Archive for the 'ideas' Category

Stop playing before you get bored.

Apr 02 2012 Published by under ideas

In principle Bientôt l’été is endless. It consists of two areas (single player and multiplayer, beach and café) that can alternate indefinitely. Since a lot is left to chance (especially in the multiplayer part), I want people to play more than once, to get different versions as it were.

Since I am counting on repeat play, I’m using the outside-inside cycle to introduce new elements. Every time you leave the café, something will have changed on the beach. I’m thinking of having these elements appear in a certain order, linearly, back and forth (like the tides of the sea). There’s only a small amount of elements, though, so after 4 or 5 cycles you may have seen everything (except for the randomly distributed phrases and objects that can be collected of which there are many).

That doesn’t mean you could no longer enjoy the game. Bientôt l’été is not an exploration game. A lot of variation is introduced through the multiplayer aspect. But it also offers a certain mood, that you might simply want to return too.

Given that the cycle is endless, it’s perfectly possible for people to continue playing forever. And I worry that they may continue playing until they get bored. And when they got bored, they might look back at the entire experience as a waste of time, even though they were enjoying it before they got bored.

So maybe I should add a way to encourage people to stop playing, to stop playing before they get bored, i.e. when the game is still fun for them. Perhaps I could add a notification that tells them that they have seen everything there is to see. And then they can still continue playing, but as a warned man.

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Player controls all.

Apr 01 2012 Published by under ideas

Since the beginning of this project I have wanted to include time of day and ocean tide cycles in the beach scene. Sometimes it would be day time, otherwise night time, or something in between. And sometimes the sea would be far away and sometimes it would be very close. I wasn’t quite sure how fast these cycles would happen. Usually videogames speed up time so that players can experience different moments. I figured I would do the same.

At some point I thought that it would be interesting if these day to night transitions happened in spurts, rather than gradually. Probably inspired by the way such things are suddenly described in a book. Even though the reader may assume that the transition was happening all along, the fact that the writer suddenly mentions how dark it has become or that the sun is rising, is significant. I want to create moments like that.

But rather than programming a little engine that automatically transitions from stage to stage according to some fixed schedule, I now want to have these transitions influenced by the player’s activity. Perhaps for every 5 items that the player collects from the beach, the time of day will progress to the next stage. This can happen abruptly, without any transition, while their eyes are closed. And perhaps every time the player leaves the café, the tide will be different. Apart from these variations, time will remain the same. It will always be almost summer, and the moon will always be almost full.

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Close to the avatar.

Feb 28 2012 Published by under ideas,musing

Bientôt l’été might be the first game we make in which the avatar is just a representation of the player. Usually things are more ambiguous, and the character you control serves as both the virtual body you use to explore the virtual environment as an independent character that is part of the fiction, someone you play the game with, not as.

In the earliest prototypes of Bientôt l’été, I was playing with such ambiguity. I loved the emotional effect of having the character walk away from the camera, becoming small, against the enormity of the sky over a flat beach. But when I started implementing interactivity, trying to express the introverted contemplation I so adore in Duras’ work, this stopped making sense. In Bientôt l’été, you need to be close by the character. You play their role. It is you who takes walks on the beach and collects things. It is you who meets a stranger in a café for an intimate conversation.

The background story of the space station, does add another later to your identity, though. You are not really playing this man or woman in the coastal town. All of that is a program running on a holodeck somewhere in space. You are actually playing a space traveller engaging in a romantic game with another space dweller.

On the other hand, one could say that the whole space situation is just a metaphor and not an actual story. I love the ridiculous complexity of this medium. It feels so natural!

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Love on the net.

Feb 27 2012 Published by under ideas

The romantic theme of Bientôt l’été combined with its two-player aspect introduce an exciting range of simulation opportunities. I’m fascinated by the complexity involved with emotions one might feel for an anonymous partner represented by a virtual character. It’s easy to accept that shooting a virtual character controlled by another player is not murder. But I think we’re far less comfortable with the idea of falling in love with a virtual character controlled by another player. Just imagine your real life partner doing it with somebody else in a game!

So I feel a little bit perverted thinking what I’m thinking.

I was already considering a way for both players to express to each other how they feel about each other when they are talking at the café table. A simple gauge expressing amount of fondness would work fine. And each player sets it for themselves (no need for complicated deduction or vague symbols: each player decides for themselves how they feel -or want to play).  And then perhaps, if both players feel exceptionally good about each other, as a sort of reward, perhaps they could get to walk on the beach together. I imagine that could feel wonderful after all the solitary walks and the awkward conversations.

And why stop there? The “love gauges” could still be present when on the beach. And when both players agree, their characters could take each other’s hand while walking. When they stand still and both players notch up the love gauge a bit more, they could embrace, and then kiss, and then…

There’s nobody else on the beach…

It’s not that cold…

The sand looks soft…

Why not?…

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Close your eyes to interact.

Feb 22 2012 Published by under features,ideas

One of the things I want to capture in Bientôt l’été is the sort of introverted, concentrated way in which almost nothing happens but a few words spoken, a small gesture made, the way in which Duras seeks for precision, accuracy, by standing still, and focusing. I wanted to find an interaction, a “mechanic” if you will, to express this, so you would feel this process when you play, do this activity of focusing, of freezing in your steps and concentrating. I felt I couldn’t use the “let go to interact” mechanic of The Path because, this time, the player needed to be in control. He or she needs to do this, engage with what they are looking at. But in a way that is almost passive, almost nothing.

So I came up with a simple idea: press a key to close your eyes: the screen becomes black, and the object you want to interact with fades in. You need to hold the key (=keep your eyes closed) long enough for the object to be completely “there”. When it is, the interaction happens (in most cases, collecting something from the beach, often a phrase).

This activity of closing your eyes is always available. You can also do it when no object is nearby. You can blink, if you like. As such it is our version of Grand Theft Auto’s greatest feature: honking the car horn. :) When you keep your eyes closed for a bit longer, your inventory of collected items fades in. We’re thinking of these items more as memories (as in The Path). Though there will also be real objects that you can carry with you and play with in the café.

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