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"Actions speak louder": a video game based around a Heroic Mime:

 1 Cronosonic, Fri, 25th Jan '13 10:28:01 AM from Sydney Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
I'm pretty sure something like this is appropriate for this section, but if not, no big deal, I suppose. We'll see.

This is just as much involves game mechanics as it does writing, but when you're trying to create a gameplay-based narrative, well, it comes with the territory, doesn't it? But, anyway...!

It's a concept that I've been considering a bit for the past day or two that, I think, could seriously be compelling. Take the Heroic Mime trope, and take it to its logical conclusion. A protagonist who cannot communicate verbally, whether it be speech or writing. And, for the sake of the concept, no sign language, either. But they can communicate through actions.

Now, what kind of actions, some are simpler than others. There's nodding and shaking your head for a simple yes or no, but there's also other ways to respond to to someone, by smiling, or laughing, frowning, cringing... But because you can only have so many inputs and you don't want to over-complicate things, let's limit the amount of actions that the protagonist can perform on their own.

And then, there's more context-based actions, such as pointing to something, giving something to someone else, attacking someone, pushing someone off a ledge, etc. You get where I'm coming from.

Now, the main gameplay surrounding these mechanics can vary dramatically, but for a relatively simple indie game, I'm considering a Metroidvania focusing around a crew of of a crashed spaceship on an unknown planet, trying to repair their ship and survive. The crew can communicate with the protagonist at any point via holo-communications, and as the game progresses, your actions and responses will change the opinions of the other crewmembers towards your character and also towards each other. This results in a variety of events and consequences that can occur. The overall narrative is set on one main route, however, though the actual conclusion could vary from everyone killing each other to romantic options to, well, I dunno. There's plenty of possibilities in the mix.

I don't want to go too deep into complexity with the actual characters, I want to actually establish flesh out the actual game mechanics before getting too tied to characterizations that might have to be changed as things go along. Maybe some basic tropes to start off with to set up a varied cast, and then expand from there.

So, then, thoughts on this as it is right now?

edited 25th Jan '13 10:33:24 AM by Cronosonic

 2 Noaqiyeum, Fri, 25th Jan '13 6:57:55 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
This is a fascinating idea.

The part that grabs me most, at least immediately, is trying to figure out what actions and body language to include to best simplify the programming work while still capturing a sufficiently broad range of normal human behaviour. Nod, shake head, shrug, quizzical tilt, point, beckon, pick up, use, cross fingers... Imagine working through a dialogue tree puzzle without being able to talk! :D

Part of the cast characterisation could involve how each interprets your gestures with a different tone or otherwise in somewhat different ways.
"In case of bad dreams and worse reality, sing out loud."
- eagleoftheninth
Your idea is kinda like the system in Dark Souls or Journey. They support multiplayer sessions, but no voice chat, and not even text or sign language. They both have gestures, and Journey has music. The 2 games managed to create an immersive and exciting multiplayer experience, without any form of verbal communication between players.

I'm making a RPG too, and after reading this, I think I will make my character mute. Just for the hell of it grin

edited 26th Jan '13 6:35:18 AM by sunember123

 4 Cronosonic, Sat, 26th Jan '13 8:02:43 AM from Sydney Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?

But in all seriousness, I am aware of non-verbal communications in online environments, but this is obviously for a single-player experience. The whole idea came about when considering a couple of major goals for conveying gameplay-based narrative:

  • Being able to allow the player to make choices that the game doesn't explicitly give them
  • Real-time conversations
  • More nuanced choices that don't necessarily have a 'moral' angle to them

Literally every dialogue system ever (well, outside of a text adventure, but those generally restrict you to questions) restricts you to a series of clear and obvious responses, with little or no wiggle room for the player to consider possible alternatives besides the choices given to them. I intend to try and break that paradigm completely.

Dapper Gentleman
Which is an excellent idea! I do love games in which one can customize one's experience somewhat.

From a writing perspective, I think your most important task here is developing memorable characters to populate the rest of the crew and interact with your silent protagonist. I like the idea of malleable outcomes, so the crew-members should be complex and have many desires and motivations, able to be swayed one way or another. Plus, they must be sufficiently interesting to make the player invested in what happens with them.

From a gaming standpoint, I love the idea of taking a traditional staple of gaming heroes (Chell, Gordon Freeman, Mario, and Link all approve of your concept) and making it the primary focus. I'd be interested to hear how this develops.
"And every life is a special story of its own." —The Stargazer, Mass Effect 3
 6 chihuahua 0, Sat, 26th Jan '13 11:13:04 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
What type of game are you considering creating? It seems like this might be easier to execute with a text-based engine.
 7 Noaqiyeum, Sat, 26th Jan '13 9:56:05 PM from across the gulf of space Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
the it-thingy
Another thought - have you considered not only a selection of actions but also a selection of emotions/attitudes in which to perform them? You shouldn't need more than six... but that would still increase the Combinatorial Explosion tremendously.
"In case of bad dreams and worse reality, sing out loud."
- eagleoftheninth
 8 Cronosonic, Sun, 27th Jan '13 5:41:02 AM from Sydney Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
[up] That should go without saying - without engaging characters, this idea would fall flat. For this game, I'd personally restrict myself to 5 at most.

[up][up] As I said, I'm thinking of a Metroidvania-type game with some adventure games-style mechanics (look, interact, talk, and items). A text-based adventure is only easier in the audiovisual aspect, but I want something more meaty with the gameplay as well, and coding the interactions really isn't any less complicated in a text-based engine.

[up][up][up] Also quite possible. Body language is an important part of communication, after all.

Also, a friend of mine voiced concerns over the challenges while I was chatting with him, making some rather good points on some additional problems this will have to overcome:

But the idea is kind of complicated by the fact that no one around them could really trust them because they'd have no idea of the motivation of the character. Simply doing things just makes you somewhat shifty. There are so many reasons why someone would frown or wince or smile or laugh in terms of everyday communication; it's why reading body language is an inexact science (and why the show Lie to Me, which while being entertaining, was still kinda bullshit XD).

As I said, I'm kind of questioning how you'd really implement it, it'd still be REALLY hard to get that many choices going. Ultimately the video game player can only put in the parameters that the designer puts in there for him. Multiple choices mean multiple implications anyway. And if you're speaking on trying to implement a gray morality as well, then you have to be prepared for a lot of practical choices and a lot of tough decisions, as well as the fact that if he's silent and keeps doing gray things then his crew might not trust him at all. But that's just me.

Part of the whole thing of being human IS the verbal communication mixing with body language and actions and reading people like that. Taking away that one thing makes the character a lot less relatable, not only to the player, but it would to the characters in the story as well. But that gets into psychological implications that I can't truly and expertly handle. I mean, it's definitely admirable that you want to either break the paradigm completely or try and play to its strengths, but at the same time, there are a lot of other implications that it triggers. Just saying. I'm ambivalent to the matter, only being objective.

It won't be easy to figure out, but what's what happens when you try to work with new ideas.

edited 27th Jan '13 5:41:43 AM by Cronosonic

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Total posts: 8

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