• Roger Matthews

09/26/19 Finalizing story outline


I continued looking at The Chinese Room's game Korsakovia this week.

I watched a GDC talk by Ken Levine (Bioshock's creative director) on "Narrative Legos" - ways to tell stories differently in games. Instead of dialogue options or a set storyline, all story events are generated based on a system that tracks the actions of the player.

It was an interesting talk, but is way out of my scope. It seems his company has about 17 currently. It did make me think about if the time of impactful small (1-3 person team) narrative indie games is over, and as the indie world gets larger, innovation in storytelling will come from larger projects.


This week I finalized my story outline. I didn't have as much time as I wanted to learn Unreal Engine this week, but I started a Blueprint centric tutorial that I intend on finishing this week so I can create basic gameplay interactions.

Conceptually, I am sticking with the "Alice in Wonderland on a subway" concept, and re-familiarized myself with the book via Sparknotes summaries. The project's goal is still, ultimately, to experiment with ways to tell a story through interactive audio and world building.

Story outline

Before the game begins, you are riding the subway and take a nap. While you’re asleep, the entire train crashes, and you suffer a concussion, which leads to a coma. In your dream state, time blurs from day to day.

[Based on reading articles like this, my idea is to play with the ambiguous dream state of a coma - "... many people who have recovered from comas report dreams into which something of the outside world penetrated. Others recall nightmares that seemed to go on and on. ]

You dream of an empty subway where time is frozen. You see digital clocks counting forward at very high speeds, but learn later that the clocks are an illusion to trick you into thinking time is moving forward. You explore the subway and hear audio coming from a few sources

- Strange announcements coming from the train's announcement system

- Voicemails left on phones you come across

- Unseen people speaking directly in your ear that you cannot see (people from your waking life speaking to you in the hospital)

The audio and environment lead you to a tea party [TBD where you see anything or just hear the tea party] You discover the party is endless, and that time is frozen. [TBD again on how to implement this] It turns out in this world, Time is an actual person, and has felt wronged by the party goers. Until the situation is resolved, time will remain frozen.

Your goal is to un-freeze time in the dream world and escape the dream. On a larger scale, the idea is to play from the perspective of a character slowly recovering from a coma. I don't intend on getting too explicit on the coma recovery component, as I want the experience to mainly be dreamlike and ambiguous, but I want that to be the framework that informs the universe.


My immediate benchmark for the next two weeks is to have something very simple playable, where you can walk around the subway and trigger audio to play by picking up a phone. If you walk across a room trigger (volume), it will trigger an end state that ends the game.

I have stretch goals in mind, but I really want to feel comfortable with Unreal and have something playable before I do much more work on the project.

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