A game by Heather Logas and her friends

Dev Diary #18 — Illusions

When it comes to designing a story based game, game design is all about magic tricks. Smoke and mirrors. I believe very strongly that over-designing and over-planning and over-programming are not only strategies for making you crazy, but they are unnecessary. If you have an intricate AI model programmed and I have a really basic “chatbot” but our NPCs both look and speak the same, then is the player going to care that you spent an extra two months programming it?

What is important is what the player sees, and what the player experiences and what the player feels. The “illusion” of agency is just as valid as “true” agency, as long as the player doesn’t run into the mirrors.

I feel like I am rambling. Indeed, I’ve been sick since GDC and my thoughts aren’t feeling very coherent in general. Despite this, I have been working on the market square scene. I am currently working on a segment where the player enters the Inn for the evening and talks to some folks, and the mystery deepens. Then the player gets a critical clue which…

Oh wait, I remember why I was talking about smoke and mirrors. I am blatantly borrowing a cheat from the Sorcery! books (its probably in the Fighting Fantasy books too). I was struggling with what happens when you get to the square, how you can mess around there until it becomes night time, whether to artificially “trap” the player there or not. Then I realized “Oh yeah, let’s just cheat here. Its night time.” So when you get to the square, no matter what you have done prior, night is setting in.

I was contemplating doing some sort of system where I tracked the turns and then after X number of turns night starts to fall…Then I realized that was a complete waste of effort. The player (at least the first time they play) will not know that it just happens to become night time when they reach a certain location. For all they know, some sort of time system WAS programmed.

Except you all know now. Don’t tell, ok? :)

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