The Situation with Space Situation

The story of being in over my head, while making a game about someone else being in over their head.

So I made a game. Well, I tried to make a game. It’s called Space Situation!

Play Space Situation here!

It was initially going to be called Galaxy Quest, as an homage to the old Space Quest games that had inspired me, but then I found out that Galaxy Quest is already a thing. I made the working title Space Situation, because it’s about a precarious and awkward situation that takes place on a different planet… and it’s all I could come up with at the time. It’s awkward and obviously not what it was supposed to be, so it actually fits the game quite well.

The game itself follows a protagonist named Dan, an intern at a company that I forgot to make a name for. The company turns out to be funding the Independent Alliance of Unaligned Systems, a separatist alliance that sometimes fights against the Galactic Union.  Because of this, Dan is now a wanted criminal and must escape the planet. I really liked the idea of ordinary people being thrown into extraordinary situations that the creators of Space Quest captured in their games.

As you play the game, you are often faced with the choice of following the rules or breaking them. This would play in during a scene in which Dan must escape from a Galactic Union Suspect Holding Facility. The more defiant you’ve been early in the game, the more accurate you are when fighting guards in your escape. The thought behind this was that if Dan is a goody two shoes who follows the rules, he’s not going to be quick to shoot a living human being with a firearm. However, if Dan is comfortable with being a dangerous renegade, he’s going to show more proficiency with the firearm. Additionally, as you score hits during this escape sequence, you become more proficient with your firearm.

The more I wrote, the more possibilities opened up, the more possibilities opened up, the more overwhelmed I became. I want to finish this at some point. I’ve been thinking about this game for months, and I’ve been building this universe in my head for two years, if not more. I need more time, and a better understanding of coding, maybe with the help of my friends with computer science degrees.

This is the proofing copy. Seventeen pages of fiction and code. 34,000 words. In all honesty, I’m only about halfway through the game at some points, depending on which choices you make. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I tried to undertake.

Well… stay tuned for when I pull a George Lucas and release SPACE SITUATION: Episode VII: The Actually Complete Edition “NOW WITH MORE SPECIAL EFFECTS!”

You’ll either find it here or on my, new highly ambitious but incredibly rubbish, twitter, Star Strider Gaming.

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Narrative is not a Game Mechanic

In reading Raph Koster’s article on Narrative and gameplay, I found that I both agree and disagree with Koster.

So is narrative vital to the game?

Narrative is, indeed, not a gameplay mechanic, but it is still an integral part of the game. It’s what keeps us playing. Mark Rober discussed this in his TEDx talk, The Super Mario Effect. From Rober’s perspective, narrative is what makes the game fun to play. The framing of the activity as a game with a story makes it engaging. I often find myself creating a narrative for games that don’t have one. I’ve been playing Fortnite recently, a battle royale shooter game with crafting mechanics and no narrative whatsoever, but I still feel a need to create one. I imagine up my own cutscenes and plot, and try to imagine what scenario would explain why 100 people are all jump out of an aircraft and then murder each other. Maybe we’re all double agents from 100 different countries and we all realized it at the same time, and, now that our cover is blown, we have to fend for ourselves.

One thing that Rober does point out in his article is that if narrative takes too much of the focus, the replay value of the game drops dramatically. He has a point, but one of my favorite games, that I play all the way through almost every time I get the chance is Journey, which is largely based on its story, and I keep playing because the story is rich enough to keep me engaged, and to pull me back in, time and time again. So an emphasis on narrative can indeed reduce the replay value, but only if the story isn’t worth experiencing again.

Video Essay points

  1. Claim: Even though Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker are both technically about Link, the two of them are about different people entirely.
  2. Context: BotW diverts from the style of Legend of Zelda that I have been used to, and the narrative style that I enjoyed, and I want to dive into that.
  3. My history with Zelda and Wind Waker
  4. Narrative structure
    1. Wind Waker’s narrative structure is one that is highly directed.
    2. Breath of the Wild lacks a narrative structure.
  5. Difference in overworld exploration
    1. Wind Waker railroads you from one location to another through your boat friend.
    2. Breath of the Wild lets you roam out on your own
  6. Dungeon structure
    1. Wind Waker uses a linear dungeon pattern.
    2. BotW uses an open dungeon pattern in its divine beasts.
  7. Difference in characterization.
    1. Wind Waker places a very animated and dynamic Link into the story. The story is entirely his.
    2. Breath of the Wild places an unanimated Link into the story.
  8. The differences in these games are because the games are about two completely different people. Wind Waker is about Link. Breath of the Wild is about you.

Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game, hands down. Part of that has to do with the fact that it was the first Zelda game I ever played, but I also played it at the perfect time in my life, in high school. I had an obsession with sailing and pirates and Celtic folk punk bands like Flogging Molly that had plenty of songs about sailing and pirates. I have since played many more Zelda games, but Wind Waker still holds my top spot.

Coming back several years later with Breath of the Wild, I noticed a radical change in how the game worked. The dungeons were different, the gameplay was different, but it still felt like Zelda. There was never a moment that I thought, this isn’t Zelda. The more I thought about the question of what makes these games different, the more I realized that the main aspect of Breath of the Wild that makes it so different from what I had been used to was something that I don’t think many people may have realized.

Let’s start with the gameplay itself. Wind Waker is a linear game through and through, from its exploration to its dungeons. Let’s start with its dungeons. Walking into the first room of the first dungeon, you’ve got one room with a couple of enemies and two doors; the one you came in through, and the one that leads you deeper into the dungeon. This is continued, throughout the dungeon throughout the game. Each room has a puzzle that, once solved, leads you to the next puzzle.

Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, is vastly different. Once you enter the divine beast, you are confronted with a huge room. You have to activate five items throughout the dungeon, before you can fight the boss, but you can activate them in any order you want. You do the dungeon the way you want to do it.

Scale out to the entire world, and it’s the same thing. Wind Waker railroads you from point to point, and by the time your boat friend finally lets you take control, you’re already halfway through the game! In Breath of the Wild, you have five mini dungeons that you need to complete, and then, you’re on your own, with one real quest. Defeat Ganon. That’s it. Alright, you’ve played for twenty minutes, go beat the game. And you can! … if you’re really really good. I’m not. I died to bokoblins time and time again, and realized, maybe I need to take my time before I defeat Ganon, and that’s what you have to do, but the way that you do it is entirely up to you.

Then we have the plot. Wind Waker has a bunch of cutscenes that tell you the story of a young boy and his sweet birthday suit, not that birthday suit, whose sister gets kidnapped, and you try to save her, only to get your tiny tushy handed to you in a cutscene, and you meet a boat who tells you about the guy who handed your tuckus to you in a cutscene, and then tells you what you need to do, in a cutscene, and then you go and do those things, with plenty of cutscenes along the way, involving pirates and princesses, and then you go and finally confront Ganon, in a cutscene, and then you fight Ganon, with a cutscene or two sprinkled in between, and then you defeat Ganon by stabbing him in the head! … in a cutscene.

Breath of the Wild has … a plot. It’s actually really good, there are diaries and books that you can read that tell you the lore of the game, and it’s really fascinating, but it’s all up to you if you even want to read those.

And this is about when I realized that Breath of the Wild is so different because it isn’t about Link at all. It’s about you. It’s about your adventure, it’s about what you do. Wind Waker tells you the story of this cartoony character named Link, and I think I was so engrossed in the story because I desperately wanted to BE Link! Breath of the Wild, was about me, the actual me, sitting in my chair, writing the story with my thumbs, and that’s why it’s so different. The dungeons changed because the main character changed. The gameplay changed because the author changed. The main character changed because you are the main character. The story author changed because you are the author.

 

What makes Breath of the Wild so different? You.

Voodoo economics teacher and his zombie students

 

Close shot of teacher in front of board with basic introduction to economics text written on the board behind him.

Close shot of student staring blankly at professor.

Return to medium shot of professor with more text written on the board.

Close shot of second student resting his hand on his chin and staring blankly at professor.

Close shot of third student staring at professor chewing on his pen.

Close shot from above of student sleeping on desk, drooling.

Wide shot of professor, board is filled with text that is progressively smaller.

Wide shot of class in the same positions.

Cameras, Clocks, and Time

Reading Matt Hackett’s Article

Reading Matt Hackett’s Article on the rising presence of cameras and photography in our lives, was interesting and eye-opening. He opens the article with the idea of wearable cameras becoming commonplace, which seemed unreasonable to me until he began to tell the story of time itself. He explained the story of how time and time telling devices, went from being a commodity to being quite common. One detail that struck me was the mention of the commonality of clocks without minute hands. I always wondered how people dealt with the inaccuracies of old spring powered clocks. How could they be certain that their clocks we accurate? They just overlooked it, because they didn’t specifically need to know exactly what minute it was, let alone the second. I wanted to argue that watches and cameras were entirely different, but when I remembered one of my roommates getting a wearable Narrative Clip camera and being ecstatic about getting to wear it around campus, I thought he might have a point.

So why are we so enthralled with recording everything we do when we don’t need to?

Continue reading “Cameras, Clocks, and Time”