The Ghost People

Player Rating5.55/8

"#236 overall, #24 for 2018"
based on 53 ratings since 01/08/2019
played 754 times (finished 20)

Story Difficulty5/8

"run through the jungle"

Play Length4/8

"A well spent lunch break"

Maturity Level6/8

"I'll need to see some identification"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 16. If this were a movie, it would probably between PG-13 and R.
This is an entry in the December contest

Writing Prompt: "In 100,000 B.C.E., a boy from a Neanderthal tribe meets a homo sapien girl for the first time, changing the fate of their tribes for all time . . . for better or worse."

A Neanderthal boy is sent on a perilous mission to rescue kidnapped members of his tribe from the clutches of the evil Ghost People, whose magic far surpasses that of his own people.

Some quick info on the setting: It is generally believed that hominids lost their thick fur around 1.2 million years ago or so, give or take. However, for the sake of this story, Homo neanderthalensis will have thicker body hair than Homo sapiens (not bear-thick, but still thicker). There are two reasons I have chosen to do this: (1) They lived in the colder regions. (2) Homo neanderthalensis appears to have had primitive clothing compared to Homo sapiens; basically just fur capes, while Homo sapiens had more advanced stitching and more tightly tailored clothing (which kept them more warm). So I feel having neanderthals a little more hairy than Homo sapiens is a reasonable liberty for me to take in this story.

As for language and technology, both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis shared almost identical vocal anatomy where it matters. Despite neanderthals not having left behind nearly as much advanced artwork, they very likely had complex language just like Homo sapiens. As for fire technology, for the purpose of this story I am assuming that different hominid tribes were further advanced than others, irrespective of species. The neanderthal tribe the protagonist comes from has yet to master creation of fire.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Update: Put an End Game link on the same page the Epilogue link is, so you can skip it if you want, since it is so unpopular ;) .

Player Comments

Reading the previous comments to this story, there was clearly a mixed reaction at the time it was first published. People praised the background images and book-like font; people were displeased by the lack of branching and a lack of tension in the story.

I agree with both findings, but I rated this story a 7--because whatever this story might be lacking, it isn't much. Although I don't have any specific recommendation as I write this, it seems as though it would not take much alteration to make this one of the finest stories on the site.

What kept my interest through this 14,000-word story was my interest in human evolution, and particularly that epoch when there were multiple varieties of the genus Homo running around.

We as modern humans have a poor concept of time; we think of the Roman Empire as being "ancient," for instance, even though those days were about 2000 years ago.

But our species first appeared somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 years ago--millennia upon millennia of human experience, of which no written record exists, when we were a people living in tune with natural rhythms. And before Homo sapiens there was Homo erectus, a population of humans who existed for something like 1.6 million years.

But despite my interest in the subject, I admit I was not quite fully engaged with the characters, or the setting, or the situations. It's not that the writing was poor; rather, I think a bit more time could have been invested in developing those three elements. The basic premise is solid, but I'd very much like to see a redo.

As for branching, I came across no false endings until the final confrontation, when I ducked instead of dodged, or something like that. So either there are multiple ways to reach the ending, or the right choices were telegraphed a little too clearly and I never had any hesitation about what needed to be done.

But maybe this is a case where story branching could be used to build out some of those elements that I and other readers feel are lacking in the current story. Maybe in one branch, the People of the River go on a hunt--in which the reader picks up some details about the era, as well as the personalities and politics of the tribe. Or another storypath where you venture further into the territory of the Ghost People, and experience more of that culture. And another branch where your mission gets hopelessly derailed in a struggle to survive against some natural element.

The beauty of a branching story is that no one path needs to explain everything and be all-satisfying; indeed, such stories SHOULD invite the reader to get lost in the various possibilities, with something new and unique to be found in each iteration. It's not necessarily the arc of that one master storyline that matters most, but the totality of all the storylines, and the multiple perspectives they provide.

Enjoying a branching story is like appreciating a sculpture; the reader wants to walk around and see the changing perspectives. If a sculpture is a three-dimensional representation of space, then a branching story is a three-dimensional representation of time.

So I really hope there is an update to this story in the works. And if that is the case, I'll second the motion to ditch that now-optional epilog, which strains credibility. If modern humans were capable of memories that long, we wouldn't have public school districts resisting the mandates to teach human evolution in the classroom.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 6/20/2019 7:19:44 PM with a score of 0
I know this one has sort of a mixed reaction, but let’s go over the major things.

First, I liked the writing and especially the setting with this one. There aren’t nearly enough stories set during prehistoric times and this one did a good job in that regard.

One main problem was how linear it was. A lot more choice additions would have really improved things. Then there are the times where you die and there is no “end story” link. Hate it when a writer does that. There is already an option at the top to restart a story, or use the back button. No need to have a link for it and there is never a good reason to prevent ending a story prematurely. It’s just annoying.

Finally there was the ending which just really ruined the rest of the story. (I and several others have mentioned it in the forums so won’t go on too much about it here) A better way to have ended it would have been just leaving it still in the past.

As for the use of pictures, I’m sure those helped score higher points with some people, but I think a focus on adding more choices rather than the pics would have served better.
-- EndMaster on 6/23/2018 1:57:36 PM with a score of 0
Well, there are a few things to be said about this game. It is pretty good contest entry, and a good story period to boot. Quality of writing was nice, and there were very few, if any, grammatical errors.

This being said, I do not think it is deserving of an 8 rating. I was actually going to read Mizal's story just before this, but I'd heard this story was getting a lot of attention, so I thought I'd come check it out. It certainly deserves attention, but, well, put simply, I think this game is overrated.

I feel like the people who rated it eight, saw the font, the backgrounds, and the use of items, then proceeded to disregard everything else. Now keep in mind that I'm not saying this is bad, just that it isn't excellent. Excellent aesthetics? Sure. Excellent plot? Sure. Excellent execution? Not quite there.

I simply didn't really FEEL very much of anything. The characters weren't all that meaningful to me, and I didn't really even consider not fighting the Thellek for a second. My family didn't create that much of an impact at all on my decisions. Maybe if the romance was based off of a mutual Florence Nightingale effect, then I would feel more for the relationship. Oh and more choices during that process would enhance it greatly.

And immediately afterwards we have the climax of our character's sole goal. Saving our tribe mates, but what do you know? You only end up saving them through a piece of deus ex machina.

Last thing here...what was that ending? Having it turn out to be a dream is super cliched, and well, knocked my rating for it down a peg. Would've been better if you'd just ended the story after you saved the village and merged the peoples.

All in all, it was a good story. Maybe even great, but it didn't wow me.

Good, but not amazing.
-- EbonVasilis on 1/11/2018 12:56:49 AM with a score of 0
-- Bob_The_Builder on 2/21/2020 1:43:53 PM with a score of 0
Sorry for those who played this storygame recently and saw blank pictures. The hosting site I used changed their domain, so the storygame had to be unpublished and I had to manually fix every single picture. I hope if you did play it without the art you will try it again. A lot of effort went into that aspect of this. Sorry again for the inconvenience.
-- Fluxion on 4/13/2018 5:47:14 AM with a score of 0
I liked the story over all, the ending was a bit weird but creative at least.
-- corgi213 on 2/10/2018 4:42:18 PM with a score of 0
An interesting story and well done. Even though I think it is somewhat short, the setting you provided makes the story unique and great.
-- futurehero97 on 1/12/2018 11:48:24 PM with a score of 0
In my comment, I meant to say “maybe if it WASN’T the Florence Nightingale effect. Not if it was. A distinction I feel I needed to make.
-- EbonVasilis on 1/11/2018 8:25:54 AM with a score of 0
Damn this was good.
-- Noob_Master on 1/8/2018 7:13:27 PM with a score of 0
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