I recently did an interview with Christine Love, creator of Analogue: A Hate Story. We cover some of the storytelling elements used in Analogue, and its upcoming DLC. Please note that this interview does contain spoilers.
Ted: When did you decide that Analogue was going to be a reimagining of the Joseon dynasty? How long was “Namjon yeobi” (Men are honoured, women are abased) in your head before you thought, “There’s a game here?”
Christine Love: Korean history—the Joseon dynasty in particular—has been something that’s fascinated me for years. So when I finally had an excuse to do a lot of research on it, I jumped at the chance! Mostly, Analogue was just a culmination of all that studying. I’d read a lot about that society, but I found that I still was having trouble understanding what it would be like to be a woman living in that. So that’s how Analogue was born: as an excuse to try to get into the minds of people living under that oppression, to try to understand how they might have survived.
Ted: You’ve been called “A writer first, and a game designer second.” (Quote from GamePro’s Pete Davidson). Do you agree with that assessment?
Christine: I think I’ve probably said as much. I’m interested in game design, but certainly I have a LOT of room to improve there. I was already a writer when I got into videogames, so it’s just a question of needing more practice.
Ted: The most game-y element of Analogue actually ends up telling a story to a player; that they have to make a choice. How much do you like using game systems to tell stories?
Christine: Obviously, a lot! I think interactivity is one of the most useful storytelling tools that exists. A lot of Analogue’s interactive elements don’t have a very big impact on the way the story actually unfolds, in so far as you can’t change events; but I think it’s still really important. When you make the player actually go through the motions, even for things that have foregone conclusions, it involves them in the story in a far stronger way than if you don’t. And only game can do this.
Ted: Were you worried at all that English-speaking players would get confused with the numerous characters with Korean names; that they would get lost?
Christine: Well, I knew it would be an issue, but there’s not much I could do about that. Obviously giving them non-Korean names wouldn’t really make much sense. That is part of why I included the family trees, though, so at least the player has a reference at all times.
Ted: There are several similarities between Analogue and don’t take it personally, but one thing I noticed was that while the kids in don’t take it personally have no concept of privacy, the AI’s in Analogue only reveal a little bit at a time, and can even hide things from you. Was that something that was subconsciously in your mind?
Christine: I don’t know if I’d really make that sort of connection. But it’s certainly true that they show very radically different approaches to the idea of openness; in the world of Analogue, the idea of women having public lives at all, let alone broadcasting them for everyone to see, would be completely unimaginable!
Ted: At the time the reactors go critical on the ship, you’re already locked into your choice of AI. Do you think that having to make the choice of which core to dump at that moment would be far more dramatic? Especially because the player doesn’t exactly know that he or she is going to have to make that choice until they puzzle it out.
Christine: That’s how the puzzle was designed, although it didn’t really work out in practice. There were a lot of problems that came up with that in testing. I don’t feel particularly happy about the way I solved them; I think maybe, given more time, I might have figured out a less frustrating solution.
Ted: Digital: A Love Story and don’t take it personally were released as freeware. How nervous were you charging a price for Analogue?
Christine: Okay, you need to understand the full story: at the time that I was working on Analogue, I wasn’t really doing very well financially at all. I had barely managed to survive the summer, and was only really subsisting at all off student loans. At the same time, I was in the middle of my fourth year of a shitty English undergraduate degree, and not only was I not really learning a whole lot, but it was getting to the point where I had no way of balancing both schoolwork and finishing Analogue. So of course, I did the only sensible thing: I dropped out of school to finish my crazy feminist visual novel based off Korean history, as my first commercial project.
To say that I was terrified would be a dramatic understatement.
Ted: How did getting on Steam help or not help the sales of Analogue?
Christine: Well, on Steam, it’s done about ten times better than it did through my own direct sales. So… uh… suffice to say, it’s been MASSIVELY helpful. Being on Steam has let me reach an audience so much bigger than I ever dreamed of. I’m incredibly grateful that I was lucky enough to get that, let me tell you.
Ted: You’ve announced DLC for Analogue that will take place after the player leaves the Mugunghwa. What story do you want to tell now that we know what happened on that ship?
Christine: It’s going to go into the details of what happened during year 0, the event that caused all the computers to be reset. Mostly, though, in the same way that Analogue was *Hyun-ae’s story, Hate Plus is going to be very much *Mute’s story. She never really got quite as much spotlight, even in her own route, and I’d like to focus on her a lot more; she’s the most interesting—and hard-to-pin-down—character to come out of Analogue, I think.
Ted: How was your experience at IndieCade? What game did you enjoy seeing most?
Christine: I really loved IndieCade a lot! There was so much amazing stuff going on, and unlike other videogame events I’ve been to, it has a really welcoming atmosphere, that really makes me excited about the future of games. It’s hard to pick out just one game that I enjoyed, because there was so much awesome stuff being shown there—really, I was in amazing company—but I’d say the thing that interested me the most was Gorogoa, a cute little puzzle game that does incredibly neat things with visual storytelling. But overall, really, everything at IndieCade was very exciting and wonderful.
Analogue: A Hate Story is available from ahatestory.com, and can also be found on Steam.