Directed Project 2020 – Entry #10

10 entries already!

More ramblings: I did good progress on my current ink prototype. I made up my mind about a few things:

  • In a story, I rarely design characters as blank slates, no matter the medium. I’m very cautious about blank slates. Personal suspicion is that these characters are actually white slates. If you can project absolutely anything on them, it does say something about the world they’re living in, and the kind of status they have: having the absolute freedom of being anything you want without being judged or challenged. Yes, I wish this was even possible (to design a world and characters with absolute freedom without consequences on their growth and inner selves) but it is actually something that’s out of my realm, and also not the kind of story I want to tell here.
  • I’ve been stuck playing mostly Japanese games and watching either Japanese or Korean shows these days. There are vast differences between Japanese and Korean cultures, but I do see some common thing, that’s also something I’ve felt about my own culture (being of Vietnamese descent): Much more freedom in terms of tone shifts. It’s also something that reminds me of Shakespeare’s plays. Brit TV is also less stuck in ‘one genre, one tone, one story’ and is great at mixing pure drama and pure comedy. Because the tone of these stories can shift in a second or two, I don’t feel I need that much branching or crazy amounts of choices. I already have a feeling of ‘freedom’ because I can explore different stories which are so varied in terms of tones (I’m having a blast with Yakuza 0 because of this) It brings so much movement and dynamism to the whole narrative. I never feel stuck in a story. I’m never bored. I don’t even need more than this. And it brings so much depth. I wonder why American TV and game stories are so… mono-emotional. Maybe because the ones making them are so monolingual? Ha! (Yeah Brits, I think, are maybe a tad less monolingual than Americans, because of their close proximity to other European countries. Also many of their shows are coproductions with other countries, compared to US shows.)

So in my last prototype, everything has become wacky and silly, as I really wanted from the start. I’ve come to realize that silly tutorials in JRPGs for example, with wacky jokes and overly enthusiastic NPCs trying to sell you the game’s system are actually a great thing. Because these tutorials are not trying to lie or hide about how you’re dealing with a system of rules that is most likely not fair. I think as a player you’re both more encouraged to be playful with the game’s system (hence, challenge its rules, question everything) rather than just embracing it blindly (with some weird obsession about immersion in Western games, for example). Maybe non-Western games leave the player in a more rebellious (ethical) position regarding a system of rules.

So yeah, the eBuddy app will be overly enthusiastic. As a Confidant, you will have wacky options to express yourself, and I won’t even hide the fact that most of these choices don’t really matter. But in all that goofiness and wackiness I believe trust can occur, and more surprising effects that do not rely on the usual ‘drama’ — it’s not about conflict anymore, it’s about… twisting things.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #6

I finally took the time to start a little something with Inky!

Inky Screenshot

I haven’t got very far.

The game’s entry point is a ‘tutorial’. It’s a conversation between the ‘app moderators’ (eBuddy, referring themselves as ‘we’) and the ‘Confidant’ (who just got hired and will be paired with someone right after that first conversation).

It’s showing the choice structure for the whole game:

  • ‘SEND MESSAGE’: Reveals a couple of sub-choices.
  • ‘REMAIN SILENT’: It lets the other part of the conversation say more and react to such silence.

The intent is to try to mimic how we deal with text messages usually… First decision is to say something or wait. Then choose what to say. But when you choose to say something you’re already half-way. And again, I’m obsessed with timing so what you say is less relevant than when you say it.

Like there was an earlier version of the conversation I wrote that went as follows:

  • The app prompts the Confidant to say ‘Hi!’ to confirm that the app is working.
  • The Confidant can remain silent more than once. After several ‘remain silent’ the Moderators would say something like ‘You’re messing with us aren’t you?’
  • The Confidant can still send a message to say ‘Hello! I can’t wait to know more!’ after and the Moderators would answer right away ‘Aren’t you the chatty type?’

So the Aren’t you the chatty type? works in all contexts as a direct answer to the long Hello! but if the Confidant remained silent before and had the ‘Messing with us’ answer, then the Aren’t you the chatty type? becomes ironical.

In the end I removed the ‘You’re messing with us aren’t you?’ because I wondered if the Moderators should be a tad more neutral in tone… but as I’m writing this journal, yeah, in fact I’m bringing back that line. It gives more flavor to the Moderators. And why not after all?

I’ve created 3 different ‘trustState’ at the moment — things I’ll use to create mini-variants in the text. I vaguely thought of assigning different adjectives to the different characters in the story, but in the end, these trustState are always contextual and conversational. They’re more tied to a situation than being a specific attribute to a character, so I think it’s fine to switch between them as things go. I’ll probably track other states for other things (based on characters’ memories of previous answers) but we’ll see. I’m not even sure I need that. That’s the fun part of writing to me — a same sentence can have so many different meanings depending on what was said before (like the Aren’t you the chatty type) and most of the time I don’t even need to emphasize that — the players will make these links themselves. The challenge is to write things that are elusive enough to be interpreted in different ways, while not writing something too obscure or vague that would lead to various misunderstandings.

It’s also what’s implied and intended with the list of ‘people’s types’: At some point the Confidant is prompt to list all the types of people they’re comfortable to talk to, especially in terms of sexual orientations. I don’t plant to track any of these types at all to alter who the Confidant will be talking to, because the Confidant should not be able to choose who they’re talking to (it’s not the point of the app). At this point, the prompt is more about a self-statement, self-reflection for the Confidant. From the Moderators’ perspective, it’s just a list of the people who trust the app enough to use it, and the Confidant should be made aware of that. But the Entruster (the person who the Confidant will be talking to) has their own identity and nothing from the Confidant’s input will change that.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #2

I’ve been reading Michel Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir (Discipline and Punish in English — it’s interesting how ‘surveiller’ has been translated by ‘discipline’), mostly out of curiosity after seeing it mentioned so many times in various conversations. I’m reading it in French because I’m a French speaker. It’s quite enjoyable to read — and I’ve been enjoying reading more philosophical texts over the past months thanks to my PhD.

Questions that arose while I was reading (I’ve only read 1/4 of the book, I haven’t reached the Panopticon’s description yet):

  • Are video games elaborate systems of punishment? => Can you design a reward system without also designing a punishment system? (Like, the absence of reward is a punishment)

I usually hate that, games punishing me for not doing the ‘right thing’ according to the game’s system. Or the game judging me I’m not good enough yet to ‘enjoy the game’ yet (I don’t like competitive games). I don’t believe in meritocracy anymore anyway. It is quite a challenge when writing a story, and even more so when writing stories for games. I hate these stories where only the ‘most deserving’ get to learn something. The whole narrative about ‘you have to go through pain to make it worth it’ is boring me to death.

It’s not to say that there shouldn’t be any depiction of pain or endeavors or struggles in games. I’m just not a fan at all of the narratives highlighting things that need to be overcome. Anything with ‘over’ in it (overpower, overachiever) kind of makes me grind my teeth.

  • Is the playable character necessary a ‘monster’ in game stories? => Monster in a sense that they do not obey the same laws as any other character in a game. Could that inherent duality of playable characters — of being able to coexist in two realities (the player’s world, and the character’s world) be seen as somewhat ‘monstrous’ by other characters?

When ‘non-playable’ characters are aware of that duality, usually it’s through tutorial texts and it’s not seen as an issue at all (with a NPC telling you ‘press A to kill that guy’ with the subtext of ‘and yeah as a character I’m perfectly comfortable with interacting with an entity that has agency in my reality and outside my reality’). Sometimes non-playable characters have a vague hunch, and in this case the playable character is seen as godlike (the chosen one, the one who has a power no one else has, the one that has to make all the decisions).

I mean, if I realized that I was a non-playable character in a game, I would totally freak out if I suddenly had to interact with the playable character.


Not exactly related but somewhat a bit: Dramatic Irony in game narrative

I’ve rewatched recently Six Feet Under and have been amazed once more by the level of depth all characters have in that show. At some point all characters lie to each other (not only about major plot points but also for more mundane things, they obfuscate or remain elusive on many aspects of their inner lives). Also there’s a lot of dramatic irony.

Dramatic irony is a super powerful tool. It’s usually when the audience is aware of something that some of the characters in place do not know (yet). In great stories, it’s often layered — one character in a scene knows something that the audience also knows but another character doesn’t know at all, and everything has a double meaning.

I don’t have many examples in games where you have such intricacies between characters in a game (regardless if they’re playable or not). Or the playable character knows almost everything, has access to as much information as they need to progress (transparency being a criteria for fairness) and almost at any time.

To have dramatic irony you need characters who are capable of memorizing something — so many times most NPCs don’t have memories of their own, they don’t have any tools to collect information and be able to use it for their own good. At best they have intricate backstories with other game characters (besides the playable one) — which makes for cool side quests in the best case scenario. Unless the game’s narrative is fully focused on that — on making a NPC remember things the playable character does and react to them (but again, it’s not about agency — it’s more reaction than taking actions, it’s about making things more interesting for the playable character).

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design
Working on a personal project

Working on a personal project

People in my family don’t talk about what’s wrong or the bad things that happened to them. They hate to complain. They are survivors. There’s this common cliché about never losing face in ‘Asian culture’. Well, I can’t speak for an entire continent, but my family holds this concept very, very highly.

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Posted by Galejade in Blog, Devblog

Heck why?

Some words about who I am and why I started this crazy project on my own.

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Posted by Galejade in Blog, Devblog