The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Scifi]

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The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Scifi]

#1 Post by Carassaurat » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:21 pm

Image

Eve may appear to be a normal young woman, but be warned — she is, in fact, a robot. Where she came from or who made her, we cannot tell. All we know is that she is far too lifelike to be legal and constitutes a potential danger so human society. We have tried to disable her, but she has successfully resisted our apprehension team, to its demise. Her whereabouts during the night are unknown — we suspect it's her weakness.

You are Jones, and you are our last hope of saving humanity. You're the most quick witted, charming, handsome man we have.

It will be your job to seduce Eve and disable her when she least expects it.

Don't worry. She may cry, but those tears come from reservoirs behind her optic units. She may be attached to you, but that's a protocol. She may confess her love, but that's a rule-based interaction. She has no heart to break, Jones.

-

I know what you're thinking. Taking all this extra time must have ended up making Jones better than I could ever have conceived it to be at the beginning of NaNoRenO. Well surprise! I actually cut a lot of corners. I cut two characters! It has no music! I did make some totally sweet menus, though. It even has a separate load and save screen.

Age: somewhere 12+ or whatever. It's crass, but relatively tame.
Resolution: 1280x720

Features:
  • 8800 words, or probably half an hour of playtime
  • 41 menus!
  • Plot twists!
  • Original art!
  • Some totally sweet game menus! I wish I were joking, but they were the most fun to create.
  • (No music however. Feel free to put on your own, as long as it's appropriately classy. (This is a very classy game))

ImageImage
ImageImage

MediaFire download 1.01 (34 MB)

Since it has so many variables and labels, it's well possible that I overlooked some parts while testing; I'd appreciate it if anyone were to report any bugs, errors or mishaps.

Furthermore, you know how you're always not quite sure how tough you can be on a creator who spent weeks toiling on the product of his genius? Well, you can be brutally honest with me, don't hold back.
Last edited by Carassaurat on Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#2 Post by Blue Lemma » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:59 pm

Hmm I shall give this a try tonight :)

Now I have this stuck in my head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oqAU5VxFWs

Nice-looking sprites.
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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#3 Post by philip » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:06 pm

Downloaded - the mac version gives the opening screen, but when trying to START the story, it crashes - WAH!!!
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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#4 Post by Chibichann » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:33 pm

will download and comment in a while

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#5 Post by Ishimizu » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:25 pm

downloaded and played...
I actually liked it, especially for that slightly mind screw ending and the simple yet nice visuals.
Also Kafka was pretty right with what he said there... Is there a reason for not giving a translation? (not that I need one since german is my native language)

senseless side note: my first actuall post on this forums, not counting the one in the guestbook XD

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#6 Post by Yonowaaru » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:08 am

So, in a sudden whir of boredom I decided to download this since it seemed interesting.
And it was! I was laughing at the plot twist, because the lampshading was just done so well.
It really was an amazing parody of dating sims, you did a good job.
You also get points from me for mentioning synesthesia (and teaching me Liszt had it, which I wasn't aware of).

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#7 Post by Blue Lemma » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:15 am

Good game :D

I think I got the true true ending, yay!

I have to say:
pressing a gynoid's switch is such a turn-off ;)
Very creative art and writing, nice and fun, glad I played!

btw, you got it wrong:
Mr. Jones is supposed to strike up a conversation with a black-haired flamenco dancer, not an orange-haired programmerbot :D
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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#8 Post by Akitsuki » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:54 am

It somehow sounds interesting.. I never try neither scifi nor BxG game, but for this one, I should give it a shot!
Downloading now~

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#9 Post by Aines445 » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:13 pm

I was waiting for this for some time now, but FINALLY!! It's out and I played it!
My first choice was of course "There's a private party in my pants, but maybe I could sneak you in" (Okay, that's not how it was written exactly, but pretty much that XD) XD Nice moves Jones, that was an expected bad ending. I liked how Eve was always saying that Jones was really honest, because my mission was to freaking disable her! XD And that plot twist! That was unexpected, wow. And also:
Jones (Me choosing) "I think I broke her"
Me "I'm not suprised, Jones XD"
The art was good, and the backgrounds were simple, but they work nicely. But I guess Jones is so handsome we can't even see him XD. (Well that does make sense, since it's first-person (?)) I actually really liked the menu screen and the save and all that, those messages above were a creative idea (I don't see that so often). So I really liked it!

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#10 Post by Carassaurat » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:09 pm

philip wrote:Downloaded - the mac version gives the opening screen, but when trying to START the story, it crashes - WAH!!!
Oh dear. I've got to admit that I really don't know anything about how such issues arise — I just press the Distribute button and hope for the best (and I can only test it on my own Windows machine). I tried re-distributing with 6.15 instead of the previous 6.14 version of Ren'Py, in case some bugs got fixed in the mean time, which you can try here, but I wouldn't count on it. Ren'Py ought to create some sort of a crash log upon failing, if you could post what it says, that might be useful.
Ishimizu wrote:downloaded and played...
I actually liked it, especially for that slightly mind screw ending and the simple yet nice visuals.
Also Kafka was pretty right with what he said there... Is there a reason for not giving a translation? (not that I need one since german is my native language)

senseless side note: my first actuall post on this forums, not counting the one in the guestbook XD
Danke schön! I instantly liked that Kafka quote when I found it; may VNs here are a bit too sugary sweet wish fulfillment for my tastes. The reason I didn't translate the quote is that I think it's a shame how little we are confronted with German and French in daily life when it is necessary to be able to read in those languages for some studies and professions.
Yonowaaru wrote:So, in a sudden whir of boredom I decided to download this since it seemed interesting.
And it was! I was laughing at the plot twist, because the lampshading was just done so well.
It really was an amazing parody of dating sims, you did a good job.
You also get points from me for mentioning synesthesia (and teaching me Liszt had it, which I wasn't aware of).
Cheers! I got that Liszt bit from a list (haha!) on Wikipedia. Synesthesia is a fascinating topic — I don't have the colour variants, but in my head the historical timeline doesn't just go from right to left, but also up and down.
Blue Lemma wrote:Good game :D
I think I got the true true ending, yay!
I have to say:
pressing a gynoid's switch is such a turn-off ;)
Very creative art and writing, nice and fun, glad I played!
btw, you got it wrong:
Mr. Jones is supposed to strike up a conversation with a black-haired flamenco dancer, not an orange-haired programmerbot :D
Thanks! The 'true' ending is pretty easy to spot, it's the only one with credits and the others are all very sarcastic about being true.
I think I'm missing a reference with that last comment?
Aines445 wrote:I was waiting for this for some time now, but FINALLY!! It's out and I played it!
My first choice was of course "There's a private party in my pants, but maybe I could sneak you in" (Okay, that's not how it was written exactly, but pretty much that XD) XD Nice moves Jones, that was an expected bad ending. I liked how Eve was always saying that Jones was really honest, because my mission was to freaking disable her! XD And that plot twist! That was unexpected, wow. And also:
Jones (Me choosing) "I think I broke her"
Me "I'm not suprised, Jones XD"
The art was good, and the backgrounds were simple, but they work nicely. But I guess Jones is so handsome we can't even see him XD. (Well that does make sense, since it's first-person (?)) I actually really liked the menu screen and the save and all that, those messages above were a creative idea (I don't see that so often). So I really liked it!
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my sense of humour. About the menus, the plan was to only have the scrolling text on the main menu, but I had so many lines for it that Ren'Py wouldn't load the image file they were written on and I had to divide them over separate screens. That's also the reason why this one has a different load and save screen, when that's usually the same menu in Ren'Py.

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#11 Post by Obscura » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:00 am

This was pretty cool. You've got a very distinctive voice that goes well with black comedy.

I didn't really have any issues in this game aside from the line at the end about
interactivity excluding the player. I could not comprehend the actual meaning of the sentence. Perhaps I've been so brainwashed by the dating sim genre I couldn't compute it.

The worst I could say about this VN is that it was meandered a bit. There were some tangents in the conversation that made me wonder why they were put there--her mother, for example. Or what the purpose of the whole exchange was.

Really loved your sprite style, the backgrounds, and the coloring. Eve's switch made me guffaw.
Overall, nice job!
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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#12 Post by Blue Lemma » Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:23 am

@Carassaurat: The reference on that last comment is about the song "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oqAU5VxFWs
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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#13 Post by SundownKid » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:24 am

I finished the true ending - here are my comments:
I thought it was quirky. I would say that my opinion of it is average - I think the romancing dialog was the best part (well, minus the bad-ends, which felt kinda cheap), while the tangents were a bit weak, though it did make me doubt whether she was a robot. Here are my criticisms of it, though:

1) The true ending basically insults your own story, in essence saying that it would be better off non-interactive (or that interactivity is a ruse). While this may be true, it cheapens the previous experience a lot. Obviously you're aware that games are not real life, but you still downloaded this visual novel. It's just too anvilicious a message.

2) The fact that Eve was created for Jones is canon, but the story never explains why, instead saying that everyone is fake, which also cheapens the experience. It would have been far better if there was an in-universe reason that reflected off of the player rather than speaking to the player outright.

Basically, it could have been an interesting plot twist, but the 4th wall breaking got in the way. Put some faith in the reader that they would "get it" rather than saying it outright. Once you break the fourth wall, all the tension built up in the plot is completely and utterly destroyed.

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#14 Post by Carassaurat » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:33 pm

Obscura wrote:This was pretty cool. You've got a very distinctive voice that goes well with black comedy.

I didn't really have any issues in this game aside from the line at the end about
interactivity excluding the player. I could not comprehend the actual meaning of the sentence. Perhaps I've been so brainwashed by the dating sim genre I couldn't compute it.

The worst I could say about this VN is that it was meandered a bit. There were some tangents in the conversation that made me wonder why they were put there--her mother, for example. Or what the purpose of the whole exchange was.
Overall, nice job!
Yeah, the ending... I couldn't quite figure out how to get my message across. Let me try again, then: people always make the distinction that in static media, such as books, music, film, the audience does not get to participate, whereas in games they do; for that reason, games are supposed to be this new, exciting medium of communication or art form that is greater than everything that came before it. I think that's a very pre-post-structuralist view of art. Post-structuralists like Derrida, Barthes and Foucault suggested that there is no one meaning to a text that is given to it by the author. To try to reconstruct the author's message is a waste of time; a work of art is about the meaning that you, as the reader, derive from it. It also means that you can formulate different, contradictory meanings to a work of art. While I think they went entirely too far by abolishing the author altogether, the movement did have an impact on the way we read things. To say that static media are merely conveying the message of the author is a way of thinking that is outdated by half a century at least.

Games then! Because video games are interactive structures on the computer, they require that you speak the computer's language in order to communicate with it; in this case, it's a little menu with a handful of clickable options. The objective is no longer interpretation, it is manipulation, because it's a game and you want to win (The Chief: "Keep that in mind: you don't understand a robot, for their patterns of thought — if you can call them that — are alien to us. Instead, you analyze, recognize and {i}exploit{/i} them.") Rather than having the whole of your mind to forms answers and questions about a work, you get the questions handed and given a range of options that might be your answers. They're never your answers, of course, they're the writer's. You can disagree with a book all the way through, but a game won't allow you to disagree with any of the options; you either have to pick one or leave the game altogether. That's the irony behind that very last line of Jones: the only option you have to pick from is one that says that you can't express your own thoughts in games. If you disagree with that option, that very fact is its proof right there!

There was harsher stuff in the original ending, which I cut. It included a quotation from Joseph Weizenbaum's 1976 book Computer Power and Human Reason, which is about the ethics of delegating tasks that concern the human condition to AIs: "One would expect that large numbers of individuals, living in a society in which anonymous, hence irresponsible, forces formulate the large questions of the day and circumscribe the range of possible answers, would experience a kind of impotence and fall victim to a mindless rage. And surely we see that expectation fulfilled all around us, on university campuses and in factories, in homes and offices. Its manifestations are workers' sabotage of the products of their labor, unrest and aimlessness among students, street crime, escape into drug-induced dream worlds, and so on. Yet an alternative response is also very pervasive; as seen from one perspective, it appears to be resignation, but from another perspective it is what Erich Fromm long ago called "escape from freedom."" Weizenbaum goes on to compare the modern reliance on technology to formulate our questions and possible answers to Nazism. While I wouldn't quite like to go so far as to call people who play dating sims crypto-fascists, the very idea of a medium that encourages you to think in the author's thoughts rather than form your own interpretation is a bit scary to me.
Blue Lemma wrote:@Carassaurat: The reference on that last comment is about the song "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oqAU5VxFWs
Oh, right! I'm sorry, my familiarity with music goes to about the year 1800 and it's a fog after that :lol: .
SundownKid wrote:I finished the true ending - here are my comments:
I thought it was quirky. I would say that my opinion of it is average - I think the romancing dialog was the best part (well, minus the bad-ends, which felt kinda cheap), while the tangents were a bit weak, though it did make me doubt whether she was a robot. Here are my criticisms of it, though:

1) The true ending basically insults your own story, in essence saying that it would be better off non-interactive (or that interactivity is a ruse). While this may be true, it cheapens the previous experience a lot. Obviously you're aware that games are not real life, but you still downloaded this visual novel. It's just too anvilicious a message.

2) The fact that Eve was created for Jones is canon, but the story never explains why, instead saying that everyone is fake, which also cheapens the experience. It would have been far better if there was an in-universe reason that reflected off of the player rather than speaking to the player outright.

Basically, it could have been an interesting plot twist, but the 4th wall breaking got in the way. Put some faith in the reader that they would "get it" rather than saying it outright. Once you break the fourth wall, all the tension built up in the plot is completely and utterly destroyed.
Hey, I really appreciate your honesty there!
You might be surprised to find out that the original ending I had written was much worse; the characters commented on how the fourth wall was broken and then I, personally, would give a little monologue with the moral of the story. It was a bit, just a bit, on the silly side.
You're absolutely right in that the ending insults the whole thing, though, to be honest, it isn't just supposed to be the ending that does that. It wasn't just a plot twist that was tacked on, but the very core idea that I wanted to demonstrate. Even before NaNoRenO started I toyed with ideas about demonstrating how meaningless the whole decision system can be (see the reply to Obscura above for that). It isn't just that this story would be better if it were non-interactive, it's that I don't think game systems ought to be used in stories about love at all (or vice versa), because they can't simulate a thing like that. Jones was an attempt to show how wrong a game view on love is by making the creepiness terribly explicit. Eve is a robot in game canon, but every game love interest works as robotically as she does. You don't love the other, you're not making an emotional connection, instead you are pursuing a goal and you're making decisions based on how best to reach that. That's how every game works, just by the nature of games. Select from a range of options until someone declares his or her love to you. Every game that says it's about love is actually about manipulation; I think that that's a perversion of the human condition. Of course, the intended effect of Jones relied on the idea that you found it all to be very discomfortable, hence the not-so-subtle sexist undertones ("Mankind will prevail over the gynoids!" etc.). The idea was computers as a metaphor for sexism as a metaphor for computers. It's not a game about the plot, or Jones, or robots, or sexism, but (to me at least) about how much I get creeped out by dating games.

As well as Weizenbaum, quoted in the response above to Obscura, this was inspired by the thought of Theodor Adorno, who wrote: "The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness. The order that springs from it is never confronted with what it claims to be or with the real interests of human beings. Order, however, is not good in itself. It would be so only as a good order. The fact that the culture industry is oblivious to this and extols order in abstracto, bears witness to the impotence and untruth of the messages it conveys. While it claims to lead the perplexed, it deludes them with false conflicts which they are to exchange for their own. It solves conflicts for them only in appearance, in a way that they can hardly be solved in their real lives. (Culture Industry Reconsidered, 1963)" Which I think applies to games only all too well. Adorno hated the shallowness of popular music and wanted it to admit "really and truly to be what it is, without the ideological pretense of being something else." Similarly, perhaps, I think that games ought to admit that they, being rule based interactions, if-then statements, pure computer logic, cannot simulate the human condition and cannot do it justice, just as Eve, being a robot, can't. Better, then, not to try or it'll end up being a thoroughly distorted and creepy version of love.

As for the canon thing... Yeah, it's a bit problematic, because I ended up going for two ideas: the one outlined to you here, which is when the Chief and the Doctor turn out to be metaphors for game designers who don't know what love is and can't see the difference between it and manipulation; and the point I tried to explain to Obscura, that games are limited in their allowance of interpretation, which is when the fourth wall is broken. You may have noticed that I have read entirely too much philosophy in preparation for this game, and I think I wanted to put too much of my thought into too short a span of game time, which is why it required a far too lengthy forum post in elaboration :/ .

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Re: The Insidious Manipulation of Mr. Jones [NaNo13, BxG, Sc

#15 Post by saguaro » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:52 pm

I liked the humor in this.

I really liked the aesthetics, especially the backgrounds and how they contrast with the sprites.

Your CODE WHY expression in the credits is what I find myself doing like 99% of the time I'm working on a project.
Jones seems like a pretty smooth customer (as least, he was when I played, ahem) so I can't imagine why his superiors would need to create an elaborate scenario with a robot for him to practice loving. At the same time, this actually made the constant encouragement (Jones, you're the most handsomestest!) funnier to me for some reason.

I'm not sure what I think about the interactivity argument. I will say there's a difference between a "real" in-game choice, which alters the storyline in a significant way, and a "fake" choice, in which the player makes choices that don't ultimately matter, and as a player I find the latter annoying because it creates a false sense of agency--in that instance, I would rather be told the story outright.

I expect all players understand the developer is telling a story and that they're ultimately experiencing the story on the developer's terms, no matter what choices they make.
Edit: And from your most recent response, which I just saw:
"It's not a game about the plot, or Jones, or robots, or sexism, but (to me at least) about how much I get creeped out by dating games."
Gotcha. And they absolutely can be creepy.

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