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Memories in Games (long)

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I'll be upfront, this post may prove to be a bit long. So, if you're not up for a read, you may want to pass by this post.

I'd like to be critiqued on my use of dreams and memories in a game I'm working on. Below is one of the primary memories I intend to use throughout the game, what are your thoughts?

[rollup='Main Characters']Justas : The main protagonist. During this dream/memory sequence the player retains minimal control of this character. Allowing movement and simple interaction with the other characters in the sequence.

Hope : Justas’ four (4) year old daughter. She is giggly, happy and playfully interacts with her father.[/rollup]

[rollup='Background']The [super-simplified] plot revolves around Justas’ search for his kidnapped daughter. This memory/dream sequence may serve as both a motivational support and/or depressing reminder for the player.[/rollup]

[rollup='Setting']The scenery itself is bleak and broken and uninhabitable buildings liter the background. But the sun is bright and high in the sky, and birds can be heard happily chirping. There is a light breeze that can be heard moving through the growing trees. A general sense of happiness fills the air.

In the center of the memory/dream there are parents and children that can be seen playing together in an old park. To the side, some children are chasing feeding birds while their parents watch and converse with one another. The annoyed birds lift into flight for a second then land and the cycle continues. Other children can be seen playing other games (tag, jump rope, etc.).[/rollup]

The focus of the dream is the protagonist’s daughter, Hope, who is slightly swinging on the only remaining swing. It’s obvious that she hasn’t yet learned how to swing herself. The player can hear her giggling as she yells, “Push me high, Daddy! Pleeease!

The player controls Justas and may go and speak to any of the characters in the scene (using the action button). Each will be amiable and have short nothings to converse about. Some parents may even thank him for fixing up ‘the old park’. But the primary role of the dream will be the memory of the interaction between Justas and Hope.

The player can move Justas behind Hope and use the action button to push her on the swing. Her giggles will increase the higher she is pushed. And if he misses, her swing hits him [stopping the swinging process] and she says, “Daddy… that hurt…” to which he’ll reply, “I’m sorry, Hope. Daddy should pay more attention, shouldn’t he?” The player may then restart the swinging process.

This memory/dream sequence will end after five successful swinging actions; or, alternatively, by pressing the cancel button at any time.

As the game progresses, small parts of the sequence are removed. At first it’s nothing large and should go mostly unnoticed by the player (maybe a bird here or there). But as time goes on more of the sequence is removed and it becomes completely noticeable that this sequence is not the same as the original. Justas has begun forgetting pieces of the memory… This is a very sore topic for Justas.

If too much time goes by without successfully completing the game the memory/dream sequence setting changes. Dark clouds cover the sun and the park remains completely empty except for Justas who stands staring at an empty swing. At this point, the player can sit in the swing (by using the action button) and Justas will rock back and forth and say, “This isn’t right… Where is Hope?” This will end the memory/dream sequence. Edited by ShadowValence

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I'll be upfront as well, I'm most certainly not experienced when it comes to writing for games. ^^

The concept of the fading memories seems really nice. I would be careful however. While it may be good to keep the changes subtle at first, keeping them too subtle for too long might easily result in the player ignoring dream sequences completely and only noticing the changes very late, much later than he normally would. I wouldn't remove "a single bird" except maybe that it flew more or less directly in front of the camera, but instead remove all birds at one point, maybe split into first removing all chirping and then removing the birds themselves. if they were very ...backgroundy to begin with, the average player still shouldn't notice.
The second discrepancy I see would be the sudden addition of "dark clouds" and similar additions you could have in mind to lower the mood. Up until now, you've only had him forget things, resulting in the subtraction of objects. The human mind is capable of compensating such memory-loss by the addition of other things where the forgotten object was before. However, such replacements are always the most common ones. For example, if the park featured a very nice, bright orange bench, and that would be forgotten, it could be replaced by a standard white or wooden bench, you know, the one you instantly think of when somebody says the word "park bench". Concerning the darkend sky, such an approach would result not in the addition of dark clouds, but in the the subtraction of the bright and sunny weather, which would be replaced by the common one: a dull sun (maybe not even visible, who remembers the position of the sun?) and a grey-blue, maybe overcast sky, it might drizzle a little, but only if the character lives in a very rainy region.

I hope that was helpful,


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I really like the idea of the concept. I would say to not make the disappearances, or the changes in dreams, TOO subtle. But, I also think that the change doesn't have to be too drastic. For example, instead of clouds turning gray, it could be that he is at the park again, with various other aspects slightly changed (perhaps a parent and a few kids aren't there, maybe the birds aren't fighting), and in the end he sits on the swing before he notices that something is missing. Though, the idea of dark clouds would tie into the emotions that Justas has about not remembering such a touching dream. But those are just my thoughts. Edited by M4uesviecr

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This is a construct that I think is nice: I like the idea of fading memories and how you can convey this in a game.

First off: from what you write I am totally not getting the concept that Justas is forgetting about his daughter that he is in the progress of rescuing. I fully acknowledge that I have way to little info to go on, but the devil is always in the details. Why is Justas forgetting? What exactly is he forgetting? This may be useful questions to style the scene and give it more meaning in the context of the rest of the story.

Also I don't believe that you will get any mileage from the words "find the sweet spot between obvious and subtle changes". This sweet spot depends on factors like target audience, game style and others so you will have to figure this out yourself (or give us lots of more information if you want advice). But we can brainstorm a lot of ideas that you can use in this scene anyways. Ideas such as:

- The color scheme could go from bright to sepia or black and white
- If you want to highlight changes you can always just have the changed items be... well highlighted in some way at the start of the scene. If the birds disappear then you can start the scene just before Justas enters. The birds are there and slowly fade out. Then Justas enters. You can also have things fade out when Justas gets close to them. This would change the scene into a sort of hide&seek thing.
- I am curious why the buildings are uninhabited, this struck me as contradiction to the rest of the uber-happy scene. If one of the changes you want is in the tone of the scene then the state of the buildings is a good subtle change candidate
- Changes in or removal of sounds and music. Lots of possibilities here.

Most of all I think the hardest part of this scene is how to keep the players interested in re-experiencing it several times throughout the game. I would be tempted to press cancel sooner rather than later once I -as a player- figure out what the scene means and there is no additional value.

You can make subtle changes to what it means if Justas is not just remembering, but if he is actively trying to remember. So that it has consequences in how good the player performs at this. Then exploring each repetition is at least rewarded (but might still not be interesting enough just like that).

The opposite route to go, is to gradually remove the player interaction, and have become more of a cut scene each time (thus removing the burden on players to do repetitious actions). Actually I quite like this idea, as it also implies loss of memory. First the memory is so vivid that it feels like you are still making the decision. Later the detail decisions are remove, etc, until all of your memory is a movie or even an image.

I hope this all helps and I am curious what you decide to make of your dream/memory sequence.

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I definitely like this idea of a recurring memory that gets slowly forgotten as the game goes on.

First thing is that you mentioned an idea that "If too much time goes by without successfully completing the game the memory/dream sequence setting changes." I don't know exactly what you mean by this, but if you're going by play time for this, it may have negative impacts on the gameplay. I personally play games slower than most people. Some people like to rush through to get to the end, but I like to take my time, enjoying the game. Going by play time alone, or even number of failed attempts before success, some players won't get the full effect, and some will get too much.

Second is a suggestion on the memories - if you have the center of this memory being a park, make up a kind of visually-enclosed space. As the memories fade, after the birds have faded and the parents are gone, you could have a shadow start at the very edge of the dream, and slowly move closer to the center. This would make it seem like the memory is fading; at the very end of the game, or at the climax, you could have the memory be confined to just "Justas rocking back and forth saying, 'This isn’t right… Where is Hope?'"

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