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Noir-ish intro

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_Preface_ I've had an idea hiding in the back of my mind for a while, but it hadn't dislodged itself until I had some inspiration earlier tonight. The story is going to be in a cyberpunk setting, one of those wonderfully dystopian locales made popular by Gibson and company. This is just the introduction, where the player gets to meet the MC and all. I'll confess to not being a writer, so it's somewhat iffy, I suspect, but I tried not to make it too familiar. _Story_ Narrator: "You know how these stories start." (Fade in. Ryan walks past the camera in an alley.) N: "Some secret agent meets in a bar, or answers an obnoxiously noir telephone." (Camera follows Ryan from 10:30 and slightly above. Ryan walks past through steam, pasts a dumpster where a ragged woman is scavenging.) N: "When someone down the line asks how I got into this business..." (Camera at 4, slightly below. Ryan's attention is drawn by a noise to an open doorway. A lone broken bulb is above the doorway. Two thugs pass the camera; one clubs him over the head, both drag him inside.) N: "I'll say that I was dragged in kicking and screaming." (Ryan dragged into single-bulb room to thugs 3, 4, flailing and screaming incoherently.) N: "They were disenfranchised criminals, couldn't cut the mobs. They grabbed strays for shits and giggles." [ Ryan kicks the third, on the left, in the thigh, who staggers before beating Ryan.) N: "Rentacops randomly stopped by. The ones the couldn't bribe ended up dead. Kept the area lawless." (The fourth opens a dimly visible doorway, and the first two throw Ryan into the darkness.) N: "Then they grabbed someone who was ex-corp." (Ryan lands in a pile of boards.) N: "That night I knew I had to get out. I was going to bag these brats." (Ryan groans, rolls onto his back, stands up.) N: "It was that night I went pro." (Yes, I know this bit is gameplay, and bad form to include it) (New goals: Neutralize the assailants, either by force or bringing cops in. Escape the basement, either by moving boxes or climbing a pipe and going out the door)

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Good atmosphere, and the voice-over is pretty good. I'm not sure how this leads into a longer story, but plenty of options are available to you.

The only real crit I have is that I don't quite get what he's going pro as. Professional cop? Bounty Hunter? Badass? Was he amateur before? Is it a figure of speech?

The last line is the climax of the scene, for me. If feels as though everything in the intro was sort of muted, or padded somehow. Noir voiceovers have that effect on me. As you get toward the part where he stands up and (I assume) the player takes control, it's as though the scene is getting crisper, building to full reality. It's going from flashback to action, and that last line should echo into reality. It seems that it would, if only I knew what he was talking about. Heck, if the game was called "Trenchcoat Vigilante", that would be enough to make that really pop for me. As it stands, it's a bit less decisive than I would like.

Reflecting, I think the problem is that I get the impression he's a little bit washed-up. "Ex-Corp" feels like "retired", and if he's not, if he's a stone-cold badass, why was he struggling like a drunk when they brought him in? It's just a little tiny disconnect. The intro is so close to being terrific. Give it another ten minutes of thought, and I bet you can really make it work well.

Another thing to think about: What exactly is a "disenfrachised criminal"? Just kidnapping people and killing police officers might be a neat hobby, but it's no way to make a living. If they want cash, they'd have just rifled his pockets and put a knife in his ribs, and not necessarily in that order. These guys seem like personal Bond villains--grabbing a guy, sticking him in a prison worthy of MacGuyver, and then forgetting about him to go play cards just out of earshot of his cell. Also, them being random criminals reduces the chance of this action being related to the rest of the story. If they become important and Ryan just doesn't know it yet, then at least his future voice-over self should.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Good atmosphere, and the voice-over is pretty good. I'm not sure how this leads into a longer story, but plenty of options are available to you.

The only real crit I have is that I don't quite get what he's going pro as. Professional cop? Bounty Hunter? Badass? Was he amateur before? Is it a figure of speech?

The last line is the climax of the scene, for me. If feels as though everything in the intro was sort of muted, or padded somehow. Noir voiceovers have that effect on me. As you get toward the part where he stands up and (I assume) the player takes control, it's as though the scene is getting crisper, building to full reality. It's going from flashback to action, and that last line should echo into reality. It seems that it would, if only I knew what he was talking about. Heck, if the game was called "Trenchcoat Vigilante", that would be enough to make that really pop for me. As it stands, it's a bit less decisive than I would like.

Reflecting, I think the problem is that I get the impression he's a little bit washed-up. "Ex-Corp" feels like "retired", and if he's not, if he's a stone-cold badass, why was he struggling like a drunk when they brought him in? It's just a little tiny disconnect. The intro is so close to being terrific. Give it another ten minutes of thought, and I bet you can really make it work well.

Another thing to think about: What exactly is a "disenfrachised criminal"? Just kidnapping people and killing police officers might be a neat hobby, but it's no way to make a living. If they want cash, they'd have just rifled his pockets and put a knife in his ribs, and not necessarily in that order. These guys seem like personal Bond villains--grabbing a guy, sticking him in a prison worthy of MacGuyver, and then forgetting about him to go play cards just out of earshot of his cell. Also, them being random criminals reduces the chance of this action being related to the rest of the story. If they become important and Ryan just doesn't know it yet, then at least his future voice-over self should.


Thanks for the feedback, Chef. Lessee...

As-is, I'm not entirely sure how this ties into the whole of the story, not quite yet, assuming it isn't more of an isolated incident.

"Going pro" is sort of a figure of speech, an idea running through Ryan's head, and in context it'd be an ill-formed idea of becoming a professional badass, in the context of Shadowrun. The usual rounds of wrong impressions and male ego, spy movies and action flicks, everything that a thirty-something (so far) generic employee has in abundence. As an overtone, it's the idea of no longer doubting the "if", and instead just doing your best at something, whether or not you have experience with it.

So far the theme can be summed up "guy gets mugged, kicks ass, swings a deal in the corporate espionage department to get tools, freelances, sees old neighborhood go bad, goes overseas, makes enemies, watches new friends get into trouble for relationships, tries to save the day, decides to find a new line of work". The details are still sketchy, but so is the story in my head -- the way these things start.

Ryan isn't a "stone-cold badass" yet. This intro scene is meant as a rite of passage for the character, and a way to introduce the player to the world. It'll also serve as a touchstone, a starting point for the character's progression, familiarity, and opinions of the criminal and espionage undergrounds.

Ryan's problem when he's dragged in is the club upside the head. I guess I should revise the "incoherently": he's perfectly lucid (all things considered), but what he's saying can't be made out by the player listening to the audio. And/or I don't know what to put in there, what would make sense for something other than noise.

The thought of "disenfranchised criminal" is that they weren't able to gather up enough power in their little area to draw the note of larger, better organized criminal groups, for better or for worse -- "couldn't cut the mobs", join the Mafia (or to the relatively naive Ryan, any well-organized group). Their "career options" are very limited, so they reside in relatively lawless areas, not far from the SR Barrens, and randomly mug people who look like they may have money, guns, or anything else of value. "Very small fuedal barons" may be applicable. Ryan ended up in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

For the story, this scene also tests the waters, finds out what sort of style the player will take. Deus Ex is a popular title between the lot of the locals, and the choice at the end of the scene is to gauge how the player may think about crime, law, punishment, and lethality. It's not a foolproof theory, but I'm planning to use it to try to tweak future stages, and to influence any reputation that the player develops.

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I thought it was excellent, but I just took a class on film noir.

Voiceover is a critical element, and ideally you'd want the entire story to be "narrated." Of course, you suspend narration during the parts where the player is controlling the action, making decisions, solving problems. What the voiceover narrative does is propel the notion of an "inescapable, irredeemable past" that is fast hurtling toward the present. In some noir classics, the flashback actually ends before the film does, making the finale seem to occur "in the present." Keep that in mind, and think about how, by toying with the notion of past and present, you can further immerse the player.

Most films noir have a pivotal scene in which the central character is drugged, drunk and/or beaten (some use all three: drug his drink, then inject a hallucinogenic serum, then try to beat information out of him). This is typically referred to as an italicized moment, and originally served a purpose beyond merely advancing the narrative. These scenes of excessed tested the limits of the audience's sensibilities, and allowed them to resist ever more graphic and disturbing content, "innoculating" them, as it were.

[Sidebar: this is tied to the history of film censorship, where material previously considered too extreme/immoral gradually passes into acceptability, because films gently test the extents of the public's constitution.]

What is interesting is that your story begins with it. Highly unusual, yet effective for establishing a darker narrative arc. I like it.

Iron Chef Carnage does make an excellent point about random criminals, though: how do they advance the story? One of the trademarks of noir is its physical and narrative claustrophobia, revolving around a small set of characters as much as occuring in a small set of locations, neither of which is fundamentally disposable. Random meetings have lengthy consequence (see Detour for perhaps the best exposition of this idea), often life-shattering.

That's another thing: film noir is riddled with unhappy endings, embodying the existential ideal of cruel fate. Happy endings occur, but always with an asterisk (usually, it's that the guy can't get the girl because she's in too deep). Feel free to experiment with the formula, of course, but I just thought I'd share the ways in which certain themes in the movies interact to yield a specific atmosphere and drama.

Nice work.

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Narrator: "You know how these stories start."

>Too familiarizing to create curiosity. Alternative: "Not all stories start the same" or, in a noirish vein, "Somestimes, stories and reality appear quite similar" or, "Fiction? Reality? Who can say until all is revealed" Last may be a bit melodramatic, but it's first draft, you can soften it, and it gets across the idea.


(Fade in.

>Visually speaking in terms of exposition, run some master establishing shot frames while narration is running. It squares the power of engagement, critical in the beginning, and really, throughout your story.

Ryan walks past the camera in an alley.)
N: "Some secret agent meets in a bar, or answers an obnoxiously noir telephone."
(Camera follows Ryan from 10:30 and slightly above. Ryan walks past through steam, pasts a dumpster where a ragged woman is scavenging.)

>Try the reverse. The woman scavanging in the dumpster might be the first part of the shot and you pull back to see Ryan's boot. He scrapes street scum off of it as camera pans up to his 'this is how things are' expression(mood establishment) as he turns his head from the woman and the dumpster to the barfront the dumpster is logically placed there for (visual continuity and script continutity simultaneously). Then as Ryan looks into the bar window from where he was as he walks (physical acting moves action forward and retains engagement) then cut to and cut away from the secret agents meeting in a bar, or several people, any of whom could be secret agents, all serious and earnest in expression, so the audience doesn't know but wants to, towards the bar entrance, then run your VO "Some secret agents..." line, but add something like, "..you never know whom one is from the way they look, and they are trained, to more or less detectable degrees, how they behave."

N: "When someone down the line asks how I got into this business..."

>"Someone down the line will maybe ask someday how I got into this business." Specify that someone, maybe they are somebody with a reason of interest, forshadowing intervention or character into the as of yet unentirely unfolded plot.


(Camera at 4, slightly below. Ryan's attention is drawn by a noise to an open doorway. A lone broken bulb is above the doorway. Two thugs pass the camera; one clubs him over the head, both drag him inside.)
N: "I'll say that I was dragged in kicking and screaming."

This is a big change of circumstance for the character. Visually show the thugs with malintent previous to their shanghai so the audience knows what will happen just before it happens, increasing the time their suspense "suspends." Also, if you don't redundantly enforce visually logical exposition, the audience will go, "Oh, two guys just jumped him and shanghai'd him" when they could have said, "OH MAN, lookout dude, those two guys are going to jump you!" Character empathy is increased significantly.

(Ryan dragged into single-bulb room to thugs 3, 4, flailing and screaming incoherently.)
N: "They were disenfranchised criminals, couldn't cut the mobs. They grabbed strays for shits and giggles."

If Ryan is so certain of what he is facing, why was he taken so easily? Certainly such a professional would have given out his share of damage before being taken in no so easily. Show that. Let the shanghaiers be bloodied and damaged, making messing with Ryan an obviously costly proposition.

[ Ryan kicks the third, on the left, in the thigh, who staggers before beating Ryan.)
N: "Rentacops randomly stopped by. The ones the couldn't bribe ended up dead. Kept the area lawless."

>A little vague in the scene setting aspect. You are tying the times to the scene, and use that logic to tighten the reason for the why of the exposition chosen.

(The fourth opens a dimly visible doorway, and the first two throw Ryan into the darkness.)
N: "Then they grabbed someone who was ex-corp."
(Ryan lands in a pile of boards.)
N: "That night I knew I had to get out. I was going to bag these brats."
(Ryan groans, rolls onto his back, stands up.)
N: "It was that night I went pro."

>You have established good character motivation, and that is good, he's chosen to go pro. But against what? The corps? The bribers of the rent a cops? How can you make clearly the understanding of the opposition and it's motives so Ryan's reason to go pro clearly establishes conflict of good vs. evil, or in case of some film noir, neutral pacifist against neutral chaotic. Just some thoughts.

Adventuredesign

(Yes, I know this bit is gameplay, and bad form to include it)
(New goals: Neutralize the assailants, either by force or bringing cops in. Escape the basement, either by moving boxes or climbing a pipe and going out the door)

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I guess now's a bad time to throw in that I've learned most of what I now know about film noir from the last few posts. I didn't really know what it is, just thought that this had a feel that I'd tag as "noir-like", and work on as able. The ideas are still scarce, but I have some good ideas for where I should be adding some work, thanks to the responses.

This isn't noir by the definition - no planned flashbacks, merely a voiceover from a MC who we assume is no longer in the heat of the moment. I'm planning to use the narration to move as much, with the tone becoming less stereotypical ("disenfranchised criminals", talk of secret agents and classical ideas, more attention to relevant details) and more experienced, and quickly hardening.

And the one of the more pivotal moments still playing through my head is when the MC wakes, finds a bomb in his apartment, and has the dubious joy of wondering who's trying to deliberately kill him (a change from counterintrusion and sweeper fire). No longer a matter of business, his line of work becomes personal.

Definitely not film noir. But to the points.

"You know how these stories start."

This is part cynicism, but more sarcasm: possibly a way to elict a chuckle, but also to accentuate the difference between the familiar story and what happened in this case.

Idea noted for reversing the camera work. Something to play with when there's enough in place to play.

Ryan doesn't yet know who he'd be telling this to, but point. Also, at this point, he's not a professional -- isn't paying enough attention to his surroundings, isn't familiar with how to fend of multiple attackers, or with any sort of tradecraft. Whoever he worked for gave some basic self-defense and security courses to interested employees, but Ryan didn't get very far while employeed. Tho consensous is that more blood on the attackers is needed, that someone skilled wouldn't just go down.

"Tying the times to the scene". Work on the where (and why he's where)?

"Going pro" is really a misnomer (see thoughts above). It's the romantic "I want to be a pirate!" with visions of women, wine, riches, and excitement, without considering the long times at sea, the mortal threats involved with boarding actions and policing fleets, the rain, the rocking boat, the friendly natives, etc. The ideas in conflict are that of agressive action and passive reaction, a familiar schism where people are happier to watch things happen around them without doing anything to intervene. "Good" and "evil", or "justice" and "revenge", are all hopefully going to be player-driven. ("uh-oh.")

-Sta7ic

(I always had the feeling that storywriting for games was more towards screenwriting...)

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