought it sounded a lot like a Sun City Girls album title. Like FLESH/CIRCUIT, this is a game about a sexy robot (and it also shares one character with that VN), but also using that premise to think about unconventional desire/sexuality/self-presentation, and the nature of individual consciousness as it subjects itself to and is transformed by labor and social reproduction. Also my partner had a really weird interaction with our electric company's customer service line recently. So those concepts brought the general idea together, and the first thing I did was write the script.

Using RPGMaker (MV in this case) for an actual project I'd release, rather than just noodling around in it making maps and little guys and stuff, was new to me as well. Basically, instead of having no direction and letting myself get pulled down whatever capabilities of the engine and base assets that take my interest, I had something specific in mind I had to figure out the best way to articulate.

Not to say that this is necessarily a better process, I think the sort of aimless wandering can also produce really cool work, and I've been working on a longer post about the "texture" of these sorts of RPGMaker projects and why I find them so artistically interesting, with a focus on ones like Yume Nikki, February 2003, and Song of Homunculus. It's been on the back-burner for a REALLY long time because I REALLY want to get it right, similar to my other pieces on Visual Novels.

Anyways, the game is mostly dialogue events and timings, with one battle. There's two possible endings, and I tried to signal the difference between them very clearly because I figured people would either overwhelmingly do one or the other without a sense of what "changes" it. Overall, I think the way the game "works" feels good even though it's quite basic and linear and carries the story along.

The hardest thing about RPGMaker MV was honestly paring down the massive amount of stuff and options it gives you to know what I actually needed to get across what I wanted. I added character sprites and portraits from elsewhere (mostly charas) because while RPGMaker MV comes with a pretty decent sci-fi interior set, it hardly gives you any options in terms of characters to believably populate it with. Once I narrowed things down and made the few things I needed on top of that, it was mainly a matter of learning the grammatical quirks of how to talk to the event settings, which my spouse who has a lot more RPGMaker experience patiently attended to any questions on. :>

The static overlays and robot design I did myself basically fooling around with built-in image editing effects and my marginal art skills, though the main image is an Anatomical Eve sculpture. I love how the robot turned out even if it's kind of janky. They're really beautiful. The Sun City Girls songs I used are called "The Multiple Hallucinations of an Assassin" and "Plaster Cupids Falling from the Ceiling," and they're just fucking gorg. I hope they don't mind that I've added their songs to the proud tradition of just throwing MP3s that rule into your RPGMaker project.

Ok, so what now?

Against my better judgement, probably, I went right from finishing up my Domino Club game to working on a novel for National Novel Writing Month. Actually, there was a period that they overlapped, and I was feeling guilty for not working on my game, because I ended up working out about 12k words of drafted scenes and notes before November even started.

This novel doesn't have a title yet, because I'm absolutely rancid at titling things. It's kind of a synthesis of a story I wrote in college about a kid's experience of UFO sightings, and a mystery/paranormal VN I briefly considered making about a girl who goes back home after college to find out what happened to her missing father and also deal with all the awkwardness that comes from moving off to the big city with the aim of getting a fancy schmansy art career and then, entirely failing to do that, coming back a significantly different person.

Anyways, in this case, I decided to make it a largely regular prose novel because I did a VN script last year (which is still sitting on my hard drive, neglected, because I've had no time or confidence in myself to make the assets it'd require) and I realized I had a pretty coherent idea of what I wanted the story to be, it didn't really need the mediation or branching affordances of a Visual Novel Presentation. Thematically... man. The story is about a lot. This is a running pitch summary I have tucked away on a Scrivener note:

Having run down her luck and the patience of her ex-girlfriend trying to land a fancy job in the big city after college, an alienated young woman moves back to her hometown for the summer, sharing a house in a half-empty suburban development with her cold and demanding mother. There's no place for cultural or intellectual kicks in semi-rural central Pennsylvania, so, riding on a nostalgia trip of boredom and stagnation, she agrees to babysit for a local mother as a tentative step one of her escape plan. Already not terribly confident in her childcare skills, she gets more than she bargained for when the son has a strong conviction about local UFO sightings. Reconnecting with her ex from high school, who seems to have his shit together and is dating a new girl who seems like a doppelganger from a different life further complicates the situation.

I also have a list of terms I think of the story as being "about," which includes: babysitting, bisexuality, gender, doubles, autism, extraterrestrials, alienation (literal), film appreciation, reaching ordinary unhappiness (in the Freudian sense), and the inadequacy of family/nation/normalcy. But the one that's been sticking in my mind most is "misrecognition." A lot of the characters' problems come from not only misunderstanding what other people are and why they're doing certain things, but also internalizing these misperceptions when they're aimed at them. Even though the main character is very self-aware and spends a lot of time in her own head, she's still often just reaching around in the dark.

As much fun as I'm having working on the novel now, I have decreed December a month of NO PROJECTS beyond ensuring we have a constant stream of holiday treats and making my annual lino card design. If you'd like to get a holiday card from me, I have this Google Form I use to determine how many blank cards to order at the end of November, so feel free to put your details in there if we've interacted on the zoniverse or elsewhere.

Ok, back to (other) writing!