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Post-Modern Society story I'm writing


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#1 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:17 PM

I am in the process of working on a couple game ideas and I was hoping to get a little feedback on this one. I'm pretty new at writing for video games, but I am extremely excited about the process and trying to get into the industry (I am a recent, jobless, graduate, from Art School). Anyways, this is my first post, this is one of my first video game concepts, and if I could get some feedback or criticism on it, that would be amazing! Thanks!

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"Locked in a small apartment, just my 80 year old father and me, a 24 year old college graduate that decided to make it in the big city. Now, we're trapped in this shitty little 4th floor apartment with no hopes of escape. Society has collapsed, bandits are roaming the streets, and we are forced to hide. My father complains about how he is holding me back and that I will die because of him. I've caught him trying to take my gun a couple times, so he could kill himself. At night, I sit by the front door to guard it, not honestly thinking I'll be able to if someone comes. Sometimes I can hear him crying from the bedroom. I know what he's thinking about; I miss mom too. Some days I go scavenging for supplies, leaving him in the apartment on his own and I try to ignore my fears of returning to find him dead. Staying alert while sneaking around a city is hard enough when you're malnourished and sleep deprived. Why do we do this? Is living in this hell really worth what we're going through? No, but giving up is not an option either. We've got to do the best we can to survive, wait for a rescue, and see mom again."


Game-type: Sandbox RPG; I want the vast majority of decisions to fall on the player in order to immerse themselves as much into the role of the son as possible. This is meant to be a very emotionally deep storyline that is hard to handle, so the more the player is immersed into the situation, the better.

Plot: The main character is tasked with keeping his elderly father alive and safe during a post-government society. Every decision made is one that is extremely emotionally difficult for the main character. Every aspect of surviving in desolate city should be taken into consideration (barricading the door and windows, scavenging for supplies, getting rest, making weapons, etc.).

Mechanics: I want every decision made to be something that could not work, so there is always a chance of failure. (Example: If you decide to go scavenging for supplies across the city you could be gone for a while and by the time you return the secondary character could be dead, completely changing the direction that the game would take.) Outside of this, there should be a sense of resourcefulness that comes into play, such as breaking down a table to use the legs as clubs or something to that effect. Also, I want the characters' story to come through as the game is played, instead of putting all the cards on the table at the beginning. So, as you move through the storyline you chose, you learn some things and don't learn others as they come up in a more natural fashion, through events and conversations.

Combat style: Dependant on how the player wants to handle situations. There could be opportunities for guns, but there may be limited ammo and they may attract a lot of unwanted attention. This is where scavenging through other apartments, breaking chairs or tables, etc. comes in to make melee weapons. There is also the possibility for hand-to-hand combat, when weapons aren't accessible.

Setting: A large city. I would prefer it stay unnamed to get away from cultural ties that are attached to each city. Something large and New York/Philly-esque. However, the majority of the game would be played from the inside of this one old brick apartment building. Old peeling wall-paper, wooden steps, thick wooden doors, fire escapes, the works.

Main character: Mid-to-early 20s, fresh out of school and into the city. I'm trying to keep everything very neutral right now and stay away from race, sexual orientation, etc., so I can focus on the core elements and a solid foundation, for now. A vague description of him would probably be; 6 ft tall, 160-170 lbs, possible short beard or scruff, no tattoos, piercings, or anything that is overtly noticeable.

Secondary character: Late 70s - 80 years old man that is fairly feeble. I see him as a man that has a hard time moving around a lot and possibly has heart or lung issues. General description would probably be; 5'6 ft tall, 150-160 lbs, bald spot, mustache or beginning of a beard.

Enemy characters: Tattered clothed people of all types, from full grown men to small children. Some are travelers that may or may not be trusted, some are obvious bandits with guns and bulletproof vests. This category is fairly predictable as far as the equipment carried. One thing that I would like to be different about them is that they have plans that are carried out. Such as, searching through all the buildings down one street, then moving a block over. May have a large truck or something they drive around to carry off supplies and such.

Allied characters: I would eventually like there to be a chance where bands of x-military or cops come through to disband bandits and such. This could be a limited chance for rescue that the player would have to knowingly search and wait for. They would be in tattered versions of their uniforms with bulletproof vests, guns, possibly in military vehicles or cop cars.

----------------------------------------------------

The first paragraph is a short, introduction, foundation I'm trying to use. I know it seems kind of thrown together, but I'm trying to have any narration of the story come from the main character and seem as sleep deprived rambling (not a cop-out, I swear). I'm pulling my inspiration from The Road, but with opposite character roles and without the romanticized narration.

If there are any questions or concerns, I'm more than happy to answer or reply to them! Otherwise, any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated!

Sponsor:

#2 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3420

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:19 AM

  • The main character is tasked with keeping his elderly father alive and safe during a post-government society. Every decision made is one that is extremely emotionally difficult for the main character.
  • If you decide to go scavenging for supplies across the city you could be gone for a while and by the time you return the secondary character could be dead, completely changing the direction that the game would take.
The contradiction in these two points concerns me. If I am to play a game where I know RNG can ultimately affect my purpose with no recourse to my having done everything possible to avoid a negative outcome. I might revert to an earlier save thus in effect editing your storyline. On the other hand "The Road" from which you take inspiration is in itself a case where hope has gone. If you can mesh that theme well i.e. it doesn't matter how much you struggle you will still lose, then I withdraw my objection to the contradiction.

I should also point out that if an option in a post-apocalyptic world affords you the freedom to "accidentally" let your old man get eaten by cannibals thus freeing you of your "burden" but making survival a lot easier. You may well find many of your game players possessing a patricidal inclination. There must be a reason more than simply being his father (especially a suicidal one) to keep him alive. Although many people did get upset when they had to kill their "weighted companion cube".

#3 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 10:05 PM

Agreed, gamers can be pretty cold-blooded. Maybe your character has a happiness / sanity meter. Things like letting someone die impact that meter, significantly if you know them well.

#4 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:22 AM

The contradiction in that point is something that I was hoping would have more of an impact on the decision making that would be done and make it more of a struggle, so you couldn't be gone for too long or something to that effect. I didn't take into account the ruthlessness of today's gamers though, so that kind of dismantles that idea, unless I can think of some negative action that can come from the father dying.

The only options that come to mind right now are :
1 - let the player decide to kill supporting character without any consequence other than an alternate ending
2 - put some type of negative reinforcement for losing the secondary character (whether it's a happiness/sanity meter, a huge removal of xp or skill points if that's a part of the game, or something similar/combination)
3 - make the secondary character's role a shorter part int he game, such as only the first half
4 - have a fixed storyline that prevents the father from dying

Well, come to think of it, the player would also be losing their home and all of their supplies, along with the secondary character, if the apartment was attacked while gone. That would mean they would have to find somewhere else to stay, gather new supplies, make new weapons and defenses, and then possibly have some type of negative effect applied to their character. Which would end up pushing the player further behind, but in an easier position and alternate ending. Personally, if I had to do all of that work again in a video game I would be sufficiently angry, so maybe that would be enough? Anything involving the secondary character killing himself or the player trying to kill them could just not be possible, since the main character isn't suppose to see that as a possibility anyway.

When it comes to the actual HUD design or game layout, I'm trying to stay away from happiness/sanity meters and HP/ammo bars, etc.. I really want the mentality of the characters to come through their actions and things like ammo to be something the player keeps up with or has in an inventory list in the game. I feel like having meters and gauges in a game is just too easy of a go-to for a solution and removes the player from the experience, to an extent. Not that it's a bad thing, but I don't feel like it would work in this situation. I guess I'm just trying to make things harder on myself and reinvent the wheel while I'm at it...

#5 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3420

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:11 PM

Getting beyond the fact that it is a game, how realistic do you seek your setting to be? In a collapsed society I would not necessarily want to situate myself within an apartment block. Too many uncontrolled factors i.e. essential services such as water would fail, electricity has probably already failed and escape routes in the event of an attack are limited (meaning you have to descend to escape (unless of course you live on the ground floor)).

Again I do think you need to give an ingame value to the father figure. Perhaps make him less frail but physically damaged so that his function persay is to act as the defender of your sanctuary or some role that brings value. Oh and if the father is 80 years old then kudos to him for having a kid at 56 :)

What interests me most though is this. What is your end point of the game? Rescue, continued survival till you die, or another alternative? Is their hope or will you remain with the theme from your inspiration and take away all hope.

#6 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:42 PM

Well, as realistic as possible, but within the confines of the established foundation of the storyline. I've thought about the power and water issues that would come into play, but in reality someone may not use those anyways in fear of attracting unwanted attention, so instead if becomes something that needs some type of resourcefulness to manage (such as cooking food over a fire in different locations and finding running water somewhere else). As for an escape, that wouldn't really be an option with the secondary character, but could be done. I guess the more I think about it, the more the main character's duty is to stay alive and protect the secondary character until the very end. If that means they need to move buildings, they can do that, but it would mean making sacrifices and risk being found.

Yeah, it pushes the boundaries of the characters' ages, but I'm trying to base as much as possible on my life, so I can relate to the story more and keep it as truthful as possible (I turn 24 in July and my dad would have turned 80 in March). As for the frailty of the character, that's something that has been bothering me a bit. That's probably the Achilles of that character and it bothers me. If I make him too self-sufficient, then it's easier to leave him. If I make him too weak, he's too much of a burden. I think my solution to this is to make him intellectually powerful, with some type of engineering experience or architectural experience that would help the main character make weapons or defenses or navigate buildings to find hiding spots and such. Also, he won't be so feeble that he can't walk across a room or something of that nature. My idea for him is to have the strength to walk half a mile/a mile before needing a break.

My idea for this game is to be something based on hope, but with no promises of such faith. The player should feel like there is some type of end resolve that could come, but whether they make it there or not is up-in-the-air. I plan on writing multiple storylines that lead to both characters dying, secondary character dying, the main character dying to save the secondary, both living and making it to a military outpost, one or both characters finding a convoy that leads them home and the adventure along that. There will be some resolve, but it will most likely not be very promising. Very much trying to stick with the hopelessness from an outsider's perspective, but with hope still alive in the characters.

#7 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 21159

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:07 PM

Sounds interesting. My only comment is that there is too large an age gap between the father and the son (Something Stormynature mentioned as well).
Certainly it's possible for him to have a son at 60 years of age, and more extreme age gaps have occurred before, but because it's not too common, it might be a slight immersion break.
If you up your main character's age slightly, making him closer to 30 than 20 (For example, 27 or something), and you lower the father's age slightly, making him closer to 70 then 80 (such as 73 or 74), that's a much more reasonable gap of age (73 - 27 = 46 year age gap). 73 is still old, 27 (or even 24) is still young. You can augment the frailty of the father, and the weakness/youthfulness of the main character, because of the malnutrition you already mentioned.

[Edit:] You addressed the issue while I was writing. =)
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#8 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3420

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:44 PM

Yeah, it pushes the boundaries of the characters' ages, but I'm trying to base as much as possible on my life, so I can relate to the story more and keep it as truthful as possible (I turn 24 in July and my dad would have turned 80 in March). As for the frailty of the character, that's something that has been bothering me a bit.


Kudos to your Dad then...I am guessing by the use of past tense that he has passed away, so please do not take anything I say as insulting to his memory. I like the fact that you want to keep aspects of your storyboard close to your own reality of yourself and your father. It will help you keep fighting to make this more than an idea. But and this is a big but, don't lock yourself on it so much so that you have no flexibility. A project on the scale this appears to be heading to, will most likely result in a team-based effort and you need to keep that flexibility for their input. On the other hand don't be so flexible as to lose what you consider important.

One aspect you might look at is the actual relationship dynamic being a lot more intense than you might initially think of right now. What if the value that the father provides is an oral history of his own life and in that oral history you literally have a game within a game? This life affirmation could also be used to foretell the backstory to the societal collapse as well by providing a rich history that give absolute credence to the age gap. The sheer desperate moments of the day to day survival leavened by the alternate game within a game could prove a rather interesting game.


edit note: I said history and game waaaay too much. ><

#9 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 21159

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:54 PM

One aspect you might look at is the actual relationship dynamic being a lot more intense than you might initially think of right now. What if the value that the father provides is an oral history of his own life and in that oral history you literally have a game within a game? This life affirmation could also be used to foretell the backstory to the societal collapse as well by providing a rich history that give absolute credence to the age gap. The sheer desperate moments of the day to day survival leavened by the alternate game within a game could prove a rather interesting game.


It would also supply a real non-artificial reason to keep the dad alive. The dad becomes, in the flashbacks, a secondary "main character", so there's some attachment there. If he dies, you 'lose' the sub-game (since there are no more flashbacks as he is telling his story), while still getting to continue in the main game. You don't get to hear that backplot of how the world ended up in the state it is in, but you still have to survive to go find mom (in the OP it's implied that she might still be alive).
It could even be that in the flashbacks, you find out, and participate in, hiding caches of food/guns in certain locations in the city. Now, since that dad is dead and you won't see anymore flashbacks, you lose out on knowing where additional caches are, though you might still happen to stumble upon them by chance, most of them are really well hidden.
It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
All glory be to the Man at the right hand... On David's throne the King will reign, and the Government will rest upon His shoulders. All the earth will see the salvation of God.
Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal

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#10 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:14 PM

The danger of a character being for information only is people will expect they can get the info from walkthroughs and ignore the character. Not all people, but some people. I think some concrete usability would be good, e.g. he knows how to fire up a generator or fix the plumbing. Something you can't do without him. The backstory etc would be a nice extra. Maybe he helps in small ways that aren't immediately obvious, but if he dies the apartment becomes untenable to live in without his assistance.

#11 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:27 PM

Oh, don't worry about insulting him or me. He's dead and I'm smart enough to know better. :D

I've considered the age gap thing pretty heavily and thought about changing it, but I'm worried that my experience wouldn't fit in as well. Whether that is ultimately important or not, I'm not sure. As for flexibility, I'm pretty open to changing aspects of the concept as long as there is a good reason. If the team wants to change the enemies to demonic care bears, then we'll have a problem. For me, this is a piece for my portfolio. In some ways it honors the father-son bond that I had, but I know better than to expect someone to care about that. This is more about an aesthetic that I'm trying to reach that deals with reality in games that isn't romantically written with a moral and happy ending. It's gritty, depressing, frustrating, overwhelming, and unfair, such as a situation like this would actually be.

The flashbacks are an interesting idea, but I'm worried that may fantasize things too much. They would add depth to the character and a reason for him to remain in the game, but that removes the player from the current situation and put them in an almost alternate reality. Also, with the character this young, it wouldn't make sense for them to be in a city like this if the father has been there long enough to plan and orchestrate and escape. It's still an idea that could be utilized somehow though.

Using the character somehow would make sense, but I'm not sure how to utilize him. Maybe the father could be the one that actually makes things in the apartment, while the son is the one that scavenges. This could open up a co-op portion of the game, if that was an option. The father could make weapons, board the windows, make a radio, etc., and his productivity could directly relate to his physical health. How does that sound?

#12 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 08:56 PM

As you're probably now realised you can't guarantee getting a loftier message across to all (or even many) players. But what qualities of your father would you *like* the old man character to have? Maybe that will give gameplay/story ideas.

#13 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3420

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:20 PM

Random piece of advice -- never step on your modem thus requiring a dash to the store for a replacement.

I think in someways Blarkfase we may have reached a point where you are able to go back and recreate your original post down below with your story aspects more fleshed out based on feedback so far and where your thought processes have taken you. The one danger of multiple posts in feedback is the respondents cannot see the product evolve and thus make answers based on old information which quickly become less helpful.

#14 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:20 PM

"Locked in a small apartment, just my 80 year old father and me, a 24 year old college graduate that decided to make it in the big city. Now, we're trapped in this shitty little 4th floor apartment with very little hope to look forward to. Society has collapsed, bandits are roaming the streets, and we are forced to hide. My father complains about how he is holding me back and that I will die because of him, but in all honesty I wouldn't be able to do this without him. At night, I sit by the front door to guard it, not honestly thinking I'll be able to if someone comes. Sometimes I can hear him crying from the bedroom. I know what he's thinking about; I miss mom too. Some days I go scavenging for supplies, leaving him in the apartment on his own and I try to ignore my fears of returning to find him dead. Staying alert while sneaking around a city is hard enough when you're malnourished and sleep deprived. Why do we do this? Is living in this hell really worth what we're going through? No, but giving up is not an option either. We've got to do the best we can to survive, wait for a rescue, and see mom again."


Game-type: Sandbox RPG; I want the vast majority of decisions to fall on the player in order to immerse themselves as much into the role of the son as possible. This is meant to be a very emotionally deep storyline that is hard to handle, so the more the player is immersed into the situation, the better. Possibility of co-op, with one character as supply and back-up, while the other is the scout and fighter.


Plot: The main character is tasked with keeping his elderly father alive and safe during a post-government society. Every decision made is one that is extremely emotionally difficult for the main character. Every aspect of surviving in a desolate city should be taken into consideration (barricading the door and windows, scavenging for supplies, getting rest, making weapons, etc.).


Mechanics: I want every decision made to be something that could not work, so there is always a chance of failure. (Example: If you decide to go scavenging for supplies across the city you could be gone for a while and by the time you return the secondary character could be dead, completely changing the direction that the game would take.) Outside of this, there should be a sense of resourcefulness that comes into play, such as breaking down a table to use the legs as clubs or something to that effect. Also, I want the characters' story to come through as the game is played, instead of putting all the cards on the table at the beginning. So, as you move through the storyline you chose, you learn some things and don't learn others as they come up in a more natural fashion, through events and conversations.


Combat style: Dependant on how the player wants to handle situations. There could be opportunities for guns, but there may be limited ammo and they may attract a lot of unwanted attention. This is where scavenging through other apartments, breaking chairs or tables, etc. comes in to make melee weapons. There is also the possibility for hand-to-hand combat, when weapons aren't accessible.


Setting: A large city. I would prefer it stay unnamed to get away from cultural ties that are attached to each city. Something large and New York/Philly-esque. However, the player would start in an old apartment building without water or electricity, but would have the opportunity to move to other buildings if needed.


Main character: Mid-to-early 20s, fresh out of school and into the city. I'm trying to keep everything very neutral right now and stay away from race, sexual orientation, etc., so I can focus on the core elements and a solid foundation, for now. A vague description of him would probably be; 6 ft tall, 160-170 lbs, possible short beard or scruff, no tattoos, piercings, or anything that is overtly noticeable. His main job is to scavenge for items and supplies, scout other buildings for moving into, and searching for a possible rescue.


Secondary character: Late 70s - 80 years old man that is fairly feeble. I see him as a man that has a hard time moving around a lot and possibly has heart or lung issues. General description would probably be; 5'6 ft tall, 150-160 lbs, bald spot, mustache or beginning of a beard. Isn't too feeble, but can't do much more than move from one building to another, carrying very little (like a blanket and a weapon). Also, his main job will be the construction of any weapons, defenses, or any repairs that need to be done around their home-base. If he dies, then the main character loses all of those abilities and other possible knowledge the father may have (where restaurants are in the city, how to collect and purify water, and other aspects like the story of the characters and what caused all of this). This makes the father character somewhat of a reliability, for his knowledge and capability of creating and repairing items that make survivability much easier and allows a more fleshed out and enjoyable storyline.


Enemy characters: Tattered clothed people of all types, from full grown men to small children. Some are travelers that may or may not be trusted, some are obvious bandits with guns and bulletproof vests. This category is fairly predictable as far as the equipment carried. One thing that I would like to be different about them is that they have plans that are carried out. Such as, searching through all the buildings down one street, then moving a block over. May have a large truck or something they drive around to carry off supplies and such.


Allied characters: I would eventually like there to be a chance where bands of x-military or cops come through to disband bandits and such. This could be a limited chance for rescue that the player would have to knowingly search and wait for. They would be in tattered versions of their uniforms with bulletproof vests, guns, possibly in military vehicles or cop cars.


The story itself will have multiple paths than can be followed under these main categories:

Both characters survive - Join a band of people trying to escape; Escape on their own (either by car or by foot); Evacuated by band of x-military/cops

Main character survives - Father dies in escape (either with the convoy, on foot, or in their of vehicle); Father dies during attack on home-base; Father dies when moving to another safe-house

Main character sacrifices self to save secondary character - Takes a shot for (or while escaping, not necessarily to block a shot) father during escape (with convoy, on foot, or in vehicle)




---------------------------------------

The red is the new stuff. Does that sound better? Let me know if I forgot something, I've been running around during typing this and might have missed a thing or two.



#15 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3420

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 06:15 AM

Also, his main job will be the construction of any weapons, defenses, or any repairs that need to be done around their home-base. If he dies, then the main character loses all of those abilities and other possible knowledge the father may have (where restaurants are in the city, how to collect and purify water, and other aspects like the story of the characters and what caused all of this).


One thing you probably need to take into account -- The primary character will have a learning curve to a degree on some of the basics i.e. learning to purify water. The loss of the secondary character early on would mean a lot of basics may not have been imparted, but later on in the game, the primary character should have learnt enough to at least survive by himself.

Enemy characters: Tattered clothed people of all types, from full grown men to small children. Some are travelers that may or may not be trusted, some are obvious bandits with guns and bulletproof vests. This category is fairly predictable as far as the equipment carried


In a fallen society where the crap has hit the fan I would want a bulletproof vest if I can't find military grade armour and I would want to be armed. Don't necessarily use clothing in that respect to identify bad guy versus good guys. Think more of symbols, some univerally identifying aspect if the group is an organised one (yes this could even mean a uniform). This would also make identification of good organised groups versus evil organised groups somewhat tricky in the beginning. Who do you trust etc.

Other than that -- vastly improved over your initial post except red sucks as a colour for reading Posted Image


Hmm forgot cover the old man -- get rid of the possibly has heart / lung issue unless you are planning it for a plot point -- just leave it as the old man is feeble - age malnutrition etc would be sufficient explanation.

meh also forgot to mention: why does clothing need to be tattered -- should be more than enough clothes scavengable to keep everyone somewhat decent given that the breakdown doesn't seem to have happened that long ago...which leads me to start wondering what happened to the vast majority of the city population.

#16 blarkfase   Members   -  Reputation: 139

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:56 PM

Yeah, the player would learn skills to make survivability possible in the game, but as for larger things, like building a water filter out of homemade materials and such, they wouldn't pick up on things like that. There are some aspects that I would like the have that are crucial to making their life easier and gives a glimpse into the father's background and education (suppose he went to war and had a degree in engineering, he would know how to apply his survival techniques and fabrication knowledge to make things that would take a much longer time to understand than watching the father do it a couple times). But yes, there would be a decent amount of skill learned from the father that the main character could use to survive, it would just be more difficult.

The thing that I'm a little hung up on at the moment is the clothing itself. If they are in a large city they're obviously (now that I think about it) going to ransack every clothing store in the city for whatever they want. I think this is going to apply most to the bandit types, because I see groups like them beign very unorganized and just thrown together. Whereas an evacuation group that is trying to organize and save people would have a theme of clothing at least, like all camouflage and black boots or something. I do like the idea of not being able to identify if a group is bad or not though, so having neutral groups that are just trying to make it out of the city or just trying to make it would be good.

In my head, I actually scrapped the health issues and forgot about them. I just didn't actually do that in the post I guess....

I'm going to get back to the drawing board and try to finish all the storylines this week and repost for everyone to read and critique. Wish me luck!




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