This Is How It Ends: Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @oreganik)
December 18th, 2012 3:08 pm

ThisIsHowItEnds_Title

Post-Mortem // Play and rate it here

How could someone justify ending the world?

That was the question I wanted to answer. So I told a story indirectly, using personal narrative, correspondence from other people, and cold, scientific descriptions of doomsday scenarios.

To keep it from simply being a “click here to read more” game, I tried to make it emotionally difficult to progress. This led to the decision to start at the end, then have the player go back in time. The emotional weight would come from the scale of devastation, the local impact, and letters from other people (pleas, threats, news) that would show different perspectives on your actions, and also inform you of the past that brought you to the point of being a messiah of the apocalypse.

howitends_chart

That chart was in my head as I wrote the narrative, which I did first. Then I settled on a graphical look (super 16-bit) and created a setting that would be part of the story: a location that showed the effects of latest disaster you enacted.

Here, you can see the final stage (which is played first), compared to stage 2.

howitends_stageprogression

Each stage has a visible change. I think that’s one of the things that really worked out well.

There’s a glowing square in each scene. That’s a “memory” of the previous stage, showing how things used to be. This interactive object lets the villain provide some context and commentary, while serving as the “gate” between stages. This is probably the weakest part of the design, as the player has to walk around and touch things to discover how to unlock it. But once they figure it out, it’s the same each time.

There are two computer consoles in each scene. One shows the effects of the previous disaster:

howitends_acidocean_result

The other shows the impending disaster, giving you the option of activating it (sending you forward in time) or disabling it forever, which can end progress (“this is how it ends”) if you decide to abandon the memory forever. Here’s the Acid Ocean activate screen, which would be seen in the stage following the one with the result:

howitends_acidocean_activate

Finally, there are the Letters, which provide external perspectives on your actions, as well as insights into your personal history (including the dark events that turned you into what you are). There are a few one-offs, but I use several recurring characters to show progression. Here are two letters from the President, in reverse chronological order:

howitends_prez_letters

I’ve heard the colorful letter from the Fisherman’s Union of Anchorage Alaska (after you’ve acidified the oceans) is a particular favorite.

Ending progress by disabling the doomsday device AND closing the memory gate — thus stopping progress forward or backward — was supposed to trigger a narrative explaining what happened next, which would have further justified you moving forward. But time, alas. She’s a monster.

I hope I get enough feedback and votes to justify putting that in the game, giving everything a coat of polish, and posting it online for a few bucks. But even if that doesn’t happen, I feel a tingly sense of satisfaction at a story well told.

Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.

-ted

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