Marketing and Exposure

Promoting at GDC

Within the final month of development, it’s now marketing prime time.

Through I Need Diverse Games, Dames Making Games and the GDC Narrative Summit, I was able to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Conveniently, GDC was taking place during reading week, so we did not miss out on any meetings.  Going there is obviously the perfect opportunity for networking, so I wanted to come up with a way to advertise Disco is Dead! despite the fact that the game is incomplete. A few weeks before the conference, we did not have enough time to produce more art and most of the cutscene art was planned to be started until after reading week. So I had to act fast. Business cards would have been the cheapest and easier route to go, however it was also harder to design those within a short amount of time. I wanted to offer something to attendees that would be fun, memorable and practical.

So I decided to make stickers!

Stickers had exactly what I was looking for. They’re enjoyable, make a better impact and they are more likely to be used than thrown out. So I designed two stickers that had the first images of our player-characters, Reggie and Kenny. One of the challenges was to figure out how to incorporate the title of the game without sing the logo, since at the time we were considering redesigns.  So I added the title around the stickers, giving it a patch-like feel, and also included the characters’ names to help establish these characters outside of the game.

Something I was indecisive about was adding the game’s twitter handle. I definitely wanted to include it like how a business card would, but at the same time, I want people to enjoy the sticker the way it is, and not make our advertising approach noticeable.  In the end, I finally decided not to include it. Sure, we would have gotten more followers, but I didn’t want to make us look like try-hards. Fortunately, our twitter did get more followers from GDC because of the stickers. At the conference I handed out about a hundred of my personal business cards. That card has my personal twitter, which links to Disco is Dead!’s twitter. So handing out my business card and a Disco is Dead! sticker exactly worked hand-in-hand, since people can find out more about the sticker by using the information on my card. IT almost seems like they were on a like a treasure hunt, making the experience of finding our wacky gem of a game more unique and special. I’m very happy I chose to spread awareness of our game with stickers, because it put a smile on everyone’s face when they received it. Especially drunk people. Actually, pitching our weird crazy game to drunk people got over-top and expressive reactions!

Here are the stickers we printed. We’ve printed about 48 of these and only handed them out to anyone we’ve mentioned Disco is Dead! to.

stickersscreenshot.PNG

Playtesting for Exposure

Post-GDC with only a few weeks left, it’s time to apply to showcases. Our game was designed to be played at showcases exclusively due to our unique controller set up. Currently, I’m working on a new updated trailer that will show off our newer controller designs as well as our polished art and gameplay. Since we want to show our interesting game to the public, we did some public playtesting at Gamma Space before GDC.

Gamma Space held their monthly Play Games With Friends event in February, and we decided to bring our game out for a test-run. Only our level designer, creative director and I were going, and unfortunately our UI lead (who made the controllers) could not attend.

Which meant we had to set it up.

Of course, this being our first time trying to set up without our UI lead to help out, we spend about 45 minutes trying to assemble it together properly. Our game plays well when players are standing rather than sitting down, which means we prefer a bar-height table so taller players are not insulted or excluded. However, for this session, we had to use regular height tables, which does not offer the best playable experience. We tried using a long table but that proved to be weak with our controller rigs. So we resorted to a round table. We initially thought it wouldn’t clamp down on a rounded surface, and surprisingly we were wrong. The next step was to connect the wires to the right controls, which took some trial and error through testing on Notepad. Soon, we got some testers wanting to play, and as they played, some parts of the controller weren’t functioning properly. Throughout the night (and with so much pressure on us) we recreated some of the foil tape tabs that helped connect the circuit together. Eventually, we recreated so many of the connections, that the controllers started working perfectly and the game was running smoothly. After about 2 hours of panicking, the game was working and we got a few more testers the enjoy the game without interruptions or technical difficulties. With this experience, I learned that we need to have practice set ups for future events, time ourselves, and think of every possible thing that could go wrong and prepare for it. It was a really good night in the end. We got lots of great feedback and even got ourselves some Disco is Dead! fans!

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There have also been plenty of moments of failure when setting up. Such as when we have guests visiting our labs and we are unexpectedly told to set up our game for them. Through these failures, we are taking notes and making checklists of what needs to be done when preparing for future showcases like Level Up in April. We are even trying to find our own table that fits our exact requirements (in height and stability) for the controllers so we can offer players the best playable experience.

Bringing The Story to Life

Cutting Down the Script

The game’s entire story ended up being 47 pages — which is way too long. Our story will be told through mainly comic-book styled cutscenes, which requires A LOT of art. We only have one artist, so the script and storyboards need to be cut down to a more manageable amount our artist can complete. Many of our team mates, including myself, will help with colouring the finalized cutscenes. Before we ask our artist to start on storyboards, our UI designer will focus on designing the storyboards and minimizing the amount of cutscenes. Currently, I am meeting up with her each day to look over and evaluate her storyboards, making sure it’s cut down enough and the story is still pure. We are aiming to finish the storyboards and cut down the script by Monday.

Organizing VO Auditions

Now that the story is just about done, it’s time to start looking for voice-over artists to bring our characters to life. I made an casting call package that has descriptions of the game’s characters as well as some sample scripts. I advertised on a few Facebook groups, and got got handful of responses. Additionally, I’ve emailed some actors who have offered assistance to the animation film projects. To be honest, organizing this casting call and future auditions isn’t easy breezy. I’ve given a deadline until Wednesday of this week for VO artists to contact me, and many start messaging me right away, just when I finished creating the audition package. So really I wasn’t prepared, because this is the first time I’m organizing and communicating with actors. However, it is very exciting! Right when some actors started contacted me, I had to figure out their schedules, but I can’t just ask them what time they’d like to do it — that isn’t professional. I already know that we are planning on holding the auditions on Monday the 22nd, but how do figure out what time the actors should come in at? Should we hold all the auditions in one block? What if some can’t make it? All these questions and concerns were occupying my brain. So I quickly booked out the room we we’re going to use for most of the day, just in case. Most of these actors are students at the school, so they’re all classes. Instead of book a huge time block for auditions, I thought of 4 different 30 minute time blocks throughout the day. — one in the morning, two in the afternoon and one in the evening. And, I made these times a half hour after a typical class would end at. So for example, one of the audition times conveniently at 6:30-7:00pm for those who end class at 6:00pm. I sent off a message to all the actors to pick from these time blocks and let me know who they would like to audition for. As I received all their desired times, I would put this information in a document schedule. The auditions were around 10 minutes, so that way I can have 3 people in for each time block. On the last day of accepting responses, I messaged all the actors their official time block, such as 6:40pm or 6:50pm so no one is stuck waiting. I ended up being overbooked since many responded later, but I wanted to give them a chance. Some of the actors even asked to send in tapes since they could not make it. So I gave them until Monday, the day of the auditions. Most of the actors who messaged me ended up showing up to the auditions. There were only two that had to cancel last minute and two that didn’t show up at all with alerting me. When one of the actors was late, it caused a chain-reaction and everyone had to wait longer, or got confused as to who was going next.

Conducting the Auditions

The auditions went really well. I honestly expected not many people to have the talent we were looking for our wacky game, but I was AMAZED. The talent was over the top for many of the roles, especially the theatre students. Everyone that auditioned said it was their first time doing voice-overs, so it was more laid back and casual. Unfortunately, two of the auditions didn’t end up recording. The recorder must be pressed twice to record, and those times it was only pressed once, which previews the audio. Once the auditions were completed, the next day I edited them so I can cut out any unnecessary parts of the auditions. I also asked for one of the actors to come back to re-record his audition. I called a meeting and showed the auditions to the entire team to hear their opinions. By the end of this week, our sound lead and I will be making the final call for who will be casted, and we will alert those selected as soon as possible.

Focusing on the Buddy Cop Genre

Afterwards, I will be implementing the recorded placeholder audio (that our team voiced for earlier) in the game. This’ll help see if there should be any script changes before we do the final recording session with the actors we’ll pick. Also, we plan on doing a narrative playtest by testing out the cutscene gameplay. We’ll need to have recorded dialogue so players can play the full experience. During this narrative playtest, we want to see if the players are understanding the story and their character, see how they interactive with it, and also see what they think of the transition between cutscene and runner gameplay. Our game is in the buddy cop genre. So we want the players to feel like buddy cops themselves through the story and gameplay, and hopefully enact off-screen conflict. Having this as our focus can make the co-op aspect of our game much more engaging, and the sooner we test this, the better.

The Complexity of Designing a Lovable Yet Slappable Character

Ever since the beginning, our team wanted to have a third-wheel character that the players would potentially hate and they would love to slap him. Through our slapping mechanics, this would be allowed and encouraged.

This character is Chad.

Originally, we pictured this mid-age man as a low-life nerd who spends his time playing the very popular game at the time — Dungeons & Dragons. He envies Reggie and Kenny (the players) and tries to be cool just like them but fails. He is annoying and creepy, so Reggie and Kenny always shoot him down. In the end, Chad is the mastermind of the zombie outbreak — a revenge plot for not being accepted by the players.

This idea had one big problem. He’s a nerd, and nerd that wants to fit in and have friends. This character is lovable — not hateful. Personally, I would NOT want to slap this guy, I’d let him join us. And with the huge impact of geeky video game culture, society and — of course — morals, no player in their right minds would want to slap him.

So I suggested that this guy should be a complete douche. He was popular and cool — the high school jock. He got himself laid by a lot of chicks and treated everyone poorly. Until one day his friends just lost respect for him and bailed, like the typical conclusion of teen flicks. Due to this, Chad never learns to be a nice guy, and continues to being a low-life jerk. When funky cops, Reggie and Kenny, enter the picture, he wants to hang with them to be cool once again, even at his mid-age.

This too, doesn’t seem realistic. Why would he try to be cool as them? He’s bullied people so he would probably just make fun of Reggie and Kenny. And having this mid-age jerk start a zombie outbreak doesn’t make much sense. He clearly would not play Dungeons & Dragons — or at least would not admit he once played it!

This brought up a big question:

Do we want a character that envies the players? Or tries to tear them down? Envy makes the players stronger and more confident in their actions. However, tearing them down offers more conflict.

Our goal is to create a character you would LOVE to slap.

We kept brainstorming more traits:

  • He’s the ace cop?
  • He’s a sycophant?
  • He’s an arrogant intern that ruins everything?
  • He’s clumsy?
  • His looks are horrendous: comb-over hiding baldness, crazy eyes, raised eyebrows, gap tooth, punchable face?

A narrative designer on our team suggested looking at The Incredible‘s character Buddy/Incrediboy/Syndrome. He tries hard to be accepted as a sidekick to Mr. Incredible, but is constantly turned down until he snaps and plans for revenge. This can work really well, but again, the players will most likely want to recruit a sidekick to feel more powerful, not turn them down.

Image result for incrediboyImage result for syndrome the incredibles

We seeked advice from our production advisor. He suggested working with a cliche character to make it visually obvious that this guy is terrible. Like making this character a complete opposite of our player-characters Reggie and Kenny. And what’s that obvious opposite? He hates disco. He’s moved on from that dead trend and enjoys rock n’ roll or maybe he’s preppy. Either way, there is a clear indication what type of guy this is without having to establish so much. Also, if we want to make this guy likable, he has to be funny and entertaining.

You can see where this is going; Chad is too complex.

We needed to move on and I needed to have the draft script completed. So I wrote it out, with Chad being just a typical annoying character. We had a table read with our production advisor and it went really well. Our relationship with the Reggie and Kenny was great and Chad was funny. However, if we removed Chad from the game, no one would notice a difference. Which is a good and bad thing. If we need to cut him – that’s fine. But, knowing that he’s not doing anything useful seems like a huge waste of development time.

It was clear Chad had to go.

We decided that we do not need our original twist — of this character being the villain in the end. In fact, no one needs to really understand how this whole zombie outbreak started. As a team we brainstormed new characters because we need a character that can replace Chad. Preferably one you’d want to slap, but it should be a relationship that both Reggie and Kenny hate.

Here’s a list of the ideas brought up:

  • A young character that hates disco and is in with the times.
    • This seems the most prominent — it’s a great way for the players to hate this character right away because hopefully, the players should take on their persona as a disco-loving cop.
    • This young character can also point out pop culture things Reggie and Kenny don’t know about: zombies.
  • A female character — a total badass
    • I would absolutely love to have another badass character besides Captain Trudy, especially because Trudy is hardly in the story and it personally bugs me. However, this character SHOULD NEVER BE SLAPPED. A woman getting slapped by two strong men? Terrible. We thought maybe she can deflect their slaps — it’d be funny. But that is still attempted assault on the player’s part.
  • A character that is skeptical about Reggie and Kenny’s actions
    • This can add more hatred and conflict towards the players. This character may not believe what Reggie and Kenny are saying about “zombies” or “people getting so high they are killing people”.
  • A character that constantly narrates the story and barks during gameplay
    • This helps out with tutorials and teaching players what to do. But having this character constantly with them can ruin the buddy cop relationship we currently have and turn it into an odd group of three.

All these ideas are building blocks towards a better character. The best way to think of this character (which is not listed above) is to make he/she a foil towards the players, Reggie and Kenny. Similar to the film Anchorman, Ron Burgundy and his news team are baffled by the new co-anchor being a woman, Veronica Corningstone.

Image result for anchorman veronica corningstone

Our game is set in the same decade, the 1970s, and this foil character can work really well contrasting our disco cops. This foil character hates disco and enjoys modern times, and this character can be a  young woman. To make it more interesting, this confident and strong woman can be their new captain, similar to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s premise. Reggie and Kenny are baffled by a woman at first but quickly start to respect her… that is until they have a terrible first impression, which causes them to be demoted. This is a good transition back to our original story, since they were already assigned donut duty. Moreover, this Captain can be their dispatcher when Reggie and Kenny are off slapping zombies. So, she — a female badass — can be more included in the story.

This character is the new and revamped Captain Trudy.

Unfortunately, this “lovable yet slappable” character — originally Chad — is currently scraped. This new Trudy character offers the following:

  • A strong female badass
  • Highlights the theme of disco being a regretful trend.
  • Contrasts how Reggie and Kenny are different compared to everyone else; they are complete goofs because they still find disco cool
  • More comedy between their differences
  • She is now more involved in the story
  • Reggie and Kenny share a dislike for her

It would have been a fantastic addition to have a character the player can slap for entertainment. But this proved to be a huge challenge to take on, and our team does not have time to create all these different variations to figure out which one works. This new character is less of a headache to create. So, it’s best to continue forward with an easier character to take on.

 

 

 

Dev Blog #2

 

Focusing on the Disco

In the last few weeks, the narrative has been developing smoothly and is starting to solidify. Our team has decided to focus on disco nightclub level, so we can have a vertical slice by the end of this year. In fact, the scope has now been reduced to add more quality to our levels. So, we merged the nightclub level and cultist level to make it more engaging story. Cultists at a disco nightclub?  Yes, please.

Focusing on the Same Vision

Since the narrative team composes of three people, it will be hard to keep everyone under the same vision. So to start off, I have given every narrative designer a research document template to research the following topics relevant to our game:

  • 1970s – Las Vegas, famous crimes, events, history, fads, entertainment, fashion and other media to consider
  • 1980s – Las Vegas, famous crimes, events, history, fads, entertainment, fashion and other media to consider
  • Cops – Film, televsion, buddy cops and other media to consider
  • Lovecraft Themes – Lovecraft quotes, Cthulhu,  Re-Animator, zombie stories

With this research, our team was able to learn more about these decades to grasp a better understanding of the timeline, and discover potential elements to add to the plot.

Since the narrative team has not been able to write much yet, I asked for each of them to write funny, juicy and essential moments that they would like to see in a vertical slice level. The structure is constantly being updated, but that should not stop the writers from writing interesting moments, interactive or not! Our entire team had a creative session earlier, and during that session we all brainstormed potential slapping scenarios. The narrative designers can use examples brainstormed in that session or create new ones. Once we have all our interesting moments written out, I’ll implement them into the draft script for the vertical slice level. Since now the writers are now writing, I had to make sure that we are all writing consistently. So, after constantly iterating and finding inspirations from other non-linear scripts such as Telltale Games, I finalized an interactivity narrative format formula. The game’s narrative will be written in film format through any typical screenwriting software. However, since these programs do not support non-linear stories, this formula will help us organize the game’s interactive moments:

interactivity-narrative-formula

The numerical list can help programmers quickly identify how many choices/results there are. Capitalizing the important terms can help differ the interactive parts from the rest of the script. The SLAP CHOICES / END can notify the reader that the interactivity has ended and is resuming to the linear part of the story.

Focusing on the Story Concept

Not only do I work with the other narrative derringer,s but also communicate with everyone else on the team, including the level designer, artist, UI designer and programmers. Not everyone on the team knows the story, or has the take to read the script, so I made story concept guide that the entire team can use to understand the narrative. This guide is meant to be clean and simple and so far includes:

  • Settings – Description of the setting, maps, list of backgrounds needed for cutscenes and reference photos.
  • Characters – Brief description of characters, concept art and a link to the character design docs.
  • Key definitions – Key words that are relevant to understand the story
  • Spelling/grammar guide – A place to reference how characters should speak, such as 1970s slang, and the formula to write interactive scripts.
  • Record of choices – A list of choices with their consequences to keep track of interactivity and non-linearity.

Focusing on the Characters

In the original game, the characters’ personalities were not discuss, so they both seemed to possess similar personalities. However, this does not work that well in the buddy cop genre. The two somehow need to have opposite personalities to develop better conflict. We definitely wanted these two to both love disco and both have a hatred for a certain NPC character, currently named Chad. So I developed character design documents to figure out what characteristics, attributes and traits can make these two characters different.

Reggie – He’s cool, tough, confident and says the best one-liners at the right time. His way of working and thinking is more logical. However, he has a high-temper and hates being disrespected because it is humiliating to him. Despite looking strong, he eventually discovers he has a high-pitched scream once confronted by a zombie-like epidemic.

Kenny – He’s witty, creative, and makes a ton of jokes. He’s not as serious and spends more time enjoying every moment of his job. He acts over-confident in his actions, even when it goes horribly wrong. He can be easily startled and is terrified of the sight of blood. Once he confronts the zombie-like outbreak, he will be constantly screaming in terror through the bloody and gorey situations they go through.

just-them

A huge factor I personally wanted  to implement was diverse characters that are different gender, race and sexual orientation. When it comes to gender, unfortunately, the player-characters should remain male. If the two player-characters were female, they would not look tough if they just slap zombies away. Keeping them males that can only slap makes it more enjoyable to watch and not judgmental to laugh at. That does not stop me from designing a badass female though! And that character will be their captain, named Trudy. She will be not be a sex icon, have no love interest, wear appropriate uniforms and modest clothing, and will take her job as a captain very seriously. Even though our player-characters are male, that does not mean they are going to be white. Reggie has a African-American background,  Kenny has an Asian background, and Captain Trudy will be Latino. A character named Chad – an annoying character that tries to join the players on their case and is eventually revealed to be the mastermind villain – will be a white character, so that way the game can quietly nudge the players to notice that the diverse characters are, for once, the main characters. Although the game takes place in 1979, an era of racial discrimination (and even today sadly), there will be no mention of gender, race or sexual orientation discrimination. The game will also allow the players the freedom to express their player-character’s sexuality though slapping choices and will not be punished for it. The two player-characters can even be an item themselves!

After the NPC human characters are finished, I will develop the zombies with the lead game designer, level designer and artists to create the zombie-like enemies. In the meantime, there is one character that is taking a long time to develop, because of his complexity – and that character is Chad. How can we design a character that is encouraged to be slapped by the players – but is still lovable – and make his reveal as the villain unexpected and yet it makes sense? I will be conducting a separate case study about how to design his character.

Diversity in Games – Deep Dive Annotated Bibliography

Diversity is a great relatable quality that works extremely well in interactive mediums. But there is still not that many being portrayed in video games. Many big budget games still do not want to risk experimenting with creating new characters or respecting cultures. This similar problem is happening in film and television as well. Lately in the indie scene, there are games that portray new and unique perspectives, as opposed to the typical white male character.  Fortunately, there is starting to become a rise in games with a female perspective, marginalized ethnicities, and LGBT folks. How can we design diversity and prove it is not risky? How can we change our ways of thinking and designing to be more welcoming and respectful to players of various perspectives?

Anonymous. “Video games have a diversity problem that runs deeper than race or gender.” The Guardian. 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/10/video-games-diversity-problem-runs-deeper-than-race-gender

This article, written by an anonymous author, discusses how women are discouraged to play games because there is a lack of female characters to relate to. She also states that it does not matter how many female playable characters you put in your game, it’s the diversity of experience that matters. Like thinking about diverse mechanics. Splatoon is a good example of thinking outside the box where they “make it speak to people who enjoy a slightly different way of playing games,” and those is diverse. She admits this strong fact: “The lack of genre diversity doesn’t just affect players, it affects employees within the industry – especially women.”

Hibberd, James. “CBS defends ‘so white’ fall as critics slam.” Entertainment Weekly. Entertainment Weekly Inc. 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016. http://www.ew.com/article/2016/08/10/cbs-so-white

Although this article is about television, it does prove that the lack of diversity still exists in 2016. CBS created 6 new programs that all start white male leads. At the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills, CBS president Glenn Geller was asked about this topic, and he admitted they need to do better, especially when last year’s new programming was more diverse.

Ismail, Rami, et al. “The Current State of Muslim Representation.” Game Developers Conference. Moscone Center, San Francisco. Mar. 2016. Lecture. http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023214/The-Current-State-of-Muslim

This GDC talk is paneled by Muslim developers. They explain what the current problem is, how they feel, and prove the lack of diversity towards Muslims and Arabs in games. They discuss how many shooters have Arab terrorists, how they usually look, and the fact they always shout “Allah Akbar!” They talk about Assassin’s Creed, who did a good job, but messed up in a few parts in the background, such as the main character’s last name. They also discuss Arab myth of Djinn being visually represented in games like Uncharted 3. Deus Ex’s character Faridah is an interesting character.

Jayanth, Meg. “10 Ways to Make Your Game More Diverse.” Game Developers Conference. Moscone Center, San Francisco. Mar. 2016. Lecture. http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023447/10-Ways-to-Make-Your

Dev Blog #1

Let’s Revive This Bad Boy

For my team’s capstone project, we will be continuing forth with our earlier sprint week prototype, Disco is Dead!, to further develop it as a portfolio piece and demonstrate it at game showcases. One of our biggest challenges is to turn this arcade cabinet game into a non-linear narrative-driven experience. I will be the narrative director where I will be working and guiding the narrative design team, composed of three people.

To start off, here’s a quick backstory from our original prototype. Disco is Dead! is an arcade game where the player(s) take control of two manly hunks who slap zombies away with girlish screams, all set in 1970s disco. Here is the trailer:

Let’s Expand the Story!

The premise of our revised version is generally similar to our older prototype. This time we can expand the world and dive deeper into the characters. Now, the two protagonists will be cops. Yes, we’re making a buddy cop video game, and it’s fantastic. Surprisingly, there aren’t really any buddy cop games video games that provoke the same relationship portrayed in famous buddy cop films, like Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour.

So I did some research. I read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, a very good book on film screenwriting. He shares the formula on how to write a buddy film:

  • The two main characters have very opposite personalities, resulting in continuous conflicts based on their choices
  • The two opposite characters are forced to work together, and use their differences to resolve the main conflict.

Originally, we had it so that these two cops are already established best friends; a bromance even. But after learning and realizing the differing personalities is what makes buddy cops so great and hilarious, our first draft will needs some re-adjustments. We can still get away with them established as work partners, but the players should be the ones in control of the relationship themselves. This can even hype up the conflict between the two characters, and offer more argumentative slapping choices for the players when in disagreement or perform an act of betrayal.

Snyder concludes explaining simply, that a “a buddy film is a love story in disguise”. I highly agree with this logic and I want to take that even further. Personally, I want to bring in diversity in race and sexuality. So there should be moments where the player is open to interpreting what sexuality their character will be, such as letting the two cops go in for a smooch.

Let’s Design the Non-Linear Story

Even though the game is going to be narrative-driven, the beloved slapping mechanic is hands down the core of the game. However, the narrative can work hand-in-hand with the mechanic. By brainstorming interesting scenarios where the player has to slap (or not to slap), it can really brighten the slapping mechanic’s essence. Most of the non-linearity will be based off the slapping mechanic, thus making it a bigger sensitive weapon.

The non-linear aspect will not be drastic. The game will only have a few different endings, and the choices will not completely alter the story line. When we showcase this game to potential employers, some may not be able to replay, and thus they can miss out on all the work contributed, making all of that a waste. So, our game will use the illusion of choice to make it feel like the player is altering the story drastically, but really isn’t. In a way, this non-linear game will be linear; all the choices will lead back into one path, similar to how Telltale designs their interactive stories. That doesn’t stop us from adding in some one-liners and jokes!

Our older prototype was flexible when it came down to who players. It can be a 1-player experience by using both joysticks, or 2-player experience. Since our game is now going to be buddy cop genre, it makes sense to make a good 2-player mode as opposed to just 1-player. Unfortunately, there are no narrative-driven games that actually work well a 2-player experience. For most of these games, it is designed as a 1-player  experience, while the 2-player component is added in afterwards. However, I would like to take on this challenge; I would love to be able to play a story game with a friend and make choices together. Our game, as proven in our prototype, showed that the two players can create their own conflict outside of the game. If we can focus on designing an experience where the game encourages the players to create their own personal conflict, such as being able to slap each other if they are in disagreement of a choice, we can produce a memorable 2-player story experience.

Let’s Think Visually

Despite my focus being in narrative and writing, I still like to think visually. In order to start working with the narrative, I need to understand the structure.  So I got my cork board and started organizing it, colour-coding and pinning up index cards. As I assembled the board, I noticed how large of a scope the board can support. 42 beats to be exact, which is enough for a feature-length film! Since our game should be no more than 20 minutes of story, I cut it down to 20 beats. Even that is still quite long, but it will work for our first team meeting. I want this game’s story to focus on quality over quantity. If the game is too long and not intriguing, no one would want to continue playing it. Focusing on the short and sweet moments is essential.

In our first meeting, the board was extremely helpful for the team to quickly understand how the story will unfold and more importantly, what needs to be included in each level and how it progresses.  For the structure, I used Syd Field’s famous 3-act structure to understand and see the bare bones of the game’s story. Each level consists of 4 beats and has a goal, and the result of completing the goal directs them to the next level.

dsc_0140

Easily from the board’s visual, I can still see some structure and scope problems. Even before finding this out, we composed Act 2 into three distinctive levels, where no more than two levels can be scraped if we don’t have the time to do it. However, it was a smart move; it won’t be as grieving or devastating when the time comes to cut it, since no one would be too emotionally attached to the work. An idea even sparked where we can even merge the levels into one mega awesome level! In the end, as long as each act as one level, it is enough to create a compelling experience.

Now, here is the first complete draft of the game’s story progression:

disco-is-dead-story-structure-progression

Onwards to the second draft!

An little extra note I’d like to add, was that the working title I thought for this game was Disco is Dead: Slappy Seconds. It works really well; it’s technically the “second” Disco is Dead game, it’s a 2-player experience, and it really centralizes the game’s slapping mechanic. Despite being proud of my pun, I did not realize there would be a handful of people that found it offensive due to the slang’s sexual origin. Wanting to respect the opinions, Disco is Dead! seems like a great title on its own!