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Triple pronged narrative - feedback and suggestions appreciated

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Hello, everyone. First or all, thank you for taking your time to read this thread. The narrative I am asking feedback on is a bit different. There is a play called "Bridal Dress," by Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues, which features an ordinary story: woman (Alaide) steals boyfriend (Pedro) from sister (Lucia), sister gets really upset, plans to murder Alaide with Pedro); yet, quite an unusual narrative. It's divided in 3 planes: - The Reality Plane: it's the least important one. The protagonist is being operated on after being run over by a car. - The Hallucination Plane: it's where the story takes place. The protagonist meets someone who she has always fantasized about meeting (Madam Clessi, a female pimp), and both explore their pasts. - The Memory Plane: it's where all character development takes place. We see how the conflict between the sister took place, Alaide's wedding with Pedro, Clessi being murdered, etc. I thought a narrative similar to that would work wonders in a game, and so I started thinking about possible scenarios something like that could work, and I came up with this: [THE SCREEN IS BLACK. WE HEAR SWORDS CLASHING AND A MAN, MEYER, GRUNTING, FOLLOWING BY A THUD] [BEAT] [SCREEN IS STILL BLACK. WE NOW SEE A MAN, MEYER, RUNNING FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER. HE IS 30-ISH, AND IS WEARING A CROWN AND RATHER FANCY CLOTHING. HE IS A KING.]
MEYER (shouting): Where are you? [beat] Where are... I need you!
[NOTHING. UTTER SILENCE. THEN…]
MEYER (shouting): Mother! [beat] Mother? (quieter)
[FINALLY, WE SEE SOMEONE APPEARING. IS IT HIS MOTHER, EDEL. SHE IS IN HER EARLY 40S, AND IS A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN. SHE IS WEARING A LONG BLUE DRESS, WITH WHITE AND YELLOW ORNAMENTS. SHE WALKS TOWARDS MEYER, NEVER TURNING HER BACK TO THE CAMERA OR TO MEYER.]
EDEL (comforting): There, there, dear. I am here. MEYER: I’ve done everything you wanted me to do, [now shouting] so why is this happening to me?! EDEL (astonished): Whatever do you mean, dear? MEYER: You have raised me to be [slight pause] the king of kings from an early age, You have taught me everything. [after a beat, sad] Do you not remember the day at the lake, Mother?
[FLASHBACK: A VERY YOUNG MEYER, AROUND 8 YEARS OLD, IS WITH HIS MOTHER, WHO IS AROUND 30 YEARS OLD. THEY ARE SITTING IN A PIER.]
EDEL: My dear, someday, all of this will be yours. Your father is a wonderful ruler; he really listens to me [chuckle]. I hope you’ll hear too. MEYER: Of course I will, Mother! [they both laugh] But without you by his side, who taught Father everything? ANAT, THE ORACLE: I did.
[ALL OF A SUDDEN, ANAT, THE ORACLE, SHOWS UP. HE IS A VERY OLD MAN, WEARING YELLOW-ISH ROBES AND DONNING A LONG WHITE BEARD.]
EDEL: Oh, Anat. Good morning. [cold] ANAT, THE ORACLE: Good morning, my Queen. [he bows] And how is our future king? MEYER: I’m great! Mother was teaching me all about the lake, and how it’ll belong to me when I’m king! [very excited] ANAT, THE ORACLE: Oh, how fantastic, Prince Meyer! [happily] EDEL: Anat, if you’ll excuse us, we must prepare for lunch. [gets up] Come, Meyer.
[MEYER GETS UP AND ACCOMPANIES HIS MOTHER.]
ANAT, THE ORACLE: [bows] Have a good day, both of you. MEYER: Bye, Anat!
[MEYER AND EDEL WALK AWAY. WHEN THEY’RE FAR ENOUGH FROM ANAT…]
EDEL: Never, ever, trust that man, Meyer. Did you understand? MEYER (surprised): Yes, Mother.
[END OF FLASHBACK. WE’RE BACK TO THE DARK SCREEN.]
EDEL: I remember it well, dear. MEYER: Then you must also remember that I heard you, Mother. EDEL: Yes, but that was not enough.
[EDEL TURNS AROUND, TURNING HER BACK TO MEYER. WE SEE A KNIFE IN HER BACK, AND BLOOD ALL OVER THE BACK OF THE DRESS.] That’s what I have so far of script. I have a lot more planned out, including, of course, who Meyer is fighting in the beginning, and why. You can clearly see what the aforementioned play and my story have in common, right? That introduction chapter is meant to leave a number of questions, who pretty much set up the following chapters, like who killed Edel, and why? What’s the deal with Anat? Why did Meyer’s mother, the Queen, taught him everything (supposedly), and not his father, the King? FEEDBACK NEEDED: Is the structure easy to follow? Or do you think it can be rather confusing? I mean, if this was done in a play, dividing the stage and all, I don’t see how it can’t be done in a game, which a much richer format, presentation-wise. I even wrote a paper addressing the difficulties of staging the play, so I’m aware of what not to do. Now, I know I’m not supposed to talk about too much about gameplay here, but, unfortunately, I have to. I want each flashback to feature a different kind of game. For instance, in a later chapter, Meyer, now the king, has to protect his kingdom from invaders, and so this results in a RTS game. In another, he learns fencing and swordfighting. In another, he learns how to dance (QTE sort of thing), etc. Then there’s the whole multiplayer thing, but that doesn’t matter, because this is way too much for me right now. SUGGESTIONS NEEDED: This is a character-driven game, but I don’t want people to get bored with plot exposition. I want them to know that right after this (hopefully) short scene, they’ll do something different, you know? My problem is that I can’t think of interesting ways to lead into flashbacks other than “Do you remember [whatever]?” or “[important event] was important, remember?” I can’t simply start the flashback, because the characters are telling stories to one another. Also, sometimes I’ll want to address the “reality plane” (the sword fight), but I don’t know how I can get back there. Since you won’t see a thing (for a while), I don’t know what to do. Any suggestion/feedback is very appreciated. And thank you again for taking the time to read. I know it's a tad long. [Edited by - Eduardo Friedman on February 19, 2008 6:57:39 PM]

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This is a very interesting concept for a game. If you can make it work, I think it will be very cool.

I'm kind of fuzzy on what happened in that scene. Is the screen black the entire time? If so, I'd have to advise against it. People will get put off from your game if they see something like that, especially if it is the very first scene.

I'm not clear on what is happening in each plane, so some of this might have to be edited.

I think you could separate the three planes through the presentation of the story.
That is:

Each time you enter a flashback, make the screen flash white for a split second or make a very distinct noise. Each time you go back to Reality, have the screen slowly fade out and fade back in.

It may be confusing at the beginning but people will get the hang of it.


To lead into flashbacks, you can do this:

Set up a story in one of the other planes [Plane 1] where the main character starts telling someone a story, (that can be a "Do you remember...?"). Then, the flashback begins [Plane 2]. Once the flash back ends, the game returns to [Plane 1] and the story there continues. The next time you want to enter a flashback, have the two characters go back to the place where the original flashback was, and then you can have one of the characters say things like: "Continue...", "Alright, then what happened?", "And then...", or you can have neither say a thing and just enter the flashback.

I hope that makes sense. What that scenario will do is set up a time in the story where the flashbacks can happen and also a distinct location in the world where they will be told from, making players recognize when it will happen.


If this isn't clear or you want some more help, let me know. I'll be glad to help.

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The pc game Sanitarium is one you might study if you are looking for similar games. I had problems getting it to run on a modern computer though. x.X But basically in it you play a man who gets in a car accident and wakes up in a lunatic asylum with his face hidden by bandages. You are actually insane (possibly because someone has drugged you) and your hallucinations make up most of the gameplay. You imagine that you are different people: a little girl, a comic book mutant with 4 arms, an ancient south american warrior. You interact with alien plants, religious zealots, a spider alien queen, circus staff, a south american god, and back in 'reality' some criminal scientists who might have arranged your car accident because you were going to reveal their crime. The most interesting aspect imho was coming out of a delusion and finding out what effect your setting things on fire, electrocuting them, or fighting with them in your delusion has had on the real world.

The game is an adventure game, mostly talking to npcs and solving puzzles by using key items in the right places, but it does have combat in a few cases. The gameplay has a unity of style from beginning to end which is probably a better approach than having the gameplay change each chapter. Aside from saving the work of basically creating multiple games, audience members tend to quit playing if you change the genre of gameplay out from under them. Another point is that rather than exploring a past which the player can't actually change, which might make them feel trapped or defeated from the start, the gameplay of Sanitarium takes place in the present and the player gets to feel satisfied at not only regaining his own identity and sanity, but also at thwarting criminals even though he started out in a very disadvantaged position. That old MacGyver appeal. [wink]

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Thanks for the replies. [smile]

Quote:
Original post by FartherThanLife
This is a very interesting concept for a game. If you can make it work, I think it will be very cool.

I'm kind of fuzzy on what happened in that scene. Is the screen black the entire time? If so, I'd have to advise against it. People will get put off from your game if they see something like that, especially if it is the very first scene.


Thanks. [smile]

The background will be black only during the introduction. As you progress, the background will get more and more lit up, and by the end you'll know that the entire conversation has taken place right beside the sword duel I've mentioned.

And it's not all black; it's got the characters, at least.

Quote:
Original post by FartherThanLifeI'm not clear on what is happening in each plane, so some of this might have to be edited.

I think you could separate the three planes through the presentation of the story.
That is:

Each time you enter a flashback, make the screen flash white for a split second or make a very distinct noise. Each time you go back to Reality, have the screen slowly fade out and fade back in.

It may be confusing at the beginning but people will get the hang of it.


It's actually simpler than I make it out to be.

The hallucination plane = where the dialog between Meir and Edel takes place.
The memory plane = flashbacks.
The reality plane = the sword duel, but we'll only explore it in the beginning (sound-only) and in the end (when we finally get to see it).

Oh, and I don't think it'll be hard to differentiate one plane from the other, but I thought about having a colour, or some colours, stand out more during flashbacks. I also didn't mention the art styles I have in mind, and they're important. Should I post what I'm thinking of here or should I go over to the Visual Arts subforum?

Quote:
Original post by FartherThanLifeTo lead into flashbacks, you can do this:

Set up a story in one of the other planes [Plane 1] where the main character starts telling someone a story, (that can be a "Do you remember...?"). Then, the flashback begins [Plane 2]. Once the flash back ends, the game returns to [Plane 1] and the story there continues. The next time you want to enter a flashback, have the two characters go back to the place where the original flashback was, and then you can have one of the characters say things like: "Continue...", "Alright, then what happened?", "And then...", or you can have neither say a thing and just enter the flashback.

I hope that makes sense. What that scenario will do is set up a time in the story where the flashbacks can happen and also a distinct location in the world where they will be told from, making players recognize when it will happen.

If this isn't clear or you want some more help, let me know. I'll be glad to help.


I like that, it sounds very natural.

Thanks a bunch for everything! [smile]

Quote:
Original post by Solias
Are all three planes on screen at the same time? That could be interesting.


Like I mentioned above, at least two planes will be on screen at the same time, but the player will only find that out in the end.

But I have to say I didn't consider having all three together. Like, during a flashback, Meir and Edel could be there as well; player will embrace the idea of hallucinations more easily, I think.

Thanks for that! [smile]

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
The pc game Sanitarium is one you might study if you are looking for similar games. I had problems getting it to run on a modern computer though. x.X But basically in it you play a man who gets in a car accident and wakes up in a lunatic asylum with his face hidden by bandages. You are actually insane (possibly because someone has drugged you) and your hallucinations make up most of the gameplay. You imagine that you are different people: a little girl, a comic book mutant with 4 arms, an ancient south american warrior. You interact with alien plants, religious zealots, a spider alien queen, circus staff, a south american god, and back in 'reality' some criminal scientists who might have arranged your car accident because you were going to reveal their crime. The most interesting aspect imho was coming out of a delusion and finding out what effect your setting things on fire, electrocuting them, or fighting with them in your delusion has had on the real world.


Wow, that sounds like a very interesting game! I'll see if I can find it and get it to run over here.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
The game is an adventure game, mostly talking to npcs and solving puzzles by using key items in the right places, but it does have combat in a few cases. The gameplay has a unity of style from beginning to end which is probably a better approach than having the gameplay change each chapter. Aside from saving the work of basically creating multiple games, audience members tend to quit playing if you change the genre of gameplay out from under them.


I've never considered that. I wanted to have multiple genres so people could be surprised, though it's true that it can annoy some people.

And since controlling Meir will be limited to only those bursts of gameplay, I thought that if they're varied, players who just to play won't get so angry, you know?

That's actually another reason I wanted to design some multiplayer possibilites as well; if you really liked a certain genre, go ahead and play some more online! That's way too much for me to handle right now, though.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Another point is that rather than exploring a past which the player can't actually change, which might make them feel trapped or defeated from the start, the gameplay of Sanitarium takes place in the present and the player gets to feel satisfied at not only regaining his own identity and sanity, but also at thwarting criminals even though he started out in a very disadvantaged position.


I once considered having multiple endings and branching storylines, but that would be way too complex for me. For instance, let's say the player loses at the RTS part. Instead of getting a game over screen, the story would move on, and some details would change. There are two huge problems: how to characterize Meir without talking about specific events (for example, how could he be a great king if he loses battles and his people become slaves or something?) and how to match up every single possible outcome.

What I could do is base the ending on outcomes of specific chapters. Maybe Meir could be dueling with one of three possible people or something.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
That old MacGyver appeal. [wink]


A MacGyver game would be all kinds of awesome. [inlove]

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Original post by sunandshadowaudience members tend to quit playing if you change the genre of gameplay out from under them.


Not necessarily. Games that change so rapidly that you always have new and interesting surprises are great fun. This would be the difference between Western and Japanese games if I talked about it- Japenese games tend to focus on one gameplay aspect more fully.

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I enjoyed reading the start of your game story, a lot of unanswered questions as you pointed out.
You've already had some good comments on this so I will try to follow.
Firstly, triggering flashbacks, you said about always having to say "Do you remember"; well you don’t always need to use words as catalysts for these things. Sometimes when a person on a TV show or movie, or an in game character reaches certain locations, he/she will get that quizzical look on their face and the flashback will commence. The same can be said when they see or touch a certain object, for example a killer who had lost all memory of the crime he/she committed uncovers the murder when, their face drains of colour and emotion as they slowly unravel the tale, enter flashback.

I agree with the ideas of FatherThanLife about the flashes and fade ins.

Also, getting back to reality from either of the other planes could be done by having certain details that the player could recognize that clearly defines that this is now reality, maybe when in the Hallucination Plane the screen has a haze around the edges and in the Memory Plane the screen could have a ripple effect, like an occasion drop of water into a still, near full bath, as if the player was viewing the pool of his/her memories. Reality would be still and regular.

Have to say sunandshadow's comments on Sanitarium made me think of Second Sight, not sure why exactly other than the story goes from the present, to the past and to the future often so, in one sense, has three planes.

I hope these comments will prove helpful.

One question, the age difference between the king and his mother in the first part is 10 or so years; yet later on is greater, is this because she has remained at the age of her death when she comes to speak to the king?

Mr Glass.

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Quote:
Original post by Mr Glass
I enjoyed reading the start of your game story, a lot of unanswered questions as you pointed out.
You've already had some good comments on this so I will try to follow.
Firstly, triggering flashbacks, you said about always having to say "Do you remember"; well you don’t always need to use words as catalysts for these things. Sometimes when a person on a TV show or movie, or an in game character reaches certain locations, he/she will get that quizzical look on their face and the flashback will commence. The same can be said when they see or touch a certain object, for example a killer who had lost all memory of the crime he/she committed uncovers the murder when, their face drains of colour and emotion as they slowly unravel the tale, enter flashback.

I agree with the ideas of FatherThanLife about the flashes and fade ins.


Thanks for the nice comments. [smile]

I've been thinking about that flashback issue for some time now, and since I've recently decided to divide everything nicely into chapters, I might be able to get away with objects triggering a flashback.

See, I'm a huge Lost fan. The season 2 and 3 premieres have shown me how to shock the audience with flashbacks, and by making use of chapter divisions, I can start a chapter with a flashback without anyone saying anything or showing anything.

I'll be able to show you what I mean in a few days, after I write some more of Chapter One and rewrite some parts of the Introduction.

Quote:
Original post by Mr GlassAlso, getting back to reality from either of the other planes could be done by having certain details that the player could recognize that clearly defines that this is now reality, maybe when in the Hallucination Plane the screen has a haze around the edges and in the Memory Plane the screen could have a ripple effect, like an occasion drop of water into a still, near full bath, as if the player was viewing the pool of his/her memories. Reality would be still and regular.


I had something like that in mind, but your symbolism is much, much cleared (and better) than what I thought about.

Like I mentioned before, the Hallucination Plane, that is, Meyer (I've decided to go with that spelling, instead of Meir, by the way) and Edel talking, takes place in the exact same location as the sword duel, but players would only find that out by the end. My idea was to have a simple set design, like 4 pillars, resulting in 3 spaces, like so:

|1|2|3|

Space 1 would be the Memory Plane. Every time a flashback starts, the camera would zoom in there, as if going through that space.

Space 2 would be the Hallucination Plane. Every time a flashback ends, the camera would zoom out from there, as if coming back through that space.

Space 3 would be the Reality Plane. When we finally see that's it's all taken place in one location, we would see Meyer pinned against the wall, and his position will be exactly between the two right most pillars.

Ouch, I hope that made sense.

As for graphical hints, I considered having flashbacks in an Impressionist style, like so:

Claude Monet - Mohnblumen

Claude Monet - Branch of the Seine near Giverny

I've always been enamored with that style, and I think it would be interesting to see it in motion. The reason why I want the flashbacks to be Impressionistic is because they'll feature different locales and lots of colours, the polar opposite of the Hallucination, which is based on one place, and not a lot of colour.

Quote:
Original post by Mr GlassHave to say sunandshadow's comments on Sanitarium made me think of Second Sight, not sure why exactly other than the story goes from the present, to the past and to the future often so, in one sense, has three planes.


I just might have to check that game out.

Quote:
Original post by Mr GlassI hope these comments will prove helpful.

One question, the age difference between the king and his mother in the first part is 10 or so years; yet later on is greater, is this because she has remained at the age of her death when she comes to speak to the king?

Mr Glass.


Your comments have been great, thanks again. [smile]

As for your question, that's exactly it.

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Glad you found my comments useful.
You have come up with some interesting ideas; the Impressionist style for a flashback could work really well.

Second Sight is a good game in my opinion, worth buying alone for the physic abilities you get to use. You really only put the pieces together near the end, when you figure out what is what, was the past really the past, that sort of theme.

Look forward to your next chapter.

Mr Glass.

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Quote:
Original post by Mr Glass
Glad you found my comments useful.
You have come up with some interesting ideas; the Impressionist style for a flashback could work really well.


I've got Okami to thank for that. Since the graphical style was so well-received, there's a good chance that Impressionism could also work.

As for the next chapter, I'm afraid it might take a little longer. [sad]
The reason is that I've begun using a (freeware) software called Celtx to write the script. Because it allows users to have index cards for characters, locations, and so on, I've decided to first map out the plot, sort out all the little details and the like. I mean, it's one thing to have the story in your head, but it's another to write it down.

However, I did come up with something that could be the straw that broke the camel's back. I loathe pretentious works and authors. My college major is (sort of) Liberal Arts, and unfortunately, there's a lot of pretentiousness to go around... this is not strictly plot-related, but, anyway, I thought about having the soundtrack done entirely for a string quartet (2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello). My problem is that it is yet another symbol, representing the 4 main characters. (That pretty much gives away the antagonist, btw)

I don't want it to be an artsy-fartsy, "post-Modern" game, I just want it to be different enough. So, my question: is there enough Symbolism already (if there is such a thing) or would the string quartet thing be a cool addition?

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Hum, intresting idea about using the string quartet.
You'll probably find that as you go further into your story you have more Symbolism than you realise and only notice certain piece that you've added on a second read. I know when I am thinking up a story it's just a case of writing it down, letting it flow and then see what the end result is.

Going back to the string quartet. I cant think of any game today that does not have some form of music in it. I would guess that adding music would come further down the road, first completeing the story and making sure the mechanics of the game worked and then finding musical pieces to suit it.
But this is your game and if you feel strongly about that type of music I cant see why you cant make it work.

Mr Glass.

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