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Juanique

Missing story context for Vella's first part?

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When I started playing with Vella I felt like I missed the part where it's explained that she's a sacrifice girl. I mean this is how the game starts:

- Vella wakes up, her sister is looking for her.

- Vella says she's not scared (about what?), that it's a great honor (what is?)

- Surprise party, people are proud, they want to celebrate and eat. The knife's missing. Clearly a special day for vella.

Then you can start talking to people, say you talk to Levina, you have the following option: "Why don't we fight mog Chothra?". If I hadn't been following the development of the game and watched the trailer I would have been like... WTF.

You can also ask her "Why was I chosen?" emm.. for what?, and the answer doesn't really help understand what she's talking about.

Anyway I guess people can eventually figure out what's going on, but I try to imagine someone who's not a backer playing this game and it seems like a very weird (and definitely not good) way to introduce the story and characters.

As it is now, I feel like I need to tell people to watch the Vella trailer before playing the game if they don't want to be completely confused at the beginning.

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I've heard other similar comments, but this is why I don't think it's a problem: in most good stories, whether it be movies or books, the audience or reader is exposed to the story through a round-about way. They may hear characters talking about something they don't fully understand, or hinting at an idea that creates a question in the audience's mind. This doesn't mean it's poorly written. It is meant to create some mystery and introduce the elements of the story in a more interesting way than if the characters were to just blurt out in an unnatural way a bunch of information for the audience's sake which they wouldn't normally say to each other. That's called expository dialogue, and Tim is avoiding that here by slowly giving us hints as to what is happening in order to intrigue us and make us ask more questions. Otherwise it becomes a spoonfeeding of information rather than the telling of a well crafted story.

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Sure, but in movies or books, the reader is not supposed to BE the character. You are not supposed to place yourself in the character's place and make decisions, because well... books and movies don't allow you to make decisions.

In videogames however you are asked to control a character, to decide what the character is going to do or say. Whenever I play these games I try to immerse myself as much as possible in the character and try to do in the game what I would do if I was there as the character.

I particularly disliked having to make Vella ask questions and tell things that I would have never said in her place. For example, take someone that playing the game for the first time, and she's given the possibility to ask “Why don’t we fight mog Chothra?” to Levina. Why would she pick that choice? is there any other reason than just "clicking on every option to see what happens?"

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Sure, but in movies or books, the reader is not supposed to BE the character. You are not supposed to place yourself in the character's place and make decisions, because well... books and movies don't allow you to make decisions.

In videogames however you are asked to control a character, to decide what the character is going to do or say. Whenever I play these games I try to immerse myself as much as possible in the character and try to do in the game what I would do if I was there as the character.

I particularly disliked having to make Vella ask questions and tell things that I would have never said in her place. For example, take someone that playing the game for the first time, and she's given the possibility to ask “Why don’t we fight mog Chothra?” to Levina. Why would she pick that choice? is there any other reason than just "clicking on every option to see what happens?"

I don't quite get the problem here, either. Vella of course knows what's happening and the player is going to find out soon enough by talking to people. I actually wished I could have had that slow realization what's going on. Of course backers already knew that part of the story so it didn't work on us.

If you had to type in the questions, this of course wouldn't work but just picking them works perfectly well and is an interesting use of the medium.

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I've heard other similar comments, but this is why I don't think it's a problem: in most good stories, whether it be movies or books, the audience or reader is exposed to the story through a round-about way. They may hear characters talking about something they don't fully understand, or hinting at an idea that creates a question in the audience's mind.

I understand your point. But round about introducing information does not work when its the character you're playing revealing the information. It instantly detaches you from the character. The character has information we don't so that means we aren't the character. Its vital that the character we are playing has similar knowledge of the story that we do if we want to feel any attachment to them. Other characters need to reveal information to us.

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I just want to emphasize 1000x how much I agree with this thread. I thought the start of Vella's story was masterful with the slow build up of the suspense, the suggestion that something big was going on but not telling you what it was (even though I mostly knew what was coming, I just let myself get sucked into the story and the atmosphere).

Then you click on Levina and the whole fourth wall shatters like a mirror. It's horrible, it's bad, and it's imo a case where noone paid attention to which information is presented to the player how and when.

It's not that Levina can't talk to you about all the things she does, it's that there has to be some basic gatewaying so you the player first learns more about the maiden's feast, then mog chotra, then etc. etc. So you slowly and gradually figure out what exactly is going on, letting you get sucked into the mood and atmosphere of what's about to happen.

Addendum: Perhaps I should add. I can understand the argument that Vella knows what's going on, and imo that's fine. But the point is that this isn't some home video of an actual event. This is a story that is being told to us the player, and one of the key points of telling a story properly is when the audience learns what information, which does not and often should not coincide with when character's do. If the whole story was build so that you know from the start what Vella knows, it would be fine imo, but I feel the way Vella's story starts is that you don't know, and then having a random unfiltered infodump minutes in just clashes with what the player goes through up till then.

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But round about introducing information does not work when its the character you're playing revealing the information. It instantly detaches you from the character. The character has information we don't so that means we aren't the character. Its vital that the character we are playing has similar knowledge of the story that we do if we want to feel any attachment to them. Other characters need to reveal information to us.

A lot of books do this intentionally. It's especially useful for first-person narratives that dive right into action, using the tension and immediacy as a hook, and let the answers come later. The old advice in story telling of "show, don't tell" is especially powerful in an interactive setting. Would you rather have a formal introduction? "Hi. My name is Vella. Please spend the next few minutes listening to me talk about myself."?

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I agree that that particular line "Why don't we just kill Mog Chothra?" shouldn't appear before we've heard about Mog Chothra, and I believe DF has already fixed that. I saw in another thread that they disabled that line until after Levina mentions Mog Chothra. So that takes care of that. I think the rest works really well, as you were saying Zoston, to build the suspense. There obviously has to be a balance between a character that knows more than the audience, and a character that knows nothing more than what the audience does. Otherwise we end up with boring characters.

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I agree that that particular line "Why don't we just kill Mog Chothra?" shouldn't appear before we've heard about Mog Chothra, and I believe DF has already fixed that. I saw in another thread that they disabled that line until after Levina mentions Mog Chothra. So that takes care of that. I think the rest works really well, as you were saying Zoston, to build the suspense. There obviously has to be a balance between a character that knows more than the audience, and a character that knows nothing more than what the audience does. Otherwise we end up with boring characters.

I'll have to play it again to see how that affects the opening.

After thinking about it more. I think my main issue is that she's already made the decision (or is at least strongly considering) to fight the monster. I would have preferred to see that decision arc. Something along the lines of at the beginning she's only thinking about running away to escape but worried what that will do to the villiage. Then in Meriloft she wants to get back to see what happened, but see the horror of the maidens feast there. Then gets to Shellmound and sees the same thing about to happen but can't do anything about it.... but then finds the weapon. Because she wants to kill the monster from the very start there's no character arc.

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I think Lehm2000 explained it perfectly: "It instantly detaches you from the character.". That's how I felt during the first scene with Vella, completely detached.

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It makes sense that one line could make someone confused about the plot or make them think they missed something. But to say that it completely detaches the player from the character when the game has barely begun and the player hasn't even gotten to know the character yet, seems too drastic. What is there to detach from? It takes a bit if time to become attached to a character, at least a few scenes.

I think my main issue is that she's already made the decision (or is at least strongly considering) to fight the monster. I would have preferred to see that decision arc.

This, however, is a great point. I would have loved to see a more gradual realization of that decision. I wonder how that would impact the story though, because the Grandpa character is reminiscent of a time when Sugarbunting was a town of warriors where they would have fought back, but bravery has given way to cowardice, and that's why these traditions of sacrifice have become so ingrained, why people are so willing to accept the unthinkable. Would those themes come out if Vella wasn't questioning the fact that no one is willing to protect themselves from the beast instead of giving in.

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This, however, is a great point. I would have loved to see a more gradual realization of that decision. I wonder how that would impact the story though, because the Grandpa character is reminiscent of a time when Sugarbunting was a town of warriors where they would have fought back, but bravery has given way to cowardice, and that's why these traditions of sacrifice have become so ingrained, why people are so willing to accept the unthinkable. Would those themes come out if Vella wasn't questioning the fact that no one is willing to protect themselves from the beast instead of giving in.

I think its possible to keep that theme intact but be more subtle about it. Along the lines of Vella asks him if anyone has ever run away. He responds with "In my time we never backed down from a...." only to be interrupted by grandma who doesn't want him to reveal too much. Its possible to introduce the theme without overtly saying it. In fact I think with a few minor alterations to the dialog Vella can be given a character arc, remove fighting from the beginning, don't show the dialog options about finding a weapon until she decides to fight and add something in shellmound about deciding to fight and boom Vella has a character arc. Its probably too late for that however and that's okay. I like the story for the most part.

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I agree that that particular line "Why don't we just kill Mog Chothra?" shouldn't appear before we've heard about Mog Chothra, and I believe DF has already fixed that. I saw in another thread that they disabled that line until after Levina mentions Mog Chothra. So that takes care of that. I think the rest works really well, as you were saying Zoston, to build the suspense. There obviously has to be a balance between a character that knows more than the audience, and a character that knows nothing more than what the audience does. Otherwise we end up with boring characters.

It's still there in the current build, but maybe it'll be in the next one.

Also remember the Vella also says to her mother: "Can't we just fight the monster instead of feeding it?". I don't know if that's vague enough for the people in this thread or not, though.

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I had the same discordant feeling when I played Vella's intro. To begin with, I was like, maybe Mog Chothra is going to be a big reveal. But then the characters started talking about him, and if I hadn't been a backer I would have been confused, like I had skipped an important intro or something.

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The feeling I had from the start of Vella's story to when I saw the maidens in their positions: "I guess I should have followed the documentary instead of keeping myself spoiler-free, because I'm sure I'm missing something here".

I think I restarted the game on my first playthrough, in case I had accidentally skipped a cutscene or something. I really felt like something was missing that would build up to that moment, probably due to the beta status

Of course, now that I know what's going on, it all seems logical, but I think it's important to know that a first-timer might think that things are going too fast in that section. Shay's opening section with his daily routine does a better job at presenting the character's current situation, in my oppinion.

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