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Report article RSS Feed Gameplay and genre change, story driven games and some of their problems.

After having published the demo of The Mask of Man, many problems that putted the quality of the game at risk have come to my attention. Many of those problems came from the gameplay that was certainly very outdated and that in the end, it didn't made much sense.

Posted by lordvilbro on Oct 3rd, 2013

When I started to explore such gameplay my intentions where to try to bring something new to both the horror genre and the interactive fiction based on text. Unfortunately, mixing recent visuals with gameplay from distant times didn't revealed itself to be that fortunate.
Looking at it now with a bit of a distance, I'm able to see that the game was always in its essence a FPS but with the disadvantage of commands that needed to be inserted instead of simple pressed in the
keyboard. For that reason I decided to bring the FPS elements back to The Mask of Man leaving then the writing aspect behind. This in itself allows me to focus my attention in the story and the way that it is told instead of having to worry about systems all the time.

Another thing that I would like to approach in this update is the selection of genre. During the development of The Mask of Man I've been feeling limited many times by the choice of genre that I decided to follow in the beginning of the creative process. Most of the time, many themes or situations can't be portrayed when the main objective of the game is to scare the player. For that same reason many horror games tend to lose their artistic integrity and they simple became a ride through the ghost ride.
The story of the game itself has acquired a more adventurous tone than scary and the themes that I'm approaching have more to do with the human nature and technology instead of hauntings and monsters. For those reasons I decided to change the genre of the Mask of Man here on IndieDB from Horror to Sci-Fi Adventure. That way I'm able to have more freedom  when it comes to artistic decisions both in terms of plot, the gameplay and the presentation.

Now for a reflection on the things that I've learned during the development of the Mask of Man so far. this might be useful for possible game developers that are reading this.
When it comes the story driven games, there's a very important factor that should not be forgotten - the gameplay must always serve the story and not the contrary. When we make the mistake of creating the gameplay systems in the first place and then try to forge a story so that everything makes sense, in the end what becomes damaged is the story and consequently, the game as a whole.
This might seem basic but when it comes to games with a story it is essential to have the entire events of the game planed out before starting working in it, and for that reason, it is very important to write some kind of script (the screenplay type).
In comparison with movie scripts, those written for videogames have to have a special consideration for interactivity because this is an interactive medium instead of just describing places and writing dialog lines.
A very important question that should never be forgotten while writing that script is: What will the player be doing? The player does not need to have total control of his movements and capacities all the time. Sometimes just pressing a button, choose between lines of dialog, etc, it's enough. There are various levels of interactivity and all of them shall be used as may be necessary in order to properly tell a story. The very important thing not to forget is to not remove from the player the ability to interact.

Another aspect that video-games that tell a story (basically Interactive Fiction) have to have in mind is their length. The modern day blockbusters (AAA titles) have a big problem with this, having games that range in the length of 16 hours or more. Most of that time isn't even used as should but instead on the most mundane things like walking/driving from point A to B and etc in order to seem more "realistic".
And that's of course not to speak of the cut-scenes.
Following the habits of movies, 3 hours is more than enough to tell a good story if you are telling it the right way. I will explain. For example, in movies (or even books), if a character needs to go from his/her home to the grocery and back again, we aren't shown the entirety of the way there and back without cuts. We are only shown the important parts of that specific occurrence that it is, in the first place, relevant to the story in some way.
What I wanted to say is that story driven games need to only show/let play relevant moments of the story and cut when need to in order to keep the pace and interest from the part of the player. If you want an example of how to do this correctly check out the game Thirty Flights of Loving.
It is true that some games benefit from a persistent world like Shadow of the Colossus or Journey but those games have a great emphasis on atmosphere rather than a plot.

Summarizing, when it comes to the Mask of Man, I do not intend on having it run for more than one hour and thirty minutes if with that time I'm able to tell, in an interesting way, a story.

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Vcc2cc
Vcc2cc Oct 3 2013, 3:13pm says:

while I was looking forward to a text based, (camera stuck in 1 position for the most part) game this does sound interesting.

Although I never thought of this game as "scary", I did like the touch of the levels, and it had a lesser affect on me- making me think it was more "spooky".

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lordvilbro
lordvilbro Oct 4 2013, 2:00am replied:

The good thing about changing from Horror to Sci-Fi is that I can still have some creepy levels while having some more natural ones without having to worry about expectations. For example, the village level is still going to be present with its current atmosphere. This contrasts with the normal levels making the village darker I believe.

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