A downloadable interactive novel for Windows and macOS

Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

ESC IS...

an interactive novel about identity, roleplay, and dreams

Enter the memories of Raine as she explores the text-based world of VerdaMUCK, a simulation of the old network within the vast cerebrally-interconnected network of the near future. Meanwhile, a mysterious individual known only as The Navigator exposes the truths of the Cerenet as a conspiracy-in-the-making begins to unfold.

FEATURES

  • An interactive reading experience split between two character perspectives
  • Between 4-6 hours of play, depending on reading ability
  • Full soundtrack written by Lena Raine
  • Additional music by Christa Lee
  • Original art by Dataerase
  • Immersive sound design by 2 Mello

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

  • Computer running Windows or MacOS
  • Keyboard

CREDITS

Lena Raine
Writing, Design, Programming, Music

Maddison Morgenstern (Dataerase)
Art

2 Mello
Sound Design

Nick Suttner
Editing

Christa Lee
Additional Music

Lotte May
Additional Programming

Natalie Weizenbaum
Additional Editing

j hayley
macOS Port

KNOWN ISSUES

v1.0.0

  • Game runs at 2x speed on 120hz monitors. This is a bug with the engine & will be fixed as soon as GameMaker Studio 2 updates to fix it.
  • Switching between Fullscreen & Windowed can cause shaders to apply incorrectly. 
    • Fix: Restart game with intended screen mode for shaders to apply correctly.
  • Some laptops may run at a slower-than-intended speed.
  • Resolutions lower than 1920x1080 may scale oddly at full screen. 
    • Fix: Try running windowed & manually scaling until it improves.

Purchase

Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

In order to download this interactive novel you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $5 USD. You will get access to the following files:

ESC - Windows x86 73 MB
Version 1
ESC - OSX 78 MB
Version 1
ESCISM (ESC Original Soundtrack) Lena Raine.zip 64 MB
if you pay $10 USD or more

Development log

Comments

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(1 edit)

First off, I absolutely loved this game! Definitely worth a play.

Also: Linux users, I have good news! Though there isn't a Linux port (I can understand the lack of developer resources) this game runs fine in WINE. The audio crackles a bit (I don't think that's intentional at least?), but it's very playable.

(1 edit) (+1)

I really enjoyed playing ESC!  Thank you for creating it, Radical Dreamland.

I'll copy/paste my thoughts from elsewhere on the Internet here:

--------

I recently played ESC, a visual novel by Lena Raine.

ESC emulates roleplaying in the text-based multi-user dungeons (MUDs) that became possible in the late 1970s and 1980s as computers became networked. Part of ESC is firmly planted in this history. Everything about ESC's audio and visuals–from the glitched 1-bit texture startup screen to the simulated CRT flicker to the subtle whrrr-ing and clicks of moving computer parts–evokes a sense of a bygone era of computing.

While interacting with strangers on the Internet via text was very much a formative part of my adolescence, the audio and visuals and core gameplay mechanic were largely foreign to me. I didn't really start spending serious time on the family computer until we had an LCD screen and I've never played a MUD. Still, once ESC got going, the conversations it emulated felt familiar and inviting. It felt like the adolescence I might have had under just slightly different conditions.

In contrast to its audio and visuals being firmly planted in the past, ESC's story is set in the future. There is a curious duality to this, a theme that ESC embraces and continues to explore throughout. ESC constantly alternates between the past and the future, between two distinct character perspectives, between roleplay ("in-character") and who we really are ("out-of-character"). It's delightfully engaging at times, intentionally disorienting at others, and thoughtfully crafted from start to finish.

The storytelling is enjoyably imaginative, deftly playing with its subject matter throughout. ESC takes you on a 4–6 hour journey, during which the text you type into your flickering command prompt will carry you from a lush forest to a mysteriously empty city and beyond. What starts as an emulation of an archetypal MUD transforms into an introspective, metaphorical exploration of self-identity, roleplaying, and technology. It indirectly asks the reader to consider how these themes shape one another in the narrative that is ESC and, more broadly, in real life. I personally liked this quite a bit as these are questions I think about frequently.

The soundtrack is compelling and effectively enhances the core reading experience without ever overpowering it. As someone who has written music to accompany words read from a computer screen, I can attest that this subtlety is more easily understood than executed, and it suggests a level of mastery on Raine's part as a composer.

In all, I very much enjoyed ESC, and would solidly recommend it to anyone with an interest in MUDs looking for a thoughtful, engaging visual novel experience.

(1 edit)

Hi... I was excited to see and hear this project so I paid the $10 and received the 3 files however, being a Mac user... the .dmg is not opening. I get the error message: "The following disk image couldn't be opened: ESC.dmg (Reason: no mountable file systems)"

Any ideas?

(1 edit)

I don't represent Radical Dreamland, but I am a macOS user who is enjoying ESC very much.
 
I googled the error you're getting and the Internet is suggesting that the .dmg file may have been corrupted during the download.  Hopefully re-downloading the dmg resolves the problem for you!

I downloaded it a second time to no avail... same exact issue. I guess I'll try it again?

(1 edit)

The third attempt failed as well...


...too bad. Seemed like it might've been cool to experience.

(2 edits)

This is the closest thing I could find to a generic troubleshooting thread on the matter: https://deciphertools.com/blog/2017-10-02-no-mountable-file-systems/

Hope this helps, as ESC was a very enjoyable visual novel experience!

EDIT: Also, some people in other threads elsewhere suggested it might be tied to the version of macOS used to package the dmg vs. the version of macOS on your computer.   I'm running 10.13.6 and was able to open the dmg; what version are you running?

EDIT#2: It looks like this might be caused by the dmg having been packaged using APFS (Apple's new filesystem), which would result in it not mounting on a Mac using HFS+ (Apple's old filesystem).  If this is the cause, the options would be:

A. Upgrade your OS and ensure that you opt into APFS
B. Try this driver (at your own risk) that would allow you to mount APFS images in HFS+
C. Kindly request that Radical Dreamland repackage the dmg to use HFS+ so it is more broadly compatible with more Mac computers

(1 edit)

That's what it was!! I have two Macs. My 2009 Mac Pro can only upgrade to El Capitan (OSX 10.11.6) but my MacBook Pro has High Sierra (OSX 10.13.6) and ESC opened up on the MBP! Thanks... don't know why I didn't think of that!?

*UPDATE: It works just fine on my 2009 Mac Pro too. Since I have them networked together in my music studio, I just dragged the ESC game into the applications folder on my Mac Pro (from the MBP) and it played without issue. The .dmg just wouldn't open on the older Mac...

(+1)

As someone who grew up in a very real way with online roleplaying, this hit home in a lot of ways. Suspect I'll be haunted by this for a while. 

This was a fantastic game! I enjoyed playing it and made sure to recommend it to others who like visual novels. :)

I think I remember you posting something on twitter about being able to download the soundtrack if you paid $10+. If that's accurate, where would we go about downloading it? I didn't see it in the local files, library, or reciept. 

(+1)

Thanks so much!! You should be able to download a zip file of the mp3s from the files if you're on the website version of the game page.

how long is this game and does it have alternative endings?

4-6 hours, and there's only one ending.

Maybe it's a basic thing, but I didn't think of it for a good 10 or so minutes while I was trying to figure out what was up- if anyone else is having issues with how the text is displaying (it was super hard to read for me  on my 2015 MacBook Pro; just upgraded to High Sierra today to run the game because the dmg wouldn't open till I did that fwiw), switch to the bold font and it'll be ok.

(+2)

I really loved ESC.  Each character is very well rendered, the mysteries have satisfying answers that leave enough not spelled out that you have something fun to ponder, and I did a small cry at the final scene and epilogue. 

(+1)

This was so fucking amazing and I'm glad I got to experience this. My favorite part was definitely the representation so nicely and subtly worked in that's really important as well as really wonderful to me. I'd say who my favorite character was but I don't really want to spoil her for anybody that happens to be reading down here. I hope this makes it to plenty of people and I'll do my best to spread this to anyone who would enjoy an introspective story that ties into how people express themselves and the validity of that, no matter who you are or how your brain works. 

I guess I could at least say that a certain character reminds me of a certain character from Xenogears and that was interesting to see. 

Thanks so much! Trying my best to get the word out for sure ^^

Hello! Any chance you'll release a Linux/Ubuntu version? Pretty sure there are a few of us who would be excited to play. Reeeeaaal into the soundtrack, btw.

--Ben

Hey Ben. Unfortunately I do not have the resources to do a Linux port & so there's no plans at this time.

Ah, okay. Thanks!

(+1)

(I just noticed the words on ratings only show up to the creator, so I'm copying my review here)

This has been one of the most fun and engaging experiences I've had in a long while!

The big highlight here is the story and characters. They're incredibly well written, likeable and the pacing is spot on. You literally cannot drop it once you start. If you are, like me, into cyberpunk-ish thematic, MMOs and MUDs, philosophical grokking peppered with sarcastic humour, this will scratch all your itches.

Audio is about 50% in this game: the music score is delicious, intense and works directly with the story; the sound effects and mixing give the story a sense rythym and pacing and makes the whole thing a lot more immersive. I am glad I held out from listening to the OST before finishing the game, because every time a new song comes a long is a delight.

The art and visual effects are gorgeous, and provide the sort of mental backdrop for a text-based game like this that, while not exactly necessary, elevates the whole thing to another level.

The only criticism I have are the controls: random-typing gets tiresome quickly, there isn't a single tappable key that lets you signal the game you want to continue (sometimes the game expects any key, sometimes expects Enter), holding any key takes too long to start, and the Ctrl-skip key is good, but sometimes skips too fast on a large chunk of text, specially when there's a scene with only one paragraph in it. I had to go back a few times on a chapter because I've accidentally skipped an entire scene.

All in all, the game feels like a very well thought out experience, and is a steal for the suggested price of 10 USD. There's replay value here; the first play will leave you with more questions than answers.

Now excuse me while I try to get all my friends to play this so we can discuss theories :)

Question: Does the game include flashing/flickering? If so, how much/how often? Asking due to accessibility issues. Considering buying it but I want to make sure I'll be able to play it without troubles. Thanks!

Hi! There's no rapid flashing/flickering such as it would cause any adverse reactions. The only intense transition that comes as a surprise is in the chapter The Laughing Sun & smash cuts to red with a gradual fade.

Otherwise, there's a number of accessibility options such as disabling scanlines & alternate fonts.

(+1)

That's great news, thanks a lot! :) I wish more developers added such accessibility options. <3

(+1)

Finished reading in two sessions, but could have easily done it in one if I had the choice. The presentation was unique, the contemplation was uncomfortable in a good way, the soundtrack was very effective, and the story kept me hooked for the entire duration.  Hope to see more from everyone who worked on this!

(+1)

This was a great story, told through fantastic writing, strong characterization, and an immersive and innovative visual and audio presentation.

(+3)

the description says 4-6 hours of play, but it fails to include the time i'll need to process what i've read and play it again to understand it more deeply

(+1)

Thank you for this amazing experience.

(+1)

Thank you for playing!! 🙏