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Not an interactive movie

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Anyone got any ideas for how to make a kind of detective/murder solving type of game so it doesn''t just become an interactive movie? Even some suggestions of similar games for me to check out. Basically I''m looking for ways for players to solve clues etc. How should it be presented? I''ve seen some games do it as a collection of subgame/puzzles. Do you think this is the best way, or are there any other ways? I want the player to feel totally immersed in it, hence not really wanting too many cut scenes/fmv. Also, do you think a game like this should be made first or third person? --------------------------------------- Let''''s struggle for our dream of Game! http://andrewporritt.4t.com

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to avoid fmv, you must have the player PLAY the story rather than follow him
in habitual game, npc are only information gathering and triggering if we have to do some diplomacy to get information from them with social and emotional interaction it would be more fun (diplomacy has a puzzle), you avoid fmv and it''s what you can called truly interactive story
(a narative finite state could do the work, condition set on internal emotion and the kind)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
be good
be evil
but do it WELL
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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The game I'm currently working on is vaguely investigation based (though it's nothing to do with murders, more like sci-fi espionage).

I think the key is in rewarding the player for thinking things through. The trouble is, if you have a limited set of interactions available with each scene, the player can simply try each of them until they get the correct one - no thinking involved.

You could fix this by hindering (or killing) them when they make the wrong interaction, but that would be very frustrating for the player if they _did_ have a well though out reason for choosing what they did, perhaps one you didn't think of ('I'll accept the drink - I've seen the clues and I know it's poisoned, but I don't want to draw attention to myself by refusing it ... argh! my character is actually drinking it!').

I'd say the best way to avoid this particular difficulty is to give the player a much wider range of interactions to choose from, and to let them guess at random if they like:

- a library or records office with vast quantities of mostly irrelevant material (randomly generated newspapers headlines, financial records...) but also containing important information placed there by yourself. The player might use this to further investigate events, people and organisations they think are relevant to the investigation.

- the ability to construct a wide range of sentances when interrogating NPC's, rather than choosing from four or five preset ones. For example, sentances could be made by filling in the details into a template:
'What were you doing ' + [choose any date in the past]
'Is the name ' + [choice any NPC name] + ' familiar to you?'
'Do you know anything about ' + [wide range of places, organisations and interests to quiz characters about]
The player might come back to talk to an NPC again when they have a particular date / NPC / subject they want to talk about.

that's all I can think of right now.

edit: now using [] instead of HTML brackets!

[edited by - g on November 11, 2003 11:07:16 AM]

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By "interactive movie" I assume that you mean "one-dimensional story with preset stages leading inevitably to the conclusion, which I already wrote". In those games, the only things that can change is how long it takes you to get through them. I find that annoying, as do you, apparently.

Before you read the rest of my post, which rambles a bit, I feel I should tell you that my best advice is to go check out Maniac Mansion. It was a game for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, and had some very good investigative elements, combined with a dynamic story with multiple endings and engaging NPC characters. It''s tough to find, but there might be some web articles or something on it. Heck, you might have to find an emulator and try it out. It''s hard.

Here are my other half-formed ideas:

I remember the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. I don''t know if anyone here read them, but they were part of the reason I read as a child. The basic structure is simple: You read a page or two, and then your character is faced with a choice. Your decision determines the course of the story. For instance, "As you drift off to sleep, you hear a strange noise outside the tent. It sounds like somebody is sneaking around your campsite! What do you do?

If you go outside to check on the site, turn to page 83.
If you close your eyes and try to sleep, go to page 32.
If you scream for your mother, go to page 14."

The beauty of these books is that it wasn''t just the story that changed, it was the world. If you went to check it out, it might be your brother taking a whiz in the bushes, but if you went to sleep, you might wake up to find bizarre clawed footprints all over the hood of your car, and if you scream for your mother, maybe the bear that was sniffing your pack gets spooked and eats you.

So try that for a detective story. At times in the story when the evidence could support more than one possible scenario, don''t have the "truth" be set in stone. If you climb into the trunk of that car to find out where it goes, it might go to a secret lab, but if you kick out the tail light and follow it in your own car, it might go to a fancy soiree.

Also, let the NPCs be more dynamic. Insted of just trying to figure out who''s the crook, and who''s the blackmailer, and whom they''re blackmailing, make the characters change their relationships. If you can gain their trust or convince them to refrain from breaking the law, you might gain an ally. When Baron Steuben asks Valerie to kill Johanson, she might remember that you warned her about the Baron''s propensity for killing accomplices, and refuse. Remember Maniac Mansion for th 8-bit Nintendo? You could get the green tentacle to defend you against the red tentacle if you fed it delicious food. That''s the sort of thing that''s awesome. I never played the sequel, but the first one is worth a look.

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Thinking more about g''s "template" idea, I got to thinking about Fallout. In Fallout, there are all kinds of factors that affect conversation. Your intelligence and charisma, a number of specialized skills, and the "knowledge base" of your character. If you are talking to an NPC who has some kind of dirty secret, you can''t ask him about it unless you know what it is. If you''ve talked to his wife or mistress or lawyer or whatever, then that awkward question becomes available to you.

An element like that could liven up the investigation, and things like talking to one guy, then another guy, then the first guy again, and then tracking down a third guy you''ve never heard of before would be matters of actual investigative process, rather than scripted events. It''s worth looking into, no doubt.

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You should try and get hold of Shenmue and its sequel. It isn''t strictly a mystery, but you have to look for clues in order to work out what you have to do next. The storyline is linear, but you have freedom to go anywhere you want in the gameworld. To begin with you know practically nothing, so you just talk to NPCs in typical RPG fashion and they tell little tidbits that they know. When Ryo (the main character) finds out anything new he writes it in his little notebook, which you can consult at any time. Once certain information has been gathered, story events unfold when you go to the right places. Ryo asks different questions depending on what you currently know—he will always ask what is relevant to your current objective.

The world is very much a simulation; Ryo must sleep every night, NPCs have their own daily routines, people know only what they would realistically know. If nothing else, this relatively simple sytem provides an excellent way of telling a linear story in a nonlinear gameworld. You may not want your game to be so linear, but with adjustments and a bit of work I''m sure you make something to fit your game.

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