26 June, 2015

Game Chef Review 13: Virtual Dream Era: How The Story Went by Karyssa E Perry

Virtual Dream Era: How the Story Went

Ingredients: 10 [Abandoned (3), Dragonfly (2), Dream (4), Stillness (+1)]
Pretty much everything is here, and eve thought the various ingredients are present to various degrees, regardless of how I work the numbers, this basically means it gets a 10 in my book. A virtual reality imposed on unconscious characters who have abandoned reality... that's awesome.

Theme: 6
This game sits pretty well in the "How to Host a Murder" school of game design. There aren't a lot of game developers playing in that space, and it can be a nice bridge for outsiders to get into the hobby. With a generally predestined outcome, but a meandering path to get there, I don't know if replay-ability would be very high but then again with most pre-written modules the whole concept is a disposable "play-once" story. Unlike the "How to Host a Murder" games, this allows players to create their own characters (even if these characters have no real mechanical benefit). It addresses audiences in a different way to almost anything I've seen before outside of a computer "rpg".

Would I play this?: 6
I just don't know. I've experimented with the idea of games that follow a distinct wide narrative path with numerous player driven options along the way, but in this game the scenes that comprise the longer narrative aren't really established by the choices of the players, instead they feel arbitrary. The sense of player character agency feels a bit stripped away, but I guess that's restored through the specific small choices along the way and those small choices might snowball into something beyond the scope of the framework established by the preset scenes. There was a time when I would have jumped at this, especially because it takes things further along a path I hadn't really considered. There are also times when I wouldn't have touched this at all. At the moment, it's something I'd play when I got the chance, but chances to try new things are few and far between lately.  

Completeness: 7
Yes, it a complete game, I could run a session with it. New players might have trouble trying to work out what character and players actually do, but this sort of things could be pretty easily overcome by someone who has a basic understanding of the conventions of roleplaying. The game is decently laid out with titles and the big page that tell readers not to move beyond a certain point, so that's a step in the right direction. Character sheets aren't really necessary, nor are relationship maps, players keep track of all this stuff in their heads and there's no real mechanical influences that need to be taken into account. There's a few things that will need to be filled in along the way when certain path scenes might not provide information that is assumed in later path scenes, but these wouldn't be too hard to overcome for a "Path Reader" who has adequately prepared the game.

Innovation: 7
I look at this and even thought I'm falling back on comparative descriptions to "How to Host a Murder", this feel fresh and different, or at least re-exploring territory that has been long ignored by a wide section of the gaming community. Deliberate following of random scenes is a clever mechanism. Most of the other elements combined in with this are pretty pedestrian though.

Output Quality: 4 [Language (2), Layout (2), Imagery (0)]
Spelling error in the title, on the front page!!! ("summary" not "summery"). A few other grammatical bugbears as well, along with sentence fragments and abbreviations where they felt out of place. I might have let it slide, but there was a credited proofreader. The layour

Overall: 73% Credit [30+12+6+14+7+4]
I like this game. I think it would have scored better except that there were a lot of little niggling details that could have been cleaned up better before it was presented. I feel with a bit of refinement, this could really become an interesting forerunner to new ideas in the hobby. Where those refinement might take it, I'm not sure.
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