Sburb Shots: Hiveswap Is The Homestuck Adventure Game

Homestuck is to three-panel gag-a-day webomics what the Marvel multiverse is to the local funny papers. The long-running series is a convoluted mass of mythology, musical interludes and flash animations, but it began life as part of creator Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventure series, a sequence of webcomics that mimicked Choose Your Own Adventure books and cumbersome point and click mechanics. Homestuck began by sending up webchatting, clowns and The Sims, but swiftly introduced dimensional shifts, time-sundering and apocalyptic events.

Later this year, it’ll (sort of) return to its adventure game roots in the crowdfunded episodic adventure Hiveswap [official site]. First screens below.

The first episode is due this Spring and the studio developing the game are an internal part of the company that produces Homestuck. Going by the name ‘What Pumpkin’, they took over full-time development sometime before October of last year.

If you’ve never experienced Homestuck, you should start from the very beginning and give up long before you reach the present day arc. Even given a recent extended hiatus, it’s an enormous story and I’ve ever managed to see more than the initial parental and fraternal tribulations. It entertain me though. I’m glad that it’s out there, waiting to be consumed.

Fortunately, you won’t need any prior knowledge to play the game. In a Kickstarter update from the tail-end of last year, Hussie had this to say:

I also mentioned before that these stories will be loosely related to Homestuck canon. They are completely self-contained stories that won’t depend on any familiarity with the existing storyline (I felt like this was important, since I’m anticipating that many people will stumble on this game who have never even heard of HS.) Still, the stories do actually fit into the canonical universe of HS, and fans of the comic will probably find it rewarding to see how it fits into canon and observe the various connections.

If you are a Homestuck devotee, this might mean something to you.

Since it fits into HS canon, there is the obvious question of “when”, especially given that HS is about “end of the world” scenarios (both on Earth and Alternia), so unless there’s some goofy alt-universe stuff going on, it can’t take place after 2009. But there isn’t goofy AU stuff going on. So it does take place some time pre-2009 on Earth, and pre-present day on Alternia. Beyond that, I won’t be more specific. I’ll let the games tell the story.

But I should also say, this doesn’t mean the games are intended to be prequels. These aren’t like “the origin of Sburb” games or anything like that. There’s totally different stuff going on. They are their own stories that are meant to stand alone. My primary goal here is to make good games that speak for themselves and everyone can enjoy, not to create the absolute perfect complements to a huge existing storyline.

Hussie refers to games because he has planned out a companion title, with a parallel (although non-interfering) plot. Hiveswap is the story of “a young human girl named Joey” who falls through a portal and finds herself on the planet of Alternia, where she teams up with a gang of troll rebels “to save the world, find a way home and discover the true meaning of friendship”. I’m hoping for a cross between Labyrinth and Flight of the Navigator.

There will be four acts in total.

33 Comments

  1. misterT0AST says:

    I tried to read Homestuck and Problem Sleuth, but I always end up just skipping page after page just looking at the pictures.

    Every sub-plot that opens will never close, no problem will ever be solved, if it is, a new problem randomly appears and stops the plot from advancing. Exposition is given once every 80 pages and makes you understand something else, but you get the awful feeling none of it matters, and everything is just a bunch of dancing puppets with no rhyme or reasons with sparse humor.

    Everything moves painfully slowly, new characters and themes are introduced at a slug’s pace, and the feeling that none of it means anything or matters at all makes me want to stop reading after a few pages now.
    I’ve never seen the television series Lost but from what I’ve heard of it, Homestuck and Problem Sleuth have the same issues as its later seasons. And they are MUCH MUCH longer.

    I guess the only way in which being a Homestuck fan makes sense is if you contributed to the story somehow at some point.

    I know that at some point the author takes complete control over the plot (and hopefully starts doing something with it) and I really really tried getting to that point. But after 50 pages I end up just skipping through them without reading anymore. I see a closed door and I skip on until it’s open. And it takes 30 pages every time. After I do that for a while though I just stop caring and close the thing. Obviously without saving. And then I start again.
    I wasn’t able to bring myself to get to the point of the story where the author takes control. I couldn’t make it up to that point.

    I tried 3 times.

    • Zallgrin says:

      It gets good like after Act 3 (thankfully Act 2 is relatively short) and then the plot progresses much more quickly. But you are definitely not alone with being utterly put off with Homestuck – most people took like 3-4 times to get into it, haha.

      I was on a long and boring vacation when I read it, switching to other stuff inbetween. Only endurance and perseverance can help you, though most people don’t consider it worth it

      • eleion says:

        Ha, it was the opposite for me. I started reading Andrew Hussie at the end of Problem Sleuth and was able to follow Homestuck from the very beginning. I enjoyed it all immensely… until he started introducing all the troll characters and their pointless IM chatter that seemed to last forever. I can’t remember what Act that was, but I’ve never looked back.

        • Chaosed0 says:

          I had a similar experience, though I made it all the way up until an entire parallel universe with duplicates of every character is introduced. The previous characters are basically just dropped – albeit for reasons that make sense within the story, but it was too much for me to have to learn an entire new cast of characters.

          I still look back on it with fondness, but honestly, Homestuck should have ended years ago. Hussie doesn’t know when to stop. Diehard fans would say that’s a good thing, but I’m not so sure.

    • bjohndooh says:

      I feel like trying to tackle it now would be daunting.
      I’ve read them both but I did it once a week over several years, I think trying to blitz through looking for anything specific is the entirely wrong way to approach it.

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      Arnvidr says:

      Problem Sleuth was finished by the time I tried reading it, and I can’t say I had that problem with it. Many of the pages it feels like you were meant to go through them quickly, and trying to follow Homestuck, I’m guessing there were multiple pages released each day. But I got to the end of it, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

      Homestuck itself though, was way more difficult. Not to mention that there was so much more text to read. At one point I got sick of all the different troll voices (“voices” that is, in various infuriating variations of l33t speak), and so completely lost the plot. Even with the summaries that sometimes pop up, I have very little idea of the overarching story, and probably never will (it’s too damn long to try and read again from the start). But the end is nigh (this year), so I won’t stop now at least.

      Anyway, point being, I can’t fault anyone for not being able to pierce through the material of Homestuck, but my memory says Problem Sleuth was much easier.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, my issue with Homestuck was the walls of text. Another thing was that the obtuseness in Problem Sleuth fel like part of the charm,a kind of pastiche of old adventure games, whereas it didn’t work quite as well for me with the more sincere atmosphere of Homestuck.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      While I absolutely can’t blame you for not being able to get into it (it definitely takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy it, more than most stories, it is NOT for everyone, and that’s fine), I kind of think “I guess the only way in which being a Homestuck fan makes sense is if you contributed to the story somehow at some point” is a reeeaaally short-sighted attitude.

      • misterT0AST says:

        Well I said I didn’t enjoy it and tried to find a reason.
        I thought contributing was a big part of it, but it wasn’t? I’ll take your word for it, I have no idea.
        I’m open to suggestions and criticisms on the way to approach it. If it is approachable at all at this point.

        • Sir_Deimos says:

          The first half of Problem Sleuth was based on reader input (Each day, Hussie would pick one ‘command’ from a forum and draw what happens). About 6 months into Problem Sleuth, he closed the forums and the second half of the story is author-driven – he has said he made this decision because while he likes the idea of reader-driven content, it simply didn’t allow for a well-designed plot to come to a conclusion. Homestuck was completely author-driven from the start.

          • Graves says:

            For what its worth, Homestuck (and indeed, the end of problem slueth) wasn’t entirely without user input. According the Hussie on the website, the late days of problem slueth and the early days of Homestuck still used to the suggestion box, but not for anything story related. Instead, it was just used as inspiration for the sort of silly, random actions that was the sites trademark at the time. So, it wasn’t user driven, but user input still mattered. This is according to the MSPA page itself. link to mspaintadventures.com

            For what its worth, people can and do still contribute to Homestuck, though, just in different ways. Many of the flash animations and games involve the work of several fans, and most if not all of the music are fan creations. Furthermore, Hussie takes a lot of… inspiration form the sites forums and community. Whole arcs were created to, ahem, troll the fans, such as the jerking around in various ways of the Vriska fans, the extended flash games and character mocking the tumblrverse, and the recent arcs referencing deviant art and fan art in general and the fan tendency to create trollsonas. While this isn’t what many people have in mind when they think of reader involvement, it is a comic that… involves engagement with the community.

    • Sir_Deimos says:

      I’ve been reading for a long time, and have (unsuccessfully) attempted to get many friends to read them as well because they are both amazing pieces of art. I’ve bounced back and forth between which is ‘better’, but it’s like trying to compare apples to oranges.

      Problem Sleuth is quick and easy to read, and never stops throwing laughs at you. I’ve read and reread it many times (both online and the collection of books) and can still open up to any page and know I’ll enjoy it. It’s light-hearted, never takes itself seriously, and it’s descent into chaos only adds to the hilarity.

      Homestuck, on the other hand, is daunting to use a single word. I haven’t attempted to re-read it from the beginning in a while, but I’d guess it’s at least 200 hours of reading to catch up to where the story is now. The plot is incredibly confusing, and it’s use of yet-to-be-established vocabulary combined with arbitrary time-skips makes reading it difficult.

      One thing Hussie has talked about often is the different experiences a reader will have once the story is already done as opposed to reading each page as it is posted – a difference that cannot be underestimated. When the story is already there, a reader is constantly thinking about what will happen next especially in relation to what just happened. But as you read day-to-day and you only get one or two images and maybe some dialogue, you have plenty of time to fit this new information into your understanding of the story before new information is given.

      No matter what, I still think that both are absolutely amazing works that nothing else even compare to. I would encourage anyone and everyone with even passing interest in video games, choose your own adventures, or unique styles of media to try them. For newcomers, Problem Sleuth is definitely the place to start, but it is just a tutorial for how to read Homestuck.

      • Graves says:

        Seconded, and well put. Heck Homestuck is such a strange… thing that I derive enjoyment simply from watching it and its community, let alone reading it and enjoying it on its own merits. Its intimidating, but I believe worth the investment.

      • zando95 says:

        I think 200 hours is a bit of an overestimation. Probably closer to 60 if you read at the average speed of 200 wpm. That doesn’t include the 3 hours of flash animation.

        Yeah, it’s a bit daunting to say the least. I think it’s worth it. I can’t wait to see how it ends, and I have faith in the ending.

    • April March says:

      The difference between Homestuck and LOST is, Homestuck does know the answer to its quandaries, and does answer them.

      But yeah – it’s a weird thing and it’s OK to not like it. I think that everyone should read Act I to the end. If you’re gonna get hooked you’ll already be, and if you’re not hooked yet it doesn’t get any different so you can declare it to be Not Your Thing and move on.

      • Baffle Mint says:

        Actually, this is what makes Homestuck so difficult to me; It seemed to me that most of the bizarre mysteries were actually written with a conclusion pretty firmly in mind.

        Problem Sleuth is pretty much sheer silliness, so if you get to the middle and realize you’ve forgotten why there are so many Pickle Inspectors it kind of doesn’t matter so much.

        Homestuck strikes me as being written with a lot of care and effort, and just mindlessly skimming through it without paying attention makes me feel like I’m failing as a reader.

        On the other hand, it’s a very long, baroque story which puts the twistiest jRPGs to shame, so it’s not an easy read even if you are into it.

        Also, as a personal bias I kind of don’t like characters who are always deadpan. It’s kind of a turn-off the way that, for the first 2000-odd panels, the characters react to the end of the world with teenage internet snarkiness. But that’s more of a personal feeling.

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    Harlander says:

    I prefer Prequel for my episodic web-CYOA intake these days. I lost my grip on Homestuck when the amount of self-referential stuff got a bit much.

    • Graves says:

      To me, that is part of what makes it great. The references to itself and earlier MSPA adventures feels to me like the in-jokes in Arrested Development- their impact is increased because of the reference, and loyal fans feel rewarded for paying enough attention to get the reference. Plus, the references reinforce the themes of the work. The in jokes shared between the kids help reinforce the camaraderie they are supposed to feel, and allow us to empathize with them, while the cyclical nature of some things engender questions of predestination and causation. Other things that appear to be references or in-jokes turn out to have an explanation in universe, creating payoff got the loyal reader.

      Even better, the meta nature of Homestuck is a joke in itself. I haven’t been there in a while, but at one point I visited the forums to observe the natives in their natural habitat. They are a fascinating bunch, but one of the things I realized is that large swathes of Homestuck are Hussie actively trolling his own fan base. Large arcs satirize the tumblr community just as Homestuck became popular within it, while more recent arcs play off of deviant art, fan art, and the communities habit of making up “trollsonas” for the purposes of role play.

      As a consumer of entertainment, all of these are things that make me enjoy it even more, though I can see why it might turn you or others off.

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        Harlander says:

        “As a consumer of entertainment” you might well think as much. I personally never consume entertainment, so – wait, what?

        • Graves says:

          I’m…. not entirely sure what I meant there? I think I meant it to mean something like, “given my tastes,”

    • zando95 says:

      Whenever Hussie inserts himself into events, is when I start to get annoyed.

      I personally say that “Homestuck is really good about 2/3 of the time.” The other 1/3 can be difficult to push through. And I’m a huge fan of HS.

  3. Sardonic says:

    Problem Sleuth was great, Homestuck had some good ideas, emphasis on had. It started going downhill the moment the chatlogs started. Even Tim Buckley would be ashamed at having that many words.

    • Graves says:

      Having a lot of words is a bad thing now? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand if you just didn’t like the style of having more words than usual in your comic-ish entertainments (calling homestuck simply a comic is like comparing a thing with another thing it resembles but isn’t’ really), but I generally found the writing style to be rather well done. Hussie does a good job of evoking a characters voice. Now, he does go over the top with things once the plot starts getting heavy- you think the chatlogs are bad, wait until you read dailoglogs (yeah). I still enjoy it, and find the ponderousness of it part of its charm (and is to some extent self referential humour), but to criticism it for having lots of words is not something I would do. (Parenthesis)

      • Lord James Arthur Cthulhu III esq. (of the Windsor Cthulhus) says:

        I really think that rather than a comic, Homestuck is one of the few truly great pieces of hypertext fiction, and one of the only ones that’s garnered a significant fandom. I know Hussie has published some books, but it really can’t be reproduced in print without losing huge amounts of context, and as such I feel like it’s a pretty pure example of a medium that’s never caught on. I do still describe it as a webcomic when talking to people about it for the sake of whatever simplicity I can muster up for one of the strangest, most complicated things I like (and also for the sake of not sounding TOO ridiculously pretentious, haha), but the fact is that while it’s made up largely of sequential art, almost every panel is animated to some extent, there are long conversations that stretch on for probably up to 10-15 ‘pages’ under single panels, many panels have music, some panels are games, and it has a way of folding over and doubling back onto itself (often jumping so far back that it’s unlikely readers have a very clear memory of the events they’re revisiting). A couple of years ago, I read someone describing it as the internet’s multimedia Ulysses, haha, and that seems fitting; it’s so massive and willfully dense as to be borderline impenetrable to all but the most determined and can easily seem like utter nonsense on the surface (sometimes even to the initiated), and it’s an experiment in form and structure in storytelling. Its themes and detours into teen drama have garnered it a strong following among the young and weird, which I think only makes it seem that much less accessible for some; the further I get into my twenties the more inherently suspicious I become of anything teenagers like, haha. But for those who dig in, there’s a whole lot of hilarious wit to laugh at and deeply, fundamentally insane plot to try to unravel and a huge cast of interesting characters, many of whom are interestingly developed and many more of whom are dead (and some who are both).

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Homestuck is what I want webcomics to be. I don’t, of course, mean that I want all webcomics to be as long-winded, labyrinthine or completely barmy as it is. I mean that, as a medium, there’s so much room for experimentation in webcomics, not so much in the kind of stories you’re telling, but rather in how they’re delivered, and how the reader is involved. Homestuck’s perhaps the most “extreme” example of this, as you rightly pointed out, you’re a reader, a viewer, a listener, a player, all at once. It effectively just abandons any thought of “this is how comics are, this is how we will do it”, and I am always for that kind of experimentation.

          It doesn’t always work, of course, and it certainly doesn’t work for everyone. But when it does, oh boy. Homestuck is a joy to experience, for me, just because every single time I think it’s done absolutely everything it can with the medium – and I’ve thought that many times – it pulls something new and unexpected. The whole of the Doc Scratch arc is a standout example for me but there have been plenty of others. True, you can tell a story in a different way when you have moving pictures instead of static ones, but it doesn’t stop there. Hussie uses every last bit of space, every possibility to tell his story, and in doing so he involves the reader in a totally different way. The fourth wall takes some (very literal) abuse throughout the story, and I’ve known that to turn people off at least at first, but what’s gained from it is a sense of really, genuinely being a part of it. I’ve never made a suggestion for MSPA in my life, and only posted on the forums maybe a half-dozen times, but I still feel that way.

          And true, something can only really be ‘new’ once. Even if you twist it around, you can only do that so many times. But I don’t feel like there are many – if any – other works of fiction out there that make such good use of the internet as a medium for storytelling, so I really cannot see that kind of experimentation getting old any time soon. I don’t see that it couldn’t be applied to less over-the-top settings or styles, either. I enjoy a lot of webcomics across a variety of genres, but every now and then, I really do find myself wishing they were making more use of their unique medium.

          Ah, this is a really difficult thing for me to communicate, I just know I’ll look back at this comment later and cringe. I’m sticking to my guns here, though – whether you like the story or not, what MSPA and especially Homestuck have done is something brilliant that there should absolutely be more of.

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            Harlander says:

            One thing’s for sure – anything that can generate the amount of text seen here just describing it has to be important.

          • Graves says:

            For what it’s worth, I think I know precisely what you are trying to say. To me, that is part of what makes it as remarkable as it is. Homestuck is something that you experience. That sounds pretentious, but to me that’s an appropriate way of putting it. It’s hard to describe how it feels to someone from the outside looking in, but after you’ve delved you realize that it is something else.

      • Groove says:

        Having a huge word count is a rotten mistake in comics, yes. I hardly know anything about Homestuck so I can’t say how it applies to that, but in Sardonic’s example of Ctrl Alt Del the mis-use of the medium is disasterous. If Homestuck really is some mixed-media monster then they could easily circumvent the issue by dropping a few pages of text and accompanying it with some relevant images, but sticking to a standard comics format and having 75% of the panels full of text is just a mistake.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Ohhh yeah, gotta agree with you there. Absolutely don’t do that. (HS doesn’t)

  4. Baf says:

    I started reading Homestuck about two years ago, catching up to the updates just before the Trickster Mode arc. It took me all my spare time for about three weeks. It would probably take a month or so today — it’s been two years, but most of that was hiatus while Hussie worked on the game.

    Even without the imminent game based on it, I’d say it’s a work that’s relevant to people interested in games, because it’s heavily concerned with them, and in ways that other game-inspired works tend to be. For example, it’s one of the few works of fiction I know that does a good job of portraying the process of figuring out a game’s systems.

    Anyway, if you want to get the flavor of Homestuck without slogging through a thousand pages, my favorite example to take out of context is the Flash animation “Jade: Enter”, link to mspaintadventures.com. If you watch that, please bear in mind that to someone who had followed the entire story up to that point, everything in the video makes perfect sense, and even explains stuff.

    • April March says:

      Homestuck is one of the few webcomics that are about videogames that don’t require you to know anything about specific videogames. In fact, the only other one I can think that does that is Kid Radd. Which also explored the uniqueness of the web medium by using a lot of short animated gifs as panels. Hmmm…

  5. DXN says:

    Homestuck is epic and amazing, though given how crazy hefty it is (I think it surpassed War & Peace in length some time ago), it’s perfectly fair to be put off it though. I bounced off it a couple of times myself, but now I’ve caught the bug, I genuinely think it’s one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read.

    Super stoked and hyped for the game when it comes out!

  6. averagedog says:

    Hi, I am someone that has been reading Andrew Hussie’s comics since Bard Quest. Over the years re reading the entire comic series again and again became a huge chore. Last year, I discovered a youtube channel that’s main feature is a voice acted version of the comic series done in video format. Which means it will transition between each page and laboriously but professionally (as they get into the third act or so in my opinion) voice act each and every character. If you are someone that is more interested in the story and not necessarily the visuals (though they are still there) I whole heartedly recommend the CoLab hq channel. Here is a link to the the first homestuck video.
    link to youtube.com
    They also dubbed Ruby Quest if you are interested.

    Just FYI it is 36 HOURS of content before you reach the end of Act 5 Act 2.