Return To The Portrait
Return To The Portait self-critique
As with everything I make, not all of my decisions seem as good to me now as they did at the time. I'm still proud of RTTP, but I see several flaws with it.
- The contrivances. Each time I introduced a new admin API or a new rule for them or made something happen that wasn't foreshadowed, I did it only because I couldn't think of any other way to make the plot go the way it needed to. I worry that it feels like a constant Deus Ex Machina. There are so many of these. And still there are plotholes.
- I inflicted death or trauma on characters only to heal it in the next scene so often that those things really lost their meaning. The chapter 6 one was really pointless.
My memory from so long ago is murky, but I think I was motivated to do a lot of this by feeling a need to 'add tension' or something, and didn't realize I was actually taking it away.
- Sayori's dialogue about how it feels to be admin should've been in part 1. I realized this as I was writing it, but I didn't want to make changes to a part I'd already released and then have to think of another conversation for Sayori and MC's scene.
- I deeply regret how little most of the player's choices end up mattering. I wanted to write a mod where the player could significantly influence the relationships that develop among the characters and almost every choice would affect something by the end, but it proved too much of a burden, and few of them do. At least I didn't do any of those completely fake choices like Rainclouds did.
- I think a significant suboptimality is how the gang stays mostly together throughout the story. It made it very hard to give each character a fair share of limelight, especially with admin status overshadowing everyone that didn't have it. Next time I write a story I'll be more conscious of this and try to separate characters more often.
- It doesn't make sense that the escape from the Portrait of Markov involves opening a discrete portal. That didn't happen when escaping DDLC, and it changing the surrounding area is odd too. This is actually mostly because of budget. I'd already shipped part 2 with the portal image as Libitina's file without thinking too far ahead, and I didn't want to retcon that, but more importantly I didn't have art of that room without the portal or with the portal closed, and didn't want to shell out any more than I already had.
- The mass death in the ending probably felt too out-of-nowhere, and I worry that I abused the Mass Effect 2-esque "kill off thousands of nameless faceless characters and hope it matters to the audience".
These are things I gave up on finding satisfactory answers to. I'll point them out myself just for interest's sake.
- Adam says he didn't want to make Libitina admin way back when because she'd take revenge, but given he obviously knew about both memory wiping and API breaking, why didn't he wipe her memories, break memory restoring, and then give her the power and she wouldn't know what he'd done to her?
- MC doesn't get a character file even when he's not POV. This wouldn't be too difficult to fix, but I didn't notice it until the night of the release, and by then, I so hated the thought of this project not being done that I chose to leave it in.
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