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Friday, January 20, 2017

I have an interesting relationship with the designers. They are instinctively concerned with “what does the player want to do?” As the narrative guy, however, it’s my job to ask, “Why does Arthur want to do this?”

For example, let’s suppose Arthur discovers that a delivery boy is late. The player gets an objective to find out why he is late.

However, why should Arthur care whether a delivery boy is late? “Because the player got an objective” is not an answer. Nor is “because it is going to set him off on an adventure”; he doesn’t know that. Most people Arthur knows are forgetful; aren’t people late all the time?

So, I’m the pain in the ass guy who complicates the job of designing levels by asking why the player character wants to do what the player wants to do.

So, first, I thought, maybe this delivery boy is never late. Okay, that’s helpful. But still, why should Arthur care?

I asked David. David said, “Maybe he knows him.”

So I thought, of course. The delivery boy was Arthur’s brother’s only real friend in school. Arthur’s goal in the game is to find Percy because he promised he’d take care of him. If he can help the delivery boy, he can accomplish a shadow of that goal.

Now the mission is personal. Note that it has not changed at all in design, only in meaning. And that changed meaning gave us an interesting way to resolve the encounter, which helps make the encounter even deeper and more personal. But you’ll have to play the encounter to find out how.

When I wrote sonnets back in university, I noticed that fitting a meter and rhyme scheme forced me to be more inventive with my language than writing in free verse did. Necessity is the mother of invention. Because our designers believe in our narrative, they don’t have total freedom. But in return, we discover new things about our world every time design crashes into narrative.

Or, as the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ad went, only not exactly:

“Hey, you got narrative on my design!” “Hey, you got design on my narrative!” “Hmmm, tastes pretty good.”

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