People who follow my games have been suggesting I blog to provide updates on ZE: Safe Haven’s development, to delve into ChoiceScript tips and tricks, and to discuss my other projects (A Wise Use of Time, Zombie Exodus, the ZE novel). I will try to keep this on a weekly schedule.
ZE: Safe Haven Development
This week was productive with numerous bugs fixed and approximately 5800 new words of content. I have also started hashing out profiles of several new NPCs not yet introduced but coming in chapter 4.
I decided to stop the public playtesting at the next update. To focus on development, it is far more efficient to work with a small team of testers. While I truly appreciate all feedback, handling it can be time-consuming. The number of requests for new features sometimes takes my time away from squashing bugs or fixing continuity errors. My goal is to spend this summer finishing Part 1, and limiting my tester pool will help.
Replayability vs. Game Length
Today, I read a comment I made on the Choice of Games forum from January, 2015:
People felt Part 4 was short because it’s not linear, so I received criticism. From my experience, people want a long playthrough. Replayability is not as important as playthrough.
I remember this comment came at a time when several reviews of my game were calling it too short while other games at the time had far less word count but linear gameplay with more perceived length. Out of frustration, I made this comment. Now, I disagree with it.
I enjoy games with replay value and a chance to explore multiple plots, characters, and playstyles. If I read through a game a second time and find little has changed aside from flavor text and an ending, I wonder why it was made as a choice game. I want to try out multiple types of characters and have the game respond. Can I survive as a pragmatic teenager, a snarky coward, or stoic badass? What will happen if I let Candace die in Part 4 but save Crone at the summer camp? If a game is too linear and gives only the illusion of choice, I can’t feel immersed in the story.
While creating such games can be complicated, ChoiceScript empowers its users to add depth through branching narrative. My suggestion to choice-game developers is to create meaningful stats and change them routinely. My rule is to change 1-3 stats with every choice.
As the reverend leans in his car, the exterminator reaches in his van and pulls out a crowbar. He clenches it in his hands and strides toward the unaware man. From the yard of the house across the street comes movement behind a row of trees. You… *choice #Rush outside to warn the reverend before he's attacked. *set morality %+15 *set impulse %+10 #Rush outside and yell for the exterminator to stop. *set morality %+10 *set honor %+15 #Rush outside and threaten the exterminator to stop. *set morality %+10 *set impulse %+15 #Walk outside to be in position to take advantage of this situation. *set honor %-15 #Call the police. They need to handle this altercation. *set impulse %-15 #Watch and wait. I'll only get involved if it benefits me. *set morality %-10
In the code above, the player is presented with an option for dealing with an imminent fight outside his or her home. Each option modifies a stat or two which helps build the profile of the character. As the game progresses, stats will be changed more and more, and we start to see how different the main character becomes: paranoid loner, impulsive vigilante, heroic cynic, psychopath, and many other profiles.