From Sea to Shining Sea Squad: A general update and some thoughts on Twine

Greetings all!

 

The From Sea To Shining Sea Squad is buckling down for the sprint to the finish. We have been hard at work on elements of our portfolio for several days now and grappling with Twine to create as best of an experience that we can in time for presentation. However, it is proving difficult to set things in stone in either part of the project, because we keep having new ideas and concerns popping up all of the time.

 

Our strategies for tackling the portfolio have changed from day to day, but by collaborating and exchanging ideas for the essays we have all become more engaged in the process of world building and our historical understanding of our setting. An element of the portfolio that we appreciate is our ability to explore and explain ideas that did not quite make it into the final game or did not make it in fully. This allows us to better communicate our influences from other games, difficult choices we had to make and why we made them, and how exactly our counterfactual world all ties itself together.

 

Our development of actual gameplay in Twine, while being quite enjoyable at times, has presented challenges in creating the atmosphere we seek. In order to create engrossing, vibrant script to immerse the player, a lot of effort has to be put into the writing of different scenes and chapters of the game. Although we already have a very solid sequence of events in place for the player to navigate through, we want to make as best use of our medium as we can. The team views the text-based RPG as a genre with extremely high potential but also being easy to totally miss the mark unless we devote significant energy towards perfected the atmosphere and immersion of the player through interesting characters and delivery.

 

A fascinating element of our engine, is heavily tied to a concept that Daniel Reynolds describes in his essay What is Old in Video Games? Reynolds explores the effect that the technological aspect of videogames has on the experience they give as a medium. In the case of games made with Twine, this is quite important. The story that we are creating could be told with text in a physical book with tags attached to the players’ options directing them to a certain page that contains the output of the decision they have chosen. There is a great difference in experience between flipping to a page with text already printed on it and a screen, which must read code to manifest the text on a display. One feels like it has already been played out and that there is nothing new being created, and the other gives the player a greater feeling of agency, because their display has changed before their eyes according to their decision. This creates a cool feeling as developers that our story could not have been made in our vision without the existence of this technology, even if the only thing that separates us from literature is purely the medium of viewing the text.

 

All in all, morale is high. The From Sea To Shining Sea Squad is hard at work to bring you all enjoyable gameplay next week, and we are confident that we are on track to reach our goals of creating an immersive and enjoyable perspective for our players to explore

The Decision Makers: Inspiring New Pathways

Before discussing the overview of the new pathways for our game, I wanted to give an update on the use of Twine. Yesterday we discussed exactly how we wanted the layout of our game to be presented. The beginning of our game is going to have similar aspects to the Call of Duty franchise campaigns, where players are provided background information and the scenario at hand before the start of each mission. When discussing military history, we want to be as close as possible with the dates and locations of the game so the players can feel a sense of realism. Twine can provide us with the presentation we desire while also helping us develop our decision based game.

 

Our group work today was very task-oriented. We have been discussing new pathways for our game over the past week, but want to determine our favorites to begin the construction of our game. Developing our protagonist, Günter Schmidt, is a task that is very complex. To provide players with enough information to understand the position that Günter is put in, but also ensuring that players stay interested is a difficult compromise. One of the problems that we are running into is that we are trying to be so historically accurate with our dates that our actual thought into the playthroughs themselves is being neglected. We wanted to get on the right path today by finishing two of our playthroughs involving Günter joining the Nazi army and his participation in Operation Valkyrie. Players will be given the option to join Operation Valkyrie or to remain loyal to the Nazi party and try to stop the plan from unfolding.

 

We further developed our storyline today by adding more options for the player to have control of the situation. After observing the script we have created so far, we believe that we can develop a game that will contain several historically accurate scenarios through the life of a made up character. Our game created in the World War II era and will provide players with the experience of a Nazi soldier. We met last night to watch the movie Valkyrie to get more ideas on how to interpret the operation into our game. The movie sparked several ideas about how we wanted to portray the assassination attempt on Hitler while still providing players the opportunity to make their own decision. We have discussed several outcomes of the operation including a counterfactual ending where Hitler is actually killed. The life of Günter Schmidt will be influential in the outcome of the destiny of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler regardless of what pathway taken.

 

An interesting idea we played around with after Fisher’s presentation today was the idea of having a playthrough for Günter to join the Schutzstaffel (SS). The SS was an organization that was crucial to the rise of power for Hitler and controlling all resistance against his agenda. One of our sources, The SS: A New History by Adrian Weale, hopefully will provide us with a vision of what it was like to be a member of the SS during the rise of Nazi Germany. If we make Günter a SS soldier he could play a role in stopping Operation Valkyrie before the assassination attempt on Hitler can happen. The idea is not completely set in stone yet, but we believe this could add another exciting ending to our game.

 

Over the weekend we are meeting to work on our game in Twine and discuss the goals we want to achieve throughout the week. The plan of action we developed for this week went very well and provided us with a layout of the things we needed to get done. Our focus on the pathways today was very crucial to provide players with the opportunity to enjoy our game. We look forward to seeing our ideas come to life in the software!

 

 

The Decision Makers: Preparing for the Work Ahead

Hey everyone,

Today was the third day of class and during our team’s work hour we were able to nail down several important details about our work to come that are going to be vital to help prepare for and set up some tasks in the coming days and weeks. We set up a relatively primitive timeline for what we plan to accomplish by certain dates, as well as if a single person is going to be responsible for completing it, and if so then we decided who would be the one to do it, or if we would work on the task as a group. An example is that we decided that since there are five essay parts of the portfolio and one non essay portion about our plan of action, each person would be given one to complete (I am responsible for the paper about the games we used as a reference for ours) and the plan of action would be completed as a group. We worked quite a bit on the plan of action today and were able to complete a significant amount of it.

During this time we also helped Will with his personal presentation tomorrow and decided who would present on for the coming presentations based on who wanted to talk about what topic. After this was discussed the potential story line that the character we are developing which will lead to several different endings based on previous actions taken in the story. However, since some of the actions the character will take will more likely than be based on actual events, it makes contingency a bit of an issue to work through. One example we pan to incorporate is Operation Valkyrie which was based on the idea that Hitler would be assassinated and the operation was where the Germans would arrest Nazi leadership and take over leadership of the nation. Since it failed in real life, the game could give a situation where it succeeded if certain choices are made or it could fail like it actually did if another path was chosen by the player. However if the player takes the path where the operation succeeds then we have to work out what that means for the impact it will have on the game play because we will have to base the remainder of that path of game play on events that did not actually occur but still has to be believable enough that it is coherent with the rest of the game and fun for the player. We talked about this issue for a decent amount of time and I believe we are coming closer to the best answer we can think of. As of now there are no concrete ideas about where the story could head after the success of the operation, only a few ideas circulating.

After discussing the potential future of our character, we realized we needed to first have a strong background story for him for the rest of the story and game play to flow coherently. While there are no details set in stone we agreed on the basics of the character: that he would be a German, most likely from the Hitler’s Youth program, relatively early on in the game the player would decide where his loyalties would lie, and his name would be Günter Schmidt. The rest about the stories potential endings and our character’s background were put off to tomorrow after we had thought about it more and when we had more time to work together.

At the very end of class we started to look up images to go along with the game and finishing that was put off to tomorrow as well since we only looked for a few minutes to get ideas in our minds. After today’s work I would say we’re doing pretty well for a start and we seem to be progressing at a good rate.

Team Senseless Hunger

It’s here. That point where it seems like it should be finals week but it isn’t, because this is Centre Term, but everything is finally coming together and group meetings are getting a little more silly.

Our group met for quite a while today! We managed to lay down quite a bit of story in the time we had, too! Everyone got their first peek at what Twine could be and what we’ve made of it so far, and we’re very excited. It surprised me to see that Twine has quite a lot of flexibility that I’ve never seen implemented in the Twine games I’ve played in the past, so that was really awesome to discover. We added several new things to our story that we hadn’t originally planned to add as we were discussing plot, and playing around with Twine as a group was really fun. Branching paths gives us the ability to add humor or side encounters where we hadn’t expected to have them before.

Once the clock hit 6, our progress started faltering. No matter what part of the story we tried to work on, it lead back to food. Stomachs were growling. Patience was failing. Leland, dedicated to our task, proudly paved the way through a particular scene where our current hero was starving. While he was writing the script, we watched as he struggled on the google doc:

“Billy has no money in his pocket, and no food in his snack.”

no food in his snack”

After several tries and fits of laughter, he pulled through. Shortly after, we called it a day and split up for some grub. Today was fun and  productive!