It’s the new year and I’ve been reflecting on the past, so here’s a post on how Fleshcult came to be:
Before Fleshcult I had a history of starting abortive fetish games. I resented them because there was a G-rated hobby project that I was trying to focus on during my spare time, and these side projects weren’t helping. Around about 2010, I read how Dwarf Fortress and other indie successes started out as side projects that took on a life of their own, so I decided that I was going to trust my gut, and go wherever my inclinations led me instead of trying to force myself to write something respectable.
The first version of Fleshcult was a deck of cards, a notebook and some counters. My original fetish projects had been written in C++ because that’s what I used at work. It’s terribly unsuited to doing a text-heavy strategy game. Fucking around with manual memory management and heavy GUI frameworks sapped me of so much momentum and motivation. By the time I got to Fleshcult I had resolved to always do the stupidest thing that could possibly work.
I had a notion of a Blackjack-like game where the player edges someone toward orgasm but loses if they go over the edge. This was going to be a minigame in a larger turn-based game of shapeshifter combat where you roam around a board and try to steal mass from the others, enabling you to form new body parts. I never did make the details of the boardgamey overworld work out, but playing the minigame on paper showed that it had promise, so I narrowed my focus.
7 April 2010
This was the first source code check-in for Faust, which was the working title at the time. Testing the game concept on paper was laborious, so I wrote a Python script that I ran from the command line.
I was reading a lot about BDSM, and the notion of ‘power exchange’ made me think of game mechanics. What if ‘power’ was a tangible resource representing willpower and control? What if you could extract it from characters that you’re dominating by persuading them to submit to things that push their limits? If your persuasion failed, your Dommy credibility would suffer and you’d lose power. What if you could spend it by submitting to other characters in exchange for a broader range of options, because they’ve pushed your own limits back?
I didn’t name it Faust because NPCs made infernal pacts with you. I named it Faust because the player would make an infernal pact with their dominant to receive body modifications. I had a vague notion that you would submit to a supernatural entity, and hope that you’ve collected enough power, otherwise you’d run the risk of being mindfucked into eternal servitude. I imagined this trading looking like the diplomacy screen in a Civ game.
2 April 2011
I fleshed out the world a bit more and themed it around Cold War espionage, but with the twist that the great powers are in the thrall of Lovecraftian entities. It was sorta Charlie Stross-ish. The encounters would now be interrogations.
I added a Fear resource too. Playing Blackjack with lust was just too shallow. I wanted the player to manage both Fear and Lust. Because the encounters were interrogations, fear wasn’t originally a total negative. The power that the player holds over the subject was the sum of both their lust and their fear. The encounter ended if they orgasmed or if they exceeded their fear limit.
2 February 2012
I had been splitting my spare time between several projects, so progress was slow and intermittent. Around this time I was starting to seriously consider running Faust for a living though I wasn’t comfortable making the game public yet. The potential that it could be framed as a torture game worried me. What’s more, I discovered that the legal penalties for depictions of sexual violence can be really severe where I live.
I thought about BDSM-ifying it even more: change the fiction so that encounters are role plays. I found the idea unsatisfying. Why should I need two layers of make-believe? Making the game more mundane and realistic was a dreary prospect.
I struggled with this for a week. Eventually I decided the interrogations had to go. I was going back to a fantasy shapeshifting theme, this time with succubi and incubi. I made fear a penalty instead of a resource, removed fatigue because fear did that job, introduced mana, and the replenishment of mana via orgasm. After that rewrite, the game was essentially Fleshcult, but really empty, unpolished and repetitive. (Problems I’ve been struggling with ever since!)
In September 2012 I started this blog, so the rest is (already) history.
Great post. So, tell us about the current state. Are you happy with the results? Does the game have enough players now? More or less than you expected? And what are you future plans?
I’m not satisfied with Fleshcult’s current state, but that’s because I’m never satisfied with any of my games. It’s not erotic enough, the characterisation still isn’t convincing and the metagame is too shallow.
I’m going to put Fleshcult on the back burner for a while. I’ve been focusing on it for a long time, and it’s hard to stay inspired. I guess I followed my inclinations into the project and I’ll follow them out again. As for the new project, there’s a handful of different ideas I’m trying out (half of them are erotic, half non-erotic). I’d like to be more specific, but I don’t want to create expectations I can’t fulfil, because most ideas fail.
I’m pretty sure I’ll want to add more to Fleshcult someday, and I have some big ideas that would require a new round of crowdfunding, but obviously I don’t want to start anything big until my inspiration returns!
As for my expectations, I did a spreadsheet with 3 scenarios: Failure, Survival and Fairytale, and Fleshcult landed pretty squarely in Survival until Gumroad dropped me. I’m still looking for a good replacement. It’s funny, because I was expecting either extreme failure or extreme success, but not the middle.
Fucking Gumroad, man.
Anyway, been a month or a bit more, how well are you defraying hosting expenses with dat ad revenue?
Ads are coming in at just under half of hosting expenses, but I have a lot of improvements to make. Luckily donations are covering the rest for now.
If something that WAS to be a money-boost turns into a money-drain, shit’s gone wrong D : .