Nature of the Beast

March 31, 2019

I’ve been working on a project called Nature of the Beast for a little while, and although I feature it prominently in my portfolio and other job-hunting material like cover letters, I don’t have much of a deep public-facing description of what it is. I’ve tersely called it an interactive fiction project inspired by the form of the Unix terminal interface and 70s and 80s text-based adventures like Zork, but I haven’t done any deep dives.

I’ve been reluctant to write about it more. In contrast, I spent a whole lot of time blogging about its unfinished spiritual predecessor, a rails-api project called The Restful Forest. I also TDD’d almost every feature because I wanted to impress potential employers. I overthought it and lost interest. I got lost in the weeds.

I don’t want that to happen with Nature of the Beast. I want instead to keep my momentum, to just build and write, without fretting too much over details, because I am building this for myself. This is a personal art project, not professional work, and I am intentionally preferring elegance and dynamism over speed or stability.

Nature of the Beast is a work of fiction at least as much as it is an unconventional React app. I’ve spent roughly equal amounts of time writing prose as I have writing code. The processes are separate but have informed each other; like, if I want something to be possible narratively, I spend time coding to make it possible. I think this is basically how the developer of Dwarf Fortress approaches coding. Story-driven development.

I want to write more about my process for both the fiction and code aspects of this project, because I get a lot out of both of them. The fiction is sort of a Lovecraftian pastiche (which has begun taking a lot of inspiration from Gone Home and Bogeyman), and the code does a few clever things I’m genuinely proud of.

I won’t keep this project in the dark. I’m excited to share.