Some words about who I am and why I started this crazy project on my own.
I’ve been lurking on the Internet for the past 18 years. Made my first website when I was 12 using WebExpert, self-teaching myself HTML and bits of CSS to make a girly webzine about romantic relationships and make-up (at a time when I had none of these, except for my fake persona on obscure chatrooms). I’ve also made countless websites and blogs about silly and weird stuff, from Harry Potter’s RPG forums with emo characters to French interactive poems.
Internet is a place where death threats and odes to bizarreness are everywhere, but it still helped me grow as an adult, and so did video games.
Like many people out there in the game industry, I’ve had my ups and downs, constantly looking for more creative freedom. Honestly, I feel lucky I don’t care much about money or fame; all I want is to make something that’s worth people’s time.
After making a few experiments to learn about game dev tools and very basic programming, I started to think about making a ‘real’ game. I don’t exactly remember when and why I got this idea a few years back, but it all started with a very presumptuous premise: What if I could make a game with two different timelines? The past would be GTA in a war setting and the present more like The Sims? Everything would feel empty in the present compared to the intensity of war? And you’d be able to switch between the two timelines anytime and make choices that would influence the other— yadayadayada you’re gonna get killed by your own ambition, kiddo. Start scoping appropriately, dammit.
I dug deeper, made some research (always my favorite part). I slowly discovered what I truly wanted to write/design about — the trauma of a survivor, who has to live with their memories and the deaths they’ve seen. How much do you let your past define your present self? Somehow, this question has been quite an obsessive theme in most of my writing.
The most difficult constraint I’ve set myself is to give the player as much agency as possible. I’m usually not a great fan of flashbacks in movies or games. I believe the past of a character should arise only if it has a narrative/concrete consequence in the present time. There’s also this thing that’s always been bugging me in games like Heavy Rain or the Telltale games: Yes, you can make choices at certain points of the story, and devs use clever tricks to keep you on a certain path. But making a choice is not only about what you do, it’s also about when. If you think about it, the timing when you say “I love you” to someone in romantic relationships is often critical. If you say it too early, you’re gonna sound crazy or it may ruin everything; if you wait for too long though, you may lose your shot. In both cases you’re saying the same thing; it’s the context that changes its meaning and consequence.
With that in mind I had sort of a weird epiphany — and I got scared, because the narrative implications are huge. Yes, people should be able to make narrative choices when they want. As a longtime fan of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, I believe their communication system is much closer to what you do when you actually make a choice of saying something or not — you try to say hello and you see if somebody responds, and you can try anywhere, anytime. This has been a core pillar of The War in Him: You have a set of choices, and you’re able to make them anytime you want… well, in the constraints of a narrative unit. I call them scenes.
Gosh, I’m really too wordy already. I’ll go into more details next time about how things could work.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts and questions about the project 🙂