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Reverse Chronology in Games?

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A recent post by Dauntless, in the thread regarding the psychology behind decisions made by gamers, led me to this thought. Imagine a game that evolves based on the players actions -- but in reverse chronological order! Something like this would be best as a very story-central game.. an adventure game, for instance. A FPS might also be satisfactory. An RPG definitely wouldn''t work because the player is not going to be interested in starting strong and getting weaker. Here''s the basic idea: The story is being told backwards, with individual events happening basically in real time (i.e., I''m not talking about having PCs walk backwards).. but the events lead back to a starting event. That starting event, though, and the events that happened after it chronologically (before it in the game order) change depending on how the player plays. Part of the twist of the game might even be that the player doesn''t actually KNOW the story is progressing backward.. eventually he''ll figure it out. A character with amnesia might be an easy place to start. Player starts the game in a jail cell, for instance, and has three or four options enabling him to get out. One option might include killing a guard, another might be MacGyverigging a device to trip the fire alarm, and so forth. After the player escapes, he blacks out, and wakes to find himself in another location, under different circumstances. This event, which (unbeknownst to the player) is something that took place prior, is dictated by his behavior in the first event of the game... if he''s a killer, he arrived at the jail cell because he killed someone; if he plead with the guard to set him free, perhaps he was framed. As we can see here its not a simple design goal. It would take an enormous amount of effort to plot out exactly what happens in each event, and what prior event led to the outcome of the current one (or vice versa). Its also a large game to build.. few if any games have yet achieved a full scale, branching chronology tree in a standard game.. let alone in reverse order. Its just something to consider.. Brian Lacy ForeverDream Studios Comments? Questions? Curious? brian@foreverdreamstudios.com "I create. Therefore I am."

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I think that would make for an interesting conspiracy-type game where you have to figure out what is going on. Stuff isn''t actually happening in reverse order, but the game makes up ''the truth'' as you play based on your actions. It would take a complex engine for creating stories and enancting them (it would have to be able to create anything it needs, like a building of a certain type, a whole neighborhood, dialogs that make sense, etc), but if you could do it you could have something like an interactive X-Files (but better =-). It would have unlimited replayability, but you could sell version 2.0 with more advanced graphics and a better tweaked engine, same for 3.0 etc =-)

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Sounds cool. Did you ever play Blade Runner? They did a bit of the same thing, except it wasn''t backwards...

Basically, the game storyline/quests/missions were randomly generated every time you play, and if I remember correct it also altered the storyline on the fly depending on how you played, so the outcome would depend on how you played as well as how the missions were generated when you started. A bit of the same idea, except without the backwards chronology... Sounds like a great idea...

(Disclaimer: It is now 3:30 am, and I''m probably not making much sense. Too bad)

---------
Life is like a grapefruit. It''s sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy in the middle. It''s got pips inside, too. Oh, and some people have half a one for breakfast

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Nice idea! It''s basically reversing the idea of cause and effect. So, you start with the effect, and your actions choose the cause! It would be very tricky to pull off though. How would you get the effects to "happen"? The jail cell is easy because it is the initial condition of the game. Blackouts could work for this. Then the initial condition after you wake up could be the effect. Like you wake up and you''re in the army. Later (or before??), when the character starts to feel patriotic for his country, you realize that THAT is why he joined the army in the first place! Weird but cool.

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I personally do not like the idea. It may have worked well in Momento, but movies and games are not one in the same. To me, the whole point of playing a game is getting up to the final confrontation, the last level, the toughest puzzle. If you reverse the chronology of the game, you basically just show the player the ending to the game, and then are like "Okay, you know how it ends, now lets get you there." If I played a game like that, I would not feel motivated to continue forward, because I already know the outcome of my actions.

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Actually, I think it would be very interesting to play such a game. First of all, you wouldn''t know that the game is backwards until a while later. What would draw the players in would be: how did I get here? What will happen if I do this? Think about the classic SquareSoft RPG - you start in one place, and there are many endings. In this game, you know the ending, but there are many ways you could have gotten there! Curiosity would drive the player. Clearly some people would be turned off by this, but others (think of the popularity of Myst) would love it! Perhaps a form of "death" in this game is if you mess up something, making it impossible for you to have ended up where you were at the "beginning" of the game! Wouldn''t that be awesome? So the goal of the game will be to preserve the space-time continuum by not doing anything that would mess up the future you already experienced! irbrian, I think you are really onto something here.

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This is remarkably similar to the ''flashback'' design techniques of screenplay writing, where all events we see now resulted from something we had exposited to us, or will have exposited to us. The flashback does not have to be linear, as in the movie version of ''The illustrated man'' by Ray Bradbury. Another excellent example of this is "The Manchurian Candidate" sadly starring Frank Sinatra, but is a good example of how this technique, and it''s permutations can work extremely well.

Since you are talking basically about choices being made for the player anyway (blacking out and waking up in another place not of his own choosing) then the flashback technique would absolutely require the degree of design you noted, and is really the standard good screenplay writing would require anyway.

I am not certain how this would work out as entertainment value in a game, but I can tell you the flashback was a very heavily used technique for many years in filmic storytelling, and it is now considered in that business to be a red flag, or a crutch, and is to be used sparingly and with great care only if the story cannot be told any other way.

Addy

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quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Momento. Director Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Jonathan Nolan, starring Guy Pierce.



It''s "Me mento". And actually, the new film "Novo" it''s playing again with the same kind of amnesia.

Anyway, I like a lot the idea; there are not a lot of plots based on amnesia, insomnio, double personality and many other psicological disorders.

theNestruo

Syntax error in 2410
Ok

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Memento. otnemem.

Anyways, if you had two running story lines, one the present, and the other the flashback series, you could work from the center and reveal the first event and the last event at the same time. A cop game would work best here. An investigator who has no tie to the story until the middle. This would probably work well through confessions, or stuff.

5 COP
4 DRUG DEALER
6 COP
3 SMUGGLER
7 COP
2 CARTEL
8 COP
1 DRUG LORD
9 COP

Sorta like that. It might help to watch the Usual Suspects to get in that mindframe, though it starts with both the first and middle event and both advance in parallel (though, time is esqued).

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quote:
Original post by Tron3k
Perhaps a form of "death" in this game is if you mess up something, making it impossible for you to have ended up where you were at the "beginning" of the game! Wouldn''t that be awesome? So the goal of the game will be to preserve the space-time continuum by not doing anything that would mess up the future you already experienced!


actually it wouldnt be a time-travelling game, its just a story told backwards, and as the player isnt meant to know this then it wouldnt make sense to make it that way
that thing of not being able to die would be kinda weird though

I like the idea alot, sounds like a curious-driven game

would be good if it could be non-linear, and depending on your actions in the future, your past will change (irbrian, not sure if this is what you meant with having different options to perform while playing)
for example, if you escape from the jail that may lead you to having killed someone; but if instead you manage to get some friend''s help that may have lead you to having been mis-put in jail and then (before) being blamed for a crime you didnt do

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Guest Anonymous Poster
maybe i missed something... but changing the future has no effect on the past...? so nothing would really happen...

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Sounds like the majority of you are quite interested in the idea. As I said it would take a LOT of effort to pull off both in the design and development phases, but I love games that experiment with alternate realities, timelines, and so forth, and I feel that many players would be similarly intrigued. It''s certainly not for everyone though.

A few key points:
1) The game would be non-linear. The idea is that what happens to the player next in the game (or previously, in the chronology) depends on how the player responds to his/her current situation.
2) The player does not know that events are occurring in reverse order initially. Part of the fun of the game is that the player gets to figure this out for him/herself.

Of course, these two points needn''t apply in the case of a time-travel game unless the player doesn''t know he''s travelling through time. Time travel could be a good alternative to the non-linear approach, and Tron3k''s suggestion does have some merit in this case: If the player does something that is defies the reality of the past, the failure condition is met, and some kind of theoretical phenomenon could be referenced as the reason for the player''s "death".

****************************************

Brian Lacy
ForeverDream Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?
brian@foreverdreamstudios.com

"I create. Therefore I am."

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Or lets take it a step further, you are in your mind doing all this stuff, going over past events and don''t know this until you wake up and realize where you really are. The whole point could be that something was done to you and you are searching through your memories to make sense of stuff so you can wake from your coma. Maybe within all this there is a falling sequence as well.

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If we take reality''s rules of cause and effect, actions at the beginning of this backwards game would have no effect on the end. Traditionally we''d call this a linear story, but since we''re playing games with the perception of time, we may have to call it a static-path story.

Anyways, the whole altering the perception of time is important to note. Since we''re working as though the flashback is the whole point of the story, theres a bit of a coherency learning curve for the player to adapt to. if you remember, Me mento did run it''s first scene completely backwards with forward running sound. This visual and audio clue was there to offer an insight on how the film would work. We''d need a similiar aspect in the game to take place.

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how i would implement this sort of concept in a video game is have the story told through multiple characters. i would make it a grand theft auto style game.. something all centered around a big heist. the game tells the story pretty much reverse chronological but jumps around to key points at the appropriate times. depending on what happens in the first few moments of one of the first levels might make the ending of a further a little different, taking the level a completely different path. you could even make the game crazy sci fi heist style and still keep the gta gameplay style. ahh ideas are brewing

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quote:
Original post by iNfuSeD
how i would implement this sort of concept in a video game is have the story told through multiple characters.


Ah, the schitzo avatar, that might even be a good title

"..He''s god, then a demon, then someone else altogther. The NPC''s love him, then fear him, then are confused and need therapy."



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Now THIS is interesting, but it would take a large amount of figuring everything into detail. Baically, if I get it right, the player''s actions in the future(which he doesn''t know...) determine what kind of person he is playing, and will thus determine what has happened. The problem here is mainly giving full coverage of all of the possibilities, and that would be terribly hard. You would have to take into account every kind f conflict which could happen. But it would be really interesting to see something like this get worked out.

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quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
If we take reality''s rules of cause and effect, actions at the beginning of this backwards game would have no effect on the end. Traditionally we''d call this a linear story, but since we''re playing games with the perception of time, we may have to call it a static-path story.


Not necessarily:

quote:
Original post by Shadowcore
Basically, if I get it right, the player''s actions in the future(which he doesn''t know...) determine what kind of person he is playing, and will thus determine what has happened.


Shadowcore has restated exactly what I had in mind. By playing out the effect, the player chooses which cause actually led to that effect. Of course a linear story is always an option too.



****************************************

Brian Lacy
ForeverDream Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?
brian@foreverdreamstudios.com

"I create. Therefore I am."

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I love it. I just love it.

Of course, it may be a good idea to have the game double back to the first point in the game and then progress from there.

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Oscar Mike Foxtrot Golf! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"
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now here''s a good idea.. what about a story that is similar to back to the future or timecop even... where the story progresses forward but the time period in which the different scenes take place change. now take that type of story and tell that in reverse chronological order. keep it all tightly knit and you could create a masterpeice of a game while only allowing for paradoxes to happen when you want them to

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Great idea,

You could go from a typical end-situation to maybe even beyond a begin-situation. Then you could cause something that will make the timeline take another turn and go from there to another end-situation in part 2 of the game.

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