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This idea was originally inspired by playing Hotel Dusk on the DS.… - Orphaned Pixels [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Orphaned Pixels

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[Jul. 11th, 2007|01:37 pm]
Orphaned Pixels

orphanedpixels

[breibrei]
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This idea was originally inspired by playing Hotel Dusk on the DS. Basically, during conversations in Hotel Dusk, you occasionally have choices between two things you can say, however, inevitably the choice is essentially between being a wanker and being a bastard. Presumably the justification for this is that that's the character you're playing and that if his character was different, then it would change the story.

So what if it did?

Description
Well, I say description... Describing things isn't really something I'm good at. Examples however, I like. I'll probably be describing a lot of my ideas here purely with examples.
For this idea I'll take as an example a situation that occurs near the start of Dreamfall. You get a phone call from your ex, asking to meet with you and get a choice to accept or decline. Now this kind of situation always bugs me, because I don't feel I have enough information to make the character's choice. Do they still get on well? Is this a strange thing for him to ask her? Does she want to see him? has it been a long time since she heard from him? I don't know!
Maybe most people don't find this a problem, but I imagine the sort of people who do role-playing and such would probably share my view on this. Okay, so it doesn't really affect the game, but it's going to bug the hell out of me later if later on in the game when I look back, that's going to have been a really out of character thing to have done.

So what's the solution? Obviously we can't provide the player with the entire history of the relationship before posing the question, so the question is, how do we fix this? and my answer would be to reverse things. Instead of asking the player for an answer that depends on the situation, have a situation that depends on the answer, thus retroactively writing the back story.

If you accept, then maybe they just went out for a few weeks and decided they were better off as friends. If you decline, then maybe they went out for a year, got engaged and then she found out he'd been cheating on her.

That's a very finite example; I think most things should depend on a combination of multiple things. For example, say there's a necklace on the desk in your room and you examine it, which brings up the following dialog:

(That's...
> ...the necklace my ex got me in Venice)
- ...my Grandmother's old necklace)
- ...an old necklace I got from somewhere or other)

Normally in games when a branch in the story occurs, it tends to by very much "when choice X occurred, if you chose A then this happens, if you chose B then this happens". Clearly, that's not happening here. The choice doesn't affect a single value in different ways, but different values (and possibly multiple different values) in different ways.
Also, the effect the choice has may itself depend on other choices, made before and possibly even afterwards. For example, if later on you choose to wear that necklace and your ex gave it to you, then that suggests that you still have a vaguely positive relationship with your ex.

But what if its already been established through other choices that the relationship didn't end well? Maybe the option to wear it wouldn't appear. It's certainly an option, and I think that later options changing or disappearing based on your choices is certainly something that should be used, however it could also be that wearing the necklace would boost your "still has feelings for her ex" value, or your "values looks over emotional significance" value. Maybe even the decision of which of those two values the choice boosts depends on further actions you make later on.

Expansion
I think flashbacks would work really well with this, just to emphasise the way that the player's choices effect the entire story. And of course with this mechanic in place, it actually makes sense for you to be able to control your actions in flashbacks!

There's a few other things I could say about this idea and how to present certain things, but mostly they can be summarised by "you've played Fahrenheit, right?".

linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: captain_magpie
2007-07-13 10:31 am (UTC)
This is a cool idea, if incredibly bizarre. It would work best in a "zOMG I have amnesia what the hell" storyline, because essentially you're defining both your past and your future at all times. It would be a bastard to actually code up, but it would be kinda cool.

Both your games thus far involve multiple possible presents (as in past - future, not to be opened). Is that because you hatehate not knowing everything about the dude you start off as?
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[User Picture]From: breibrei
2007-07-13 07:37 pm (UTC)
Hmm, interesting question. I don't think it's so much not knowing everything about the character that I dislike, because I actually like discovering the character I'm playing and learning who they are. It's being asked questions that I don't have the character knowledge to answer that I dislike. It's like in Ad's Spycraft game, when I need to do my con-artist thing and I can't, because I don't know how to manipulate people, but in character I'm supposed to be really good at it, so it feels like I'm killing the character.

So actually, I'm not convinced that the amnesia thing works with that, or rather, it feels unnecessary, because if the character has amnesia then you already know as much, or as little, as they do. In fact, in that situation, because there's less of a distinction between your actions reflecting a past that now is what has always happened and them actually having an effect on the past, it almost feels like you're putting the "defining the story" mechanic on the far side of the fourth wall which is a little bizarre.

Also, I don't really see where the complication would come in coding it. Writing it, now that would be a problem, because you'd have to work out all the criteria for the different situations, and work out how the different situations interact with each other, and the storyline. The dialog in particular, would be particularly problematic I imagine, because a lot of the time you'd get conversations where every line depends on various different criteria and yet still has to join up with the preceding and following lines of dialog, which each depend on their own criteria and the way in which the plot has developed so far. I suppose defining the different conversational threads and applying the criteria to each node could present a challenge on the coding side, but it still doesn't compare to the actual scripting, in my opinion.
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