Idea: In my first week of this Game a Week challenge I definitely got too caught up in graphics and the rendering of rain. So this week, I decided to back into a text-driven approach and work with Twine. I’ve played with Twine before and taught it in my Interactive Narrative class, so I know pretty much how it works but I’ve never had as much time to build things with it as I’d like. And there was a story in the back of my mind that I wanted to explore: the idea of the “Dementia Village” near Amsterdam, where residents with Alzheimer’s are intended to live “normally,” with everyone in the town–shopkeepers, restaurant staff–actually part of the care-taking facility. To me, this sounded like the stuff of nightmares, combining the paranoia and disorientation of the disease with a Truman Show-esque landscape.
What went right: I had a clear story in mind from the outset about a woman grappling with her memories of a long-absent family and the reality of the manufactured village around her. I used the cycling link macro to suggest her continual uncertainty about what she perceived and remembered, and also allowed the player to make choices through manipulating those perceptions. I envisioned something more complex, moving through a week in the village and each day unlocking more memories (or delusions?) that cause her to want to escape the village. Instead, I shortened the story to unfold over a single morning, with the reminder that this is likely an inescapable cycle.
What went wrong: Writing this was, simply, hard, particularly because I was drawing behavior from my own family’s history. It took me a while to get anchored in the story and construct enough that I had a sense of both the woman’s past and her current reality, and in trying to capture the uncertainty of her perspective things got more complicated as I progressed. I wanted to get many more variables involved than I actually did: in the end, I used the unlocking of memories to decide how much information was available to the player at any time.
What I learned: Scaling back is still good. Making text-based games is not “easier” (ok, I already knew that, but the writer’s block experience of this week was a good reminder.)
Other Games from Week Two
Mark Danger Chen‘s game is a Space 4X Coop card game this week. He’s been working on it for a while, and his reflection includes some interesting thoughts about the difference between board game and digital game design philosophies.
Melissa Peterson’s game Solution is built in Construct 2 as an educational game. It’s all about chemistry (or alchemy!), with opportunities to gather and combine elements for experiments. It’s particularly fun to put things together to make something new, with the added incentive of an “escape the mad scientist’s lab” storyline. It reminds me a little of the old Sierra Dr. Brain games, which I loved. She’s written about the game here.
Dennis Ramirez’s game for this week is an adventure game, Time Enough to Travel, built in Unity. The graphics are a fabulously pixelated throwback and he uses a cool “time travel” mechanic to allow the player to travel between one-screen challenges collecting objects in search of missing car keys. It reminds me of old school adventure games, including my all-time favorite Day of the Tentacle, and there are ninjas. All games are better with ninjas.