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The Year We All Died

March 25th, 2007 (11:31 pm)

I've been building a new game in my head for a few months now. A few days ago I finally had a chance to put some ideas down on paper. The game is called "The Year We All Died". You can read my brief first rough draft of the game below, or download it here. If you are interested I would very, very much like to hear your feedback. This is both long and unedited, so I apologize in advance. I'm not sure where to take the game from here. I also posted about it on the forge, an recieved some nice feedback from Simon C and Christopher Ashe. You can read that here if you like.

The Year We All Died

 A new game by Jake Richmond

 

 

It’s next year, or maybe the year after. You are a lonely high school student living with your family in a small rural Japanese city. You’ve just worked up the nerve to confess your love to the boy you’ve had a crush on since school started. But before you can go on your first date your country is plunged into a devastating war. Enemy armies threaten your cities and you watch helplessly as your parents, friends and older siblings march off to defend your country. Lines of communication between cities and towns slowly vanish, as food and medicine begin to become scarce. Worse, you discover that your new boyfriend is not who or what he appears to be! He’s actually a genetically engineered biological weapon of mass destruction! One of several super-soldiers developed by the Japanese Self Defense Force to help end the war. Now, as the country crumbles and the military scatters your boyfriend is the only thing keeping your little city safe from the advancing enemy.

 Your family is broken. Your friends have gone to war. Your country has fallen to an enemy who can only be stalled, never stopped. All that you have left is the boy you love, and he is slowly being overwhelmed by the nano-machines that give him his powers. Soon his transformation into an inhuman killing machine will be complete. Will your relationship survive his transformation? Will you survive the end of your world?

 The Year We All died is a game about two young people who love each other, lose everything and have to face the end of their world together. Your characters will have everything they care about stripped from them and have to watch as their lives and country crumble around them. All they have to hold onto is each other, and even their relationship might not survive.

The Year We All Died is a game for 2 or more players. The game is played as a series of events that start with the characters first date and end when one or both of them meet their final fate. Part of the game can be played face to face, but you’ll play some of the game by using email, chat rooms, text messaging, phone calls or other forms of remote communication.

 Part 1 Preparing to play

 Who are we?

In The Year We All Died two players take the roles of young Japanese students who have just taken the first steps into what will become a meaningful romantic relationship that will end in tragedy. Lets start by asking some questions to help define who these characters are.

Gender: Is your character male or female? Its perfectly all right if both players characters are the same gender.

 Age: How old are your characters? Your character’s age will determine whether they are a middle school, high school or university Student. It’s likely that your characters are the same age, but you can certainly have one be older or younger then the other.

 Names: Names are important. Take some time to choose a name that you think is right for your character. Or if you like you and your friend can choose names for each other. You may also want to invent a nickname for your character.

 Appearance: What does your character look like? Physical appearance is likely the first thing your characters noticed about each other, so it’s worth taking a little time and considering what your character looks like. Is your character short, tall or of an average height? Is your character handsome? Does she wear a stern expression? Does he have glasses? Is she a little chubby? Does he have acne? 

 Family: Since your characters are students they probably live at home with their family. Even university students commonly live with their parents or close relatives. Spend some time thinking about the family members that are important to your characters and play a large part in their lives. Think about how your characters family traditions, habits and living situation affect their daily lives.

 Academic interests and clubs: School plays a big part in students life, and it is likely that much of what your characters do on a daily basis revolves around school and related activities. Does your character belong to any clubs or sports teams? Do they go to a special cram school in the evening? Are they a class representative? Do they help organize the schools culture day and other events?

 Our Personality Traits

You’ve spent some time thinking about who your character is. Now it’s time to turn that knowledge into some Personality Traits. At this point the players will share their characters with each other, either by writing and exchanging detailed descriptions or by discussing the characters in a conversation.  Once you both have had a chance to become familiar with each other’s characters you’ll take turns assigning each other Personality Traits. Personality Traits are single words or descriptions that help define your character. Why does the other player get to give you Personality Traits? Because these Traits represent how other people see you and what other people think of you. Go ahead and give each other 3-5 Traits.

 Our City

The small city your characters live in will likely be the setting of the entire game, so it’s important to spend some time fleshing it out and making it seem like a real place. Spend some time talking about what the city looks like, what your school is like, where your favorite places to hang out are, what makes your house and neighborhood special and why you prefer one café over another.

The War

Japan is a country at war. As the game begins Japan has found itself engaged in a long, drawn out war with an intractable enemy that cannot be defeated. This is a war that Japan is slowly losing, and although the general public is not overly aware of how badly the conflict is going, the possibility that Japan could be facing an imminent invasion and protracted land war on it’s own territory is very real. As the game progresses the consequences of the war will become more apparent and horrifying, and eventually the characters entire world will be consumed by it.

The enemy that the Japanese military faces is completely undefined. Whether your country is defending itself against aggressive foreign powers, suffering from a devastating civil war or even warding off alien invaders is completely up to you. What is important is that as the game progresses the war, and by extension the lives of the characters, gets steadily worse.

 Weapon of Mass Destruction

One of the characters has a dangerous secret. The Japanese government has developed a kind of nano-machine that allows ordinary people to become biological weapons of mass destruction. The government experimented with this process to create a small number of specially enhanced youths that would be planted around the country to defend Japan against invasion. One of your characters is just such a weaponized youth. How and when this secret is revealed to the other character is an important part of the game. Will your relationship survive this revelation?

 Even before the war began the weaponized character was often called away for days at a time for tests and training. As war begins to consume Japan the character will be called upon to defend their country more and more. In their weaponized form the character can fly at incredible speeds, can create and deploy bombs, missiles and other munitions, can see in the infrared and can detect radio signals and radar. But the weaponizing process is flawed. Without regular treatment from trained technicians the characters body and mind responds in strange ways. As the war rages on and the Japanese defenders suffer heavy loses and are scattered the resources for treating the weaponized character will slowly vanish. The character will have to deal with both his rapidly changing body and the psychological changes that are quickly making him less and less human.

 Part 2 Play

You’ve created your characters, established your relationship, fleshed out your hometown and decided how your characters started dating. You’ve talked about the war that will rip your country apart and decided which of you has been secretly weaponized. Now it’s time to actually play!

 Our Relationship

The game begins as your characters are just taking their first tentative steps into a romantic relationship together. Your characters may have known each other for years, or you may have just met. The game starts with one of you making a love confession to the other. As the game progresses you’ll be able to explore your relationship together, but for now you’ll need to decide how it started.

 This is how we met!

The Year We All Died progresses through a series of events called dates. Most dates are exactly what they sound like; a fun outing or romantic excursion where the young couple have a chance to spend some quality time together. But a date can include any situation where the characters have a chance to spend some time together. This may be at school as the characters eats lunch together, a quiet walk home in the afternoon, or an after school club meeting. Later in the game dates may be time that the characters spend huddled together in ruined bomb shelters or searching for drinkable water and medical supplies.

 Your first date isn’t a date at all, but the scene where one of your characters confesses their love to the other. You’ll set up this scene just like any other date.

 Dates

Setting up a date is easy. For your first scene, the love confession, the player who decides to confess their feelings gets to set up the scenes first Element. On a normal date the character who asks the other out will get to propose the first element instead. The player that proposes the date gets to choose the dates first element. Elements are the things you do on dates. Going out for dinner, taking a walk, seeing a movie, studying together or making out behind the school all count as Elements. Once the first Element is chosen players take turns choosing additional Elements.

 For the love confession scene you only need to describe one element; the place where you will confess your love! Go ahead and set the scene by describing where the other character is and what they are doing as you approach them.

 A normal date must have at least two Elements, and probably shouldn’t have more then 4. Imagine Goro asking Yumi if she would like to go see a movie with him over the weekend, and Yumi saying that maybe afterward they could go own to the park and get some ice cream.

 Playing the date

You’ve taken the time to set up the date, so now you get to actually do some role-playing. How does the date progress? That’s up to you. Together you’ll describe the scenes, playing out whatever bits interest you. You can do this face to face, through a chat room, a series of emails or over the phone. It’s all up to you

 As you describe and play out the scene you’ll each right down three things of note that happened during the date.. These can be things that either character does, something that happens to the characters, something that the characters witness, or even an emotion that the character feels. Each of these things should be significant and worth discussing after the date. Each player has to list at least 1 negative thing that happened. Here are a few examples:

 “We held hands for the first time as we waited in line for the movie”

“We got caught in the rain and had to hide in a bus shelter. I let her wear my Jacket”

“He hurt my feelings”

“She smiled when I told her the joke I heard this morning”

“All he wanted to do was play Playstation”

“He felt my breasts while we waited for the bus home”

 Keeping in Touch

Time is going to pass between your dates. Even before the war consumes the country your characters will have busy lives. You’ll likely see each other around school, but between your dates you’ll spend a lot of time talking to each other by email, on the phone, through text message or hand written letters.

 You’ve just gone on a date where 6 things of interest happened. That should give you plenty to talk about. Create a communication addressing at least one of those things and send it to the other player. The character that was asked out on the date gets to send the first communication. Make it pointed to provoke an answer. For example:

 “I really liked holding your hand while we were out last night. It felt really nice. But I don’t think we should do that at school. I’m not comfortable with people knowing we’re a couple”.

 Or

 “I saw you looking at the model kits in that store. Are you into that kind of stuff?”

 Don’t limit yourself to one topic or conversation. You’ll have awhile before your next date, so try to address everything that happened during the date. If your conversations generate new things of interest then you should definitely address those as well. Don’t be afraid to be confrontational or argumentative, but at the same time remember that you can also be loving, coy or playful.

 How we communicate

Between dates your characters will chat with each other on the phone or in chat rooms, send each other emails and text messages, write each other letters or maybe even trade diaries. They’ll talk about school, their friends, personal problems, favorite TV shows, their last date and their plans for their next one. The players communicate in the same way. Use your communications to express your characters concerns, desires and needs.  Use your communications to address what happened during your last date and create conflicts and conversations that will progress your relationship and lead you toward you next date.

 Setting up the next date

At some point during your communications one character ask the other to go on another date. The other player can accept or refuse as they see fit. You shouldn’t rush into another date until you feel like you’ve resolved at least some of the things that were generated during the last Date. But if both players feel ready then another date can be arranged.

 Friends

The Year We All Died can be played as a two player game, but you can also easily bring in additional players if you like. These players will take the role of friends, family members, teachers, soldier, scientists, refugees and other people the characters know.

 Inviting a friend to play is easy.  If you know someone who you think might be interested in playing invite them to play a specific character. You can set up “dates” with this new character as well as communicate with them in any way you want.

 For example, I might invite a friend to play Yumi’s schoolmate Ono. My friend and I can arrange scene where Ono and Yumi meet and hang out, and we can talk about the things that happened in those scenes over instant messenger or through phone calls.

 Inviting other players into the game gives you a chance to develop your character by role-playing them against someone else. It also expands your opportunities and gives your world another voice.  This can be especially valuable during the third chapter when the characters are separated and need to reach out to other people for comfort.

 When you invite someone to play the game take some time to think about what kind of character you want them to play. You could ask them to play a character that both character s will interact with, like a fellow classmate or teacher. Or, if you think you want to keep this new player to yourself, you could ask them to play a character that only you will interact with. This might include a parent or other family member, a neighbor or a friend the other character knows. The weaponized character might invite someone to play soldiers that he meets on the battlefield, one of the scientists that treat him or an officer that he has to report to.

 Once you invite a player to the game they can in turn invite other players to join them.

 Chapters

A Game of The Year We All Died is divided into several chapters. As the characters go on dates, get to know each other and develop their relationship they’ll move through these chapters.

 Chapter One: Getting to know you

The characters have just begun dating and are just starting to get to know each other. Their lives are largely trouble free and their rural hometown is picturesque. During this time the brewing war is deep in the background, and doesn’t effect the characters lives in any meaningful way.

Chapter one can last for as many dates as you like, and should include at least 2 dates.

 Chapter two: The war intrudes

Suddenly and without warning the war goes from a background detail to everyone’s main concern. Japan has been invaded, and even in this small, remote city people are worried. News reports cease suddenly, and all television broadcasts are reruns. Internet access is reduced to a closed local network and long distance phone communication is cut off entirely. The town is effectively cut off from all but it’s closest neighbors.

 During this time JSDF officers start recruiting volunteers from factories, offices and even the schools. Hundreds of men and women, teachers, factory workers and students leave to help defend their country. It’s during this time that the city gets it’s first real up-close look at the war. Perhaps foreign bombers destroy a local JSDF installation or friendly artillery causes massive damage to the city center. The weaponized character is also called away for combat more and more often and will have to struggle to keep his secret.

 Chapter two can last for as long as you like, but should include at least 2 dates.

 Chapter 3: The characters are separated

As the country begins to crumble around them the weaponized character will have to spend more time on the front lines defending his hometown, leaving the other character behind. The characters will have to rely more and more on the rabidly disappearing lines of communication to talk to each other, and their relationship will likely suffer for it.

 If they haven’t done so already the players may wish to invite other people to join the game and take the role of friends, family members or other characters that they can communicate while they are separated from each other. Given the horrific circumstances of the war it’s not suprising that the characters would turn to other people for comfort and support.

 During the third chapter the weaponized characters condition worsens dramatically. No longer able to get regular treatment, the characters is slowly loosing control of both his body and sanity.

 During this time the JSDF has pulled back to a defensive position around and refugees are flooding to the city. Food and medicine is becoming scarce, and constant bombing and artillery has turned many neighborhoods to rubble. It’s likely that the characters have seen several of their friends die, either as direct casualties of the fighting or from poor conditions. Fights over food and shelter are common.

 Chapter three can last as long as you like, but should include at least 3 dates. If he hasn’t done so already the weaponized character must reveal his secret toi the other character by the end of this chapter.

 Chapter 4: The end of their world

The Japanese defense force has been defeated and scattered. The city is in ruins, it’s people fleeing to smaller communities or trying to survive in it’s burnt out buildings. The weaponized character has become a target of the invading army, and the characters must find a way to survive even as their entire world is destroyed. Only a few towns are still safe, and as they wander the countryside the characters notice that people are becoming more and more scarce. It is obvious that the war has been lost and the country has fallen beyond any hope of repair, and even the most optimistic refugees fear the end is near.

During this time the weaponized character is dying. His body is deteriorating to the point that it will only function as a weapon, and his sanity is slipping as the urge to destroy everything around him grows more powerful. Capable of wiping out entire battalions single-handedly, the character must struggle to keep from loosing his humanity and killing the one he loves.

 This chapter can last as long as you like, but must include at least one date. The culminating date of this chapter will end the game.

 How the World Ends

How the last chapter culminates is up to you. The fate of the country is out of your hands, but you can still decide if your characters live or die. Here are some options:

 The characters live. The weaponized character struggles to overcome the artificial changes made to his body and is able to continue his existence as a rational human. The characters will have to struggle to survive in this horrifyingly devastated world, but at least they’ll have each other.

 The characters die. Perhaps the enemy army catches up with them, or starvation does them in. Maybe the weaponized character looses control and kills them both, or perhaps they decide to leave their ruined world peacefully through suicide.

 One character lives. As the weaponized character looses control and becomes less and less human it’s likely he’ll prove a real danger to the other character. His urge to destroy may overwhelm him and he may kill his loved one without realizing it! Or the other character might decide to put her lover out of his misery. It’s also possible that one character might succumb to wounds, die of starvation or be killed by enemy soldiers.

 

And that's it. Thoughts?

Comments

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 25th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

Minor note: I sort of feel like maybe the gender roles should be reversed in the introductory text, and have the girl be the one with superpowers. This fits the game in my head with a lot more anime and mangas that I've seen. Then again, all the "magical girlfriend" stories I can think of tend to be more lighthearted than this game, so maybe that would set the wrong tone. I don't know.

There are a couple games I think you should look at and consider how they tackle design issues similar to yours. I do this a lot when helping people design games, and I hope it's helpful.

One is "Breaking the Ice", which I'm sure other people also recommend, because it's one of the few romance based games on the market. (That's not an excuse to not develop yours, though; a single romance game on the market doesn't fully exploit the genre - Hollywood turns out a dozen romantic movies a year.) The other is "Courtroom Clash!", which was an entry in this year's Game Chef game design competition. It's not a complete game, but Kaloth is dealing with a similar design aesthetic to yours - all narrative, no numbers or dice. Some of the feedback he received could be useful to you. It's not presented as an example of a perfect game, so much as of another designer struggling with related issues.

Finally, You might want to look at and think about The Court of the Empress, which is also a fully diceless, numberless game which, I think, succeeds at nonetheless providing structure to play such that entertaining play results from the basic system. (I say this having been one of the playtest players.) It is also a game all about pleasing another player, which determines if you live or die. I think that aspect could be fruitfully incorporated into your game (i think I'll have more on that later). And, like the previous game, it's free and available online (and a short read), so you're not out any money if you check it out and it is useless to you.

(Some of this is similar to the feedback you got on the Forge thread, but that's because a lot of this is important, and some of it is similar but a slightly different perspective. hopefully, the overlap is not so grat my commentary is useless.)

It seems to me that your game establishes a lot of the sorts of things that most games would leave open, while leaving open a lot of stuff other games would nail down. This isn't bad at all - fruitful design comes from trying things in new ways. But it means you need to think carefully about what everything in the game is doing. In this game, I think you need to worry about the latter part (not establishing stuff that normally is established) than the former (establishing things the players usually have control over). (This is another thing that The Court of the Empress does: though the Empress looks sort of like a GM, she really only has scene framing powers and rules adjudication. All creating the setting and roleplaying NPCs is done by the Courtiers.)

Are you familiar with the Lumpley Principle? ("System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play.") At the moment, your system doesn't do that. There is some slight guidance on a large scale (suggested number of dates) but nothing on a moment to moment level. If the two players disagree on something, then there is no means to resolve this. You commented in the Forge thread that you didn't want the heavy handed dice filled systems you'd used previously, but there are other options that could work.

You also have a problem in that the system doesn't actually encourage the play you want it to. Or any particular play, for that matter. If we the players didn't want the tragedy to progress, there's no bribe to making it progress, nor punishment for not progressing it. So the only people who introduce tragedy to the game are those who would do so anyway, in which case why do they need your game? This also ties into the pacing of the game, which I feel is wishy-washy and could be stronger. "Two or more dates per Act" is weak, but it could be stronger.

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 25th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

(My post was too long, so it's continued here)

I think the solution for these three problems is to tie the Act structure to conflicts between the players. More conflicts between the players speeds up the changes between Acts, so the tragedy worsens, whereas if the two players get along the Acts progress more slowly, but still inevitably. When the two players disagree on something, one can mandate that they get their way, but doing so adds a point to some ever increasing total. As the total reaches a given threshold (every five disagreements, perhaps, but have this be adjustable), you move into the next Act, where things get worse for the characters. But if they can agree, then they can stay in their current act for another Date. So you can get a short term benefit - your character getting your way - but doing so harms the relationship as a whole and speeds up the tragedy. Then you just need a way to occassionally create disagreements between players, and the Acts will naturally progress (the negative thing(s) you write down about a Date seem like good conflict fodder).

I think the Acts need to move along even if the players don't want them to, to reinforce that these are elements of the world beyond the control of their characters, and to heighten that feelings of helplessness as their world crumbles. The speed of the crumbling could be an adjustable knob set at the beginning of play, though, giving options for long or short term games.

Character traits are determined by the other player. I like that a lot. But these traits don't do anything at all. I don't like that as much. With the sort of more structured system I propose, you could give some benefit to acting like the traits you were assigned. Which is to say, you get rewarded for acting like the other player wants you to act. And acting like the other person wishes seems like what romance is made of. In my proposed solution, they affect the number of disagreements before ending an Act somehow.

I also think the ending could be structured to give more reliable tragedy at the end. How about you take the "players define the traits of the other character" trick and reuse it (which also makes a nice bookend feel). At the end of the game, I decide what happens to your character, and you decide what happens to mine. Thus, I might decide you deserved death, or that that was the most interesting option, or that you surviving, possibly in a changed state, would be appropriate. This still isn't quite at full tragedy yet, but I think it would help, and be cool and appropriate. Maybe a sort of inverse Prisoner's Dilemma: you can choose to sacrifice yourself at the end to make the other character live happily. But if both sacrifice themselves, everyone dies (which is like the O Henry story with the air and the comb and stuff). I'm not sure if both choose not to sacrifice themselves: this is both players being selfish, so it seems like they should die in the worst possible way here, whereas the other deaths might be a tragic death but one where you accomplish something in doing so. Or maybe they just live, but their relationship utterly fails at that point.

I really like the communicating outside of play. I've played game where I kept character journals and such, and these can be loads of additional fun and help you get into the character better, but these also need to not be required for play to progress. Not everyone has the same amount of time to devote to a game. I don't think this is a big problem for your game, but you should think about it. But utilizing multiple mediums to play the game beyond just face to face communication is cool. A really involved group might have a game wiki, livejournals for the two PCs, email accounts from free email providers, etc. and keep in character correspondences up. And that would be really cool. Heck, the non Date parts could be played in real time, which makes the game potentially verge onto Alternate Reality Gaming territory.

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 25th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

(final portion of my comments)

Final note: I think the title is really awkward, but I think the same about your previous games. the previous ones, at least, had a vaguely anime-ish awkwardness to them (like they were questionably translated and sounded better in Japanese), but this doesn't sound that way to me. It also only vaguely hits the major themes of your game - tragic romance.

I hope some of that is helpful to you. I think your game is the seed of something interesting, but that it needs a lot of thought put into it for it to grow into a complete game. But if it gets that thought, then it could be a really cool one.

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

I just reread my responses to your last two post. i don't feel like I'm making a lot of sense. Sorry. I'm tired.

"I think the title is really awkward, but I think the same about your previous games."

Yeah, no one ever likes my titles. I get this thing where i find a title for a game and I feel it really covers everything I want to say about the game. At the moment the game dosen't encompass everything that I want it to. I want the game to not only be about the personal loss of the two characters but about the destruction of their world. I want to do more with letting characters build and explore the world, so when it all comes crashing down they really feel likethey have lost something. And I want the whole thing to take place over a year. That's what I'm building toward. I don't know if that makes the title any less awkward though.

Again, thanks for all the feedback. I have a lot to think about and a lot of work to do.


Jake

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

You're making pretty decent sense, I think.

I'm not any better at coming up with titles or terminology, though, so I don't know if I could suggest any good alternative titles.

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

"I think the solution for these three problems..."

This is very good. This is really what I wanted from the beginning but wasn't figuring out on my own. I was trying to work toward something like this, but I just wasn't there yet. Tanks. This gives me a lot to work with. A lot to mess around with.

"I think the Acts need to move along even if the players don't want them to, to reinforce that these are elements of the world beyond the control of their characters, and to heighten that feelings of helplessness as their world crumbles. The speed of the crumbling could be an adjustable knob set at the beginning of play, though, giving options for long or short term games."

I think so as well. I think, especially as the acts progres, that the characters need to loose more and more control. That being said, I want to make sure the players have the option of exploring each act as much as they want to. There needs to be a balance, but on that spirals out of control as the game progresses. So I guess not so much a balance as an imbalance. The game starts out comfortable, with the players and characters having a lot of control, and veers into uncomfortable as the characters and players lose that control.

"Character traits are determined by the other player. I like that a lot. But these traits don't do anything at all. I don't like that as much. With the sort of more structured system I propose, you could give some benefit to acting like the traits you were assigned. Which is to say, you get rewarded for acting like the other player wants you to act. And acting like the other person wishes seems like what romance is made of. In my proposed solution, they affect the number of disagreements before ending an Act somehow."

This is funny. The whole game started because I had a really cool idea for Traits that just didn't fit into Panty Explosion. I thought I could use it in another game. But by the time I got around to starting on this I completely forgot about it. So Traits are supposed to do something, even though it doesn't say so in the text. I keep hoping I'll remember my great idea.

Anyway, I like your idea. It's very similar to an idea that I'm using for a game I'm working on with April Brown.I don't know, maybe it's just inevitable that a game of this nature is going to use ideas like that?

"At the end of the game, I decide what happens to your character, and you decide what happens to mine."

I'm in love with that.

"I also think the ending could be structured to give more reliable tragedy at the end."

Yeah. Clearly, my hope that players will just want a tragedy isn't going to work. Leaving the fate of each character in the hand of the other player doesn't mean the story will end poorly for them, but it is a lot of fun. Now really, this is what the game is all about. A satisfyingly tragic end.

"these can be loads of additional fun and help you get into the character better, but these also need to not be required for play to progress. Not everyone has the same amount of time to devote to a game."

I see most of the game time being spent on the non-date parts of the game. How the players communicate during this time is up to them, but I want to encourage them to use non face-to-face communication as much as possible. They'll have to communicate if they want the game to progress, and if both players agree to use phone, text messages and hand written notes then play should progress fine. yeah, one player may end up lagging behind, but I think that simulates communication in a relationship pretty well. Sometimes you just don't have time to return a text message or pick up the phone. Of course, this has to be a player agreement. It's not going to work well if one player decides to use emails, blogs and phone calls and the other player decides not to communicate at all. But that's like not showing up to game night!

Do you think this is something that neds rewards or encouragement?

Continued...

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

"That being said, I want to make sure the players have the option of exploring each act as much as they want to."


If you have it working something like I proposed (each Act ends after a certain number of disagreements between players), then you could have the number of disagreements be scalable. At the start of play, the players decide how long or short a game they want: "Let's play a one-shot tonight, so only two disagreements per act" or "This is a long game - seven disgreements per act." (I'm just making the numbers up, playtesting would be required to see how long the game runs.)

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

The way I'm thinking about this game being played is more casual, and over a longr period. For example, if you and I were playing, we would design the first "date" on Saturday and then play the fallout from that date over the course of the week. The next Saturday we'd do another date and then do the fallout from that ate over the course of the next week. I'd send you emails from home or work. You'd call me or send me text messages from wherever you were. This is how I've been thinking about the game, and I think this is how I want to see it played.

Ofg course not everyone is going to want to play the game that way. Some people are going to want to play the whole thing out on Saturday night at the game table. This is a way more accessable way to lay the game (not really, but I think it would be percieved as more accessable). So I'm trying to think of how to esign for both approaches while encouraging the first.

Anyway, tat's not rally waht you were talking about. I like the iea you present here. This is very similar to something April and I are talking about for our other game, which is much more a "real" dating game. But I think it would work well here too.

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 25th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

Thank you so much for all this feedback. i'm going to give it a light skim now before I sleep, but I'll respond in detail (with plenty of questions, I'm sure) tomorrow.

Thanks you very much.

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 05:40 am (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

Hi Nick. Let me start be thanking you for your extensive feedback. i meant to reply to this yesterday, but... I actually have no memory of yesterday. Weird.

"I sort of feel like maybe the gender roles should be reversed in the introductory text, and have the girl be the one with superpowers."

I actually did this on purpose to change it up a bit from the animes and manga that I was influenced by. But I plan to switch it up a bit more later and add examples with two different couples.

"Breaking the Ice"

I' really love Breaking the Ice. Ice was one of the first games I ever read that made me realize what RPG could actually be. It was also a huge influence on Panty Explosion. That being said, I've been trying to stay away from the same territory. But maybe I souldn't worry about it to much.

I'm completely unfamiliar with the other two games, but I'll be checking them out. Thanks!

"Some of this is similar to the feedback you got on the Forge thread, but that's because a lot of this is important, and some of it is similar but a slightly different perspective. hopefully, the overlap is not so grat my commentary is useless."

It's all useful. I haven't revised the text at all since before the forge feedback. I want to talke my time on this and really do it right. As I said to John below (or above maybe?) I've never shown a text to anyone this early in the development stage. This is all new to me, and I want to take advantage of the process as much as possible.

"I think you need to worry about the latter part (not establishing stuff that normally is established) than the former (establishing things the players usually have control over)."

Just to clarify: I need to worry more about the fact that I'm not establishing stuff that is normally established. Is this what your saying? For some reason I keep reading that over and over and the meaning slips from me.

At the moment I am purposely leaving out pretty much everything that traditionally makes an rpg. Most especially a conflict resoultion system. But it's been pointed out to me that I do need some kind of system to resolve conflicts between players. And of course, that's just one problem. I'm trying to think of this as building from the ground up. Starting with an outline and filling it in. But I'm definetly hitting the part where i'm not sure what to fill and what to leave empty. If that makes any sense.

"If the two players disagree on something, then there is no means to resolve this."

Yeah, this is an issue that will have to be solved. When I was writing this it occured to me a few times that the players were going to have to be agreeing with each other a lot for this game to work. I knew that wasn't going to happen, but I filed the problem away for another time. looks like it needs to be dealt with before I proceed.

As far as player disagreements go, I think simple is better for this game. I want to avoid using randomizers to determine who gets their way or currancy to buy the result you want, but I'm not actually sure what to do. I'll have to think about this more before.

"You also have a problem in that the system doesn't actually encourage the play you want it to. Or any particular play, for that matter. If we the players didn't want the tragedy to progress, there's no bribe to making it progress, nor punishment for not progressing it. So the only people who introduce tragedy to the game are those who would do so anyway, in which case why do they need your game?"

Good point. I've been thinking about this a lot today, and I think you are 100% right. I definetly want the game to be played a certain way, and there's no good reason to play it that way. I said before (on the Forge I think)that I want players to want to play these students who are going to have their world torn apart around them and meet with tragedy.I want people to want to play that rather then saying "lets play this scenerio but instead be bad ass mech pilots". But there's no reason to play it the way I want it to be played. Rewards and punishments.

I'll continue with your next post.

Posted by: mrteapot (mrteapot)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
Re: I said on Story Games I'd post some comments

"Just to clarify: I need to worry more about the fact that I'm not establishing stuff that is normally established. Is this what your saying?"

Yes, that's what I meant, though I may have phrased things poorly.

Posted by: John M. (shatteredcross)
Posted at: April 26th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
Opinions... btw, this is John M
Tenth Doctor Pantsu

There seems to be less emphasis on role playing any actual events in this game. The date itself is basically devolved into a sort of bullet list. "This is what happens... now lets talk about it."

It's hard to try to invest emotion into an event that could have probably happened to someone else. The date itself wasn't experienced by my character... its just there on the list. Did that happen? I dunno..

The story your trying to sell is for people that are interested in the emotional involvement of the characters. Likely not the people who would rather just skip the date.. the point of dramatic climax and just get on with the "oh, I'm sorry I touched your boob" moments.

Damn, out of time. I have to get to work now, but I'll be posting more on this subject later.

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
Re: Opinions... btw, this is John M

Hi John.

"There seems to be less emphasis on role playing any actual events in this game. The date itself is basically devolved into a sort of bullet list. "This is what happens... now lets talk about it.""

The original idea was that you would never play this game fact to face, only over the phone or by email or through other forms of communication. My idea would be that you would design the date together then try to realisticlly roleplay conversations that took place becasue of what happened on the date. So the roleplaying is all about the inbetween moments. The times when you don't really see each other but are still in contact through email, text messages and the phone. That seemed to me like a really nice way to play a relationship, by examining the inbetween moments.That's what I was going for. But the idea has changed a little bit since then. And I don't think I every really defined what I wanted to do in the text. Althoug maybe it wasn't clear to me at the time. I do like "this is what happened, lets talk about it" but I think the key has to be that it's the little things that happen during the dates that lead to the big confrontations inbetween. not the other way around. i think that's what I'm going for. I think...

"It's hard to try to invest emotion into an event that could have probably happened to someone else. The date itself wasn't experienced by my character... its just there on the list. Did that happen? I dunno.."

That's a good point. I'll think about that. This is the earliest I've ever shown someone a text I've worked on, and the reason I did it is because I wanted exactly this kind of feedback. So thanks. I think the divide between the dtae and the inbetween times is important, but maybe the date itself does deserve more attention. I'll think about this.

"The story your trying to sell is for people that are interested in the emotional involvement of the characters. Likely not the people who would rather just skip the date.. the point of dramatic climax and just get on with the "oh, I'm sorry I touched your boob" moments."

See, I was thinking about it the other way around. The date is where all the trivial stuff happens, but it's inbetween the dates where all that stuff blows up into big confrontations. A casual comment made during the date turns into a huge arguement later. Stuff liuke that.

Thanks for your comments. I'll be thinking about this more before my first revision.

Jake

Posted by: John M. (shatteredcross)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 10:12 am (UTC)
Re: Opinions... btw, this is John M
Geek

Something just occurred to me. The simple fact that your calling these events "Dates" adds a huge amount of mental baggage without even thinking about what the scene is suppose to be. Anything that has ever happened on a date, for me, has never... ever been considered trivial by myself or the person I was dating. Not to try and sound like I'm biting your head off, but the most important stuff happens ON the date... when I'm facing the person and that person, then responds in force.. right there... within striking range.

Granted, this is in essence reversed for the game mechanics... but what I'm trying to get across is that its simply not possible to call these events dates and then mark them off as trivial and not worth the time to RP. I do like the idea of RPing the in-between moments in depth ala Voices. It's just that I think the "dates" should be fleshed out in some part as well.

And as for calling them "dates"... I'm not too sure that's such a hot idea considering that events with supportive cast, friends, family, ect. are all considered dates. There's something unsettling about collecting food rations with my father and calling it a "Date". *shiver* Maybe just calling them "scenes" or "events" or even "meetings" and "appointments" might be more neutral terms to use, at least when it is not with the love interest. It's really hard to get your best friend into a game when you tell him that he'd have to go on "dates" you. "It's the end of the world, you're a soldier fighting back an unstoppable enemy, you've been assigned under my command... lets do a date." >=)

Posted by: jake_richmond (jake_richmond)
Posted at: April 27th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Opinions... btw, this is John M

"Anything that has ever happened on a date, for me, has never... ever been considered trivial by myself or the person I was dating."

That's interesting. It's largely been the opposite for me. Maybe it's just a matter of perception? Or maybe it differs from relationship to relationship or from person to person? Or maybe it's a me thing?

You do have a good point though. "Date" was one of the first things I thought of for the game, and it's survived longer then it should have.

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