Description: A horrifying historical document, reimagined in Twine.
Released: October 2018
Platform: PC
Engine: Twine (Sugarcube)
Project Length: One month.

What is Book of Cruelty?

King Eric XIV ruled Sweden from 1560 to 1568. It was a reign characterised by madness, barbarism, and brutality. The King was deeply paranoid, obsessed with the idea that his subjects were plotting to overthrow him. He executed or locked up dissidents, and devised methods of physical and psychological torture unseen anywhere else in Renaissance Europe. An irrepressible and obsessive note-taker, the King kept a journal of his brutish reign. Years later, these notes became known as the Bok Av Grymhet, or Book of Cruelty.

...Of course, most of this is fiction. King Eric XIV of Sweden is real, but - as far as I'm aware - his Book of Cruelty is not. I wanted to create a short Twine piece that tries to affect the player's expectations before playing (using the preface above), resulting in enhancing the predilection towards certain emotions whilst playing (psychological horror and dread).

Book of Cruelty is readable now on itch.io.

On the left, the frame of the narrative; you have stumbled upon this accursed tome. On the right, an example of the fracturing of the text. (Twine screenshots are lame!)
Some Notes on Design

I've pulled together a few notable nuggets of info about the writing of this piece below. I strongly encourage you to read Book of Cruelty before continuing, to get a better sense of what I'm referring to!

  • I structured the narrative like a circular spideweb, with different keywords leading to different 'levels' within the web. The reader starts in one of the three passages at the 'centre' of the web. The centre is a point of safety - the passages hold their form and make sense. However, there are limited places for the reader to move to without bordeom; their curiosity will lead them to insanity. As the reader progresses outwards through the different levels they become unable to back track, and must pursue their chosen strand to the end.

  • The text is written to mimic the reader's psyche. As the reader progresses through each narrative thread the writing becomes darker in tone, and more fractured and emblematic. The obvious ambition was to represent insanity on the page, and this was definitely a tall order that I perhaps failed to do 100% succesfully.

  • I also used multimedia input to create a sense of insanity: different colours, images and sounds break up the increasingly fragmented text further. These different sensory inputs also combine to increase the level of dread felt by the reader.

  • On first reading, there doesn't seem to be any apparent story to this piece. However, discovery of the story, as in any ergodic text, requires work from the reader. My aim with the Book of Cruelty was to reward multiple readthroughs of the text with a deeper sense of the story. There are multiple different strands and endings in the piece, and these different strands tie together to give a complete portrait of the mind of King Eric XIV, and some of the atrocities he committed.