Update 1: Rambling about Design
Not sure quite how to structure these updates but I'll take these updates to be something akin to a journal. Both with reflections on various aspects of the game's design as well as reports about progress with implementation.
One thing that I've thought a lot about is what kind of stories I want to tell. Though the plot of the game is fairly simple: a protag wakes up, makes breakfast, thinks about things that cause him stress, game ends, I find that there is a lot of narrative freedom. The bulk of the game occurs in the protag's thoughts as he's making breakfast and as such time is not an issue in the narrative.
However this freedom has also revealed to me lots of interesting tensions within the design of the narrative. When this is all finished and done, I want the narrative to be tight, succinct, and clearly focused. But even within these frames a vast number of stories can come about.
- Is the narrative linear? Will the game lock down the player's progression through the mind of the protagonist in a manner similar to that of What Remain's of Edith Finch or Gone Home? Or will there be branching paths that lead to different endings such that the player will need to replay the game to see all the narrative elements?
- What is the tone of the game funny or heartfelt? Some aspect of the game's premise is absurd and innately humorous. Players expect a game about making breakfast and yet in it's current design the game gets pretty dark.
- Who is the game for? Perhaps the most important question. Is it for me or for an unknown audience? It's one thing I've been wrestling with as I've been writing. I've never quite shared anything I've made the world and now that I have I worry that some things in the game will be too specific to my personal experience. And consequently less meaningful.
Hopefully I'll work out some of these questions in the coming days as I continue writing and development of the game.
In a way, this is a continuation of the narrative development. As a reminder, here is the plot of the game: Protag wakes up, Makes breakfast, Thinks about things that cause him stress, Game ends.
Within this I have recognized that there is shift for the player currently that occurs at the scene when the protagonist makes breakfast.
Prior to the sequence itself the game presents itself as a simple game about making breakfast (based on the title and hopefully some music/graphics?). After this sequence however the player will realize that the heart of the game is something else entirely. All these choices aside from "Toast" and "Cereal" are false choices that have been designed to convey certain narrative elements about the protag's state of being: that is one who does not have money or the time to make anything more complex. Choosing anything other than "Toast" and "Cereal" will yield you text in which the protag laments about his empty fridge and how it's been empty for a few days and subsequently ask the player to choose something else.
Originally I simply saw this sequence as a vehicle for conveying the true nature of the game. However now I realize that this is actually a significant sequence from the player's perspective. It is the first time (and one of the few only times) that the game asks the player to interact with the story. Though ultimately the player's choice is an illusion, the choice still can feel significant for the player and can be an opportunity for further narrative delivery. I think expanding on the options that the players have here beyond just "Toast", "Cereal", and a false choice would be a clear way to add complexity to the game that would further invest the player in the narrative. This would also help in creating more varied pathways that the player could follow within the protag's mind leading to alternative endings.
You might have seen this in my writing above but one of the ideas that I have taken to is thinking about the player's progression through the mind of the protag as different pathways. This has been really helpful as it allows us to tangibly express something that is difficult to otherwise explore. Thoughts, feelings, and the human mind aren't really something that can be so easily broken up into sections. However for the purposes of this game it is useful to be able to break down specific thoughts of the protagonist and lay them out such that the player can progress through them. In a way these narrative pathways are akin to levels in a fps. This is probably obvious to many people but thinking about the narrative in this matter has helped to clarify lots of things for me personally! Just thought I'd share.
Thanks for stopping by and reading! It's a little long, but things are progressing! Updates will probably be slower in the next few days as I take some exams.
I swear I'm a good kid.