11/7/19 Paper outline + Update
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
I fixed the biggest problems holding me back in Unreal! Hooray! And am now free to start implementing a design. To keep things simple, I wrote out this basic prototype idea -
One prototype area with three types of audio objects.
- You start in the subway, where you hear a beeping sound, like a device in a hospital. You discover the sound is coming from a phone. You pick it up, and hear a voice talk to you, and walk out into a room with a few interactable objects - multiple cell phones, wall intercoms, and analogue phones. Listening to the analogue phones incrementally brightens up subway. When it is fully bright, it again makes a beeping sound like a hospital machine. Walking into bright subway car brightens to pure white on a timer. When it becomes pure white, you hear the train starting to move away.
Each type of audio device tells a different story
- The cell phones are calls from survivors of a subway crash further away. They are trying to guide you where to go to join them in escaping the crash site. However, their instructions don't always make sense! And get you lost.
- The wall intercoms connect you to a doctor at a hospital analyzing a coma patient, describing the patient's condition. Breaking the fourth wall, the doctor tells you the cell phone calls are lies, and they are telling you to go the wrong way. The doctor gives his own directions.
- The old analogue phone plays excerpts of a narrator reading Alice in Wonderland. These are the audio cues that need to be collected, because they inform the player of the concept that the world they are experiencing is an illusion, and it can only be conquered by realizing that, with quotes like "Everyone here is mad, including you". It is all nonsense with nothing to be made of.
Stretch goal! I want to build out more of a level where you are guided toward a "tea party" with various animals 'partying' on a subway train (such as the screaming pig!), and navigating that space leads you towards getting the final clues. Will revisit later after prototype.
Super stretch goal
Incorporating the 'hell' area. The further down the subway you go, the scarier it gets. If you get stuck, you have to restart the game. This is more experimental, so want to figure out later.
Paper focus - Finding ways to tell stories that are unique to the interactive medium.
- Start with John Carmack's 1990s quote“Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.”
- Counter that *all* components of a game are potentially storytelling, including gameplay in a game like Carmack's DOOM. Not just a dialogue heavy cut scene. Good narrative design is tying together the entire game experience into a collective narrative.
- Arrive at main argument that in order for games to tell stories, they must make think of stories that can *only* be told in the interactive medium. What can a game offer that a book or film cannot?
- Focus on the trajectory of The Chinese Room and their success with the aforementioned Dear Esther. Their work was a series of academic experiments pushing the boundaries of game design, but the results ended up leading to critical acclaim. Go into their other projects such as Korsakovia and Amnesia: Machine for Pigs to tie together the over arching goals of their projects.
- End on a new quote from John Carmack on Twitter - "
“[My old porn quote] still pops up, but I caveat it today -- there are undeniably lots of games where the story is the entire point, and they can be done well. I do still hold that the most important games have been all about the play, not the story.”
- Acknowledge this is in true in the sense that for any story driven game to exist, it must first have a well made engine. The gameplay of Super Mario Bros, DooM, etc might be the most influential, but important is up for debate, as our labels and boundaries shift between games, art, experiences, etc. The subversion of expectations of what a game is, can be just as important as creating a solid gameplay driven experience.
- Write closing thoughts in response.