19 January, 2015

Rentpunk Apocalypse Diaries

Thinking about storytelling from a GCR perspective has really made me think about different ways that storytelling and games can be united. This whole 'Rentpunk' thing has brought my attention to tw really interesting tools...

Ren'Py

and

Twine

Both of these are interactive storytelling engines, which seem to produce the kind of computer game stories that I associate with the term "Japanese cRPG". These are little tales that often revolve around relationships (boy chases girl, girl chases boy, boy chases boy, girl chases girl), and that might be because they are often developed by people with a fanatical devotion for anime.

These two programs basically write "Choose-You-Own-Adventure" stories, and it would take a lot of work (or a good team) to get something that looks professional out of them. Their end product seems to be very linear, some might call it "narrative illusionism" because it looks like the player is making choices, but the whole story is plotted out in advance and any choices the player makes need to be considered in advance by the "game" writer, or else they are simply dismissed as not significant.

But from a programming perspective, each program seems to allow variables to be attached to a character's path through the story, and they are capable of randomness. This might mean characters are capable of carrying equipment, we might have a way to track the health and wealth of characters, and it might be possible to track other things we could consider significant to a story (how much a character has compromised their morals to survive? how many favours they still have at their disposal?).

That might be a good starting point for a story about characters forced to make difficult choices to survive in a cold mechanical world that simply doesn't care. But what makes this story interesting? Why would someone choose to get interactive in a tale that's just as mundane as their everyday existence?

What if we were telling an apocalyptic tale? Not post apocalypse, we're not talking about the way a society rebuilds itself after cataclysm, we're talking personal tales about the final days of our culture, and the immediate effects after the collapse.

I thought about doing this before with a game called "Apocalypse Diaries". This game was about a rich socialite who plays out their life day by day, until randomly there is a chance that one day everything gets turned upside down. There are two distinct halves to the game. In the first half, the socialite does the typical stuff rich people do, they "do lunch", they pout about their daddies not buying them the latest car in the right colour, they complain about the filthy masses on their welfare benefits. In the second half, they find that their life hasn't prepared them for a life on the street at all, their social networks are obliterated as zombies kill their friends/family/servants, money means nothing any more, and you can't just go down the road to buy food at a restaurant.

I was thinking of doing a few versions of this game, where players choose different social starting points, and different apocalypses for their characters to survive. This might work really well as a Rentpunk variant, and it might be interesting to work the story through a interactive story format.

Hmmm...once again, too many ideas.
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