The idea for this struck me some weeks ago now. It had been bubbling away, slowly taking form, as ideas are sometimes wont to do. But now that I’m here — I’m struck by a new problem I hadn’t properly considered. How does one explain the power and craft behind To the Moon’s storytelling without it coming across as overblown hype?

I’m not sure I have an adequate answer to that yet — so I’ll start with the much easier portion first.

What is a ‘Play-Along’ and how does it work?

It’s another idea I’ve borrowed. Been doing that a bit lately. This time, from the book blogger world, with the original idea being a Group Read. I even (co)hosted one waaaaay back in the distant past for Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Warbreaker’.

The original idea being that the book in question is split into manageable chunks to read for a week. To read and discuss — sort of virtualisation of the even older still book club discussion, I would imagine. The host (or hosts) would set a series of questions each week that all participants would put their answers to in a post of their own.

Looking back at how the group read / read-along runs of the time were done — they were pretty regimented! With set dates to read, the questions sent in advance via email to the registered participants and a set day for the posts to go live. I’m up for doing all of that if people are keen — there were certainly some benefits!

But I think the only real key elements that I feel strongly about are:

  • Determining the ‘stop’ points in the game in advance, so that we can have a common point of discussion in the game — whatever form that discussion takes.
  • Having a common set of questions — not to say we couldn’t go off script, but answering a common set of questions and then being able to discuss the differences in predictions, opinions and thoughts was always an incredibly insightful and fun part of the setup.

On the rest?

I’ll take your guidance.

I certainly don’t want this to be a high pressure event. Although I should note that even with the past read-alongs, it was fairly common practice for people to sign-up late or post behind the curve as their circumstances warranted. The benefit I suppose in having a largely aligned time-table was the community discussion aspect from one week to the next. A shared understanding of where everyone else is at, and the differences in interpretation of where that place is and what’s coming next being an incredibly fun part.

A fact that was true whether it was your first time experiencing the book (now game) in question or whether you were experiencing it all over again.

So what I’m thinking at the moment to meet in the middle is to have the game breakpoints (i.e., where you would stop playing, to then write your post before continuing) all announced in advance in a post.

Each of those break points could link to their own page with the questions outlined, so that you could see them (without spoiling the whole set) at your leisure.

On top of that, there would be a suggested schedule — but everyone would be free to lag behind (or even race ahead) at their leisure. As long as each post clearly marks out which ‘part’ you’re writing about, it should be easy enough to avoid unintentional spoilers.

To the Moon is a pretty short game — about 4-hours from start to completion. I’m thinking at this stage therefore, of four roughly hour long blocks, with one block and one post per week. But perhaps this is a little too drawn out? Perhaps two blocks of 2-hours over two weeks would be better?

Like I said — I’m open to being guided by your preferences on this.

Why ‘To the Moon’?

*Deep Breath*

I’m still not sure I’m up to the task on convincing you of the fact that To the Moon is something you need to play (whether or not it is part of this play-along).

After all, it is a 9-year old RPGMaker game that on modern resolutions plays in teeny-tiny li’l window. You can full-screen it with alt-enter — but if you have a widescreen that will cause it to stretch. Technologically speaking… It hasn’t aged well. And heck, even if we were right back at the time of its release in 2011 — the gameplay elements are, at most, light puzzles.

But for all that… The story it tells and the way it tells it; layering detail and understanding as you traverse the memories of an old-man in reverse, stepping backward through his life with the ultimate goal of granting his dying wish… At least in the form of overwriting the memories of his life with the ‘corrected’ versions. It could have come right from Inception — and possibly did given it came out the year prior.1

It’s certainly complicated with a lot of morally grey area.

A lot of room for interesting discussion and opinions.

Kim noted it as one of the few games that defines her. It was in fact this post that solidified for me that if I were to progress with the idea of a play along, that it should be To the Moon which goes first up. Because all this time later — it is one of the very few game stories — no, stories full stop — that have stuck with me through the years.

I could think of no better story to share and talk about with you all.

So!

If you’d like to participate…

Please just leave a comment and let me know below — nothing more to it than that.

If you have any thoughts or preferences on how we run this (number of splits or the schedule in general, for example) or even better yet — if you’d like to co-host come up with some of the question sets, let me know that too!

Depending on whether we go with two or four chunks of the game, and how many people might be interested in that — there might not be enough for everyone… But… Don’t let that stop you.

Because… To the Moon has a sequel. Finding Paradise. And later this year? The third major part — Imposter Factory — will come out.

We could even look at the Sigmund Corp minisodes (free with To the Moon) which I’ve actually not touched yet so their content would be all new to me. They’re only about 20 minutes each and while I believe the first one is a fairly light-hearted holiday story, the second is a bit more substantial with an insight into the company offering this second-chance at life service.

So perhaps we put the two minisodes into another chunk as a bit of a bonus. :)

I’m thinking we’d kick this all off in the next week or two (but also open to input here). I’m going to need til at least this weekend to identify potential break points in the game though. While there are a number of Acts, Act 1 is by far the longest if I remember correctly. So I’m doing a bit of a play through to see what would make sense for us.

Footnotes

  1. Holy cow! Inception came out in 2010! 10 years ago!

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

21 Comments

Solarayo · May 20, 2020 at 10:35 pm

I am definitely in! Sounds fun 😁

    Naithin · May 20, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    Yay! Should be very fun indeed! I can’t wait to get started! haha

Tipa · May 20, 2020 at 10:38 pm

I apparently already have this game on Steam! I’ve never done something like this — count me in, too!

    Naithin · May 20, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    Would be awesome to have you along! Hopefully will nail down the format and the timings real soon. :)

Kluwes · May 20, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Count me in! If I remember correctly, To the Moon is split into 3 Acts. I don’t remember how long each act takes but that would make for some natural break points.

    Naithin · May 20, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    I believe the act lengths were pretty inequitable with Act 1 being almost half the game. If we did 2 two-hour chunks though, that could well work.

    But I’m playing again to see if that memory is right, because if it isn’t — I agree, the Acts by far make the most sense to stop at.

    And potentially… Maybe they still do even if my memory of the timing IS right?

    I’m up for that.

    Otherwise though, part of what I’m doing with the play through now is to find distinct points to stop, e.g., ‘When Neil and Eva work out for themselves who ‘Anya’ is’ as a potential one if we go for 4 splits.

Rakuno · May 20, 2020 at 11:09 pm

Now that I thought about this a bit more, my only concern is about the breaking points. I don’t think doing it by hour is an exactly good one as people tend to play it differently. For example, someone might like to explore every nooky an cranny of a game, taking more time than someone who just prefers to stick to the main story. Or some people might have more difficult with puzzles and boss fights than others.

From what Kluwes just said the game is broken into Acts so maybe we should use these as the break points? With Act 1 being one post, Act 2 another post and so on.

Besides that I think you are on the right track here. :)

    Naithin · May 20, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    From memory, the Acts are not even remotely of equitable lengths. I think Act 1 was half the game if not more. If we did two chunks of the game, that’d work though potentially. I’m playing through again though to identify potential clear break points (and to check if my memory of act length is even remotely right).

    e.g., the first breakpoint I identified at the hour(ish) mark is: “When Neil and Eva work out for themselves who ‘Anya’ is”.

    So there is still a clear distinct moment, not just ‘play for an hour and stop’. :)

    Naithin · May 20, 2020 at 11:30 pm

    Although like I replied to Kluwes now — possibly even if the Acts ARE of wildly varying lengths; maybe they’re still the best break points?

Rakuno · May 21, 2020 at 12:37 am

I’d still prefer to use the Acts as break points as there is less potential for accidental spoilage. But if their length is so disparate than your idea is certainly better.

    Naithin · May 21, 2020 at 12:39 am

    I just finished Act 1, it was about 2 hours in.

    I don’t think that’s insane for a week of play + a post, right?

    My only slight concern might be that there is a lot of ground for questions here, possibly too much to adequately cover. Still; I don’t think that’s an idea killing problem by any stretch.

Alli · May 21, 2020 at 4:01 am

I’ll try. I like the idea. I remember loving the game despite the graphics, which are usually a complete no-go for me but a friend insisted I play it. I don’t remember anything about it except vaguely something about horses. My main issue is time, anything > 2 hours a week probably wont happen.

    Naithin · May 21, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Nice to have you along, Alli! And I’ll keep the time requirement in mind. Act 1 is about 2 hours in length, so if we go with act breaks — that would be the maximum, since there are 3 acts to the game and it takes about 4 hours total to finish it.

    If we carry on to the bonus minisodes they’re about 20 minutes each so we’d probably lump those two together in a week of their own.

    I think given Act 1 is longer, I will probably try to make it so that there is a little longer than a week to get through and post about that section.

UnwiseOwl · May 21, 2020 at 5:52 am

I’m keen. I think I’ve prefer four shorter segments to two big ones, but I’ll happily go along with whatever people are up for.
I don’t know that I’ve got any questions to lead with, since I know almost nothing about the game, so I’m keen to just jump in blind and see what happens.

    Naithin · May 21, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    How the questions work if you did want to host, is that you would likely want to play the set portion for the week (be it an act, or hour-ish chunks) earlier into the time period than not, so that you could then formulate your questions and have them published for everyone at least a few days in advance of the recommended post date.

    It means that you can host or co-host things you’ve not yet experienced without issue, but does put a little extra onus on you as a questioner/host to play it earlier.

    If we went with Acts, it’s looking like 2 hours of play in a week(ish, might try push this out a little) would be the largest chunk. Would that fit?

    Would then still be 4 blocks over all — 1 for each of the three acts of To the Moon, and a ‘bonus’ chunk for the two minisodes (they’re 20 minutes each).

Jeromai · May 21, 2020 at 1:02 pm

Count me in. I’ve always wanted to get around to playing To The Moon. Just never had sufficient kick in the pants to do so. I’m fine with any format.

Chances are good that once I start, I binge (unless the story/subject matter squicks me, at which point you’ll get a rant about how I don’t get why X game is acclaimed. :) )

    Naithin · May 21, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Hah, either outcome sounds entertaining — so I’m fine with that. ;)

    If I end up being the singular host of the event — I’ll try get the questions published right up front (hidden behind the break point descriptors) so that if you do decide to binge.. You can at least line up the posts while everything is fresh and just schedule their release accordingly if you so wish. :)

Kim · May 21, 2020 at 6:06 pm

An excuse to play To The Moon again? Count me in. ;)

    Naithin · May 22, 2020 at 1:30 am

    Huzzah!

    By the end of this weekend I should have solidified how we’ll proceed and dates etc. :)

MagiWasTaken · May 21, 2020 at 8:16 pm

Never played this game and honestly never heard of it either. I still don’t know how this is going to work but I guess I’m in regardless of that if you’re recommending the game so much. :)

    Naithin · May 22, 2020 at 1:29 am

    By end of this weekend, I should be able to post clarifying the remaining questions on how it works, when we’ll start, etc! :)

Comments are closed.