Horse Plays is available now

Horse Plays, the video computer game, is available now for free on Android, Windows, Linux, iPhone, iPad, and in the web browser!

In Horse Plays you take on the role of one of two horses performing a play. Your job is to choose the correct next line in the play at several different points. Get it right and your local theatrical masterpiece goes off without a hitch. Get it wrong and your fellow equestrian thespian might just pull the plug.

There are three plays* for you to choose from. Coming up with these plays was the reason this game took a long time for me to finish. In a lot of respects Horse Plays was functionally ‘finished’ in October 2017 when I got the game working the way I wanted it to. The whole plan was to make a game that was pretty much just the Harfest Play scene from Night in the Woods, only this time it’s horses. By the time I got the game working how I wanted it I ran into the big flaw in my plan: writing plays is hard.

Heck, writing anything is hard. My plan was to not just write several plays (it’s not called Horse Play after all), but to have branching narrative in each of them. I had not written a single play in my life, and I haven’t even really seen a lot of them. I did once write a screenplay for a 48-hour film competition, but it was very poor.

So I put it off and worked on something else. I started a game called Cool Soda Can (still unfinished but look for it later this year). I started and eventually finished Poor People Pizza Party. I got into streaming on Twitch. I did everything except write those plays.

But then at the end of 2020 I got made redundant from my job, and I got a final pay that was enough to cover my living costs for a substantial amount of 2021. This was the chance I wanted, to pay myself to make video games without having to work a real job at the same time. Horse Plays was an obvious candidate for the first thing I should work on, because it was “nearly finished”. I just needed to knuckle down and get those plays written, but I still had no idea how to do that.

So I cheated. I remembered how Baz Luhrmann used real songs from the 20th Century in the movie Moulin Rouge! that the audience would be familiar with. Claiming that a character wrote these recognisable popular songs was a shortcut to showing they were a good writer without having to write any new good songs. I could make the plays in Horse Plays great by simply using already great plays! Only I don’t really know any great plays, so instead I just used teleplays from episodes of TV shows I really liked. I still had to re-write some branching dialogue for some pretty excellent pieces of television, but it was a far easier task than starting from nothing.

I really can’t tell you whether I achieved what I tried to do with these plays, and I guess that’s not really the point. I want to make many games this year, which means I need to make them quite quickly and without being too precious about whether or not they’re any “good”. Some parts of this are easy. I don’t really know how to make good video games or game art, so anything I come up with is good enough and won’t benefit from polishing. I’m much more familiar with writing and recording music, but this hopefully means that whatever I throw together in a day without worrying about getting it right will at least stand to be as good as anything else in the game. And if I need to write any more plays? I’ll probably just cheat again.

Have fun, and break some legs!

* Actually there are four plays, but one is a secret. Hint: look for a mysterious button somewhere in the menus. If you’re on a computer you can also type “DAWSON” anywhere in the menus.

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