Some time ago, I read this one rather lengthy article that compared third-person adventure games to “little theater plays with clunky movement, no dramatic camera angles and a distanced view that makes it impossible to see any facial expressions”. This comparison, of course, was made with the intent of proposing better cinematography in adventure games, which many have already attempted since said article was written back in 2003. However, my strange little mind began to wander, and I thought to myself, why do we even have to emulate movies, anyway? Why can’t we exploit this theatre aesthetic in a way that’s artistically meaningful? Hell, why can’t there be an adventure game that’s actually set on a stage?
Fast-forward to about a month ago. My good friend Lee Edward McIlmoyle and I are conspiring over Google Chat as usual, brainstorming an idea for a short game we can make in a few months by ourselves before I run off and travel for the summer, when he pipes up and suggests doing one that’s about a stage crew. So I was like, hey, I’ve had that idea for a while now; let’s run with it! And right then and there, we gave birth to Stage!
So, in the intervening month, we’ve worked out a concept involving the director of a theatre play trying to keep its actors from messing up their lines, and deciding when and how to allow them to improvise versus make them stick to the script. The gameplay itself is entirely dialogue-controlled and will use an affinity system similar to that in Chivalry, but with on-screen indicators showing the characters’ mental states, which I felt would be necessary this time around because this is a more goal-oriented game. Thus far, we’ve fleshed out a branching dialogue using a mindmapping program we found called Cayra, and Lee has started sketching out a lovely visual style for the game. I, of course, will be putting it all together in the now-very-familiar Wintermute engine. Excited? I thought so. Stay tuned for more info as it comes.
In the meantime, this may be a good time to mention that I’m confirmed to be going to GDC again this year. If anyone reading this is planning on coming as well, feel free to drop me a line.
GDC – I wish I could go, it’d probably be interesting, but no.
As for the game, I’ll be looking forward to it with interest (as usual).
I like the look of the male character (Eric?)! What is it with females that make them harder to draw? Carla’s head looks strange.
I AM excited. This sounds different, creative, and fascinating. Many of us have been in plays, amateur or otherwise and can relate. Wanna play now. Thanks for the link to the article. It was, indeed, lengthy. The author makes some great points about restrictions in exploring environments, such as in one of my favorites, Syberia. I was as frustrated as anyone when walking down the street and not being able to visit any location I choose. Still, it’s a balance. Is the designer going to spend months drawing rooms which don’t propel the storyline? I wonder why the author is insistent on facial expressions? I think you and others convey emotional intensity very well in dialogue and situation. That said, I’m looking forward to the branching dialogue in this project. I’m a big fan of branching storylines, and I know not everyone is. And you’ll be showing the character’s mental states! Wahoo! Having many mental states myself, I’ll look forward to interacting with those of the characters. Thanks for the screenshot of the Cayra evolution. It’s fascinating for us non-designers to get a peek into the process.
I will think of you as you spend time in my hometown, San Francisco. Looks to be a great conference.
Rikard: I suppose I could go into a lengthy BS-filled feminist analysis as to why women are harder to draw than men, but I don’t feel like it. Glad you’re finding the game-thus-far interesting, in any case.
Muse: I’ll be sure to write more about the design process, then. And I find it awesome that you’re from San Francisco. It’s a great city.