Will you Stay?
November 17, 2020 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Stay? is an interactive fiction game where you always get a second chance. From the description: "Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It's the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major." It's a choose your own fantasy adventure that's part dating sim/part avert the apocalypse(s).

The game was created by E. Jade Lomax, also worth checking out for her original fiction and her fanfic (previously seen on Metafilter here and here).
posted by Wretch729 (57 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
I'm somewhat embarassed it took me 34 lives to get to what I considered a "good" ending. I missed a pretty significant choice for way too long.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:12 PM on November 17

I enjoyed this a lot. Even when you go through a second time after finally surviving to an end that isn't quite so positive it's almost new again the second time through. Thanks for posting!
posted by urbanlenny at 9:20 PM on November 17

I'm on cycle 8 right now and am really enjoying this. I like the fact that my character actually remembers things so even revisiting events aren't exactly the same. And clearly multiple iterations is actually affecting my character. I don't want to say more for risk of spoilers.

I missed a pretty significant choice for way too long.

I don't know what choice you mean (yet) but based on how this game is playing out for me, I wonder if that's deliberate. If you'd made that choice earlier, it might have had a different result, anyway. I think there is a huge element of gatherfing enough knowledge before getting to a good ending. But then, I haven't gotten there yet.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 9:26 PM on November 17

Only had a little poke at it but this is real good.
posted by juv3nal at 9:27 PM on November 17

Ok, I made it to a happy(ish?) ending after 14 iterations. I kind of wish I'd kept going because I hadn't gotten to the end of the book my character was reading. I may just do another run through the game just to read it, heh. Anyway, this was a really fun take on choose your own adventures. I hope there are more games like this.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 10:29 PM on November 17

That was wonderful.
posted by gurple at 11:04 PM on November 17

This was wonderful! I lost my save file once somehow but I’m glad I started again; I got to a really nice ending.
posted by beandip at 11:49 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

I decided to do another run though, this time it took 25 lives since I was determined to read through the book (it does have an end). But I'm pretty sure I found the happiest ending (maybe the same one beandip found?). This is a delightful game.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 1:15 AM on November 18

Oops, just lost the first 45 minutes of my morning! Great game, although I'm only getting sad endings so far...
posted by sedimentary_deer at 1:47 AM on November 18

Spoilers about my choices:
Going out drinking after work with Jo and Suz opens up a couple of possibilities that I missed for several cycles by flirting instead of investigating the relic.
Also I knew the word you need from the drowned city was on the gateway but it took me several tries to hit the right sequence to actually go read it, even after I learned Archaic. I guess I could have saved-scummed but I was having fun.

posted by Wretch729 at 4:58 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the pointer to E. Jade Lomax and her writing - I haven’t tried the game yet, too busy reading !
posted by dttocs at 5:25 AM on November 18

What's a "high valley"?
posted by Billiken at 6:34 AM on November 18

As someone with roots in the Appalachians, I’d say a high valley is a valley that’s between two mountains such that valley elevation is still above the main valley/low area where people live. Sounds funny but common phrase.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:55 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]

This is beautiful. Took me 9 cycles (and a good chunk of time when I should be sleeping) to reach my first stay ending, and I couldn't give it up. In replays of interactive fiction (and like, bioware RPGs) I find it fascinating to find "choices" that don't actually branch and places where alternate paths rejoin.

It's a great way of changing the reader's perception of the "you" in the story without creating an impossibly large forking story, though some of those choices may tally into an affinity score for possible partners on the back end. For example (no spoilers), what you tell Jo about your major doesn't lock you into a major. Or when Jo is buzzing their hair you can say it looks nice or offer to help with no obvious consequence.

And frankly, it ups the realism, if you believe that life mostly runs a course like water down the landscape and geology of human nature, so to speak. Not every event is the flap of a lorenzian butterfly's wing.
posted by celare at 7:16 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, is E. Jade Lomax one of the creators of Sorting Hat Chats? I've at best lukewarm on the whole HP thing but the Sorting Hat Chats system is way more insightful and well-thought-out than anything in the books.
posted by beandip at 7:31 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

I'm not able to save, either on my phone (Firefox browser) or on my desktop (Chrome). The "load" and "restart" buttons work, but nothing happens when I click on the "save" button. Am I doing something wrong?
posted by Zumbador at 7:41 AM on November 18

I've never played anything like this before. What do I play next if I loved this?
posted by Bektashi at 7:42 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

OK, I'm still playing this but got no further towards the happier endings. If anyone has the time, could you memail me what you did roughly? I saw the spoiler above and have already tried that...
posted by sedimentary_deer at 8:24 AM on November 18

Memail me as well, please?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on November 18

Fascinating that when you do get to a happy-ish ending, you realize that... it could be better? I'm on my seventh or eighth playthrough. Thank God this is a light day at work.

For those stuck, I'd just say, explore. There is value to be found in every path I've tried.
posted by martin q blank at 9:04 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

That was so lovely: meditative, funny and caring about its characters, creative, and hopeful. I got to my Stay? happy ending in the eleventh iteration, and the conclusion was beautiful and sad and felt like real life all at once, even considering all the magical wars I'd (not) lived through!
posted by mixedmetaphors at 9:39 AM on November 18

This was a really great game! It took me something like 25 lives to get the happiest ending (or something pretty close), but in the end there is no hurry. For anyone who is stuck, definitely just try anything you haven't done before (including screwing off to the mountains and having a different life, etc. - there is ending-relevant info there but it's also just kind of relaxing to do). In some cases, depending on what you have done new options do open up in paths you might have already explored fairly thoroughly (learning Archaic, looking at you). Basically anything in the "think about what you know" list that you don't know how to resolve is something you can follow up on, and once you have a rough grasp of the branching structure you can often make an informed guess about where some info/actions might be.

(Also, for anyone who enjoyed the life loop aspect of this and hasn't yet read Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, I recommend it. Very different in many ways, and overall darker, but some similar ideas explored.)
posted by advil at 11:00 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

Oh my gosh I hadn't made that connection but I loved that book! Very interesting execution on the premise.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:04 AM on November 18

Bektashi the game was scripted using a tool from Inkle studios which has some other interactive fiction games. "Interactive fiction" is the term to search for probably.

I swear there was a similar CYOA-style game posted here relatively recently where I ended up living with a magical bird but I couldn't find it when making this post.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:16 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]

This is great and I can't wait to delve into it later (when I'm not supposed to be working).

Although a very different style of game, the concept very much reminds me of Outer Wilds. Each cycle is about 20 minutes before the sun goes supernova and you restart. Explore the solar system, discover secrets, learn about an ancient civilization, connect the dots and apply your newfound knowledge during the next iteration. It is an amazing, touching, beautiful puzzle of a game and I can't recommend it enough.
posted by Roommate at 11:37 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]

Oh wow I loved that. It took me ten turns, which felt just about right. By a few turns before that, I figured out what I needed to do, but it took a few more tries to get all the pieces in place. I managed to keep everyone alive that final time, which was a nice bonus.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:56 AM on November 18

argh, i keep running into this bug where i don't have any choices, and restarting my browser like the page suggests isn't working
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 2:38 PM on November 18 [1 favorite]

I second the Outer Wilds recommendation for anyone who liked Stay and is open to more traditional video games! It explores many of the same themes/moods. The platforming/puzzle aspects can occasionally frustrating but the ending is worth it. Easily the most profound and moving game I've ever played.
posted by Emily's Fist at 7:04 PM on November 18

First run thru - 17 cycles - this was weird because I got to the place at the end on my second cycle or something and that being my second experience really messed up my progression. I finally got enough parts to make sense and get my first "Stay" option. Only problem with my first stay was the pollution that I never cleaned. I did lose one person as well. However I also explored most of the world in those 17 cycles and it seems to me you can "win" without exploring a decent chunk of the game.

On my second run now - 8th cycle, we're almost there but I kind of wasted two cycles I think where I made no actual progress. The goal of course is to get the Happy Happy ending with no deaths from the starting crew and no pollution but not sure if possible or required for this to be a great little game.
posted by some loser at 7:08 PM on November 18

I really enjoyed this, and I loved slowly piecing everything together. Just the right amount of challenge for me in these times.

It reminds me of Save the Date (previously), which a similar theme of restarting/resetting, though the tone is quite different.
posted by invokeuse at 7:33 PM on November 18

I got my first stay option at 10 and I don't know how "well" I did. Didn't lose anyone, saved the cities, didn't finish the novel... I'd love to be able to take about what endings we found. Where can we do that?
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:29 PM on November 18

I played through The Witcher III and loved it, but can't get myself to replay it, as I got the "good" ending on my first playthrough and don't want to "ruin it". Maybe this is for me?
posted by Harald74 at 3:24 AM on November 19

I was really enjoying this. Like, really, really enjoying it, but I didn't realize that saving was a thing, and that, when you hit a spot where no choices appear, you need to just reload to your last save.

I was on my third play through, with no saves, and am all the way back at the beginning. Ouch. As much as I liked it, I don't know if I'll start it up again. Damn
posted by Ghidorah at 4:25 AM on November 19

Yeah, I hit the same bug. Super frustrating.
posted by Roommate at 4:39 AM on November 19

i eventually restarted from scratch after hitting the bug, and i'm very glad i did. it was a fantastic narrative experience overall.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 6:54 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Thought I got one of the happiest endings possible yesterday, but I'm glad I went back and did it again today.

Yesterday I stayed in a life where Iprevented Suzette from pursuing her wish (by destroying her research on wish magic), banished the monster in the lake, took the stone during the war without hurting Suzette, and eventually protected the city from the comet and married Suzette with Jo looking on (Myka and maybe Esteban died in the war, but at least the city wasn't sacked). This was after lives where I tried "DESTROY" on the comet, adopted a cat, fell in love with Myka, fell in love with Esteban, got arrested for treason, killed Suzette for the stone, and told my friend Jo the truth about how they started me on this path.

While today I stayed after Iprevented Suzette from pursuing her wish just by being a good enough friend (which is lucky, because today I never found the path to destroy her research), roped her and Jo into helping me not only banishing the monster but healing its damage, thereby preventing the war altogether, and ended up with Jo, who as a character I like better - or at least identify with more than Suzette (plus it seems like a better symmetry with how the whole adventure starts). In previous lives this time, I traveled farther south, fell in love with Gemma, as well as everyone in that village next to our city, brought Myka with me to the ruins under the lake, finally learned what Suzette wished for, and also banished her a bunch of times, because apparently if you've gotten into the kitchen, it's too late to do anything else.

But I never didfinish the book or beat Gemma at cards. I'm not sure the latter is possible. Nor did I ever find out if the poisoning of the reservoir was intentional, as was hinted at in one of those lives.

posted by solotoro at 7:41 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

I had to look up how to do the details tag because I wanted dearly to talk about my experiences with the endings.

The ending I was initially happy to have found was one in which Suzette survived the night of the ball, the named characters all seemed to survive the war, I ended up with Jo, together we set the witch in the lake to rest, and choosing to stay, we talked about the whole cycle of lives. It was a little bittersweet but a happy ending to me.

Playing through over & over again, I found a remarkably happy ending where, I think this is what started the sequence, Jo knew which relics we needed to steal in order to de-poison the land, and so we could both set the lake witch to rest, then leave the city to do the de-poisoning, and crucially, Jo knew to involve Suzette in covering up for our theft/disappearance, which meant it kept our friendship strong (and thus kept Suzette feeling strong and confident in herself). We sneaked back into the city a couple weeks later...and there was no war. That was the only iteration I found where there was no war (or that I didn't die before the war was announced by the sentry), but now I'm wondering if there were others. I was kind of in shock when the war didn't happen! I got together romantically with Jo. Despite studying History in this iteration, I still ran into Mr. Pent (and the other Mr. Pent, bless that snarky man who I only met on just a few iterations) and we became friends and then co-workers. There was a university reunion where I got see and interact positively with Jo, Suzette, Esteban, Myka, and even Gemma, even though I hadn't met her in this iteration. Also I got to set up Suzette with Tereza the baker, who I never actually met in any iteration, just had references to. It was really lovely and left me with good feelings, and I'm so glad I kept playing more to experience it.

Like solotoro, I also never finished the book or beat Gemma at cards, though I really thought that last one would happen eventually, one lifetime.

Other things I liked include how much fun Myka was. I wanted more iterations with sleepovers! I also only had one iteration where I adopted a cat, but I was on the lookout for more. I was also wondering if there was any iteration where Esteban's painting ability would come in handy plot-wise, but it was also just nice to reaffirm his love of art in lifetimes where I could. I was also wondering whether the food served at the ball was ever consequential or if it was random. Cucumbers and cheese? Sausage? Don't know! Same with the graduation flowers, although I rarely went to graduation.

posted by mixedmetaphors at 10:29 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Two days ago I stayed in a world where
Esteban and I skipped graduation to get the gem together, and then went south with the stolen artifacts to heal the land. Because the land was healed and the south never had a famine, there was no war. Esteban and I stayed in the south together, living happily ever after. When the time came to stop the comet, we snuck back into Elaia and stopped the comet.

Yesterday I stayed in a world where
I prevented Suzette's meltdown, got the gem during graduation, became a historian, and went with Jo to the south with the stolen artifacts to stop the famine. Suzette covered for us, and we were able to come back as if we'd never left. Because the land was healed and the south never had a famine, there was no war. The delightful Myka and I got married, and she was SO INCREDIBLY excited the day I woke her up and told her it was time for us to stop a comet and save the world.

I love both of these endings.
I love living the quiet life with Esteban in the south more, on a farm. But I do also very much enjoy the alternate arc with Myka -- so much fun keeping in touch and growing old with friends, even if the city is busy and my jobs with the archives and the magic shop are a bit dull. It was also fun meeting the magic shop owner later in the second arc, as an adult, and having scones with him and his husband! And nothing matches Myka's delight at waking up and getting told it's time for her to stop a comet.

posted by cnidaria at 10:34 AM on November 19

Wow so many different permutations!

The one where I got to Stay because I got distracted before I could play more
I destroyed Suzette's research to prevent her death in the ball. Worked in magic, flirted with Myka, stole the stone, worked with Myka to banish the witch, won the war, married Myka and prevented the comet from destroying everything

NeverKnew I could heal the poison! Definitely never beat Gemma. Really wanted to have a chance to interrogate the buffet

posted by drewbage1847 at 10:41 AM on November 19

I have never

Met Gemma!

I am also surprised by how many permutations there were, from reading what ya'll have done. One of my favorite dead-ends was when I was bumming around the South, smelled some delicious frying cakes, wandered over to them, was told by the woman cooking them that I couldn't buy any. Then she fed me for free. I ended up staying there with the local family/community. Forever. And making absolutely no "progress" toward solving any of the comet, witch, or land-poisoning issues. I guess my character just really needed a vacation!

posted by cnidaria at 10:45 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

But I never did (re reservoir)wasn't the poisoning of the reservoir supposed to be just a consequence of the monster in the drowned city being trapped there for so long, seeping downstream? At some point I'm pretty sure I did find some text that explained this and that banishing her wasn't enough.

I have never met...Gemma! This is the first name of someone you probably have met, but is a bit hard to get close to. (The first name thing I thought was a really nice touch around this, I didn't learn it at all on my first playthrough either.

posted by advil at 11:18 AM on November 19

I will keep an eye out for Gemma, then :-)

As far as the poisoned water -- there are some really lovely arcs where you can explore the south, and learn how to heal the damage to the land from the pollution. And you're right, it involves a bit more than just banishing the monster trapped in the reservoir...

posted by cnidaria at 11:45 AM on November 19

A very good ending
  • Killed the ghost in the reservoir
  • Cleaned up the South
  • Avoided war
  • Prevented Suzette from killing everybody by destroying her research.
  • Coupled up with Myka
  • Saved the city from the comet
  • Negative: can’t go back to the city
  • Can I save the South without stealing the relics?
  • Can I save the South and Suzette without destroying Suzette’s research?

posted by danielparks at 11:59 AM on November 19

Oh, somehow I missed mixedmetaphors’ comment. More to explore!
posted by danielparks at 12:06 PM on November 19

One of danielparks questions
Can I save the South and Suzette without destroying Suzette’s research?

Yes, several people have alluded to it already so there are details above, but the best endings I have found are ones where you, Jo, and Suzette are all close friends and this friendship keeps Suzette from going off the deep end. But even without this version, as long as you emotionally support Suzette as a friend or otherwise you can keep her from making the wish (basically she turns to you at the ball instead of going into the kitchen and arguing with her mother). I actually didn't even now you could destroy her research until reading some of people's spoilers here.

posted by advil at 12:11 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I've played a bunch and can't figure out
how to destroy Suzette's research!

posted by beandip at 12:20 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

After lots of tedious short cycles I have the entire romance story for anyone who wants to read it
[Full story]The Stork Princess and the Golden Knight ended the last battle of the Pleadies War in high spirits...

When news of the darkness reached the Sunrise Palace, it seemed the halls rang with the sound of it. In her travels in the far reaches of the northern lands, the Stork Princess found every reflective pool and hillside only reminded her of her love...

The Golden Knight missed the sea, and he missed the strident voice of his Princess, but most of all he missed not having mud in his hair.

The Walrus spoke to the Stork Princess, and he taught her many secrets, but he also told her many lies.

When the rains came, they came hard and fast. The little house became a boat on the waves. The Golden Knight turned his fear to song, and the Turnip Child called them a lullaby.

When the rains ceased, they found themselves on a mountain that had been washed clean of snow. The Turnip Child tip-toed out onto the bare, shining rock and stared out at the horizon.

The Stork Princess earned her second name, as that of a Phoenix Come Again, and she could hear their fear, turned lullaby, sinking deep into all the rivers of the land.

The lies of the Walrus were deep, and cruel, and wide, and they made for beautiful stories.

When the Child opened his mouth, there was only darkness, so he didn't open his mouth.

Long do the songs last, and far do the notes carry, and so soon withers the singer.

They found they had no need for wishing, no need for names or dreams, for they had found each other again.

They saw the darkness and they named it Restful, and Full, and Kind.

They saw the light, and they named it Brilliant, and Wide, and Unforgiving.

They danced in the river, their toes nibbled by minnows, their hands lifted up to the sky.

The Stork Princess and the Golden Knight counted every star, so long was the night they were given.

The Turnip Child found a single bright green leaf growing from the crown of his head, and he named it Timothy.

And they lived happily ever after, in their home by the sea

posted by ephemerista at 12:44 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

Argh! I can't get back to one of my favorite loops
where there's no war, Jo and I heal the south with Suzette's help, and by the end Myka and I are married and she helps me stop the comet. I can get all the way through it, but despite my attempts to woo her, Myka and I never end up married again. Not sure what I'm doing wrong!

posted by cnidaria at 1:06 PM on November 19

But I never did (re reservoir)wasn't the poisoning of the reservoir supposed to be just a consequence of the monster in the drowned city being trapped there for so long, seeping downstream?
Yes, it is a consequence of that - I'm questioning the "just" part. Someone somewhere sometime somelife (I think in one where our city won the war so decidedly we ended up annexing most of the south) posits that poisoning the south's water supply could have been an intentional move to make conquering them easier/more popular. And it seems not at all impossible that someone either knew how to banish Veris but chose not to, or at the least had an idea of the eventual problem with the dam solution and didn't see it as actually a problem. I never did learn much about Gemma's uncle, and I'm wondering if there's more storyline there about our town's potential expansionism.

posted by solotoro at 1:25 PM on November 19

I restarted, and I'm resisting checking any of the details tags because I don't want to ruin the story for myself.

I'm amazed at the depth of the story, of all the branches, and how detailed they are. The work put into this is kind of staggering to me, and yet, I realized that I'm probably never going to find all of the branches because I can't stop choosing the options that, well, I would choose. I find it hard to go against what I feel to be the "right" choice to me, and when I do, it always feels wrong to me, like I'm not being honest with the story. It's becoming clear to me that the person I am can't seem to make the choices that lead to an ending that offers the option to stay, and I'm having a hard time with it.

I mean, sure, it's a game, and the choices are part of the game. It just seems that the choices I keep making are ones that don't lead to a happy ending, and damn, I'm trying to keep in mind that this is a game, not a damning indictment of who I am as a person.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:37 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

Ghidorah, the advice that I'll give you is that there is some crucial information that can only be gleaned from making those "bad" choices so you need to try them out in some of your lives so that you can eventually get to the happy ending(s). And you pretty much can't get to "stay" with fewer than 9 lives (I've found), so spend a life or two making the bad choices :)
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 7:41 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

NotTheRedBaron, thanks. I gave it some tries, and managed to save the world, but utterly alone, with no connections. Definitely not a "Stay" moment.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:41 PM on November 19

Ghidorah, I have to say that on my third "full" play-through, I started using the game-saving utility, where you can keep up to 5 save-points. This made me more comfortable exploring different forks, and I could immediately rescind a particular choice if I wanted to by going back to the save point, without having to play through the whole life cycle.
posted by cnidaria at 9:30 PM on November 19

The program used to write this seems so interesting! I'm gonna try creating my own CYOA type stuff although I'm certainly not a writer of this quality. I love that it's not just about creating fiction but can also be used as a learning tool.

Here's the link to Inklewriter
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 10:27 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed reading about everyone's choices and endings! I learned some things were possible that I hadn't ever encountered, and now I want to play some more.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:44 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]

I loved this so much, found it heartbreaking and beautiful and hopeful and just so great. I went to share it with the people I know and care about and realized that roughly none of them overlap with me on this kind of thing, I don't have anyone to share this with. But still, I loved it. Thank you.
posted by Shutter at 5:00 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]

Thanks for sharing that and super thanks for all those who posted their accounts and made me realised there was lots more to find and enjoy. This was such a simple idea yet superbly executed, it'll stick with me a long time.
I think by the time you get to the reunion you're on the home stretch

posted by Sparx at 7:34 PM on November 22

« Older ALVIN!   |   Kabbalah and Communism Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.