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gravelbeast

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  1. First of all, to the amazing folks at Double Fine: You really are some of the most talented, principled and all around greatest guys in this industry. Thanks for everything! Now to business. Sorry for rambling, but I've thought a lot about this and have a lot to say. I'm sure this game will be excellent no matter what. But it could be more than that. It could be groundbreaking. Double Fine now have the opportunity to really set this thing apart from the crowd and deliver on the massive hype. They could do this by addressing what is, in my opinion, the fundamental flaw with classic adventure games: From an artistic point of view, apart from the puzzles, there's no real reason for them to be videogames. They could as well be animated films! Just like a lot of films from the 30s and 40s could as well be filmed stageplays. You know why? Because they fail to utilize the unique potential of the medium, that is, in the case of videogames, INTERACTIVITY. When people talk about turning videogames into art, one thing they bring up is using interactivity to do something that can't be done without it. To tell a story that can't be told any other way than through a videogame. Double Fine has a unique chance with this project. They could look back, and base their design mainly on appeal to nostalgia, with minor tweaks. This being Double Fine, I'm sure that would produce an excellent game. But LucasArts adventures always tried to break new ground, to push the boundaries of the genre, and in my opinion Double Fine ought to stay in that tradition. Frankly, I think they should look into interactive narrative. In any story focused game it often feels like the gameplay gets in the way of the story. This is true in the case of story heavy RPGs like Planescape Torment and Alpha Protocol. It's especially obvious in Tim Schafer games regardless of genre. In this sense the Meat Circus or the detector grinding in Psychonauts, and the confusing RTS elements in BrĂ¼tal Legend fall in the same category as the cat race puzzle in Grim Fandango. Whether it's an adventure game with puzzles, or a platforming or action-RTS game, this feeling always comes back that the gameplay is a chore you have to finish to see how the plot unfolds. There's this harmful divide between gameplay and story. So why not make the gameplay about the story? Why not make the main thing on the player's mind, the choices he/she is considering, not how to master some button combination or find the last hidden McGuffin but how best to influence the plot? True dynamic narrative is sort of the Holy Grail of games. It's what all gamers want, and all designers always promise yet never deliver. And yet it's conceptually very simple. I think the main reason we haven't seen many such games is because of the costs involved with current-gen tech. The obvious solution is to scale back art and sound and focus on writing, which, of course, is what DF is doing right now. I feel like this has always been the next step for adventure games, it's just that nobody ever dared to take the leap while they were still going strong. And then of course their evolution was cut short by the late-nineties cluster**** of 3D, actionization, bad writing and above all, budgets outrunning sales. But now we have another chance to realize the potential of the genre, and this time with the invaluable experience of the 2000s behind us, particularly in terms of the theory of videogames as their own artistic medium. Here's a few ideas for a truly 'next-gen' adventure game. -Revolutionize dialogue! Do away with the paradigm of the dialogue tree as exposition dispenser. You know what I'm talking about: Click-click-click until you've seen all that character has to 'offer'. Like a long-winded Disney film you have to unpause every few seconds. Breaks immersion, no? Dialogue should be a narrative choice by the player. Instead of a linear dialogue LIST there should be lots of nonlinear dialogue CHOICES - real CHOICES - that each effect the narrative in a different way. This way characters will again feel like characters and not preprogrammed robots. -Revolutionize puzzles. Honestly puzzles always seemed like a tacked-on mechanic to me, no more essential to a story game than, say, first person shooting is despite FPSes nowadays having very well crafted stories. Except in the best cases, puzzles typically just break the pacing and force you to look up a walkthrough. I'm sure most of us play the old adventures for the atmosphere and storytelling. Puzzles can help with that sometimes but usually just get in the way. Of course there can and should still be puzzles, or a lot of fans will feel upset! But they should all be logical, there should never be one puzzle you have to solve in a single way to move on, and most importantly, they should serve a function in the interactive narrative.. You should always be thinking about how to solve a puzzle, not in terms of 'what rubber chicken must I click on this cat hair to proceed to the next level' but in terms of CHOOSING a solution from the many different ones available, by considering the effect of that choice on the game world. -Programming all these reactions to the player's actions might seem insurmountable. But the things that change don't all have to be stuff that requires a lot of artist time. It can be something as seemingly insignificant (but actually huge in terms of emotional impact) as changed dialogue. Tim's idea of the boy and girl growing up seems perfect for this. I love this concept but feel like it would be really underserved by a me-too linear game. Why not give the player the ability to screw up, to alienate people, to choose his/her path in life and deal with the consequences, just like a real kid growing up? IMO that will touch people much more profoundly than your typical 'clickable cartoon'! People won't just talk about what happened in the game, they'll talk about what happened in their game. Just like they do with Skyrim and Mass Effect, except this time they will be discussing the entirely novel experience of a malleable Pixar-grade narrative. And since this game won't have stats or combat, its appeal won't be limited to males with some degree of autism like most RPGs. (No offense, I love those games myself! ;-)) Games lose much of their magic when you grow up. You can't unsee the wizard behind the curtain. I sadly find this to be especially true for linear adventure games. But if DF use this opportunity to take a step forward in game design, they could bring back that magic. They could recapture what the guy talked about in the last video, that sense that "I can do anything". The guys at Double Fine have revolutionized adventure games before. In Monkey Island Ron Gilbert pointedly did away with the worst design legacy like dead ends and so on. Grim Fandango raised the bar for storytelling to an as of yet unsurpassed level. You can do it again, guys. Like I said, this will be a great game no matter what. But if DF can pull off interactive narrative, and I think they can, then not just the Kickstarter but the game itself will be talked about for decades as a turning point. It's the chance for videogames to finally come into their own. Something to make Roger Ebert sit down and play, and at last exclaim: "Yes. Yes, this is Art!" And if it's not just groundbreaking but truly excellent with mass appeal, this game could solve DF's financial woes. It could be talked about in the mainstream press and sell millions from hype alone. It wouldn't just appeal to nostalgic old-timers but to anyone looking for, well, an adventure. It could be a sensation. What do you think?
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