What the hell is this “game”?

Gaining Perspective is a quirky text-based fetish game that took way too long to release. It’s a semi-realistic game about extreme weight gain—with dark-ish themes, turn-based and mostly linear gameplay, but also a peppering of random events, budget strategy, and a dash of mystery. There’s a back story and an actual plot. You’ll get “vignettes” of major weight milestone as you progress (gain). The game ends when you’re forced to stop gaining, or you grow big enough to see one of the ‘true’ endings. You get a final score for your achievements and progress (largely based on, unsurprisingly, your final weight).

Some of the design aspects go back to 2015. Progress stalled out a few different times because of design problems and sloppy programming. In late 2017, I rebooted the project – rethinking, rewriting, and generally just cleaning house. Previously titled Just Swell, the game got a new name: “Gaining Perspective”.

Care to share a plot teaser?

You’re haunted by an echo from your past.

A very good childhood friend – your cousin Randy – passed away nearly ten years ago. The two of you were about the same age. You remember, even early on, how much Randy liked to eat. He also had a knack for taking advantage of his well-meaning but distracted single father. Given the chance, Randy would regularly overindulge, taking particular satisfaction in comfort foods. More was always better. This behavior went mostly unchecked, and grew into a firmly rooted and life-altering fixation.

You were his friend, school yard buddy, and video game partner. You were his personal assistant and babysitter. Eventually, by increasing degrees, you became his special-needs caregiver. Despite your young age, you proved discrete and trustworthy. You didn’t really mind helping out, but you were pressured to supervise Randy for longer and more frequent stretches. While you were in this position of trust, you began giving Randy “extra help” of entirely the wrong sort.

The game begins in the present – on the day of your 30th birthday. Your Uncle has some peculiar blind spots regarding the events during his son’s decline. He acknowledges that you were a pillar of support, and appreciates the way you always stayed by Randy’s side… to the very end. He also seems to genuinely care for you, doting on you… almost like his own son.

You unwittingly begin to fill the role.

What sort of themes/sexual content should I expect?

Human weight gain. Life-altering obesity. Immobility. Body horror. Semi-realistic consequences. Your character is probably heterosexual, but I think I left enough ambiguity to read it either way. Consider this a feature at your discretion. The narrative relates the experiences as if they are happening to you. There is an optional female ‘companion’ you may encounter. Without spoiling too much: you might consider tolerating her company regardless of your preferences. If you go in expecting she’s the key to some kind of explicit sexual encounter, you may be be disappointed, or perhaps not, depending on your definition.

What’s with the story? Or these design choices?

At its core, this game represents a “what if?” scenario that doesn’t stray too far from reality. Almost anybody is capable of teasing the limits of extreme obesity. It’s not magic. It’s not some exotic fantasy – but is many other things: time consuming, expensive, perilous. A social taboo. A potentially severe personal handicap. Probably more trouble than it’s worth, all things considered. Suffice to say most sensible people shy away from the consequences.

…which leads to this rather peculiar game. I’ve seen other fiction that touches on these themes, but never an interactive experience. It stays fairly well-rooted in reality, with the ever-looming risk of actual consequences, and I think that helps it resonate.

A branching text ‘adventure’ game seemed like a reasonable place to start, but I didn’t want it to rely on rote memorization either. It evolved into a turn-based game, with some actual strategy required to see the story unfold. I considered adding graphics, but never deemed them necessary.

As for the solo focus in the narrative, well – I’m useless at writing romance, and didn’t want to sink a lot of time into awkward love scenes.

Do I have to be a dude? (update: no, you don’t!) Can I customize the character?

As of of the April 22nd, 2018 build, basic gender selection is available. As far as other character customizations, the descriptions are left a bit vague so you can fill in some of the blanks yourself. The general body shape is sometimes implied, but largely open ended. I don’t think the code required to insert some afterthought character customizations would be worthwhile this late in development.

How fat can the player become?

The story finale hinges on this point, so I won’t reveal the specific number here. For now I’ll just confirm it’s firmly in immobility territory. Remember that I’m at least pretending to respect actual body physics (and limitations) – so anyone hoping for house, city, or planetary sizes had best temper their expectations. Same goes for the ‘hyper’ enthusiasts out there.

You say there was a ‘reboot’ during development. What happened there?

It was mainly about getting a badly stalled project out of limbo, and really was a near complete rewrite. I had some overall goals in mind:

  • Simplify. Use fewer variables and only basic strategy. Take inspiration from straightforward “game of life” style gameplay.
  • Improve the story. Write a real plot.
  • Shamelessly recycle as much completed scene writing as possible.
  • Avoid some coding techniques that caused unacceptable slowdowns in Twine.
  • Try not to get bogged down in continuously adding more features.
  • Finally release a thing.
  • Catch everybody by surprise.
  • Profit? (No, really. Send money.)

BUT, I really fell off the wagon with the whole ‘keep it simple’ plan. A lot of content and features made it back in, because the new format turned out to be a better fit. The plot and character writing have come a lot further than I ever expected.

How much changed since early development?

Feel free to poke a couple of really early builds for shits and giggles.

  • Career and traditional cash/money mechanics were replaced with a symbolic currency of “favors” or “credits”. You “call them in” for various necessities, optional perks, and unforeseen emergencies. Managing this resource is the focal point of game strategy.
  • The player originally had to slog through a tedious “work day” schedule to save up cash. This was later replaced with daily “turns”, and dynamic opportunities to earn credits.
  • The key character stats have been pruned to just Weight, Health, and Gluttony.
  • A fancy “micro-managed” food-intake and metabolism simulation was almost entirely scrapped. As cool as this was, my implementation caused some hiccups in Twine, and I chose to put more emphasis on other game choices. The new model assumes the character will look after stuffing his face on his own, which is passively based on your gluttony stat.
  • Dealing with medical situations (in-game) has been a programming challenge throughout development. I very nearly scrapped the whole concept in the reboot, but eventually came up with a reworked implementation that made more sense for the second half of the game. You’ll probably be able to spot the transition.
  • As the new plot unfolds, it actually provides some real justification/explanation for your weight gain. Before, it pretty much amounted to ‘because you wanted to’.

Why did you keep everything under wraps for so long? Why no demo?

One excuse I often used was that I didn’t want to spoil too many of the “milestone” vignettes. Achieving these for the first time should be part of the fun. I also had a difficult time finding a break-point in the story to slice a good demo. Too much code relied on everything that comes before, and I was still struggling to get gameplay difficulty dialed in. It was literally early Feb. 2018 before I played an uninterrupted test game from beginning to end.

Honestly though? I didn’t trust myself to follow through. I especially didn’t trust myself to handle criticism during the early development stages. I certainly didn’t want another unfinished and/or abandoned project to haunt the interwebs. My plan was always to make sure the game could stand on its own – then release it.

What’s with the weird narrative perspective? Is the main character mute?

The narrative is written in limited second-person perspective, which is actually fairly common for an RPG. The weirdness comes from what I call a “Link complex” – like in Legend of Zelda. Your character is voiceless, and never (directly) participates in dialogue. Other characters don’t seem to notice or find this unusual. This started as a joke and experiment, but turned into a long-term commitment. It even resulted in some unexpected ironic comedy.

Isn’t the game a bit repetitive?

It is a ‘grinding’ game of sorts. I tried to keep fresh content popping up throughout, but there are a few screens and messages you’re going to be seeing a lot. Updates to add more content may help with this eventually. There are definitely spots that could see a few extra text variants, entirely new events, or other filler to break things up.

Why is the pace so slow? This is seriously killing my boner.

The actual weight gain already goes a bit faster than I’d planned. Things may seem to move at a snail’s pace early on, but you can (and general will) pick up momentum.

I did consider switching to ‘weekly’ in-game turns in the interest of quicker game times, but ran into some serious timing and balance issues that would require more re-working of code and story than I cared to tackle.

Wow. Such dialog. Much infodumping. You really expect me to read all these walls of text?

Hopefully I won’t have to twist your arm to get through most of them. There are a few “backstory and exposition” blocks later in the game that are pretty important for setting up the ending. I’d encourage you to suffer through these at least once. I think I managed to cobble together a pretty decent plot for a fetish game.

How many endings are there?

There are three versions of the final ending, dependent on key decisions earlier in the game. One of these is considered the ‘best’ ending. Word of warning - try to remember the semi-realistic themes when considering the chances of a ‘happily ever after’. There are also a laundry list of “failure” endings for medical reasons, and a handful of other unique failure scenarios.

Were any other writers involved in this? Some parts have a different tone to them.

Chalk that up to my own moods, story changes, and the huge spread of time. Some parts that appear together were written literally years apart. Up to initial release, it’s been a one-man project. Maybe some contributed content will make it in later.

You write with too many em-dashes (long hyphens / sentence breaks). It hurts my brain.

That’s not a question – but yes, probably.

Any random strangeness you’d like to apologize for in advance?

Well… I did end up dwelling a bit on feet. You’ll see. I’m sorry. You’re welcome.

Where’s all the descriptions of clothing? C’mon! I crave button popping and rippage.

It wasn’t my intention to leave clothing out of the game, but I’ll admit I kind of did. The early version featured money management, and I intentionally glossed over references to clothing until I sorted out matters like purchasing, mending, and alteration of your wardrobe. I didn’t have that excuse after the reboot (which generally assumes you’re always wearing appropriate clothing), but still never bothered to back up and make the necessary changes in earlier scenes.

How is the game programmed?

It’s developed with Twine 2.0, in the “Harlowe” story format. If you want to throw together a ‘choose your own adventure’, this is a great choice for developing branching interactive stories. The platform has quite a bit of flexibility, but there are some limitations that can hamper complex projects (like dynamic games, such as this). Nevertheless, I was inspired when I saw some neat Twine tricks in Leupai’s Boundless (project dead, but lives on in an authorized mod). There are a couple of custom Javascript solutions baked in thanks to help from the Twine community. I tried to learn enough CSS to give the presentation a little polish.

Why not use a different/more versatile game platform?

I probably should have. I dabbled with a few other options, but choked on their learning curves. Twine was very approachable, and a lot of my early ideas seemed to snap right into the simple interactive fiction template. I also liked how it could dump everything into a standalone HTML file that nearly anyone could open and play. The challenges in programming snowballed later – maybe it wasn’t the best fit in hindsight – but I don’t regret it.

How can I support the author?

Of course I appreciate feedback, and encourage you to comment on the forum.

If you’ve found value in this game, or anything else I’ve done – consider visiting my Ko-Fi page and leaving a little something.

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