Quarantine Falls Prologue


#1

So I’ve started a follow-up to my first game. I’m trying out a new tone and approach and would love any feedback people can offer, whether good, bad or genuinely neutral.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/61954623/web/mygame/index.html

What’s there now is really just the stage-setting and I’m still moving the pieces around. The story is going to branch off into a few different paths based on what’s done here. There’s also going to be an imaginative approach to picking your gender. (Right now you play as Dallas, one of the characters from Planetary Quarantine.) Thanks!


#2

The story feels long-winded and confusing. I can’t point to specific examples of why I feel this way, but that is the impression I got.

There are a few style inconsistencies, like ‘next button’ only one line of text ‘another next button,’ or paragraphs that should be split up into two or three.


#3

Yeah, I’m not surprised to hear that, hence my post in the first place. Thanks for the input.


#4

Disclaimer: I have never written a choicescript game, and this is my very first time commenting on a WIP. I joined the forums yesterday, and I haven’t even read Planetary Quarantine. Feel free to take this with salt.

Second Disclaimer: Spoilers below. I don’t know how to do spoiler tags.

I’ve read a lot on these forums about the tension between story and game (i.e. writing a game with good story elements versus writing a good story with some interactive elements). I think the tone and point of view you are using puts this solidly in the latter category.

Two things made me look at this as a story and not a game. First, I was not in the driver’s seat. Dallas was. This is his story. Unlike a lot of choicescript games, the narration has a strong voice, conveying a personality that already seems well defined before the reader does anything. Second, you establish right away that a ship is going to explode. There is nothing the reader can do about that. Great way to set up a mystery. Not so good for conveying any sense of agency that would make me feel like I am a player rather than an onlooker.

The tone and the level of detail are spot on. This story feels like classic science fiction. Starting at the climax of the story, and having the rest occur in flashback makes the mystery much more intriguing. The pacing is excellent, with a good balance between exposition and action. The first person point-of-view is somewhat refreshing, and I did not mind being a little confused in places because I did not need to know all the relevant details all the time. Dallas was calling the shots.

The trick, unfortunately, is that the choices do not appear to add much to the experience. The first choice (“Take them down” vs “Leave them alone”) was practically meaningless to me. I chose “Take them down” because I had no idea what that meant. Was Dallas going to dismiss his officers because they were being useless? Was he about to attack them because he suspected they were enemy agents? Was he making a list of names? I was genuinely curious.

A couple of times, someone asked Dallas a question, and I was supposed to choose how he responded. This brought the action to a halt as I tried to guess what he was most likely to say, based on what I already knew of him (clever, not especially well-educated, a bit cynical, maybe too smart for his own good). I just met the guy, after all.

The choices that affected the world itself were a bit more meaningful because I could check the stats and see that I was affecting parameters that would not doubt come into play later, but I still had little to go on that made any one decision more immediate than the other.

(Exception: the scene where Dallas chooses whom to interview. I received adequate information on each option, selected the one I thought was most desirable, and received an outcome that was immediate and direct.)

This is all compounded by the fact that reading a choicescript game makes a person hypersensitive to any ambiguity. If the narrative is not 100% clear on what is going on, we lack confidence in making choices. You picked one of the hardest settings - space-age sci fi - to make that happen. The reader can’t take anything about the setting for granted. Contrast that with medieval fantasy, where you can tell the reader, “You are in an inn,” and they immediately have a clear picture of the environment.

This is an engaging story, but I’m not sure what the interactive element adds to it. If you can nail down the purpose of giving the reader choices, and make that purpose clear to us, I think it would be a lot stronger.

Just my two cents. Grain of salt.


#5

Admittedly, PQ is one of the half dozen or so games that has been purchased but sitting on my phone not yet played as I’m constantly struggling to allocate my free time, so although I was a little confused about what was going on in QF, I’m guessing much of that is my lack of familiarity with the story and characters. I know you can’t just jump into a sequel.

That being said, I very much enjoyed the casual writing style and the little asides Dallas throws in (like his comments about the Banker on his lap). I found them entertaining. And I also like how you use stand-alone sentences from time to time to emphasize the content, like “Ribeiro’s an idiot.” I think that’s an effective way to do it.

And yes there were some paragraphs I felt were too long (I usually limit paragraphs to 3 sentences or so just because so many folks read them on tiny iphone screens) but that’s something you can easily address if you choose to do so.

This is just going to spur me to read PQ.


#6

Heck, if you bought the game you can print it out and use it as toilet paper if you want – just rate it 5-star TP before you do!

It’s set in the same universe as PQ but it’s not a sequel to the existing story. My writing assumption is that people reading it haven’t played PQ (or did but don’t remember anything about it). So I’m trying to give enough background without doing too much exposition. Tricky. Probably cut it down.

@BabbleYaggle You’re right. I am most definitely far to the story side on the story/game continuum. I don’t play choicescript games probably as often as I should, but when I do I don’t even look at the stats screen. To me it’s clutter. I like to simply read the story and try to make decisions that will lead to interesting outcomes and see what happens.

That being said, all the choices so far have consequences. You the reader just don’t necessarily know that yet. That opening choice, for example, sets the “rash” trait and so helps determine whether Dallas is more of a thinker or a doer. So by the end of the file, when you’re back at the opening scene again, both you and the world around you have been fleshed out quite a bit and you can see what impact those choices have made on what happens next.


#8

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Penny Arcade’s Extra Credits series, but your reply reminds me of EC’s video on choices versus consequences.

With that distinction in mind, COG and HG games emphasize choice much more than consequence. If readers aren’t certain what the likely outcomes of their actions will be, then they might feel cheated when the eventual outcome becomes apparent. If the reader interprets Dallas’s decision to “take them down” as being a cautious decision (because he doesn’t want to risk having a potentially unstable element among the active crew during a critical situation), but it instead results in Dallas being a man of action (arguably less cautious), the reader may feel like you pulled a fast one on them. If you ask them to select from an array of apparently minor story details (e.g. why is the lake deserted?) without some indication of what is at stake, the reader will probably feel confused.

Personally, I don’t mind a little short-lived confusion from time to time. But the distance between confusion and frustration is very narrow. You are making some unusually heavy demands on the reader for a choicescript game. Mitigating that demand in order to create a satisfying story might paradoxically require an even greater emphasis on game design than a typical game would need.


#9

Nice observation. Thanks! This thread has already paid for itself!


#10

Hi everyone. Given the ratio of clicks to comments for this thread, I’m assuming that most people who’ve taken the time to look generally agree with what’s already been said. This WIP is something of an experiment, though, which I’m still trying to test out. So even if you have only negative things to say, please feel free to post them (about the WIP, that is). I’ll take silence as confirmation that I already have it figured out and know what to change. Thanks to the commenters and to everyone who’s checked it out.


#12

raises index finger

Just to clarify, you have played Planetary Quarantine, yes? :no_mouth:


#14

Scratch my previous comment!

A play-through of Planetary Quarantine shouldn’t be necessary.
(It probably wouldn’t hurt, of course.)

However, this is only a prologue.
DD deserves a little breathing room. :grin:


#16

Guess what finger I’m about to raise on you next? :smiling_imp:



raises little finger


#18

Nothing offensive about that. It’s meant to start with a bang and then slowly build back up to the same point again, adding more information as you go.