The Centrenauts: The Choices We Make

As our group progresses with our videogame and I continue working on our narrative and story, it is becoming more and more clear how important choices are in history. History isn’t simply a collection of names, dates, and places; rather, it is a series or a process that involves the subjective decisions of a human being. For example, Alexander the Great didn’t conquer Persia simply because he conquered Persia—instead, he conquered the empire because he made a series of choices within the context of the period that would lead to success in that specific conquest. The choices that this specific conqueror made were made without the knowledge of what exactly would come next; his choices were subjective to him.

This subjectivity is extremely important when thinking history, and it is especially important to our group as we craft the decision-making process within our game. As Jordan mentioned in his last blog post, our videogame will contain player choices that will change the outcome of the videogame: a series of poor choices will result in a Nazi victory during D-Day and a series of good choices will result in an Allied victory during D-Day. It is up to the player to make these decisions based on the context that they are given. Rather than letting a player make decisions based on prior knowledge of what will happen, we would rather have the player immerse themselves properly in the game and make subjective decisions.

The best example of this so far in the narrative of our game is the series choices that a player makes regarding sending stolen German information back to the Allies. For this situation, a player must take into consideration the weather, volume of ingoing and outgoing mail, and the busyness of radio channels. There is no clear answer in this prompted choice. It is up to the player to weigh their options and think ahead of what might happen if they make a certain choice, as there is no specific historical precedent for them to rely on during this encounter. The player must immerse themselves, recognize established patterns, and make a choice based entirely on context.

These subjective choices are how we plan to keep the game immersive and replayable, but it is also important for the historical authenticity of our game. We’d like the choices that players make during gameplay to matter in the course of the game’s history, so we aim to add weight to nearly everything the player does. When a player makes a choice, it will alter history (even if it’s only the history within the game) in the way that any choice in an RPG should.

As we ourselves continue to make choices during the production of our videogame, we will keep you updated and informed! For now, we are focusing on research, narrative, and map building. By the end of this week, we hope to have our plotline drafted and our game on its way to being properly produced!

Drafts of Choices

 

The Centrenauts: Introductory Thoughts and Details

To kickstart the development of our video game, our team met and had three objectives in mind: to name our team, to choose a topic, and to select our software. Naming a team is hard, but creating a game is harder, so we decided to pick a simple team name so that we could save our brainstorming for the actual project. So, our team decided to throw out name ideas until someone said, “Oh, that one sounds cool.” Thus, Jordan Cordoba, Yue Feng, Clay Hundley, Alex Wright, and I became The Centrenauts.

With our first objective met, we moved on to brainstorming a topic for our game. This step was crucial, as our overall goal for the day was to select the software to use for our game, which we couldn’t do if we didn’t know what kind of video game we wanted to create. So, our group began forming ideas. Out of the many we had (including, but not limited to, a Chernobyl survival horror game, a counter-factual Native American Revolution RPG, and a story-based Cold War espionage game), our group was really struck by one idea in particular: a role-playing game that follows a spy working for the Allied Powers in WWII-era France.

While our team discussed the possibilities of puzzles, code-breaking, multiple endings, and body counts, it became obvious that we only had one choice for software: RPG Maker. While the Twine software would have been useful for the storytelling of our game, our team wanted a game that focused on action and player-involvement just as much as the story itself. So, Alex downloaded RPG Maker and began the free trial that would carry us through the creation of our spy-thriller RPG.

Today’s objectives met, we hope to move on with the development of our storyline, creating a timeline, and familiarizing ourselves with RPG Maker. We’re very eager to begin creating our game and we all look forward to keeping everyone updated on our progress!

Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists Series: Effects on Our Plans

As mentioned in our earlier update Group Desolation has decided to focus our game on survival and the consequences of the character’s choices. To fit with this some of us have looked into similar games for inspiration, two of which are Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists. Both of these games were made in a similar style, with pixelated graphics and relatively simple mechanics. From Sometimes Always Monsters we are mainly looking at how the game maintained its intense mood, and we are mainly looking at the Escapists for game play ideas.

For those of you have not played, or heard of, Sometimes Always Monsters it is a rpg in which the player character is a struggling author who has become estranged from the love of their life. Despite its cartoonish graphics and lack of voice acting it remains tense throughout because of the choices it forces the player to make. One of the starting scenarios tasks the jobless player to scrape together enough money to pay rent which they could do by working odd jobs, but potentially missing an important call due to the hours they are assigned, or by robbing their elderly neighbor. Both tasks are easy to accomplish, but having such divergent options encourages the player to immerse themselves in the game’s world and makes them more fearful of what the potential consequences are. This is an effective way to naturally increase immersion and if an early game choice was to be set up to punish the player no matter which task they chose, then the player would pay more attention and think through future decisions in much more depth to avoid failing again.

In the case of the Escapists we are primarily looking to adapt a similar game play. The main goal of the Escapists is to escape whatever prison you are placed in, which has clear parallels to our game, and in the process of escaping you must follow a strict daily schedule. The daily routine is a good way force players towards a certain play style, with various punishments discouraging certain actions and rewarding the actions the developers want the player to commit to. This retains the illusion that the player is in full control of their situation while guiding them towards the important choices of the game. However, implementing it in RPG Maker could prove rather difficult as the mechanics are a bit complicated with AI daily routines and a responsive reputation system.

Throughout this week we will hopefully find more games, or other media, to draw inspiration from and more fully explore how we could effectively implement the mechanics we come up with.

Hello from Senseless Violence!

Our group name came about after we traversed a loop several times when trying to brainstorm for our game.

“What do we want our game to be about? Well, we need to know the time period first.

Okay, what time periods do we like? Well, there are a lot. Maybe we should explore themes.

What themes do we want? Well, first we need to know what our game is going to be about. ”

And so on. We struggled for a bit, but learned more about each other through it.

Eventually, we got to the topics of the wild west and survival. We thought about the funny deaths that happen in some games, like where you’d walk into a bar, look at the bartender the wrong way, and suddenly have a “Game Over” screen. From there we discussed how that idea could be applied to plenty of different time periods and settings, and we created a rather large list of ideas and topics that we might like to explore, and we haven’t settled on one yet. However, since this productive branch of thought stemmed from senseless violence, we felt the name was fitting.

We used our time today to mostly get to know each other and find out what everyone was interested in. Everyone in our group comes from a different background and enjoys different types of games, so we have lots of different perspectives to bring to this game. We achieved an idea of the roles each of us will handle, though those may shift as we go. We spent a lot of time discussing potential topics, and near the end of class, we had almost too many to handle. To solidify our idea of what we want to do, each of us will be looking further into particular topics they were interested in and will present that idea to the group tomorrow.

The members of our team are Victoria Cummings, Evan Whitis, Clay Knight, Mackenzie Snow, and Leland Gray. We look forward to giving everyone further updates as Centre Term progresses!