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Feedback on Headliner - shape public opinion, see your life change

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Hello Folks!

I just began working on my third free adventure game and figure I could use some feedback on the design before I sink too deep :)



In the near future, genetic engineering and dissolution into nation-states led governments to regulate peace via strict media control. You are one of chief curator of the local digipaper. You are the Headliner.


The game spans 10 days, each divided into three stages:


The Office, single screen with free look from your cubicle approving articles.
  • Each day, 5-10 new articles pile up on your desk you must either approve or disapprove
    The time is ticking with a wall clock.
  • Sticky notes from management or reminders from your wife / husband (like “pick up milk on way home, love, Anna”).
  • Similar interface to Papers, Please or Westpoint Independent

The Streets, side-scrolling walk home with buildings and shops in background.
  • Denizens walk the streets and comment on latest events as you pass by.
  • Megaphones keep counting down the curfew time, urging you to get home as soon as possible
  • As the situation changes, there may be protestors or even rioters, vandalized buildings etc.
  • Police and armed patrols eventually show up and must be avoided, or face lengthy paper checks
  • The quicker you wrap up Office work, the more time you will have in this stage
Home, single-screen dinner scene with your husband/wife and teenage daughter
  • Short conversation with your family commenting on events and criticizing/apporiving your paper
  • A few choices in the conversation that can impact story (i.e. daughter wanting to attend a protest)
As you approve more extremist pieces:
  • Your boss’s approval increases (i.e. “Great work last night, our ratings are booming!”)
  • Your wife’s approval decreases (i.e. “I cannot believe you work for that tabloid trash!”)
  • Civil Unrest increases leading to more protests, riots and patrols / checkpoints / shorter curfew
Story Outline
You start one week from the 4th anniversary of your nation state becoming the first in the world to have over half of the population genetically modified. This led to tensions, with a lot of non-modified “purists” being discriminated against (think Jim Crow laws or Deus Ex: Human Revolution augmented/non-augmented in reverse).

As the annual “Emancipation Celebration Day” approaches, the public unrest and government concern grows. In response, a foreign diplomat Ferdinand Rath will arrive in two days to assuage the situation.

Based on how you shape the newspaper, the unrest can become more discriminatory and violent against purists. There will be an assassination attempt at diplomat Rath, and whether he lives or dies depends on your influence. The culprit will be captured and their defense and public image will also depend on your articles.

The story reaches climax on the actual celebration day, from a fairly peaceful to spiraling out of control with people throwing bricks and burning cars. You will play for several more days after to watch the fallout.

The whole scenario is heavily based on Kristallnacht, “a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on the 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians.” (Wikipedia)

References and Influences

Blade Runner - for the overall dark aesthetic and moral dilemmas
Papers, Please - one of the core inspirations and an excellent game!
Westport Independent - indie game curating a newspaper, albeit lacking in the emotional payoff. I hope to learn from reading its criticism and reviews.
Jazzpunk - for its use of slapstic humor and in-game newspapers[
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - for the augmented/non-augmented conflict and overall aesthetic, similar to Blade Runner Edited by Koobazaur

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Cool idea! But how straightforward is it to get either ending? How are you determining what leads to peaceful rally versus anarchist, assassination riot? Right now, it seems I can just press 'X' the whole way through without making any hard decisions.

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In essence, yes you can. The trick is getting the player engaged enough they would care to read the articles and make a decision.

How would you suggest to make it more engaging?

You also have secondary objectives and choices along the way home or when talking to your family at dinner that can influence your personal life.

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Sounds pretty unique, or at least I haven't heard of other ideas like this. I'm curious to see how this turns out.


You have a whole cause and effect idea going on here where the player has semi direct influence on causal elements and the effects are viewed on the street and at home. It can be difficult getting people to care enough to read in any game, in many cases they just want to see the action. You may never get some types of players to read the articles but maybe others will come to wanting to take more of an interest in the details of what comes across their desk after they start to see the effects of some of their decisions. So, it might be a good idea to give the player as much ability as possible to to see the results of what choices they make. The time limit elements that you mentioned may create a sense of pressure and may be appropriate for the setting but it's going to take away from the player's ability to explore and absorb the effects of his choices.


With replayability in mind, I'm not sure whether or not you you're better off having one "good" ending for the player to try and find. Going through the game making what may typically be considered the "right" or "moral" decision may end up creating additional strife or alternative the player might see how other decisions end up creating other forms of inequity or repression. I have a feeling that's the sort of thing that you're going for anyways. In general, I think, seeing a lack of perfection might encourage players to try the game again making a different set of decisions.


Given that it's a game about the impact a newspaper has on a society, it's all going to come down to the writing though.

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Thanks! Yes, hopefully the little experiment works; I'm learning from the faults of my past two narrative games (and a few others I mentioned) so hopefully it works better this time :)

Regarding having players read - aye, it's definitely a bit of a niche game for people who like this kind of stuff. Still, I feel the right aesthetics and writing can make a big difference in making player care. Part of what I'm trying to improve via this game.

RE time - good points, and I am a bit on the fence here. It may be an extra motivating gameplay mechanics, or detract from the experience as you stated. Right now the main repercussion is extra patrols and your spouse complaining if you are late. I guess testing will show how well it works in practice.

Lastly, both my previous narrative games had dynamically generated endings that were a combination of about 15 different variables. However, some players ended with a really great and rewarding ending, others ended up feeling dissatisfied. So I am thinking of going back to the "fixed" pre-written endings for a few possible scenarios (+ the small variations) to ensure each playthrough hits a punch in some way.

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