Complications Ensue: The Crafty Game, TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Raph Koster has a really interesting post about his experience developing Star Wars Galaxies, and various solutions that were proposed for dealing with Jedi Knights:
This same issue had come up in the Expanded Universe books and stories. You basically have the problem that
  • people identify with Jedi
  • they’re rare
  • they’re incredibly powerful
This meant that creators laboring in the universe had a few choices:
  • invent new stuff as powerful or more powerful as Jedi (which was done more than a few times — General Grievous, the Witches of Dathomir, the World Razer, a living planet called Zonarma Sekot, The Ones — OK, it was done a zillion times, which just proves my point).
  • tell stories with no Jedi in them, as in the original Han Solo books by Brian Daley. (Fun books, btw: The Han Solo Adventures: Han Solo at Stars’ End / Han Solo’s Revenge / Han Solo and the Lost Legacy)
    Of course, the demands of games focused on Jedi also meant that the powers of Jedi kept having to go up, too! I mean, people actually complained when you didn’t start as a powerful Jedi in Jedi Knight II, and eventually, we got to the ludicrous heights of Starkiller in the Force Unleashed games: “sufficiently powerful enough to rip a million-ton Star Destroyer out of orbit and slap Darth Vader around like he owed him money.”
He goes on to explain various ideas that the developers had for designing the Jedi. They didn't want to make lots of weak Jedi; that would devalue the canon.

They had a crazy idea where you could develop Jedi powers, but the further you got along, the more trouble you would get from the Empire, until eventually Darth Vader is hunting you down.

And permadeath. Permadeath is, let us say, an acquired taste, and a marketing no-go in the mainstream game arena. (That must be why so many indies love it.)

 So they had another idea where you could develop Jedi skillz, but doing that would be about as hard as it really ought to be. You'd have to accomplish a secret (hidden to you) series of tasks to become a Jedi, and the tasks would fall into all four Bartle types: Explorer, Killer, Socializer and Achiever. So you'd have to, say, climb the highest mountain, and fight X number of duels, and have a conversation with so-and-so, etc.
The Four Bartle Types

Only exceptionally devoted players would achieve Jedi status, and they'd deserve it.

And then they ran out of time, which is Why We Can't Have Nice Things in video games.

One of the things we learn in indie development is to do One New Thing. And to make it so central to the game experience that you actually Git R Done, because otherwise you'll cut it when it gets hard. There was never any danger of our cutting the shadow physics out of Contrast; that was the whole game.

Of course we are always tempted to do more than one New Thing. The danger is that it gets cut when money runs out, the way contingent dialog gets cut unless the entire narrative system is based on it.

In We Happy Few, we are going to have flawed characters. The player characters are all Slightly Terrible People. Fortunately, while that's newish for video games, it's hardly new to me as a screenwriter. On the other hand, we are doing something rather, we hope, clever with the intertwining stories, that will only become apparent after you start playing your second character. (And I can't tell you what it is yet.)

Our big new gameplay mechanic isn't purely new, but it is new in context. In We Happy Few you are loose in a city full of drugged-out happy people who will only attack you if you break the rules. So Social Blending becomes a survival skill. I don't think we've seen social blending in a survival horror game, or in an urban roguelike.

The bad thing about indie development is you don't have enough resources. If you decide to recast a character and re-record a scene (which we did), then that will come out of the budget for something else. The good thing about indie development is that, what little money you do have, you get decide how to spend. So there are no Powers That Be that will take the game out of your hands, at least until you sell it to a publisher. The people who made the features are the people who decide what features to cut. So there is a greater likelihood is that they'll cut fat before they'll cut muscle or bone, and that the game will come out as a coherent (if skinny) whole.

Our Kickstarter is coming up -- June 4. I wonder how many people will share our vision?


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spoilers, obviously.

There's been a lot of back and forth about the latest rape in Game of Thrones: whether it was a rape considering the Ramsay Bolton-Sansa Stark marriage was arguably consensual; whether Sansa is a "strong woman"; whether the showrunners are putting rape onscreen gratuitously; whether it's "realism" or sexual assault porn or whatever else.

I have another issue with it. The rape seems to me the least interesting choice for both Ramsey and Sansa's characters. Ramsey is a vicious bastard because he's a bastard. Marrying Sansa strengthens his claim to be a legit nobleman. It could have been interesting if Ramsey actually treated Sansa decently because she is the only woman whose opinion matters to him. He's a sadist, sure, but he wants to be legitimate.

And then, of course, the show has some suspense. Can he keep it up? Or will he revert to habit?

Likewise, it could have been more interesting if Sansa had seduced Ramsey, owning her power and position, rather than just waiting for him to rape her. After all, she knew she was marrying the guy, so the sex can't have been a total surprise. Why not show some agency?

The rape is predictable and adds nothing to the story. Other choices might have added something new, and fresh, and compelling.

Is it gratuitous? The best sex scenes, like the best action scenes, are dramatic. They reveal character. They are about the characters trying to get what they want. If there is no change in the relationship, and no revelation of character, then the sex scene is gratuitous.

By that standard, Ramsey forcing himself on Sansa isn't, strictly, gratuitous. It changes the relationship. But he's done far worse things (torture, mutilation, treachery, hunting people down for sport) and Sansa has had worse things happen to her (murder of her entire family). The rape reveals nothing new about either character. A scene of aftermath in which Sansa reveals that she was raped, and what it means to her, might have been more revelatory.

But then, HBO's business strategy is not necessarily to make the best TV shows, but to make must-see shows that can't possibly be on network TV. From that point of view, we're talking about the scene, so it's all win for them.


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