Eloquence at the Leftfield Collection (EGX 2019)

Eloquence was given the opportunity to exhibit at the EGX 2019’s Leftfield Collection. In this post, I want to share a few of the lessons we learned from letting EGX attendees play our prototype of Eloquence!

First, let’s start with some pictures!

So what have we learned from this experience? Good question!

  • Players love saying ‘hello’ to every and any Non-Player Character. They’ll say hello even before paying attention to what the NPC is actually trying to say to them.
  • Parents and children have a unique dynamic when playing Eloquence together. We believe this is due to the fact that both parent and child are at the same language level at the start of the game, so they are equal partners. At least, for a while.
  • In fact, some kids found the answers before their parents did! We suspect that kids are open to a wider range of possible symbol interpretations, whereas their parents may be limited by a lifetime of semantic assumptions and cultural patterns.  
  • Reinforcing what we already knew: people who think out loud and those who voice their theories or hypotheses can crack symbols at a much faster rate that those who remain silent throughout the play session.
  • We found it remarkable how many players were able to complete the demo on their own, without any instruction from either Thomas or Gerben, your friendly booth attendants. Some of these tenacious players requested to be given no introduction or guidance. Others were let loose on the demo without any support intentionally, just to see what happened. Even with our broken User Interface, we’re amazed that quite a large percentage of players found their way to the end screen. Well done to you!
  • Our custom wall art drew very little attention. But that’s fine! We’ll recycle the phrases we composed for the booth wall and will feed them to our audience in other forms further down the road – for your entertainment!

We think these insights are pretty cool, and we’ll design the proper game keeping these findings in mind.

Ready for more pictures?

Thomas and I had a blast connecting to the excellent attendees at EGX 2019. We were very surprised by the incredibly positive response from those who tried the game. Our current version of the game was originally built to be presented, not to be played hands-on – but we’re quite satisfied with its playability (after several tweaks).

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a couple of tweets that got us excited!

And that concludes our little wrap-up!

This was likely the last time we’re using the GDC Experimental Gameplay Workshop demo to showcase. The demo has served us well, in diverse ways. It’s been built and rebuilt to be fit for GDC, Casual Connect, Gamescom, and now EGX. But it’s time to look forward and anticipate the improved vertical slice we are currently building.

More on our progress in that regard will be shared soon!

Alderthe: The Card Game – Vivisection I

This is not a Post Mortem. In my spare time, I design and develop my personal card game project called Alderthe. That’s why I’m calling this series of articles a Vivisection: cutting into a living organism to see how (well) it functions.

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Please don’t do an image search for ‘vivisection’ – Photo by Shane Aldendorff via Pexels.com

In this first entry of the series, I’m going to give some background concerning the setting. It has very little to do with the game mechanics or any of the design, but I suppose it does serve as some context for the rest of the series. For those among you who appreciate mythology or fantasy lore, you may find it interesting. Just don’t expect any strong narrative design insights from this text.

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Carving the Writer’s Block

I’ve been in the industry for a little while now. One of the concepts that appears to be ubiquitously linked to the notion of professional writing is that of the dreaded writer’s block. Aren’t we all too familiar with the picture of a spectacled (wo)man in a study, seated in front of a computer screen, gazing out the window while looking for something to inspire them?

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And coffee is somehow important as well. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I found a way to save myself from this affliction. In fact, it’s a different way to view the craft that allows me to avoid halting my writing progress altogether. A little secret perhaps, that I want to share with you. Are you ready?

You’re picturing writer’s block wrong.

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Comics, Mythology, and Games

Myths and legends of old are stories that were created at some point in time, whether they contain a kernel of truth or not. They are usually intended to convey some moral or life lesson to the audience. Be loyal to your king. Respect nature. Don’t cry wolf. Stuff like that.

They originate in times of oral traditions, meaning that the stories were passed down diachronically (from generation to generation) or synchronically (from storyteller to storyteller).

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Jason and the Argonauts are basically the Avengers (picture source)

I know I’m not the first one to state this, but comic book heroes are our modern-day mythology.

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The Talos Identification

**SPOILERS!** This article is a discussion of plot elements in a specific game, meaning that it contains major **SPOILERS!**

The Talos Principle, created by Croteam and released in 2014, had two writers on board: Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes. The game is described as a first person philosophical puzzle game, and is often compared to Valve’s 2007 hit game Portal.

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First of all, I think the game is amazing. I experienced a feeling –  a sense of wonder and excitement, but also of contemplation and serenity – throughout the playing sessions that I only rarely get. It’s the kind of game I’d love to help create myself one day. And it’s the game I want to discuss this day. No, I don’t want to talk about the philosophy behind the game. This has been done plenty enough already. I want to break down how you as a player are guided through the narrative, and explain the craftsmanship that has gone into the way this is achieved.

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Functions of Game Stories

This is an abstract of the talk I did at the Indie Gameleon festival on September 15, 2015; supplemented by material from a lecture I give to students.

When you’re building your game, of course you’re going to want to have a story included, right? You know how much people love game stories – not to mention all the memorable stories you personally enjoyed in your favourite game. So let’s add some story to your game!

Actually, let’s not.

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Plants vs. Zombies has a story, but does anyone care?

You might not expect to hear this coming from a guy who writes stories for games, but I don’t want developers to blindly implement stories in their games. What I desire, is that we produce smarter stories, not more.

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Game-specific Story Structures

I sometimes get the feeling that we are on the verge of breaking into new kinds of narrative structures, specifically created for games. For a long time, we’ve borrowed literary, theatrical or cinematic structures, copying their story experiences and ways of progression. It’s not uncommon to find a game story script that looks exactly like a movie script. But more and more games seem to pursue narrative structures that create innovative story experiences that work best in games. As you can read elsewhere on my website, I’m a proponent of innovation in story creation, which is why I want to shed my views on this phenomenon.

order 1866

Is The Order 1866 really a game or a movie in disguise? Continue reading

Emergent narratives in games

Games have imitated traditional media in many ways. Some genres borrow the visuals and directing qualities from movies, others use story structures and character development from literature, and some others apply art styles from all kinds of historical art movements.

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Up to extremely historical (image from Alientrap’s Apotheon)

On the other hand, games distance themselves from traditional media. An example is player agency, or how you can influence the flow or outcome of a narration. But there is one narrative form that games excel at: the emergent narrative.

In an emergent narrative, the story is not designed by developers. It is constructed by the player, through his (inter)actions and explorations, while often influenced by any number of (game-specific) random factors that each game features. As the name suggests, the narrative will emerge as the player continues to play. Sounds abstract, doesn’t it? Yet, I’m almost certain that most of you have benefited from this form of storytelling.

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