New Adventure!

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Old friend, new team mate:  Me and my mate Martin have started working on an adventure. We had 3 sessions so far, very similar goals and wishes …

That means, my slooow progress with my Mystery Adventure is over for now. Game #2, which I worked on a bit alone will now be this new game. It will be a mystery adventure, and we are taking great care to make it interesting and worthwhile. Stay tuned …

1st Game Design deadline

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1st deadline came and went. I delivered the shit out of it. Well, I delivered something. Let’s see how the powers that be like it.

So far, I have lived a fun-sized bit of a game writer’s life, and I had a lot of ups and downs already.

One day I thought, this is perfect! I can work everywhere! Take a laptop to a park or café! I get paid for sitting around and thinking up stuff! Or take some paper, and doodle away!

That other day, I fell asleep over my notes and dreamed up several ideas, ready to use the next morning. How convenient!

Next day, writer’s block.  Oh no! I have only written a few words today, and then I fell asleep! And without the dreams that completed my thought process for me! This sucks! I want my money back!

My creativity comes in bursts. I need to kindle my interest, so that I get consumed by an idea (this is much easier if it is my own idea), then everything “feels” easy. If I can’t get myself to fall into that berserk mode, it feels super hard.   The few days I had to spare for writing (in between my other jobs), I almost always did write nothing good in the first 5 hours. 80% of the good ideas in the last 3 hours of the day. It takes forever to get me to that zone, but the zone delivers. Most of the time.

Gamedesign & Dream-fueled writing

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A long and detailed dream inspired the whole concept & story of my latest album. So, I have known for quite some time that dreams work well for me. I like to complain, but for this I am grateful.

Last night, I let my heavy workload rest (music & sound effects) at 10 pm, because it was too late to start something completely new, so I took my notes for my game writing job and decided to write in bed for an hour or so. This didn’t really work at first.  I wrote down 3 words or so. But working in bed did succeed in making it difficult for me to fall asleep. It took me ages to fall asleep, and I was drifting back and forth multiple times that night. This morning, I had about 10 new ideas for my game, 3 more scenes and a big piece of the puzzle that is our main character. I had even scribbled down a few words in complete darkness at some point. I don’t really know WHEN those ideas came to me, but I take it!

I am on page 4 now of my little plot, about half of the basic story is done. Glad to report, that my first deadline was just moved back a little bit, but I like how this is taking form. More details soon!

Now, back to the pressing audio jobs at hand.*

* Have to mention this, so that any client who reads this doesn’t get pissed off. Audio still takes up 90% of my time, as it should. 😀

New Chapter!

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I already blurted this out between two deadlines: I got offered the paid chance to write for a game. Something I have been basically longing for since the heyday of Amiga 500.

© Bill Bertram 2006, CC-BY-2.5

© Bill Bertram 2006, CC-BY-2.5

Due to the usual secrecy of our trade, I can’t tell anything about it. That will make blogging about it very difficult.

I can only say, the similarities to my own project are definitely there. And I believe, this is something I could actually be good at, but I can’t know yet.

Will try to find out soon, how much I can say and not say about it, and report back to you.

But so far it’s clear: With a full-time job of writing music and designing sound, a band working on an album, 100% composed by me + doing my own artwork this time, a family…. What I am saying is, my own game has to rest for a while. Any game design ideas I will have I will put into the new job or put away for later.

The new game I am writing for will be much more immediate, you will see!

HA!

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OK, my blog gathered rust for >1  year… WTF.This happened:- I submitted a game design document to a company of which I am a partner. Yesterday, there was a meeting in which it was introduced. I am waiting for feedback, but maybe my game will be developed.

– The adventure: Not much progress. Still happy with the mood and setting, but the lack of creative energy is disgusting.

– The rpg: Yep. My awesome RPG ideas which I collect for a few years (using ideas that are up to 25 years old) are still fresh and mostly unused. Divinity: Original Sin seems to be the first real contender, and does a lot of things right (in my view), but I am happy to report, my rpg concept is still not obsolete. Maybe. One. Day.

Doing some non-creative work in the last days, and the ideas keep on coming. That explains everything. When I am not in a bad mood, and not creatively exhausted, I get cool ideas. Hmm. I am using this time to gather ideas, and see what I can do about all that.

 

Still wanting!

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OK, this has been ages. November the deadlines avalanched me… Still working on the last of the games from that deadline clash…

But I am still thinking, wanting, researching… about the game script I want to write. Largely thanks to Javier Cabrera, who reminds me almost every day to not let the ball drop, I will try to use his method soon to write my 1st draft.

Until then, I need to work on this deadline here, but on the side (on a 2nd screen or in my little sparetime) I am researching all kinds of mystery movies to find out what I like, what I think works and doesn’t work… I gather little DOs and DON’Ts for me…

One quick example: Recently I saw “Stay” and “Mulholland Dr.” And both movies (won’t spoil too much, but if you don’t want to be spoilered stop reading!) fuck with your mind. For me, an important DON’T manifested. I didn’t like either movie. They both have redeeming qualities/scenes/ideas, but the basic thing I didn’t like and which goes straight to my DON’T list: If parts of your movie “aren’t real”, don’t show them from anybody’s perspective except the guy/girl who “made it up in their head”. That annoys me totally. If let’s say most of the movie happens inside of the head of somebody, don’t have scenes which have nothing to do with the character, with people the character is not connected with, and even worse: don’t let me feel, wonder and second-guess things through the mind of a character that doesn’t really exist. That is not how dreams or fantasies work. Both are very self-centered. That little thing ruined both movies for me. Writing this down for my script.

Too busy

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This week and the next I am racing towards a hard deadline, not much leisure… I am currently not getting further, anyway. I think I need to start writing, to get more detailed ideas about the story, and collect them… But: End of the month, soonest…

 

#Gamedesign Reading

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As I said, reading is great. To me books are a medium that can have the highest impact of them all. But when I want to play, I don’t want to read. When I want to move my avatar along, I don’t want to watch a pointless cutscene…

I don’t have to write interesting content. We have to act earlier: I need to make the player interested in the content. No matter what’s actually in there.

Do you know Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, the 80ies board game? The game where you have a case, a map, a newspaper and a telephone register… You can read the newspaper to find fluff but also leads… And you are totally free to use your brain, to let what you read nudge you in the right direction.

I want to use that feature a bit. This would slice the story into days – like with Gabriel Knight I which I worship – will put the story into a frame of time and space, allow me to present a lot of fluff and make the player look for clues, make him think outside the box and reward him for it.

Dialogue vs. Riddles

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I don’t like riddles/puzzles in adventures. Never have. Some are forced (“Before we chase after the mysterious killer, we have to reassemble this industrial vacuum cleaner”). Almost all are jarring, stalling. Almost every riddle would be cut out of a movie because they stall the storyflow and make no sense.

So, if you ask me where the focus should be in my game, I would place it on Dialogue. I know, people don’t want to read, people are easily bored. But what do we have in movies: Scenery, Movement, Expression, Dialogue, Action….  Rarely riddles.

If riddles are the difference between 1.5 hours of a movie and 9 hours of a game, they can’t be the solution.

I will try to wrestle with this, but I had a first idea yesterday: I can use some ideas which I have gathered for my “rpg concept”:

Basically, the first step is to make the system good. I have the feeling (which is certainly a very arrogant one) that on average, most decisions in game development are “convenient”. “Well, audience wants a story where those things happen, the other games usually do it like that, what about dialogues, well these are usually done like this, blabla.” They usually focus on a good polished product, not on reinventing the system.

How many games try to be innovative? Not many, in innovation there is danger. Mankind will go the easiest way until it sinks into the sea, only then will we start to think about boats. Even though there are other possibilities, we will burn petrol until it’s gone, then we will realise “damn, we need it to manufacture plastic”. That’s just the way we are. We will make the same FIFA game every year until we no longer make any profit. That means, things will never change, until nobody buys those games anymore, THEN “the genre is dead”.

I think, before I write a single line of text, I need to find a way to make the whole thing meaningful and interesting in general. A bad system can’t be saved by good writing (i.e. the dialogue is totally unwanted and unnecessary, but brilliant). One example is the dialogue system of Mass Effect 2, with spontaneous good/evil QTE decisions, good idea!

But here is my first idea, I will model my own dialogue system on my favourite dialogues in books. Games usually make a big mistake: They remove subtext from dialogues. Have you ever seen a game where you have those 2 options among your dialogue options:

“I will certainly do that!” (truth)
“I will certainly do that” (lie)

They always assume, if I say yes to somebody in a game THAT I MEAN IT. Yes, I will complete that quest (fuck off!). That’s bullshit, you don’t know how people talk. If you remove the inside of things, they collapse. If you remove all the awkwardness, politics, intrigue, manipulation and guesswork from talking to people, then YES, it’s boring and irrelevant.

LA Noire tried to do a lot of things there, but it didn’t really work.

In books you get six channels of information:

What the hero thinks.
What the hero says.
Outside perspective of the hero.
What the conversational partner says.
What hero can deduce from the partner’s tone, expression and body language.
Outside perspective of the partner (not necessarily the same as the one above)

In games, we only get 2 to 4 of those. I want to provide all 6. Combined with dialogues you can honestly botch, with consequences, with special rewards if you did it really well.

I prefer this a lot over “hmm, I forgot to bring my car keys, so I just go back to… Oh damn, I need to fetch my 3 key cards first and solve that number slider puzzle again.”

What is “my genre”?

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I was asked to be more precise. Well, this can take 1 or 2 years to finish, so I won’t certainly be totally transparent here and spill everything I come up with. But I can be less vague.

One of the first things I needed to do (in my spare time consisting of a few minutes spread over the course of an average day) is to find WHAT I want to do here.
While I can recognize a good puzzler, I feel drawn to a story. The things which touch me most are books. Of all the things with a story, I like RPGs and adventures the most. I have an RPG concept which I am not working on for many years now 😉 I can’t see myself realizing it without a big team and budget.

Javier of the Cabrera Brothers somewhat inspired me. They finished their game Cypher as a duo, selling it online. It’s real, it’s done, it’s out.

The only way I see myself ever getting there with the limited time and money I have is to make an adventure, too. Why not, I love that genre.

Having settled on a type of game, I needed to find my subgenre.

I like humour but it is really hard to make a game that is funny. Also, I want a less shallow experience. Something thoughtful.

Fantasy, Horror, Drama, Crime… Hmm. I love Fantasy, but my other concept is Fantasy, aiming to be a great RPG. I put all my ideas in there. I want something darker. Crime, yea, but I want it to be philosophical, meaningful, and close to myself. I am somewhat shying away from a classic crime story, although I might end up playing with it.

Mystery or Horror. I am totally blown away by Agustín Cordes’s script for Asylum (<- please help to Steam Greenlight it, one click if you are logged into Steam). But somehow, I want it to be less horror. I want it more emotional, slightly creepy, unnerving but not shocking or terrifying…

Mystery it is. Some of the movies I like the most are somewhere near here. Angel Heart, Dark City, 6th Sense maybe, Matrix, a bit Ninth Gate, Inception even, Fight Club if that makes sense…  With themes of darkness, occult, supernatural, a bit of horror…

That’s the realm I am at. Movies which inspire. With an interesting world, with twists, with depth, layers and mindfucks.

So, I am trying to write a mystery adventure. My main goal is to make it “very good” and to make the best story I can find in me, putting soul and substance into it (things that really move, bother, haunt me)… Let’s see how far I come.