It's funny. I've been writing a lot lately, but very little of it will have been all that apparent. Topography Genera's been slowly developing the character of Duchess with audio logs I've been writing and Squeek and Shayde have been so generously voicing (and alliterator's been posting them on the blog), and I intend on introducing some more interesting aspects of Duchess soon. But that's still only a portion of my writing as yet!
So where's all my writing going? OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING, where else? We've got five goddamn Rapture logs all waiting in the queue to be posted. Five! Each log takes about six hours to write on average, so that's over a day's worth of writing right there. And lemme tell ya, I am hella proud of what we've got in store for you.
See, Act III (The Duels of the Knights of Xanadu) so far has just been expanding on Rapture's comedy focus while introducing the seven Neonate as well as trudging through the seven Knights of Xanadu. There's been almost a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment with the introduction of The Beast, eldritch king of kings, and there's been a bunch of Wham Episodes with revelations of Cockroach Jesus' place in the story and a whole lot of heart-fucking with Jordan's romantic interests fluctuating more than The Beast's. But overall, it's just been comedy and setting up a lot of character development. So far.
But then we had that five-part serial titled "Obfuscation." That was supposed to mark the part where this act officially shifts in focus from light to dark. Rapture's done being hilarious, my friends; it's leaving its lighthearted silliness at the Door now. The upcoming five logs are considerably darker in tone. You're gonna be seeing a lot more cynicism, a lot more stress, a lot more tension, a lot more conflict, a lot more racing the clock, a lot more chessplay, a lot more backstabbings, a lot less romance, and a lot more rabbit holes. 'Cause yeah, Act III has had a distinct lack of rabbit holes so far.
See, this shift is something I had been planning for a very long time. I admit I've forgotten exactly why I'd been planning it for so long, but I know I wanted to have half of this act focus on comedy and the other half focus on horror. ..now, there hasn't exactly been much focus on horror in these logs I've written, but then again, I've lately developed a philosophy that horror isn't something you can just force. Though I haven't even been trying. <_< I've just been trying for tension and desperation, and I've succeeded at those.
The thing is, Rapture isn't exactly a horror story. It's cosmic horror, sure, but the logs themselves are more of a thriller-comedy-mystery thing. If I had to come up with one name for this genre, I'd call it "apocalyptic." Apocalyptic horror fiction. Apocalyptic cosmic horror fiction. Yeah, that sounds about right.
But horror isn't a genre. It isn't. It's an emotional reaction. The scariest of stories are the ones that don't just slap a bunch of flashing lights and jump scares and demons in; they're the ones with the stories that naturally strike a chord. Like 1984 isn't a horror story, but it terrifies me with its concepts. ..and such. I will admit that films like The Shining and Marble Hornets do manage to capture horror excellently with their use of suspense, but there: It's the suspense that scares us, not any abstract concept of "horror." And I'm experimenting with suspense and tension in Rapture now.
You wanna know the scariest thing I've ever experienced? This is an entirely personal thing, and I do not expect anyone to empathize (because horror is nothing more than an emotional reaction, highly subjective): The secretcity maps I often mention.
Valve has their famously brilliant Half-Life, and one of Half-Life's most successful features is its extensive modding community. Arguably the most popular non-commercial mod is Sven Co-op, a mod where basically people make custom maps with cooperative multiplayer capabilities. And in Sven Co-op's extensive mapping community, there was a mapper named Turrican who created a series of maps (secretcity, secretcity2, secretcity3, secretcity4beta, secretcity5beta, secretcity_keen) that were just.. oh god.
The premise: You're in a large building with many rooms to explore! The rooms range from normal (living rooms, cafeterias) to personalized (offices, bedrooms) to quirky (a giant Magic 8-ball, a long dark corridor with a single well-lit door at the end), but there were always secrets in the majority of the rooms. You'd find a secret button if you looked hard enough, or you even had to shoot one single brick out of hundreds on the walls, and it'd usually open up a secret passage to an even quirkier room often with even more secrets. If you looked hard enough in each map, you would seriously find yourself stumbling down a hidden crawlspace leading to lava pits, worlds made of pure colour, sprawling mazes of file cabinets, or even right back to rooms you thought you had just left. And as the maps went on, Turrican started to make some huge adventures with so many secrets that even after years I still don't know them all.
But what was so great about these maps was that there was no point. Most maps for Sven Co-op have a set goal, enemies to kill, a room to find where the map would end. Even most of the other "fun" maps had actual ending rooms, and the ones that didn't at least had briefings telling you what the map was. The secretcity maps had no point. A newcomer is completely lost. You're just dropped in this large empty building (unless you're with friends, but even then, your friends are the only people there). And hell, sometimes you'll think you see someone walking around the corner up ahead, but there turns out to be no trace of anyone. You're alone, isolated, and all you can do is explore. And you don't often find things that make sense. And there's no end! There's never a part where the map ends, only where a set series of puzzles and rooms might loop you back to the main building or something.
I grew up with this map series, and I'm so glad I did. I've been looking for a gaming experience similar to this ever since I found out about these maps, and the closest I've found has been the Metroid series. I find it terrifying in such a fascinating way because-- here's what I forgot to mention-- you die a lot in secretcity. Many doors lead to your death. You might be dumped in a bottomless pit, you might be trapped in a vat of rising water, you might be crushed by the very walls surrounding you, you might die mysteriously, or you might run into the eldritch abomination that hides in select secrets for all the maps: The Nomble. The Nomble is an incomprehensible giant screaming face. And it scares the shit out of me. Because you really never know where it's gonna be (I mean, I do, because I've memorized the maps), and even when you think it's nowhere near you, you shoot the wrong brick and bam, a giant screaming face too big for reality enters the hallway and kills you. Or you'd enter a vent where no light escapes only to find yourself literally engulfed in screaming face until you die of unknown causes.
So, after all this, you're dumped in an empty building and you just know that around any corner is gonna be some new twisted and demented room with no point whatsoever, and you just know that if you press one wrong button, you're going to die somehow. But you also know that if you keep looking, you're gonna find yourself on a surreal journey through impossible worlds where physics and reality do not match, walking down eldritch corridors where the walls move and doors surround you. And it's just the best fucking thing you've ever lived through.
secretcity is genius. And I have been trying to capture it (as well as many other influences) in OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING. I have been trying to find any gaming experience like it as well. I want to know the fears and thrills of exploring a surreal world. Preferably in a modern facade, modern office buildings and all that.
..what was I talking about?
Post-Jordanism: noun- The artistic (cultural?) movement which began in late 2011. Works within this deal with themes of existential crisis, identity crisis, posttraumatic stress disorder, the state of being broken, intrusive thoughts of (non)existent(?) memory, the morbid preoccupation with suicide, grief, uncontrollable emotion, and darkness as a simple abstract concept. ex. 1: "Kill me."