It's a beautiful day.
Interview with Astrid Dalmady
2019-12-04 · by Stewart C Baker
Astrid Dalmady is a venezuelan writer and narrative designer. You can find her work at AstridDalmady.com. Astrid is the author of Night Guard / Morning Star from our November issue, which was first published in 2019’s IFComp.
This interview was conducted over e-mail in November of 2019.
Sub-Q Magazine: What interests you the most about writing interactive fiction?
Astrid Dalmady: I really enjoy the multimedia aspect of it. In addition to crafting a story, I also get to craft the presentation. I get to think much more about how the player will experience the work: what choices to offer, how to offer them, how to signal differences between them, how to lay out a page, how much text to put on each page, etc, etc.
It adds a whole new set of challenges and gives me a lot of fun things to chew on. And there’s nothing better for my writer’s block than working on a project’s CSS for a while. The two feed into each other for me.
Sub-Q Magazine: Night Guard / Morning Star took 7th place in the 2019 IFComp, and some of your other games (like Blue Cactus Motel and the delightful Arcane Intern (Unpaid)) have done well there in past years of the competition. What about the contest keeps you coming back, and do you have any advice for first-time entrants?
Astrid Dalmady: I enjoy entering the comp whenever I can because of the feeling of connectedness. It’s a month and a half where you know people are playing your games, and talking about them, and (hopefully) enjoying them. There are forums and twitter and twitch streams and podcasts and a whole lot of noise and fuss. Writing can be a lonely business, so being able to toss out the project and be able to see the buzz and connect with others in your same position is pretty great.
As for advice for first-time entrants, there’s the obvious: get others to test early and often. The player will always introduce unknowns and the faster you can catch them the better.
Less obvious: don’t underestimate the intro. The beginning of your game has to do a lot of heavy lifting in interactive fiction because it needs to introduce story AND mechanics. You want to try and get people on board as soon as possible, so think about what choices you present early on and give the player a taste of all the cool things to come.
Sub-Q Magazine: The family dynamics in Night Guard / Morning Star are–as the content warning notes–very messed up. What challenges did you face in writing about this kind of family?
Astrid Dalmady: Mostly I struggled with how much to make obvious. I knew I wanted to focus on the ambiguity of memories and to have an unreliable narrator. But it’s a feature of the format that you tend to inhabit someone else, so to ask the player to doubt themselves can be a pretty big ask.
The mother in Night Guard / Morning Star is never a good mother. That wasn’t the question I wanted to pose. I wanted to ask the player if they thought the main character was a good daughter, and hopefully, things weren’t that clear cut.
Sub-Q Magazine: What’s next on the horizon for you?
Astrid Dalmady: Nothing is set in stone yet. I have about 3 projects in the brainstorming stage at the moment, but I like to do A LOT of planning before I sit down to write, and so far nothing has coalesced enough to start in earnest. I do hope to have something in time for Spring Thing though.