Hello everyone,

as mentioned in the last update, this month we were addressing the pacing of the core game mechanic – the choice-making. Before we jump into an in-depth write-up about that, let me quickly show you some minor improvements in different areas. Let’s start with our new camera animation effect:

A new camera animation and parallax effect

The cool thing for us internally is that this is the result of an automated animation mixer. We do not have to edit the camera animations by hand for each line. That’s a huge relief, as there are more than 10,000 lines already in the story.

REWIND MODE

Another minor annoyance we addressed is that sometimes you would forget all the details of a situation and when faced with a choice, you would feel not well informed to make it. Based on your feedback, we implemented a full-fledged rewind mode – now you can go back and forth the last ten steps in the story and re-read all the necessary information leading up to the choice.

Re-read the lines leading up to a choice with the new Rewind mode

Also based on feedback to our last build, you can click to speed up the reveal animation of the story text.

PACING BASICS

So, going back to this month’s design focus, the pacing of choice-making, the basic tool we have at our disposal, is the frequency of the choices. How many lines of story text we put between choices. We’ve kept this very low, with an internal limit of a maximum of 4 lines between choices. This creates an experience of the high reactivity of the story and leaves plenty of room for text embellishes in the final editing pass.

Another way we addressed the variety in the choice-making game mechanic was by having different types of choices with different rules surrounding them:

  • standard story choices displayed as text: e.g. “think about your options”. These choices may have attribute checks influencing the probability of success. With these choices, failure is not critical, meaning you can repeat the choice up to 3 times.
  • story-action choices, displayed as icons: e.g. “jump over the obstacle” a choice resulting in action in the story that is non-repeatable, meaning you have only 1 try to succeed.
  • a chain of choices linked together (a so-called “risk chain”), producing an aggregate result at the end: e.g. a series of checks testing you overcoming obstacles, determining how fast you run over the track and how much time you have at the end for a critical action, like calming down your breath and aiming.
Risk Chain result example – aggregated success carrying over as a bonus to a critical action

PACING ADVANCED

Besides that we identified these different ways how to change up the pacing of your interaction with the story, without straying away from the immersive narrative experience we set out to build:

  • combat encounters
  • resting place rewards (originally referred to as the fort phase)
  • point redistribution: unlocking ideas in your sub-conscience, unlocking new outfits and unlocking understanding of relationships

Combat currently feels quite similar to the basic choice-making pacing, as it uses a lot of risk-chains. We will be addressing this next month to make its pace feel more different.

Resting place rewards – these work well, they are just not as frequent as needed, it may take up to 1 hour before the story reaches the first resting point.

Point redistribution – these are the mechanics we were adding this month. The idea is to create natural story recap points every 15-20 minutes, showing a progress summary with shortcuts to the character screen tabs that let the player fluently build-up his character in fun ways and return back to the story.

Progress summary with shortcuts to unlocking new ideas, items and relationship insights

IDEA UNLOCKING

The idea here is that your character has a set of preconceived ideas hidden away in his/her subconsciousness that affect the way he/she sees himself/herself, others and the world around him/her.

Unlock the subconscious ideas that affect your life

The first step is you can use your experience in the story to reflect and unlock these ideas. E.g. you realize, despite what you think intellectually, or what you believe to be right or true, your past life experience led you to form the idea that “people are a burden”, and that “you are better off alone”. This influences your interactions with story characters. It’s easier for you to be hostile and harder for you to be friendly. The next step is, you decide if that’s exactly what you want or if you want to use the weight of your current experience to counter this idea and its effect.

So this is how you redistribute your accumulated experience points to understand and optionally counter the ideas locked away on the subconscious level. Unlocking them all enables a special reward.

You can not directly use points to change the idea in your subconsciousness. However, in the story, you can discover hidden story-moments that make you recall and reinterpret the memories you have and thus change the subconscious idea.

RELATIONSHIP INSIGHT UNLOCKING

Similarly, you start the game with the surface knowledge that some characters infuriate you (anger), or make you feel uncomfortable (guilt/shame), or on the edge (fear), sometimes without obvious reasons. Those are all negative experiences, and to understand and counter them you can use the knowledge and motivation accumulated from your positive experiences in relationships. These are represented by the goodwill you were able to gain, be it sympathy, trust, respect or pardon.

Understand the roots of the emotions characters evoke in you

So you use goodwill points to unlock and understand what exactly is behind the anger, guilt or fear. Understanding the reason weakens the negative effects of the relationship block. Further, you can allocate goodwill points to counter that feeling and block out the negative effects in relationships with your favorite characters to increase your chances of succeeding in acting positively even in critical circumstances in the story.

You can not directly use points to remove blocks from your relationships, but in the story, you can choose to make positive actions towards the NPC to slowly decrease the block’s strength on the character’s side of the relationship. And the game is running probability checks determining whether the character reacts in kind, which can reduce the blocks on your side. You can also discover hidden insights and formative moments, that truly change the way you perceive a character.

To wrap it up, we are very happy with how meaningful the character development via experience and goodwill redistribution feels and how well it introduces the sought after change in the pacing of the choice-making interaction with the story.

Next we move onto upgrading the combat experience.

Cheers,

Andrej

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