Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

The first project: Robot game.

One of the major problems - Ok, the major problem - I have experienced with game development is the design is huge. The scope is just absurd for the time and personnel. With that in mind, this project aims to keep the scale small in terms of art, narrative, and gameplay.

Robot game is an interactive drama. The art is limited to the theater and stage, including various props. The narrative is limited to 3 characters in 1 scene. The gameplay is limited to the conversations and object interaction. ...That's it. Nothing crazy. I am absolutely certain that somethings will arise from some dark recesses; but with any luck, these somethings won't have teeth.

In order to explain the project, I am going to use the dramatistic pentad. The 5 elements of the pentad are: agent, agency, act, scene, and purpose. These elements can be used to explain any narrative situation, any communicative exchange. For example, Colonel Mustard (agent) killed (act) Professor Plum in the Conservatory (scene) with the candlestick (agency) - because he slept with Miss Scarlet (purpose). ...Yes, that was just a rhetorical analysis of a game of Clue.

Literally, the game occurs on a stage - it's a performance. The theatre house is a somewhat aged, but not derelict, building that was bright and colorful, almost royal, in its heyday.

The scene, on the other hand, occurs in a cyber-punk noir universe. Pulling from the 1920s and 1950s as inspiration for architecture and character appearance, the world aims to be a little dark and plenty ironic.

Scene 1 occurs in Dr. Eva Gray's laboratory. Part research facility, part studio apartment, Eva spends the greater portion of her waking, sober life in this room.

There are 3 characters. Each character follows a life script to its tragic end.
  • Dr. Eva Gray - the No Mind script
    A brilliant scientist who privately believes she is surrounded by idiots. But publicly has no confidence to defend her logical and pessimistic perspective. Because of this outlook, she seeks the wisdom of her own solitude.

  • Addison - the No Love script
    An androgynous automaton that acts as Eva's lab assistant. Unlike other automatons, an "intervention" on Eva's part caused it to become emotionally aware. However, emotionally aware automatons are prohibited in the society, which directly conflicts with its new curiosity. Once a subject is learned, Addison is extremely threatened by change - so much so that action will follow to maintain the previous order.

  • Jacob Ward - the No Joy script
    A writer who is visibly self-destructive, commonly frequenting soma dens and pursuing emotionally vacant sex. After a night of indulgences, he awoke next to Eva. That morning was the first guiltless morning-after experienced, and since then has become infatuated with her.
For this first scene, the player plays as Eva Gray. And if I am so lucky that people enjoy Scene 1 and I'm able to continue, players eventually play as every character.

...I'll have to figure this one out.

As Eva Gray, the player has 2 basic interactions: with characters and with objects.

The player interacts with characters through conversation. Conversations are not the standard dialog-trees, where the player can exhaust all options. Instead, conversations constantly push forward through the drama. Of course, the player is ocassionally prompted with a dialog options of how to respond to the NPC. But this choice carries with it a reputation value (respect, trust, adoration), which determines future dialog options being either locked or unlocked. For example, if the Eva (player) acts in such a way towards Jacob to cause him to distrust her, then he will not be willing to tell Eva his secrets in future exchanges.

Interacting with objects in the environment effect the PC's reputation toward the NPCs. This system is just being further exploited through the environment, allowing NPCs to be responsive to player actions. It's similar to the "Mental Health" mechanic in Indigo Prophecy.

Before the scene begins, Jacob Ward learned that Addison is emotionally aware. Jacob desperate to again gain the fleeting approval of society aims to expose the emotionally stable Addison. Jacob questions Eva (player). The player must convince Jacob to not pursue his interests. How this persuasion is done - hostility, feminine wiles, denial - depends upon player choice.

The goal is to have Scene 1 completed by September 1. It will be free-to-play.

1 comment:

  1. hi hi

    If you're looking for some agency for Eva Gray to use in the scene, I can think of at least a few.

    • Notes: What scientist doesn't keep notes? A scientist who lacks confidence in herself would especially want to be checking and double checking her notes, even if she clearly already knows the answer. Because she doesn't have enough trust in herself, she might need to check her notes even when the answer might seem obvious.

    • Torque Wrench: The favored tool with the smooth action that never jams up or breaks down. A person who lacks confidence might be acutely aware of their own inadequacies and the ways they make up for those inadequacies through technology.

    • Glasses: A senseless person can act in the world, but without clear input one cannot interact.

    • A Book: A person who seeks solitude may well need something to keep them engaged in the absence of company. Not really agency for the player but could be agency for a third party. Maybe they hid it in order to bargain for a favor.

    On the topic of self trust, are the characters going to have reputation values with themselves?

    Karl Hauber