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That Long Cold Night [Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery] [Scenario-Complete]

Posted: Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:45 pm
by rook17
Our world was transformed with the discovery of chroma, an elementary particle isolated from solar radiation that in large concentrations had unusual gravitational properties. This discovery led to rapid advances in data storage, communication, and consumer technology--but it also radically transformed the balance of power between people, governments and corporations.

But that history is the last thing on the mind of the Rooks of the FSS Hermes, the pairs of non-FTE contract workers responsible for maintenance and upkeep on the interstellar colony ship. They have more immediate concerns—Why were they awakened? How much time has passed? Why can’t they contact anyone else?

This is a nightmare. But what kind of nightmare?

Do your job. Stay loyal. And we’ll make it safely through.
Most of us.

== Summary ==

That Long Cold Night is a full-length (145,000 words), mostly-linear visual novel with six routes branching off of a short common route that tell overlapping versions of the same events from multiple characters’ perspectives. The routes branch off in a modified ladder structure; two routes are available on a first playthrough, with others unlocking subsequently. The final route is a true end with epilogue, only accessible when all other routes have been seen.

Each route follows a different combination of characters, and also differs somewhat in genre -- the storytelling follows the conventions of what the characters believe the crisis to be. Are we dealing with a serial killer? A monster? A natural disaster? A rogue AI? A conspiracy? Each route leans into a different interpretation, and it’s up to the reader to look for the inconsistencies between routes and figure out what kind of story they’re really reading.

Content is on par with a mainstream R-rated movie: some scenes of violence and strong language. In terms of tone and style, I think the works I’ve been mostly influenced by in the VN world are Higurashi and the Zero Escape/Infinity serieses. Outside of VNs, I’ve probably been most affected by the works of Stephen King, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick.

If you’re interested enough to read more, here’s a sample early scene from the common route.

== Characters ==

TLCN features six major and three minor characters. Since I’m pre-art, I’ll just share a few character notes for now:

Rook 4-B, “Torque”: Jenny Saxton (playable)
Licensure: Vancouver Authority

“If you don’t know the right thing, at least do something.”

A talented Fixer, a mechanical engineer and repair specialist. Torque doesn’t trust anything if she can’t see how it works, which unfortunately doesn’t get you too far in a state-of-the-art vessel filled with prototype hardware. Torque is unflappable, confident and proactive, but also impulsive, irreverent and literal.

Rook 4-A, “Weaver”: Charlie Smith
Licensure: Vancouver Authority

“I guess there are just some things you can’t come back from.”

A star small forward in high school, he parlayed a basketball scholarship to take him from a small village school to a big-ten computer science degree and never looked back. Weaver is naturally social and warm but uncomfortable with direct conflict. Weaver is talented and creative, but has a tendency to freeze under pressure.

Rook 7-A, “Wraith”: Barathea Janowicz
Licensure: Atlanta Authority

“I can see what you’re doing. Stay out. Or you’re going to get a lot of people hurt.”

Wraith is a systems analyst who specializes in speed over quality--crack the hard parts first, and someone can always come through and clean the rest up later. She prefers finding a safe location and hunkering down; anything worth solving can be solved over the network: let the rest of these idiots make a bunch of noise and draw the attention. It’s what they do best.

Rook 7-B, “Bullet”: Buster Crayton
Licensure: Atlanta Authority

“An hour ago, you could have walked away. But you chose this. Just as much as I did.”

A former high school offensive lineman, Bullet is a heavy equipment operator with a powerful combination of raw strength and precision. He’s humble and polite by nature, but doesn’t take well to criticism or disrespect.

Rook 3-A, “Mason”: Mirna Kovačić
Licensure: Lisboa Authority

“Oh, are we judging each other now? Well, why don’t I go first.”

The ship’s primary physician, Mason, agreed to give up her own clinic for the opportunity to serve on the Hermes. She’s as capable at management, organization and business processes as she is at medicine, and believes that any people problem can be solved with the appropriate leverage and a careful negotiation.

Rook 3-B, “Seeker”: Marko Kovačić
Licensure: Lisboa Authority

“This ship could fly through the rings of Saturn without getting a drop of ice on her hull.”

Mason’s brother, Seeker, is a theoretical physicist who designed many of the ship’s core navigational control systems. He only joined the mission begrudgingly; practical operation is always disappointing compared to design, but the higher-ups insisted on having a specialist on hand, just in case.

Rook One, “Silver”: Grady Templeton
Licensure: Sacramento Authority

“When I want to be clear, I’m clear. But you can’t hang a pane of glass in a museum.”

The liaison between the Rooks and the passengers, Silver is well-educated, incisive and persuasive--but he’s also smug, patronizing, and unable to take seriously any opinion that differs from his own. Silver has a keen eye for inconsistencies and half-truths, but is pathologically unable to trust others with the patterns he sees.

Rook Zero, “Blue”: Alexandre Robert
Licensure: Sacramento Authority

“Don’t lecture me about what you think is fair. I’ve paid for my principles. Have you paid for yours?”

The leader of the Rooks, Blue is a middle-aged man of Haitian descent with little patience for unprofessionalism or disagreement. Principled, experienced and calm, Blue is capable of holding the crew together through sheer force of will--but he can’t be everywhere at once, and this ship has more problems than just morale.

Archivist: Hippocrates
Domain-Specific Artificial Intelligence

“People are the things they do to other people. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Hippocrates, the name for the virtual intelligence that maintains the ship’s records and assists with curation of the Hermes’ creative works library, serves as a narrator during the interludes between routes. Hippocrates offers the reader advice and helps hypothesize connections between conflicting events, but is powerless to act directly.

== Project Status ==

Well, it's a little past the idea stage, per se, but writing a mystery novel of this length was enough of a commitment that I wanted to make sure I had a complete, well-structured and consistent story before beginning to work on the art, music and programming angles. I’m glad I did -- it ended up taking just shy of 2.5 years (~6 months of planning, 2 years of writing) but I’m happy to say that That Long Cold Night is scenario-complete, and has now moving into editing. That said, comments and suggestions are still very much welcome as the story may still evolve in the process of becoming a real VN.

At this point, I’m beginning the project planning for the rest of the production, but getting scenario-complete on a VN this long is enough of a milestone that I’m also happy to chat with anyone who wants to hear about how that process went. For now, the most likely path is pursuing private funding that will allow me to hire on the art & sound side.

Happy to hear thoughts and comments, and if you're interested in getting involved, please stay tuned!

All the best,

Re: That Long Cold Night [Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery] [Scenario-Complete]

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2020 5:44 pm
by Saitogami
Hi Rook,

I read your synopsis and plan for the story/routes. That Long Cold Night sounds very interesting and cool, especially with the six routes of the characters that have different opinions of what might have happened. The routes are such a great idea for you to use because you can explore all the personalities without really any restraints and also dive into how they deal with the idea they have in their heads, of what could have happened.

I'm really curious to see how this turns out as a VN in the future. Curious in a good way, of course. I wanna see how the paths converge and how the story turns out in the end!

Also, final note, I would have loved to see more on the characters BUT that would spoil a lot as I know.

I hope the work for this project is going well and that everything is going smoothly. Keep us updated!


Josh Portillo

Re: That Long Cold Night [Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery] [Scenario-Complete]

Posted: Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:15 pm
by rook17
Thanks so much, Josh, really appreciate the interest and kind words!

Re: That Long Cold Night [Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery] [Scenario-Complete]

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 8:43 pm
by Nay
Hello! I wanted to post and say I'm interested in your story. I love the Zero Escape series and Higurashi/Umineko, so naturally I really like to see long length mystery novels like what you've posted. I'm intrigued, and I'd love to see it get made into a visual novel! I really like your story idea and really impressed that you've already written so much! Your synopsis makes me curious, especially about the chroma and how it has impacted humanity. It sounds like an interesting setting and world. I want to know more about the story for sure.

I wanted to offer my two cents about your project. When I looked at your story excerpt, it struck me that it reads a bit like a novel, instead of a stereotypical visual novel. There's dialogue, but a bulk of your story seems told with the action / italicized bits. When I think of a visual novel, I think that the bulk of the story is told through primarily dialogue, not unlike a play. And it seems to me a lot of your script could be changed to be mainly dialogue.

For example, "Jenny rolled her eyes" in italics could be changed to Weaver saying: "Are you rolling your eyes at me?" I think it would be more interactive and provide more insight into their characters if you did it that way. However, this is a stylistic thing, and just a piece of feedback on my end.

In any case, what you have seems like a great start to your visual novel and, I repeat what Saitogami said, please keep us updated!

Re: That Long Cold Night [Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery] [Scenario-Complete]

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:07 pm
by rook17
Thanks Nay, appreciate the comments & feedback! I definitely rely a bit too much on dialogue tags, for sure. Partly that's not knowing yet how expressive I'll be able to be with sprites and CGs, and part of it's just a crutch that shows I'm still getting comfortable with the medium. I'm definitely expecting that some of the language ends up on the cutting room floor.

I already saw a bit of this putting the Prologue into a Ren'Py prototype -- you think you're writing for a standard VN dialogue box, but that space limit creeps up on you fast when you actually see it in production with real VN pacing.