Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interactive Dreaming - The Character & The Conversation

A few weeks ago, I created an introduction sequence prototype to my game that basically allowed you to create your own protagonist. Although I found it simplistic on the surface, the more I played around with it the more I frankly became intimidated of the concept. The prototype of the conversation system has also brought this more to light. This post describes the process of how I am deciding what will be the final conversation system in my interactive dreaming game and what the player itself has now become. 

Originally, when the game initialized you were asked by an “NPC” what your name is, followed by asking your "mood of the day" and what sex you are. I had planned on the latter two questions triggering variations in the story. “Mood” is an easier variable for me, because my first few drafts of the story depend on your mood before you went to bed dictating what sort of dream sequences you may encounter on your journey. Trying to facilitate the same for female perspectives is a whole other can of worms. I knew that I could code it, but I also knew that I would need to relay story plots somehow to my girlfriend or my sister for them to give me some insight of how the story should be told from a female perspective. The more I think about this, it just seems like a bad idea for this story no matter how much I would like to include those additional features..

Having your choice of gender determining some aspects of the story also brings up another issue. What if the player is playing male, but wants to interact with the NPCs in the story in a homosexual or bisexual fashion? I have no idea how to even going about implementing these sorts of choices or situations while still making them realistic, and I'm as clueless about making these elements realistic as I am with the female element.

These are my actual dreams I am creating these stories from for the game. However, in our dreams we sometimes act in ways that we wouldn't even attempt in our waking lives, or perhaps even undergo some sort of transformation. In Hallow Eve, I tried to keep the character as “blank” as possible. This really isn't a good choice for interactive fiction to a lot of people, unless the game's story is completely gender-neutral. I think for this story it would be best to stick to the boring old typical male protagonist. Even more boring is that this protagonist would  be me.

Now, for the conversation system. Originally, I thought of a system that I found simple as a kid such as the one in Ultima V. Initiate a conversation by triggering it with a “talk” command, print the first bit of text with a few words in bold as “topics”, then allow input of any of those bold words to get some text on that topic, and finally accepting the word “bye” as a way to terminate the conversation. For my attempt at this, I figured I could just plug in Keyword Interface by Aaron Reed. Including that gave me a conflict error in Inform7 dealing with color table code that I already had in place for use with Glimmr stuff. It also made me think that although this an excellent extension if I wanted to use the interface for more than conversation would probably be overkill for what I would ultimately need anyway.

For the time being, I've ended up using a numbered menu that I originally created for generating the sex and mood of the player. At this point I'm fairly certain that I'll remove choosing gender and entering your name, but use the numbered menu for conversation. The current system still uses a general trigger for talking to NPCs, “TALK TO X”. The NPC will then say some text, immediately after which a menu of responses will display. This will be more like Fallout 3 or Dragon Age II than The Secret of Monkey Island. That is, the choices will be real forks in the conversation and even the main game plot itself; rather than just seeing a few funny choices, but ultimately knowing which one would advance the plot. These choices should be both varied and dynamic.

Although I've got quite a bit of the general story framework done in text outside of my project, nothing is set in stone yet. I'm still having a bit of fun experimenting right now. I haven't set myself any sort of deadline for completing the game except for wanting to get it done within about a year. Any input on this is greatly appreciated. 

1 comment:

  1. dude, i totally dig your blog. looks like u changed the layout recently. pEaCe -cory