Location based games versus Scene based games


#1

Hi again!

I hope I am explaining this clearly. Apologies if my phrasing is confusing.

I am planning out a game that has heavy exploration and RPG elements, where the player will find new locations but very often have to backtrack through old ones or revisit shops or NPC homes etc.

COG games are very much geared toward scenes or moments, and all the ones I have played have a progression that is focused through time/experiences more than through space/locations; that is to say even when a character revisits a location, it is treated like a new scene rather than revisiting a place that might not have changed since the last visit.

Players don’t usually walk down a hall, go into a library, exit and go outside then walk down the street, then enter a shop as if passing through five distinct locations “scenes” of their own) with each one allowing a choice of direction to go.

In a COG game a player would simply be given choices like “Visit the library to do some research.” or “Go to the shop and buy some gum.” and those scenes would play out.

Now, that’s great, and I really do want to emphasize story in my game and focus on the big moments, but as the game depends upon those moments happening dependent on locations and current variable values, it makes sense for me to plan the game as if it were a traditional old school text adventure, building the moments/choices on the foundation of world map of connected locations.

Since this seems a little different than how I perceive most COG games to work, I am worried that this will cause problems, and was wondering if anyone has done something that felt more like an “open world” in text rather than a series of moments that progress a story?

One thing that worries me is that in testing my game there are bound to be places that can loop back many times and I know that is a no-no for released games because (if I understand correctly) COG does not want the player to ever get stuck unable to make progress toward an ending.

Is this something I should worry about?

One thing that I think would prevent an infinite loop is that I have a time ticker in my game that will cause major world changes and force the player into new choices (or end the story in death) if they wander in circles for too long.

So I am also wondering, if I a player decides they wand to run in circles through locations and make the same choices for MANY times and THEN they eventually die, or after dozens of cycles a new event happens, will my game still not pass the tests for COG?

Now I am over-simplifying things, and I seriously even doubt any human player would wander the same locations that many times and keep making the same exact choices, but I know the automated test does this --and human beings HAVE been known to do weird things no one planned on.

Please keep in mind that I am very much simplifying elements of my game to a worst case scenario of very improbable occurrences…but they WILL be possible. The game has a very strong multi layered story, and things n the world will change (as will the player character) and there will be a story progression, but there will also be wandering and experimenting along the way.

So, am I setting myself for a big fail here? I really would like COG to host or publish my game when finished. It has a rich world and I think an interesting story…but can things work out for me by creating the game strongly emphasizing locations in space FIRST, then real scenes with character moments as possibilities in those locations?

Any help would be much appreciated!

Thanks!


#2

I can’t speak to the official CoG perspective - but as for “is it technically possible” and “can it produce an interesting story”, yes to both. (Though I think the randomtest system would throw up or have a serious slowdown over it.)

I haven’t seen anyone do this with ChoiceScript yet (though there are a lot of games I haven’t played!) but Caelyn Sandel has performed several experiments in this vein with Twine, and most of them would translate well into ChoiceScript.

A couple examples:

(That is, the writing structure translates fairly well. The custom colors and sound wouldn’t, of course.)


#3

i would like to start with this: i definitely don’t think you’re setting yourself up for failure. i just want you to really consider what you’re doing. i am also going into this with some bias. i believe we should not be aiming to emulate the actual feeling of old-school games, because we can do so much better now. so, with that in mind…

are you certain you’re prepared to take on something like this, and have enough content to do so–planned or otherwise?

i believe the largest reason for the scene-based nature of cogs is because this is what we do in books. location-based gameplay can pad stories out indefinitely without adding much value. see, for example: “Noe dresses and exits their room. They walk down the cramped little hall leading into the dining room. They put on their boots and open the door to leave their apartment. They walk down three flights of stairs and out of the main gates. They walk down the street to the ice cream shop near-by. An Exciting Thing happens.” now, i don’t actually write the Exciting Thing, but you can see how that’s a bit tedious, especially with choices in between.

if you’re confident that everything you write actually adds to the story in some way–even ways that are small, like an offhand comment or a tiny change–then go for it. you will undoubtedly have some lost and confused players, that’s unavoidable with a game like this of any scale–but if you manage to hold their interest, that won’t matter.


#4

Oh! I was actually prepping to write a game in this style! It is, at present, on hiatus- having two WIPs, I had to take a vote about which to work on and the other won. However- yes. I have set up a time ticker in the game- the time is partioned off into its own scene which feeds back into a ‘where do you go’ sort of overview for each day. Each location then has a separate scene, led to by the main choice, and subdivided by the number of times you have already visited that location, or in some cases, if it is a certain day on the time ticker. I was still in the process of setting it all up, but the concept makes perfect sense- think location-based dating sims. It would be easy enough to do an RPG in the same fashion. I would suggest not killing off players for repeating the same things over and over, but having an ultimate ‘you must succeed within this time’ (X days) would give the players an incentive to advance, and, a perfectly valid excuse to kill them if they don’t succeed within the allotted time. You could even scale it into easy, medium, and hard modes if you knew the balance for it.

@OfficerRattlesnake :wink: It’s absolutely a plausible idea. It would be very much like taking the idea of scenes and staging the scenes in various locations. Actually, somewhat similar to how the various choices of who you can bunk with in Monsters works. Except if there were multiple scenes in each cabin.


#5

Here I go again, but @AllenGies’s Shadow Horror (a Hosted Game) is a more ‘open world’ setting, with rooms that you can go back and explore in any order. Things in the rooms do change as well, both with the passage of time and also with the player’s actions. I suspect it might have been a bit of a ride to code, though.

I don’t think random test or quick test would have a problem with open-world per se. One of the two games I’m working on at the moment has certain aspects of the open-world theme, although the ‘rooms’ you can explore don’t repeat. Random test does sometimes run for ages, but it’s never broken except when I was making coding errors on the room timer.

The hardest aspect for me has been balancing the stats because you might walk into a certain room after playing through one other room of stat changes, or after playing through eight other rooms of stat changes. Makes quite the difference.


#6

@Shawn_Patrick_Reed … i completely forgot q&s was like this. i was specifically thinking of the early games we have–mostly dead already?, as an example of a cog i could liken to an ‘old-school’ text adventure, and shadow horror as a cog that uses location-based gameplay and rocks it.

i definitely agree about the time limit, but with an example that did it in a way i liked: the classic fallout games aren’t text adventures, but they both have goals that need to be completed within a certain time with consequences if one does not. the actual games, however, can carry on for much longer than that. i feel this gives the opportunity to let the player decide whether their given ‘mission’ actually matters to them, and have something with an actual impact happen if the player did want to succeed but failed anyway for whatever reason. there’s more weight to their choices that way, i feel.


#7

Something of the type you are describing would be best made using Adrift, or Quest.

http://www.adrift.co/

http://textadventures.co.uk/quest

If you are comfortable with coding I would recommend Inform 7 as well.

http://inform7.com/

These are far better for the “text adventure” genre you are describing, In my opinion Choicescript is better for a book really.


#8

Oooh- I’m suddenly reminded of the old Zork games. It actually seems it would be easy to create that style of game in CS.

laughs I tried playing Shadow Horror. Three times, I avoided going into the house at all in three different ways. Apparently, I am not horror movie material. XD


#9

but again Choice is great and easy to learn as well so it’s up to you


#10

classic zork appreciation or even recognition is always great. i was going to say that typed input is more fun in games like that, because of all the easter eggs, but then i remembered the little easter eggs in choice of the vampire if you chose a silly referential name. d: so one could recreate that kind of game, if they’d be alright with having many, many variables.


#11

I was thinking this morning about how I might be able to implement some typed-word parts in Monsters, without doing so in an unfun manner. I believe I have some ideas, though I won’t get to implement them right away. Pooey.

I didn’t know there were easter eggs in CotV like that. : D Nifty!


#12

Thank you all for your thoughts!

I have a lot to think about.

I may scale back some of the location-centric exploration aspects of the game in large areas and restrict them to meta-locations (like inside a cavern) that benefit most from the tension of knowing each choice you make on which direction to travel may lead to an ambush or waste valuable time that is running out.

I have to brainstorm a bit and figure out what is most important.

I have written a lengthy design document with character histories and large detailed map of the entire town the game takes place in, as well as several possible story lines that develop depending on how the player reacts to the situation. I’ll have to evaluate what best suits each aspect I guess.


#13

There are definitely aspects of what I am going for in those examples! Thank you!


#14

If you are searching for another tool there is also Storynexus, which also tracks the location of the player and is basically focused on that kind of play, very buggy platform though


#15

ChoiceScript definitely isn’t intended to help you write location-based games. It can do it, but it’ll be a struggle.

I agree with @Imon that another language would probably work better, especially Inform. In particular, I bet that you don’t just want locations. You probably want puzzles in your locations. That’s a “text adventure” in the classic sense, and Inform is great at that.

I wrote ChoiceScript because I felt that location-based games were pretty well served by existing tools, but scene-based games were not as well served.

I especially feel that it’s easier to tell a story in a scene-based game. It’s hard to build a place that tells a story. But it’s hard to build good puzzles in a scene-based game.

Nothing’s impossible. You can tell stories with locations, and you can write puzzles in scenes.

But, overall, if you want puzzles with story, I suggest writing a location-based game in Inform. If you want a story with tough choices, write a scene-based game in ChoiceScript.


#16

Actually, my own game uses this kind of location mechanics, essentially a space game where you explore star-systems, with each system composed of a number of planets, and these having cities, and locations in the cities. Players are free to room about, and I currently already have about 8-10 planets (its a WIP but already quite extensive…). I have combat systems (ship-to-ship, character-to-character, etc).

The main issues I have encountered so far is that some people can complain of a feeling of being lost in the game (given so many options of where to go, where do you start?), so you may find that you need to implement some features to give a sense of direction (I implemented a second officer you can ask for advice, which is a rather complex script which results in different advice being given based on what the player has done so far).

Essentially, the problem is that most people who play CoG are used to “rather linear” plots, where your choice dictates incremental changes to the storyline. But, you don’t have to choose the path of the story, which will never end up in a loop (i.e. the story will conclude somehow, if you continue making choices). In a game like mine, or like the one you have in mind, the character can end up 5 times in the same cavern, wondering what he has missed and how to go forward. Many gamers in other genres might be used to that feeling, but those in CoGs don’t necessarily want such games, so you have to be a bit careful. I also have implemented a timer, to force some movement into the game, but you will find also that this game slowly and rapidly grows in complexity, an issue I am currently struggling with…


#17

Thank you!

The game I have in mind has many tough choices in it for the player, and a lot of it lends itself to what COG games traditionally are. The more I look at my outline, I think that perhaps I can limit the exploration segments to short bursts that really build tension and suspense and also force tough choices.

The game is a horror game and at points I want every move the player makes to feel as if they are walking on thin ice (figuratively) and have to plan every step while also trying to beat doomsday clock which will bring a fate worse than death.

I’ll see how I feel after I tweak things.

I certainly DO want to condense periods of long travel into one “scene” rather than force the player to keep going “South down the deserted highway” a dozen times. I’m not aiming to make a text based walking simulator :wink:

Places where there would be potential for frequent backtracking would mostly be in interior locations where for instance the player is aware they are not alone in a house and want to get a weapon, hide, or call for help without running into the enemy etc.

The comments here have been very useful in helping me evaluate where the game will use such elements to great effect, or drop them entirely.

I really don’t want to use a text parser system. I used to love text games like the old infocom ones, but now the truth is they frustrate me- trying to guess what words the parser understands or the proper expected syntax wastes time and I think alienates people in the modern gaming age.

I like the idea of multiple choices, and having some choices hidden unless the player has discovered the right clues or their current attributes allow for the choice.

I’m going to monkey around with some logic trees tonight and see how complex things get.

Thanks everyone!


#18

Two words: *hide_reuse

The issue with a game like this is it will be more of a game than a story (I’ll add more on this) which may or may not be a bad thing depending on what you’re looking for.

I’ll be doing a game where I do use this a lot, a simple solution is to do:

Scene 1: Middle Village, Mansion (say you’re doing an investigation of a monster or crime, anything)

You get to choose between library, kitchen, dungeon (if it were a castle)
To keep “The Main Hall” (the place where you go back after visiting each location, maybe a day passes (*set date +1) and you have 5 days to find the evidence you need. Then the player (next chapter) travels to the next “Occurance of the anomaly” (say another murder made the same way happens in the next town)

Rinse and repeat, use these “next chapter” to move the plot forward. Also uses one main character or two that follows you trough the game, and important but secondary characters in each town/village


In each txt file, to keep the “main hall” (the place you go back after visiting a place) more alive by making 3 simple definitions of it. Make it when the player returns, the text changes a little.

Or, to keep it from being redundant but still keep it exactly the same, make two versions: the first has the introduction to the place “You are in X town, Gordon’s library bla bla” and the next time, all it says is “3 days passed since you arrived. You found 5 clues so far. Where would you like to go next?”


Use *hide_reuse to keep options in certain room
(*choice
*hide_reuse #open the chest with 300000 gold coins) (can’t recall the syntax)

Another way of changing the Main Hall (say you stay in the same town) is to change it once per chapter (which makes sense, one txt file per chapter)

You win the game only if a) you find enough cues or b) interrogate the right people or c) combinason of those (otherwise the murdurer stabs you in the back and leaves you to die in the middle of the 7th night)

One game I’ll be doing will be using something similar, except it’ll only be for one chapter, not for the whole game.


I think that was the quickest brainstorm I ever had.


Does this help?