Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim is a dating sim/visual novel released on New Years’ Eve, 2017. In Tusks, the player takes on the role of an orc that joins a group of other orcs as they travel across a semi-historical, semi-mythical Scotland — the player talks to and can form relationships with each of the orcs in the group, finding out more about them, their experiences, and their lives.
Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim can be downloaded at itch.io. The Tusks Tumblr page chronicles some of the experiences of working on Tusks, answers questions from players, and also tracks work similar to Tusks.
Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim focuses on a newly-formed family of gay orcs who are travelling from the annual orcish assembly to the Highlands of a semi-mythical Scotland. Along the way, the player can begin friendships and relationships with the various members of the group, including a selkie a long way away from home, a gentle-giant orcish warrior, and a polyamorous trio of orc chieftains.
Tusks is a visual novel, similar to interactive text adventures or gamebooks, where the player is presented with story and dialogue in text form, accompanied by pictures of characters and backgrounds. The player is also presented with choices during the story than can change the following scenes and dialogue, as well as affecting the outcome of certain scenes or changing other character’s relationships to the player character.
Tusks has almost 120,000 words of dialogue, story, interaction and narrative, spread across multiple different routes, exclusive scenes and interactions intended for replayability and personalisation through the game.
- Malgóm, one of the group’s three chiefs, with an unusual power.
- Sithig, a boar-like grise concerned with the sensual and aesthetic.
- Brocgin, an orcish scholar adapted to city life.
- Ror, the second of the group’s three chiefs, and a pragmatic leader.
- Aed, a human whose well-meaning enthusiasm can get out of hand.
- Cennedig, the third of the three chiefs of the group, heading north to ‘find his home’.
- Domnol, an orcish courier, who shows up sometime after the group begin their journey.
- Ggorom, a selkie returning to his home under the sea, near the Outer Hebrides.
- Ferdag, a warrior; effective in a fight, but keen on finding peaceful methods of resolving conflict, too.
- Adult Content Filter: At the beginning of the game (or in the Settings menu), the player can toggle adult content on or off; this decision affects the text and art of the game. This can also affect gameplay: for example, Sithig, a character who most enjoys frank discussions of sexuality, will have little to say to the player character if the adult content filter is turned on.
- NPC Autonomy: At the beginning of the game (or in the Settings menu), the player can choose to enable NPC Autonomy, where some decisions that are normally determined by the player’s choices are instead decided by the characters, such as the group of orcs choosing which path to take on a certain day in-game. This also makes it possible for other characters to rebuke romantic advances (even if they have a strong relationship with the player character) or vote against suggestions the player makes.
Some small game design choices in the game’s “duties” system and interactions with the three chiefs are discussed in The Whispering #1.
Tusks was initially conceived during NaNoRenO 2015, a game jam taking place throughout the month of March where contestants were challenged to develop a visual novel. By the time the jam had finished, Tusks had grown from a short game about interacting with orcs as romantic interests to an expansive narrative exploring outsider status, game tropes, and identity.
Tusks was released on New Years’ Eve 2017, with the full main story. There will be further updates to complete individual character stories and for bugfixes and changes.
- Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim on itch.io [Download]
- Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim Blog on Tumblr [Main Blog]
- There’s A Gay Orc Dating Sim, And It’s Surprisingly Smart on Kotaku [Feature]
- “Grrrrrrr, time to date some hot and manly orcs” on Destructoid [Feature]
- “Try gay orc dating with Tusks: The Orc Dating Sim” on Offworld [Feature]
- Tusks: The Sensitive Side of Sexy Gay Orcs by Matt Baume [Youtube Video]
- “I Really Want To Play This Game About Gay Orcs Going On Dates” on Kotaku AU [Feature]
- “Orcs are the Immediate Future of Gay Gaming Culture” on Vice [Interview]
- “Shadow of Mordor has nothing on the orcs in this dating sim” on Venturebeat [Interview]
- “Tusks will tackle the homoerotic limitations we’ve imposed on orc lore” on KillScreen [Interview]
- “Get Ready For Tusks – The Big Gay Orc Dating Sim” on Silicon Era [Feature]
- “New Video Game Sets Out to Prove Mythical Monsters Need (Same-Sex) Love Too” on Advocate [Feature]