One of the most prominent and critically acclaimed Twine games has been Howling Dogs, a haunting meditation about trauma and escapism produced in 2012 by a woman named Porpentine. The gameplay begins in a claustrophobic metal room bathed in fluorescent light. Although you can’t leave, you can “escape” once a day by donning a pair of virtual-reality goggles. Each time, you’re launched into a strange and lavishly described new world where you play a different role: a doomed young empress learning the art of dying; a scribe trying to capture the beauty of a garden in words; a Joan of Arc-like figure waiting to be burned on a pyre. And each time you return to the metal room, it’s a little dirtier and a little more dilapidated — the world around you slowly decomposing as you try to disappear into a virtual one.
honestly – I’m actually goin to say this is my new favourite text adventure. it’s really a very special game. so many emotions are communicated so clearly and personally through the use of colour, language, music and audience participation.
I say “audience participation” because WTWLA employs a truly unique feature for a game. at certain points in the story, you are asked to draw symbols on your body, and lots of people, upon completing the game, upload photos of their symbols and I just think that that is really really cool. everyone plays the same game but comes away with something unique and personal to them, which can be shared with others.
Also the use of music in this game is genius. serious kudos to brenda neotenomie for capturing and adding to the mood of each part of the story. use your god damn headphones/earbuds people.
having said all that, I really think the less said about this game the better, but I will give a hint: to progress the story, you need to sleep. I didn’t know this and was v confused for a while.
wreCK - RPG Maker game by tumblr user tvface.Playing as the healer class is really soothing. There’s a pretty strong OFF feel, but it’s not enough to overwhelm this very unique game. Music is god tier.
Filth Witch is a witchy spell generator by Neotenomie with text by Porpentine and starring a character from Lily Zone’s upcoming game Crypt Underworld. Click the orbs to weave a unique spell, or leave it on in the background for the haunting melody…
we had our workshop today and it went great! brenda made a beautiful twine tutorial slideshow that doesn’t rely on powerpoint, just go to the page and click or use keyboard arrows to navigate (down arrows focus more deeply on a specific topic, right arrows continue to the next topic). feel free to use for your own workshop or to teach a friend!
“I counted this high”. The numbers become a geography. Sometimes invisible. Sometimes they become staircases, and paths that you run through while holding your breath. Other times they keep you grounded, in a horrible way. Sometimes they’re the only thing that’s there.
They’re reminiscent of the counter in Howling Dogs which increments each day of solitary confinement, and the story opens sometime after 365. Hold out for arbitrary milestones only for them to pass with indifference.
Spent the hour before work playing “With Those We Love Alive” by Porpentine. Her games can force me into emotional headspaces I’d never experience otherwise, but this was by far the most confronting. I’ll have these symbols under my dress for the next 12 hours and I don’t know how to feel about that.
Intensely personal, erotic, bizarre, and unabashedly honest are just a few words that describe the work of Porpentine, one of gaming’s most absorbing designers.
“I think trash represents this kind of lowest of the lower, this sinking point,” she said. “If you’re trash, there’s nowhere else to go, and you’re co-mingling with all these things around you. It’s a refuge. It represents finding value in something that so many other people find ugly and celebrating it, which is something that applies a lot to my life and my work.”
Porpentine’s contributions toward the maturation of the medium we love so much has been among the greatest I’ve seen in my lifetime. Games like Papo y Yo, Depression Quest and Dys4ia have done much to shake our digital foundation’s anxiety over personal, risky games as an legitimately effective - and, in some cases profitable - proposition. Porpentine’s own work has done much to cultivate this growing presence of cathartic, poetically personal work; and I look forward to seeing the space flourish.
This article by Patrick Klepek is worth a read, trust me.
my OST for Neon Haze is up on SoundCloud! some thoughts on each track (light spoilers):
“a plastic beehive”
evoking the feeling of a dimly lit capsule hotel was an unusual challenge, since my instinct is to make everything sound as expansive as possible. i added some crystalline siren-like sounds to the background – perhaps part of the hotel’s inner workings – to give it a subtle spaciousness.
“smog and neon haze”
emily short mentioned in her review that the music “communicated hope, or perhaps some not-quite-hope will to live,” and this is probably the strongest example of that. i fell in love with porp’s vision of a misty neon superstructure and wanted to evoke the wonder of that, even if the protagonist herself isn’t able to appreciate it.
for being pursued by a faceless figure carrying a very powerful weapon with a very loud hum. i really enjoy simulating the sound of machinery with additive synthesis; it’s something i’d like to do more of in the future.
weapons replace subtle social interaction with blunt struggle, soft self-knitting flesh turned to biohazard splatter. they hasten the heat death of the universe. i wanted the weapon’s charge to sound unnaturally slick, like something that shouldn’t even exist.
i commented to porp that the stylized violence of this section reminded me of ghost in the shell, and i wanted to make something that felt intense but also polished and cold. in places, it’s the most abrasive thing i’ve ever made. only “vending machine woman” and the “princess spore” music from with those we love alive come close.
the hiss that builds in the first third is both a simulation of maskhead’s titular “static mask” and a deliberate attempt to give the player ASMR, since a literal chill down the spine is as close as i can come to simulating what happens to the protagonist in this passage.
porp asked me to make this reprise of “smog and neon haze” both more “candied” and “distant,” reflecting the internal state of the protagonist. it ended up sounding kind of like grimes wailing over a blurrier cure dirge, i.e. it’s probably one of my favorite things i’ve ever done.
“zero dollar bill”
a little elegy for the broken-down arcade. this was the last piece of music and last bit of the game that came together; there was a need for some reprieve between the intensity of “sugar echo” and the final scene. i love how the vending machine feels like an oasis, a melancholy indulgence in pop culture detritus.
i found yet another opportunity to use the lisa frank synth patch i designed for “corporeal”. you can sing “bizarre love triangle” over this, if you change the rhythm a bit. it makes sense to me in context of the ending. great music makes me wish i could just peel it open and curl up inside.
overall i’m really happy with how the soundtrack and game came out. i feel like i’ve gotten a much better handle on mixing and sound design since with those we love alive and i hope it shows. it’s been a wonderful opportunity to help bring this neon trashscape to life! if you’d like to see more work like this, consider supporting my Patreon!