Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Storytelling (22)

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Look How Far You’ve Come

One of my favorite game tropes is what I call the “Look How Far You’ve Come” sequence that shows up shortly before the ending.

It can be done a variety of ways, but in some manner it reintroduces areas, characters, enemies, or other story elements that you haven’t seen in a while, emphasizing what’s changed and what hasn’t, reminding you where your journey began and how far it’s taken you. It’s a great way for games to add weight, consequence, and meaning to your adventure and actions while making the ending that much more climactic.

One of my favorite examples actually comes from Dragon Quest Heroes II. (Minor spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph.) In the lead-in to the final battle, you essentially go through a nostalgia gauntlet - fighting groups of monsters from each area of the game, in the order you explored them. The fights are easy and clearly more of a reminder than a skill test, and over the course of them every single one of your accumulated party members speaks up about your travels together.

It’s more common for this sort of reflection to be presented in cinematics after beating the game. But I find it more impactful when you can actually play through it. Which of course is why EarthBound has the best ending of any video game, ever.

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Premature Thoughts about Haven

So, the folks behind Furi are now working on a game called Haven. Details have been scarce but there’s now a gameplay trailer and press release with some more information.

The game is definitely on my radar, but the aspect I want to focus on right now is this quote from creative director Emeric Thoa:

“The story of a couple fighting for their freedom, an established relationship: what love looks like when you’ve moved past the early seduction phase, when you can be your true self with one another… I don’t think that’s been done much in video games.”

I agree with this and I’m interested to see it done well. The plan for Haven is especially interesting given that Thoa describes the game as “Journey meets Persona.” It’s unclear yet what this means (if indeed it means anything; it’s very easy to just list some popular games without that proving anything about your own game) but I find the Persona comparison intriguing.

Modern Persona games place a large emphasis on character relationships, and it looks like Haven will do the same. But where Persona provides a handful of varied characters with whom the player can establish relationships (in the game’s terminology, taking the “social link” from rank one to rank ten) it looks like Haven provides a single character with whom the player can explore an already established relationship (the social link starts at rank ten).

This feels like a bit of a gamble - if I imagine a Persona game providing only one social link with the combined depth that’s currently spread across all social links, that’s an exciting idea if the expanded social link is with my favorite character and a disappointing idea if it’s with my least-favorite character. The depth really only pays off if the player likes the characters.

But this isn’t really a fair comparison. Persona characters can be varied because there are several with the same depth. It’s good for the characters to have distinct personalities with traits that will endear them to some and put off others. No Persona character is everyone’s favorite, but every Persona character is somebody’s favorite. If you’re making a game with only one relationship, now the pressure’s on to make that character broadly likable, in a mass-market homogenization kind of way.

So I’m a little concerned that the characters in Haven could end up generic with any controversial edges filed off - tolerable to everyone, but not anyone’s favorites. Unobjectionable but unremarkable. I hope this isn’t the case. There isn’t really anything in the trailer that makes it seem likely; I’m just concerned about the market forces involved.

What is in the trailer, though, is a dialog choice. This seems like a possible solution, if done right - if there are many such choices and they don’t drastically change the story (so that there aren’t right and wrong choices) but do change the character personalities and interactions so they can be more extreme and more to the player’s liking. I’m not sure if that’s where Haven intends to take things, but I think it could be a great way to handle it.

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I Miss Rivalries in Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal’s faithful retelling of the original Senran Kagura Burst’s story is bittersweet. It’s a reminder of why I fell in love with the series in the first place, but it can’t help but also remind me of the fact that the later games have gone in a different direction that I find much less appealing. While I’m enjoying it more than I’ve enjoyed a Senran Kagura game in years, it doesn’t make me confident for the next game in the series if the way they’ve found to tell me a story I like as much as the first story is to just… tell me the first story again.

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Who's the Boss: Player Choice, NPC Consent, and the Designer's Unseen Hand

Last week, we discussed the spectrum of allowance - a way to describe how allowed a given action is within a game, ranging from impossible to required. A key point is that the game’s designer places each action on the spectrum. Aside from bugs (which violate the designer’s intent) and hacks (which partially override the original design with another), in a game you can only do what the designer lets you. This is true even when you have freedom of choice - that freedom was granted by the designer.

Some games understand this well and play with it effectively - see for example The Stanley Parable, especially the confusion ending (warning: spoilers). But not all games that examine player choice understand the designer’s role.

The Journey Of Me is a free browser game. It’s a 2D platformer and it takes about fifteen minutes to play. I am now going to spoil the hell out of it, but honestly I don’t think you should be too worried about spoilers in this case.

The Journey of Me title screen