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Week 6: Plot, world, puzzles & characters

Nov 24, 2020 | 0 comments

This last sprint has been long, but I ended up feeling that this game already has a life of its own. For the first time, there is a world to be explored, and a set of characters with their own background, personality and motivations that I will have to take into consideration from now on. Like in any other relationship, I will have to adapt to them when taking decisions, in the same way that they will have to adapt to me when I need it, in order for this to work.

Let’s see what week #6 has brought:

📝 Plot diagram

Starting from the draft story I was working on during week #5, I thought it would be good (and necessary) to revise the story from a technical perspective, before continuing working on the plot.

I hope you cannot read pixelated text…

Taking as a reference Victoria Lynn’s Story Structure Architect, I managed to define a model that I believe it could work with the story I had in mind. This model identifies the type of plot (plot or character driven), its dramatic through-line (the direction that the characters will take through the story), the type of conflict, the genre and the master structure (e.g. the traditional three-act structure). This has helped me to fill several gaps in the story and reorganise things more effectively.

In order to work comfortably, I need to visualize things first. So, once the architecture was clearly defined, it became much easier to create a diagram for the plot. This helped me to map the main events of the game, from a narrative perspective, presented as an interrelated and chronologically ordered sequence. Once I can see a map tree of the whole story, I can start playing with it, making adjustments here and there, easily, with much less effort.

This one may contain some spoilers…

This also helps me to identify which parts will be represented with a dialogue or a cut-scene for instance. Puzzles are also included in the diagram, as they are part of the story as well, but it doesn’t show much details about them as this is something that will be worked out in the Puzzle Dependency Chart.

🌍 World map

With the plot diagram ready, I had everything I needed to create the world map.  This is a diagram showing the different rooms (scenes) where the game takes place, and how they are connected to each other. I also decided to include closeups scenes as if they were rooms (e.g. a zoomed view of an object which the user can interact with), along with those scenes not accessible by the player, as they appear in the game too (e.g. a cut-scene in a different location).

This one contains harmful spoilers…

🧩 Puzzle Dependency Chart

At this point, I was ready to open the Pandora’s box. As defined by Ron Gilbert, a Puzzle Dependency Chart is a list of all the puzzles and steps for solving a puzzle in an Adventure Game. These charts are a quick visual way to see where the design gets too linear or too unwieldy with choice, being especially useful to avoid dead ends and other inconsistencies.

Puzzle Dependency Charts are fun to create but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an easy task to do. Designing good puzzles is a craftwork that requires practice and iteration. They are at the core of a Point-and-Click Adventure Game, and it should be ok to adapt the world map and the plot to accommodate a good puzzle, whenever it’s possible.

🧜‍♀️ Character bible

Despite I already knew which characters will appear in the game, I didn’t know much about them -just enough to design the plot and puzzles around them, that’s it. So it was time to know more about the main characters (finally), and this is when everything, all of a sudden, started to feel alive.

A character bible is the document that gathers the information regarding character’s design. Each character requires a written description of their function within the game, personal details, physical traits, personality and some amount of backstory so we can determine how they look and might behave within the perspective of the story. This involves answering questions such as the character’s name, age and the color of the eyes, or more complex ones such as what are their fears and motivations.

In order to design the characters of this game, I used a template provided by Ernest Adams, from Uppsala University (Interactive Storytelling program).

I will share more about them soon.

These are the three main characters, is it a spoiler?

📋 This week: Now that I have everything I need to start building the game, time has come to create all wireframes and assets needed to make a first prototype. I should start working with Unity next week, so I will have to make an extra effort the next following days. We are reaching the equator of the project, so I expect this to become more and more interesting from now on.

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