Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

We invite you to play (Mono no) Aware!

Posted by (twitter: @thommaz)
Thursday, May 5th, 2016 11:33 am

mono no aware

Hi everyone! Voting is almost over, but we thought we should write a post inviting you to play our game before the end.

mono no aware

(Mono no) Aware is an interactive novel with platformer elements that discusses life’s shapeshifting nature. We were really trying to achieve a delicate result using watercolour and subtle dialogue and, well, please let us know what you thought!

Controls:
Arrow keys to move
X to interact and push things
Z to jump

The Monster Inside – Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @tylerowen)
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 10:11 am

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Click here to visit the Ludum Dare entry page

This is the most fun I’ve had working on a game jam entry in a very long time. And the key to that was the scope of the project. This was my 6th game jam I’ve done, and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand what kinds of games can be accomplished in a short weekend. With The Monster Inside, we kept it simple and small, and the result is one of my favorite games I’ve ever created.

park

 

In my full time project, Lacuna Passage, I’ve been doing a lot of programming work that hasn’t felt very creative. For Ludum Dare 33 I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a short break from that and build something almost purely narrative with a distinct, simple art style. After the reveal of the theme “You Are The Monster” I started brainstorming ways to limit the scope of the project that would allow me to focus primarily on the story writing.

The first aspect of this was to use very simple art. I decided that I did want the game to be 3D, but I didn’t want to have to spend time animating characters, doing physics collisions, navigating obstacles, or managing an inventory or items. That quickly led me to consider doing an interactive visual novel. We could use simple static 3D renders in the background and just have text and dialogue in the foreground.

I was inspired by the memory of simple chapter art that would sometimes accompany young adult novels like Harry Potter. In the example below you see a small black and white image that appears at the beginning of a chapter and gives you a small taste of what you will encounter in the following text.

official-dh-chapter-art-harry-potter-26-the-deathly-hallows-200206_400_5011

 

I always loved these images as a child and I’ve always wondered why more adult novels don’t incorporate establishing art in a similar way. Some fantasy books include illustrated maps in the back cover, but why not full illustrations to really put you in the world?

Well, with our game we could do whatever we wanted. So I took the idea of simple “chapter” art and combined it with an isometric style that I am fond of. A reference image we used can be seen below.

low_poly_scene___first_day_at_monsters_university_by_kautsar211086-d6afvz4

 

Artist on DeviantArt

But we needed to go even simpler for our scope. With a film noir style we could go pure grayscale and avoid the complication of color. The result fit our needs perfectly.

docks

 

Our artist, Doug Auerbach, did an amazing job with this style. It gave me exactly the context I was looking for with the narrative, but without being overly complicated and time consuming.

After working more on the script I realized that visual novels have some interesting advantages over writing a book or traditional short story.

For example, I could control the pacing of the story completely. The player has an interactive button to progress the text, but I could fully control when that next line of text was revealed after a delay. I could make the player hang waiting for the next suspenseful line to appear. It also prevented the player from reading or glancing ahead to spoil the timing of a reveal. Obviously I’m not the first to discover this, but it was something I found very powerful while writing the script.

We were also able to leverage the benefit of sound and music. Clark Aboud, my long time partner for all things musical, did an incredible job on the soundtrack with a unique theme for almost every chapter. This really helped bring the static scenes to life and engross the player in the mood of the story.

As for the story, I was mostly inspired by having recently finished the first book of The Dark Tower series. SPOILERS for both The Dark Tower and The Monster Inside… there is a Succubus in that first book that stuck with me and largely led to the plot you see now in The Monster Inside.

I wanted to include some limited dialogue trees in the game that would make the player feel more like they were role playing the character of Jack, but I knew that I probably couldn’t make them extremely branched or it would make our scope too large. So I stuck with very few dialogue trees that had very short branches. It was a small touch that helped you feel more a part of the story rather than an outside observer.

I managed writing these dialogue trees with a program called Chat Mapper. I highly recommend it. I didn’t actually have time to create an xml parser that used the exports from Chat Mapper, but it was still very useful to keep the dialogue trees organized while writing. I ended up just copy-pasting the story text from Chat Mapper into .txt files with my own parsing logic. It was lightweight and simple for our purposes, but it did have a high probability for error (thankfully I don’t think there are any).

The only real point of “gameplay” that I included was a simplified investigation mechanic where you are able to search crime scenes for clues, but it is very minimalist and again only really serves to put you more in the role of Jack by clicking on scene objects rather than just the NEXT button over and over.

The only thing that I did not have time for was to incorporate some simple motion elements into the art. I wanted to have a rain particle effect overlaid on the dock scene, and I wanted steam coming from the sewer grate in the alley scene, but we simply ran out of time. Thankfully these were just set dressing ideas and didn’t affect the overall game. We are extremely proud of the end result and hope you enjoy playing it!

 

First Ludum Dare Jam Game

Posted by (twitter: @@MJSaiger)
Monday, August 24th, 2015 6:36 pm

This is the first LDJAM I have taken part in.

The game can be played here: http://philome.la/MJSaiger/blood-the-monster-is-you

I’m still getting my head around unity so I thought I would try my hand (more fingers) at writing a horror/thriller to fit the theme. The story has multiple choices and is very dark with themes that some may find unsettling.

In the Black – Post Mortem

Posted by
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 5:05 pm

Ludum Dare 29 - Hybrid Mind Workspace

Background

This was my 6th year doing Ludum Dare and I had a really great experience. I made a game called In the Black–which ended up being very different from the kind of games I’ve made for Ludum Dare in the past.

In The Black - TitleI decided to go all out this time and setup a livestream of my development over on my Twitch TV channel. It was fun having different people stop by during the weekend and say hello and chat a bit. Plus, it helped make me more comfortable with being on camera–which I really don’t like all that much–it worked out pretty good! I also recorded a timelapse video of my development where I compressed 30+ hours of development down into minutes.

Since I have been pondering game design ideas involving stats and narrative recently, I knew I wanted to make a game that made use of something similar. These kinds of games are a new genre for me as a creator, but I’m mostly pleased with what I ended up with at the conclusion of the 48hr competition.

Hybrid Mind BanjoOnce the theme Beneath the Surface was announced, I knew there would probably be a lot of games involving mining or digging. I wanted to do a game about mining as well, but take an approach that I felt would likely be fairly unique. I decided that the role the player would perform in my game would be managing a mine from afar through dialog choices, rather than have them actively going down into the mine. In fact, my game was going to display the action entirely in story.

I determined that the game would take place in a small mining town placed roughly in the old west. This would also fit well with me wanting to write a banjo tune or two for the game. I play clawhammer banjo and have wanted to feature some of my music in a game for a long while now. That worked out really well.

The premise of the game is that you have been sent out west by your boss to get the town’s failing mine operation back up and running profitably. You have 10 weeks to earn $10,000–or else! The fun of the game was designed to come from wrapping the simulation stats in narrative and choices. So, even though you are tweaking numbers to achieve a profitable balance, you’d feel more like you were making story based choices.

What Went Right

I had my game idea pretty early on. That is always a major benefit in a short competition timeframe like Ludum Dare. I was able to quickly create a design document that detailed a first pass on the stat system. Initially the game would track stats on three things, the mine, the workers, and the manager (the role of the player.)

In The Black - Screenshot3The mine attributes were profit, danger level, and efficiency and the worker attributes were fear, happiness, and unrest. Lastly, the attributes of the manager were going to be greed, compassion, and ruthlessness. Each week of the game, the player would get to focus on a particular area to make their choices about how to manage the mine.

I was going to use either Flash or Unity or this game. They are both amazingly fast to prototype in. Largely my decision to go with Flash had to do with wanting to make everything from scratch for the competition. Old school style! The plugins I use a lot of in Unity are not free and I wanted to be able to provide the full source for my game, not a hobbled version. Using Flash solved this for me as I could create everything I needed.

Since the game was going to be mostly text, I knew I had a lot of time saved up that wouldn’t be used on art. That was going to be needed because I’m fairly slow at writing still and I labor over it.

The basic dialog system and main game flow were finished pretty quickly during the first full day. I knew how all the infrastructure would work. The tech was finished! Now I just needed to finish the design of the actual stats and how the player interacted with them.

With only 6 hours remaining in the competition, I was almost ready to admit defeat and throw in the towel. I can’t believe how close I came! I talked myself down though and compromised by taking a walk to get away from the computer. Even though I only walked for 30 minutes or so, and even though I felt I had no great epiphany during my walk, when I returned to my workspace I suddenly saw what I had to do in my mind’s eye. I came up with a brutal triage plan and changed the design by cutting almost half of the existing system out! This simplified and clarified things greatly and I was able to get the system coded and working well enough to actually play and balance it. Finally, I was on the right track!

As far as music goes, this was the easiest time I’ve ever had with the soundtrack on a Ludum Dare game. I’ve been playing banjo about eight years now or so and have never actually used any in one of my games. I play a lot though and it is almost always my own original instrumentals. I just love to compose tune after tune. All the time spent coming up with tunes on the fly made it fun to sit down near the end of the competition and create a tune I felt fit the old west town quite well. Here is a video of me playing the main soundtrack from the game just for fun!

In The Black - Banjo

What Went Wrong

As I mentioned above, nailing down the specifics of the actual gameplay stats proved incredibly challenging. As long as the stat design was foggy, I couldn’t effectively code what was supposed to happen. You need to understand the system you are trying to represent with cold hard logic after all! I was struggling with the scope of designing and balancing three areas (mines, workers, manager) that had three attributes each. Plus, I wasn’t certain as to how the attributes affected the other areas. I was worried that some of the stats were actually just inverses of the others rather than uniquely on their own axis.

In The Black - Screenshot2I got held up a long time by having profit be a stat. Initially I had wanted to make the game more abstract and so instead of tracking money and expenses (which yields profit) I attempt to track just a profit type variable. The problem with that became apparent for most of the prototype’s development. It just didn’t make sense in my head. I kept wanting to think of it as a usable number. It took me too long to realize I needed to change this.

I ran out of time on wrapping as much of the system in narrative. I wanted to further obscure the number in the game beneath well written dialog. I’m happy with what I managed to wrap with words, but I could have done much more.

I ran out of time to add more random events and flavor text based on game state. I really wanted to have a chance to incorporate more random events that provided choices for the player to respond. These events–and how the player handled them–would further shape the mine.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with the game I got out of this Ludum Dare. I also know that I came so close to quitting, yet somehow held on and turned it around into a game that was still very playable–even if it wasn’t my original full realization. It seems that people have been really positive about it so far too with the majority of the players being able to successfully complete it! It is also encouraging that the players have been really enjoying the music too!

Here is my Ludum Dare game page for voting and feedback. If you leave me feedback, I will leave you feedback on your game! Thanks for reading and playing.

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