Alter Ego Wishlist

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Here we'll describe a few of the most common feature requests we hear for Alter Ego; we'll say a few words about why we haven't added these yet and why.

Homosexuality

We probably get this request the most out of all the others.

There are actually two entirely separate versions of the game: one version for males, one version for females. Almost every scene makes some reference to your own gender or to the opposite sex. To incorporate homosexuality into the game, we'd have to rewrite the entire game, twice.

On top of this, we'd like to add stuff like encounters with your parents, prejudiced employers, coming out of the closet, etc. Additionally, we'd have to confront the fact that you don't necessarily get to choose whether you're homosexual, as well as the question of how we'd handle bisexuality. What if your parents were homosexual?

As you can see, this is no small project; we really hope we get the time to add this in some day, but it won't be any time soon. Indeed, it may come after other easier features have been added in.

Single Parenthood

Currently, Alter Ego allows you to raise a child without a spouse, either by having a child and divorcing your spouse, or by an unexpected pregnancy. It still does not offer you the option of being raised in a single-parent household.

Much like homosexuality, childhood in single parenthood would require as many as four rewrites of the game, though these rewrites would only cover the first three lifestages:

As you can see, that's a lot of rewriting. It's an exciting prospect, but it's a long ways off. This will probably come after homosexuality, since people seem to feel a lot more strongly about that feature.

Long-Term Drug Addiction

This would probably be easier than the other two... but it would also require us to re-architect the game a little bit to keep track of how often you're doing drugs, how much money you're spending on them, etc. We'd need to write scenes for withdrawal, scenes for disease, etc.

A related change would be long-term diseases like AIDS and cancer that the player could be forced to live with for some years.

Having an Unusual Profession

Many professions would have unpredictable effects on other scenes in the game: These are directly affected by another serious issue with the entire game....

History/Technology

No technology ever develops in Alter Ego. You are never surprised or confused by new technology, because none ever develops. There is no history in Alter Ego, because your country never goes to war. Nothing of significance happens over the course of all eighty years of your life. This makes extremely little sense.

But how could you become a politician in a world where there are no politics? How could you become a famous inventor when nothing can be invented? How can you become a hero of a world that doesn't need saving?

U.S.-centricism

The game is very centered on the United States, especially the trivia questions, and it'd be nice to fix that. But it'd also take a lot of work, and we're afraid that it wouldn't add too much to the fun factor of the game, regardless of your original nationality. The game is also in English; a couple of people have offered to translate the game, but we don't think it's feasible. Each version, male and female, is 600 pages long. We don't anticipate anybody translating all 1200 pages for a long, long time.

As you can see, there's a lot of work to be done, and there's no guarantee that we'll get time to do it any time soon... no promised dates for anything here. But we ARE thinking about this stuff, we promise.

There's actually one more feature which is often requested but which we explicitly took out when we ported the game to the web:

Stats Screen at Death

Apparently, a lot of people want to see their "final score" after they die. This is understandable; the original game had a screen much like this, but we removed it from the web version. Part of our design philosophy behind this version of the game was to try to be vague if we couldn't ensure correctness; to this end, we try to show you the stat screen as little as possible.

In particular, it's very jarring to be playing the game and find that the stats screen totally fails to align with your vision of what your character is like. This is especially likely when the game uses dumb tools to guess what the numbers should be, which happens an awful lot, but most of the time, the numbers won't matter much, so it's OK.

A good example is your exact age; a lot of people have asked us about this. The original version would show your age, down to the month, on your stat screen. But the number would be wrong... it would calculate your age by taking the difference between the start of the lifestage (say, 19) and the end of the lifestage (say, 35), and dividing by the number of scenes you should have in that lifestage.

In young adulthood, this led to ridiculous results in which an ordinary player would find him or herself enrolled in undergraduate college well into their thirties.

So, instead, we conceal the age entirely (even though, internally, the game still knows "exactly" how old you are). You can imagine that you were enrolled in college for the "correct" amount of time, even if the game thinks it took you eight years. This makes the game more fun, we think.

Basically, we'd rather your last thoughts about Alter Ego were, "Whoa! I died!" and not, "What?! Those numbers are waay off!" :-)