August #1 Post – Writing the Invisible Fist and Why We’ve Been So Quiet

So, remember when we said we wanted a demo by the end of June? You know, mechanics, programming, graphics, and a full, written character? Well, we meant July.

That’s why you haven’t heard from us in awhile.

The good news is we did finish a demo version of the game. That means we have one written, playable character.  And that’s despite the fact that we still need to implement some core mechanics.

So, without further ado, we are pleased to introduce you to Jeff Whiz! Our anxious but lovable Silicon Valley CEO trillionaire. Woo!

Introducing Jeff Whiz Invisible Fist

To bring Jeff to life, I had to write the following types of text for the game:

  • Main and Weekly Quests
  • Support Dialogue
  • Cards and Flavor Text
  • Introduction and Tutorial

Currently, the introduction and tutorial are still in development. As we write further characters, we will add to the text that appears in these sections. Also, we still have two more characters to write, and want to add more cards and flavor texts.

Writing Jeff Whiz’s Weekly Quests for Invisible Fist

 

To get things started, each character has one main plot line. Players have 8 weeks of gameplay to unlock one of four story endings for the main story.

The ending you get depends on your performance. Do well and you’ll unlock a positive ending. Fuck up and your ending is going to suck.  

The catch? The end result affects gameplay for other characters. What you do and how well you do as Jeff makes things harder or easier for Rena and Dian.

Here’s a taste of Jeff’s main storyline:

It’s time for you to launch a new Soma Corp. product. Make sure you don’t fuck it up!

That’s more or less the first thing you see during gameplay. Then, the player gets further mini quests at the beginning of each week.

I wrote three quests for each week for a grand total of 24 randomized quests. We want to give the player plenty of content to explore if they come back for more of any one character.

Each story also has three possible endings that trigger based on player performance. Eventually, the weekly quest will include tasks for the player to perform. We are still working on implementing those mechanics.

Here’s an example of a weekly quest:

Invisible Fist Mini Quest Stanford

To write Jeff’s quests, I researched what Silicon Valley Founders do all day. Then I added a healthy dose of realistic exaggeration. It is a game, and in the end we want it to be exciting!
 
But I’ve also tailored it to give players a full sense of the character’s time, place, and culture. In the end, Jeff’s stories should reflect the work and leisure culture of the Valley.
 

For example, Jeff is the richest fictional man in the world. Yet, I’ve made sure that he spends his money like a good tech billionaire and not like a general super rich person. As if I knew.

Writing Jeff Whiz’s Support Character Dialogues

 

So, I’d have to say that the dialogues were the biggest pain in the ass to write. Why?

For starters, there were a buttload of them. Jeff has two support characters. His lovely mother, Mona, and his personal AI, Soma. Multiply that by three possible types of conversations:

  • Small Talk
  • The Plan
  • The Snap Decision

Plus, we’ve built tiers into the conversations. So, whenever Jeff talks to mom or Soma, his responses will move him up or down the relationship tiers.

Say nice things to mommy, and you move up to a more positive tier. Make mommy mad, and you get demoted to a more negative tier. You can also remain neutral in your exchanges, making your movements more incremental.

That means that I’ve written enough dialogue to allow players to stay in one tier if necessary. That’s a lot of dialogue, folks!

Not only was there a buttload of text, but each dialogue sequence follows a rigid format. Let’s take another look at the types of dialogue:

The Small Talk Sequence

Small Talk interrupts gameplay, prompting the player to have a conversation. Because the player does not start the conversation, the support must speak first.

Mona: Hi Jeff, what are you doing?

 

The player is then given three possible responses. It’s here that the RPG aspect of Invisible Fist becomes visible. The player must select one answer.

Jeff:
  • Hi Mom, I’m doing fine! How are you?
  • Hi Mom, I’m working. What’s up?
  • I’m working. I don’t have time to shoot the shit with you.

The player gets a positive, neutral, and negative answer. Here, it’s obvious which answer is which. The differences are more subtle in the game. Plus, I’ve written negative answers to bait players. Some answers are funny, others express annoyance at interruptions.

Once the player chooses a response, they receive a corresponding response. We designed the entire sequence to look like an exchange of text messages.

Here’s an example of a Small Talk sequence between Soma and Jeff:

Invisible Fist Small Talk Soma Jeff

 

The Plan and the Snap Decision

The other types of dialogue sequences include the plan and the snap decision.

The format is the same for both. The support character asks the main character if they will do something. The player accepts or rejects the request, triggering a corresponding response.

Supports make plan requests in advance. Plans involve larger time investments from the player:

Mona: Jeff, are you coming home over the weekend?

Supports make snap requests now. Snaps involve smaller time investments, but force you to drop what you’re doing:

Mona: Jeff, call me right now! 

Here’s an example of a Plan sequence between Mona and Jeff:

Invisible Fist Plan Mona Jeff

 

As you can see, I’m limited by the fact that the main character never speaks first. Also, Jeff only responds once during dialogue sequences. The support character always gets the last word.

In the future, I want to create more diverse and complex dialogue formats.

Finally, the dialogue was difficult because it does the character building heavy lifting. And that’s true for Jeff and his supports.

How do you write a convincing mother? How do you write an AI character that is both assistant and girlfriend? How do you hint at who Jeff is through his interaction with these characters?

Inspiration for Mona:

  • Personal Experience
  • Real Housewives
  • Passive/Aggressive Behavior

I’ve lived abroad for many years, and when you’re not nearby, you must answer all the questions:

  • How are you?
  • Why are you so thin in that picture?
  • When are you going to get married and have children? Tick, tock motherfucker.

Plus, I decided to make Mona passive-aggressive and frustrated. For her, you aren’t successful or a real adult until you’ve made a baby. Jeff is an anxious person. Relationships are hard. Mom pushes him to do the one thing he’s never mastered.

And there’s the conflict.

Inspiration for Soma:

  • Siri and Alexa
  • Her
  • Shit Girls Say

I wanted Soma to be both the jealous girlfriend and Jeff’s personal assistant – that happens to not have a body or a human mind.

Hinting at the Real Jeff:

Each support hints at things from Jeff’s past that help the player get a fuller idea of who he is. At the same time, Jeff  is a fluid character that the player builds.

No you don’t get to accessorize him yet. But you do get to decide if he’s a dick or a sweetheart. Which will you choose?

Inspiration for Invisible Fist Cards and Flavor Texts

 

Finally, we come to the cards and their corresponding flavor texts.

First, we split cards into three types:

  • Work
  • Sleep
  • Leisure

Jeff’s work cards reflect realistic tasks that a Startup CEO might handle during a work day. Nothing too fancy. The same will hold true for other characters.

Work Card Jeff Invisible Fist

The sleep cards were harder to write. It’s difficult to come up with a million different sleep nouns. I had to get creative here – e.g., Wet Dreams.

Sleep Card Jeff Invisible Fist

As for leisure cards, the idea was to think of exciting things for Jeff to do. Here’s where a little bit of imagination helped. There were a few restrictions:

  • Number of Hours
  • Jeff’s Personality
  • Location
  • Silicon Valley Culture

What would an anxious, super rich guy in Silicon Valley do for 2 hours that’s exaggerated? Go to the beach? Too normal. Eat a live octopus? Better. Eat a cobra? Why the fuck not?

Some of the cards are more normal. For example, Jeff can play video games like a normal dude. At the same time, players will eventually spend game money to buy leisure cards. So, we do want to give players a little bang for their buck.

Leisure Card Jeff Invisible Fist

As for the corresponding flavor texts, I decided that I wanted to strike a tone based on:

  • Toxic Masculinity
  • Heavy-handed Worshiping of Capitalism
  • Money Worshiping
  • Valuing Work Instead of Rest

Our Sports Commentator delivers the flavor texts. He taunts and ridicules the player when they choose sleep or play over work. He also praises them for working and consuming.

We don’t want Invisible Fist to deliver an overt political or economic message. Our text follows logic – i.e., you smart off to your mom, she gets pissed.

At the same time, we do want to goad players. So, some flavor text contain twisted, hardcore Capitalistic truisms – e.g., Time is money!
 
In the future, I want the Commentator to also narrate in the style of professional wrestling. Think Bash in Glow.
 

There’s a lot of room for our Sports Commentator to grow.

Conclusion

 

As an RPG card game, Invisible Fist relies on its content. There is a lot of text and writing. Plus, we designed the game to be irreverent, snarky, and full of dark humor.

After months of careful research, infinite coffee, and countless cigarettes, I’ve managed to bang out Jeff Whiz for your entertainment. Please enjoy responsibly!