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[March 6 2020] Shadows Over Sinnoh Interview!

Feature [March 6 2020] Shadows Over Sinnoh Interview!

It's a new year, and a new year means new features! Never mind the fact that we're in March already. The first feature is a real tone setter for the year, I think, not something you wanna slip up on, and it's in my own first medium as a writer, screenshot runs! It's perfect. But... what if instead of a feature, we did an interview?

Haha. Just kidding.


Anyways, Shadows over Sinnoh is a great run written in mostly prose with screenshots to cut some of the scene setting and to keep the writing grounded. There's a lot to talk about, between the presentation style of the run, the way the rules intermingle with the story concept, and the story concept itself, a lovely take on horror that'll leave you at the edge of your seat all through it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get to the interview.
Jimcloud: alright i think normally we do some kind of setup for this but im not sure what to say beyond: hi i'm jimcloud and welcome to jackass​
anonymouse: dfkgjh​
Jimcloud: I've got a few questions prepared in advance for you to answer - bout six or so - and then I'll give you some space for your own final thoughts if any before we close out​
schaadenfreude:: sounds good! fire away​
Jimcloud: sweet​

❓So for those who aren't familiar with Shadows over Sinnoh, tell us a bit about your story!❓

anonymouse: Shadows is a run of vanilla Platinum with a non-vanilla add-in: an extra TTRPG-style mechanic that's meant to track the mental decline of the player character as they lose pokemon and weather the game's challenges. Since it's Platinum, a perfect eldritch horror antagonist was already waiting in the wings.​

I based a lot of the story elements after some of H.P. Lovecraft's works; an educated and halfway competent protagonist whose skills help them not at all as they're dragged unwillingly off their scholarly pedestal and into some very dark places. Both literally and metaphorically. The audience gets to watch as Kuranes loses, not only pokemon after pokemon, but the thing they valued most about themself: their mind.​
Jimcloud: God, yeah, Platinum really feels like it's geared towards this as much as any game, though if memory serves you also dithered about red and blue for that missingno aesthetic?​
anonymouse: yeah. with red/blue sequence breaking glitches are so easy and i wanted that really fucky vibe​
anonymouse: but i'm a slut for sinnoh games​
Jimcloud: mood mood mood​
Jimcloud: and speaking of the mechanic you used,​
anonymouse: there were also mechanical reasons for platinum -​
Jimcloud: AHAHA, WELL,​

I know the rules you used for Shadows over Sinnoh are particularly integral to the run's concept, so tell us about them some!
❓What was your inspiration for them? ❓
What drew you to it?

anonymouse: As a matter of fact, the corruption mechanic was originally created by a user with the handle Pasafatu on a completely different site. Nuzlockes have a way of jumping games and genres, you know how it is. I saw Pasafatu's Lovecraftian Nuzlocke of Flight Rising and really wanted to try reverse-engineering it back to pokemon.​

The big draw for me was being able to quantify the player character's mental decline over the course of the game. I've had a soft spot for TTRPGs like D&D since it's the role playing experience, but with a splash of RNG that makes outcomes much more interesting since you aren't the one deciding when everything goes to hell. That also seemed really thematically appropriate for a Lovecraftian run with themes of madness and mental degradation.​
Jimcloud: yeah, the RNG element is particularly interesting to me because it almost precludes you from being able to even decide where things are going until they're already there.​
anonymouse: yeah!!! the suspense of not knowing really pulled me through the lategame by the nose​
anonymouse: it was really fun​
Jimcloud: and something that I've been wondering about that, actually,​

The purpose of this run was primarily to test the aforementioned rules, if memory serves, and you used the gameplay to refine it.
❓ So how did you envision the possible ends to this story as you were playing through it? ❓

anonymouse: With the mechanics, I envisioned four potential outcomes. The first, which we'll call the Good Ending, is if the run goes very cleanly such that I don't hit any of the corruption rolls. Since that corruption is advanced both by losing pokemon and by simple game progression, it's possible to get this ending, just with very careful gameplay and minimal casualties.​

There are two "Bad but not the Worst" endings. One is if I hit the corruption roll only, which this run proves is alarmingly easy to do if you have bad luck in the early game, since the lost sanity points stack throughout the run. The other is if I don't hit the corruption roll, but I do max out the counter for fainted pokemon and thus summon the eldritch abomination, like it or not. Since the counter to summon the abomination takes into account total levels gained, it's possible to max it out by losing pokemon in the mid or late game when your team is higher leveled.​

The Worst End, as you might imagine, is hitting both of those things. Not only is the protagonist now a puppet of the abomination, but it's Here and ready to wreck shop. Bad news! If the run has absolutely crappy luck, losing pokemon consistently throughout, this is also not difficult to reach.​

I intentionally made my ruleset and chose Platinum for its steeper level curve with the intention of giving any of those outcomes as equal a chance as possible of coming true. Even I had no idea how the run would end until it ended.​
Jimcloud: God that sounds like the best and worst thing all at once, like, holy shit​
anonymouse: EXACTLY​
Jimcloud: as a writer myself my gut just sinks into my chest a little thinking about it​
anonymouse: that's 1000% the reason i did the gameplay start to finish before i even considered posting it​
anonymouse: bc i needed to know how it would end before i dared document​
Jimcloud: god no absolutely i can't even IMAGINE doing them in the middle​
anonymouse: it was both nerve-racking bc i started to like poor Kuranes, and also thrilling bc i had no idea what would happen next​
Jimcloud: Kuranes is just doing their best!​
Jimcloud: their best is just, bad,​
anonymouse: their best was mediocre to begin with and it degraded with alarming rapidity from there​
Jimcloud: relatable​
Jimcloud: so on another subject entirely,​

You have a unique style of storytelling with your run, balancing between sections that show the gameplay like a more typical screenshot story might, and one that is primarily prose-based, using the screenshots more like scene setting or visual guides.
❓ How did you end up on this method of telling your story? ❓


If I had all the time and mental energy in the world, Shadows Over Sinnoh would be a straight storylocke. I still haven't completely abandoned the idea of making a storylocke with the screenshot run as a companion and proof of gameplay. I wanted to balance showcasing the mechanical aspects of the run with the narrative; what I ended up with was a Frankenstyle that somehow kind of works.​
Jimcloud: hey now let's give yourself some credit, I think it works pretty well!​
anonymouse: it does, even if i stumbled into it backasswards​
anonymouse: in all honesty this is the best compromise between minimal effort while not completely sacrificing the narrative potential​
Jimcloud: Yeah! I think it works really well for that​
Jimcloud: and on that note,​

❓ Do you have any advice for someone who would want to tell a prose or story heavy screenshot story themselves?
Things that did or didn't work for you, things you would do if you went back and played it over again? ❓

anonymouse: Don't feel like you need to follow the gameplay exactly, because the gameplay will not always (or even often) play nicely with the narrative you're trying to build. If what you want is to tell a story with the aid of screenshots, then treat them like the seasoning they are instead of gospel.​

Or just try different things. If one style of presentation just isn't clicking, there's nothing saying a different tactic won't fit your ideas better. I got stuck on Shadows for months because I got hung up on the gameplay and narrative refusing to gel; it took some kind words and encouragement to get my head out of my backside so I could try the blend of narrative and screenshot/commentary I did. But what worked for me won't work for everybody. Just get out there and try things! Have fun!​
Jimcloud: Yeah! I think that's real good advice, thank you.​
anonymouse: ekgjdhf​

So are there any questions that you wish someone would ask about your run?
❓ Tell us, and then answer it! Give us the goods. ❓

anonymouse: oh you tempt me​
Jimcloud: i DO tempt you!​
anonymouse: WELL SINCE YOU SUGGESTED IT,,,, Something I've been wondering myself is how the corruption mechanic would work with different games. I mentioned choosing Platinum specifically; since its level curve is overall steeper than most of the other vanilla games, it suited the way I quantified game progression for the purpose of the corruption rolls best. That benchmark or the point at which you start to roll for full corruption will probably have to change if it's used with a different game. Also, the relative difficulty of both the game and the ruleset will naturally affect your probable stat changes over the course of the run. It'll be quite the balancing act to fine-tune it. (I'd be lying if I said I'm not tempted to try it in Blue still...)​

In general, I am really curious to see other takes on this mechanic and how it might be used to further torment ourselves. Just because I used it as a thinly veiled excuse to project some of my dark edgy thoughts onto an unwitting person just trying to live their best life studying ancient myths doesn't mean this mechanic always has to be turned to grimdark purposes. It has lots of potential, and nothing would give me more joy than seeing this idea explored to its fullest.​
Jimcloud: Just write somebody slowly losing their fucking gourd because their hoothoot bit it!​
anonymouse: fhkdfgjhkgdfhj​
Jimcloud: They LOVED that hoothoot like a BROTHER anonymouse​
anonymouse: this does lend itself to trauma, it just doesn't have to be dark and edgy trauma​
Jimcloud: no, that's true, i definitely enjoy me a spot of some weird or existential or just funny strange trauma. Maybe something alice in wonderland styled​
anonymouse: oh hell yeah!!!​
Jimcloud: Okay, so do you have anything else you'd like to add before we end here?​
anonymouse: hmmmmmm​
anonymouse: i. don't think so?​
Jimcloud: completely valid, well let me just say that kuranes is an absolute nonbinary icon and im love them​
anonymouse: an unstable, rapidly disintegrating icon​
anonymouse: kfjdgh​
Jimcloud: they burn bright like a supernova, or maybe a dwarf star shedding its excess energy​
anonymouse: the reason they're agender is that kuranes has always focused on purely intellectual things. they're aro/ace and have probably barely even thought about any of it bc they're too busy studying. which makes their gradual descent into madness all the more painful bc their mind was their defining feature​
Jimcloud: god if that aint a mood​
anonymouse: more things that will be better emphasized if/when i write the storylocke​
Jimcloud: hell yes​
Jimcloud: with that, im gonna sign off. good chat anonymouse, ill see you in five for more dumb AU bullshit​
anonymouse: kdsjgh mood​

Thanks for reading! If ever you have something featurewise you wanna talk about, hit up a feature team member to discuss it. If you ever just want to do your own feature thing, good news! We support that too. Check out Feature a Fan Run for more on that. And finally, if you'd like to suggest a feature or otherwise provide any suggestions for the team to look at, see The Suggestion Box for all those needs. Until next time, Jimcloud signing out.​
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