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Liz. Miserable. (James Marion)

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Liz. Miserable. is a modern adventure game musical about Liz, a creative girl in a world without creativity. As Liz discovers the effect her creative impulses have on the world and the people around her, players will make narrative decisions ranging from slow, thoughtful choices to impulsive choices in the middle of a song! The game’s visuals will be recorded video of real, physical set design models we make, and the music will be written by the wonderful Austin Wintory (Journey, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate)

Vote for this to be one of the prototypes we make over on Humble.com

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Hey everyone! I thought I would tell you a little more about me and this idea.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling

 

Hi! I'm James!

Before coming to Double Fine, I made an adorable little indie game called Peter Panic, which you can grab for free on IOS and Android. It's like if WarioWare was a musical! When I was going around talking to people about the game, and explaining that it was a musical, I would often come across people who said they hated musicals. I tried to get to the bottom of why some people "hate" musicals and a lot of times it would come down to the same thing:

Why are all these people singing?

 

 

 

The Gameplay!

When I was in school studying theater it was explained to us that characters in musicals sing because of emotions - that there's so much emotion that the only way they can get it out is by singing. I like this explanation (even though it's a lofty goal that most musicals don't live up to) and I want to make a game where the way you interact is primarily tied into the idea that emotions ebb and flow up over the course of a story. So you have these different kinds of interactions inside an adventure game structure:

1. Stop-and-think choices. This is when there's no singing, and music is playing but there's no time limit for when your character needs to start talking. The information the player has to make a choice would be explicit, such as the entire sentence the player will say or a specific action they'll take.

2. Rhythmic choices. This is when music is starting to move, and the player has a limited time to make a decision. Their information might be limited to a single word or color or image that's illustrative of the choice they're making.

3. Sung choices. This is when there's music, the character is singing, and the player must make a decision now. The information given might be no more than a button prompt showing the direction the player can move.

The idea is that once a proper song starts, decisions have been made that forced this song to happen, and the song can't be stopped - just like in a staged musical! So the decisions you're making become finer and the information and time you have lessens. Imagine you start a fight with your parents by telling them to "go to hell" and a song kicks up - you can make different decisions in the fight, but the fight is happening whether you want to stop it or not.

The Visuals!

Image result for lumino city

One of the things I'm most excited about is the visual treatment for the game. One of my favorite things when working in theater was seeing tiny set design models sitting on important peoples' desks. Set design models are beautiful - they get the point and feel of a set across without necessarily being literal 1:1 representations of a set. Google "set design model" - they're awesome. As far as how we'll do the videos of the set as visuals, I would take a look at Lumino City to see the amazing work they did with a hand-built set. 

 

 

The Music!

Stylistically, I want the game to be reflective of more modern musicals, like Fun Home or The Last Five Years. These shows are less presentational and more intimate in nature, which is a side of musicals that most people don't hear if they have only dipped their toes into musical theater

About half a year ago, before I even started here at Double Fine, I explained this whole idea to my friend Austin Wintory, who you may know from the amazing music to Journey, The Banner Saga, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, ABZÛ, and more. He not only liked the idea, but a similar idea had been rolling around in his head as well! Which is why he's going to come work with me for Amnesia Fortnight if this game gets picked! I can't even begin to imagine the kind of amazing stuff he would write for Liz. Miserable.

I asked Austin if he wanted to say something in this post and he said:

Quote

James and I share a huge passion for both musicals and games, and have long desired to see the perfect fusion of them. A game where choice really matters, and that player agency is reflected in the music itself. Where the musical is a driving force of the action and is just as interactive as my 'traditional' scores like Journey or Assassin's Creed.
For anyone who heard my songs written with the Australian group Tripod, you know that they're some of the best songwriter / lyricists alive and we're gonna bring everything we've got to Liz. And we may or not have Troy Baker ready to join us as well. :D

Thanks everyone! It would really mean a lot to get chosen, and I think this game could be really amazing and beautiful.

James

 

Edited by James Marion

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Not the biggest musical fan( Why are all these people singing? ;-) ), but this pitch sounds really interesting.
I must say it feels a little bit like cheating that you managed to secure Austin Wintery, but it's definitely what sealed the deal for me.

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This was pretty interesting but yeah, Austin Wintory sealed the deal for me.

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One of the strongest pitches for me so far (even without the Austin Wintory part... even if it definitely is a bonus).

I'm wonder what the pass/fail in a segment would be.  Can you mess a song up?  How would this change what happens?  Would you just try again to get the song right or would the narrative take the turn of the mistake and a another song or line would be used to "save the day".  

I am also curious under the time time restraints of AF and the possible skill level of folks on the team how you plan to actual tackle the constructed set concept.  Do you have blueprints ready to go?  I could definitely see this being a front runner, so I want to know it's as prepared as it sounds.

(I'm presenting questions to each pitch of what I feel I need to know more about to make a better informed decision before actually voting)

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@Reid_Harris_Cooper

Hey! Thanks for the compliments!
So, in my vision of this game, in a perfect world, you could never fail the game so much as you would be making the choice to be passive. So you wouldn't fail if you don't do anything, your character's choice would simply be to stand there and do nothing. Something I definitely don't want to do is "fake it" with a line that excuses the player's actions.

The constructed set is something I'm SUPER excited about! I have experience in set design (i did theater for years and years before working in games) and there are other people here with experience in set design as well. In the very very worst case scenario, if we're five days in and it seems like the set thing isn't going to work, I think a 3D model crafted to look like a set design model would be a reasonable facsimile. I would still like to make the game with video of that model, regardless, to give it that surreal "this-is-too-good-looking-to-be-rendering" look! Another benefit we have is that we don't ever need to turn out set models into giant sets, so we're less constrained by theoretical production costs. 

:D

Edited by James Marion

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I like this idea a lot! Hope you can get it to work. Of course, like movie and stage musicals, the songs have to be good to make it work. Good thing you have a plan:)

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The visuals in the pitch video really grasped me and the concept of a musical / video game  with player agency is very very exciting! I really hope you are able to work on this especially as you already have a dream team of talent behind it! I wonder if you could use a Kinect to make the player actually strike a pose and hit a note in order to make decisions...

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The expansion of ideas here like other posts is now making this voting decision so damn hard.

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I absolutely love this pitch. Obviously, the name is amazing, but I am so glad that the story and set ideas are also so cool so that I don't just feel like I am voting for the name.

Good luck, James!

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I love the visual style you're shooting for and musicals but I have a concern I'd like to voice. I am dyslexic and narrative games that ask me to make a choice quickly often time out before I've even read the options let alone made a choice. most tell tale games and the like are just unplayable for me and if everything is timed to the music will I be able to keep up?

also this project seems very ambitious what do you actually expect to deliver at the end of amnesia fortnight?

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Hey there, @wot fanar!

I'll be honest, I haven't thought a lot specifically about this situation. But I suppose my initial reaction is that I would really like to be able to support every player possible. One piece of important information is that the faster the choices you're making, the less information you're begin given - this means that for the fastest choices, there likely wouldn't be any reading or interpretation involved at all. Hopefully, rapid choices should feel very intuitive and not require any sort of cognitive overhead, if that makes sense. If the game gets chosen, though, I would be really pleased to talk to you about how we build out these systems in a way that's inclusive.

As far as the ambition - part of the reason i wanted to get Austin on board is because he's unbelievably talented and I have no doubt he can really nail it for this two week period. As far as production is concerned, when I was making Peter Panic I got pretty good at the music production/recording pipeline.

In my head, the thing we will actual deliver is a short but legitimately replayable 'opening' to the game - replayable not in the "there might be differences" way, but in the "I'm seeing almost no duplicate content" way. It's definitely ambitious, but I feel confident that we can deliver something really really cool!

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7 minutes ago, James Marion said:

Hey there, @wot fanar!

I'll be honest, I haven't thought a lot specifically about this situation. But I suppose my initial reaction is that I would really like to be able to support every player possible. One piece of important information is that the faster the choices you're making, the less information you're begin given - this means that for the fastest choices, there likely wouldn't be any reading or interpretation involved at all. Hopefully, rapid choices should feel very intuitive and not require any sort of cognitive overhead, if that makes sense. If the game gets chosen, though, I would be really pleased to talk to you about how we build out these systems in a way that's inclusive.

I hate to insert myself in this conversation because I really have no place adding on to what James mentions. However, one thing I liked in the pitch video, specifically at the 11 second mark, is that an "impulsive choice in the middle of a song" almost looks like a decision about what character to move towards (I picture you deciding who you want to sing the next portion of the song to). I also am also not that big of a fan when, in certain games, you need to choose the right dialog options quickly or you fail. I hope that the quick decisions are more related towards where the story might go next so there is no right or wrong answer.

I sincerely hope I have not misrepresented either side of this dialog but I was hoping get a quick clarification on that part of the video.

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Hey, @rheberling!

It is very important to Austin and I that you can't "mess up" when you make a choice, and that the results of your choice (or lack of a choice) simply produces a new outcome, not a failure state. Think of if you were in an argument - you can make the choice to not do anything or say anything, but it definitely doesn't end the argument. It just shapes it. I don't anticipate it being like Heavy Rain where you either 'succeed' or 'fail.'

Let me know if I can answer anything else!

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