Senior Production Blog 10 (3/30/2017)

I'm writing this weeks blog entry a day earlier than I usually do, as I just completed a major milestone.

This week, we reached just about every requirement for alpha stage in development. All game modes and systems were in place, UI and art are starting to be final forms, and we have early versions of our team poster and reel. 

But the one thing we didn't have was the full game in it's final narrative state. Part of this was due to the placeholder levels not yet having the Kanji specific for the levels implemented. Glynis has been working on making sure that's all good to go. The other part was that the story was still unfinished. We had our tutorial in, which tested out the full extent of our dialogue system: text boxes, branching choices, and overlays on the map screen, but no full story. That's because it hadn't been fully written yet. Over the last few weeks I've been working on filling out backstory for each character, starting with those with portraits, and completing it a week later with those without to help influence the future portraits. I did this so I could get a sense of each character, write the dialogue from their perspective, bring in flavor from each character's personal stories, as well as map out the story through various characters.

I wanted to strike a line between over congratulating and rewarding the player, and being aggressive to the player. I found a middle ground by creating aggressive and kind character types, and having kind characters stay kind, and aggressive characters open up to you over time. While the aggressive characters may have a bit of snark, they don't mean any harm once they get to know you, and offer to help.  This early story mapping work helped pave the way for this weeks work:

I have written 11 pages of dialogue. This includes our original tutorial script, which is rather wordy. There are 10 characters in the game, amounting to a page and a bit of script for each character. I tried to keep things brief, concise, and amusing, so those who don't want story aren't bogged down by it, and those who do will find some humor and charm in it. If we combine the character sheet, there is a total of 15 pages of story written. 

Granted, this is all first draft, but these are things we need going forward to meet beta milestone and continue onto the senior show, so I'm glad to have it done in advance so I can have some time to adjust it based on team and player feedback.

Senior Production Blog 9 (3/24/2017)

Work this week was light as people were still getting back into their routines after spring break, but this week I finished off the black story for each and every character as well as fleshing out the overarching narrative. I've taken the "Narrative Document" a document detailing the plot beats and locations of each and every person you meet in the game and given each character a more detailed backstory and reason for existing. You saw some of this in last blog post. This week I went through and I wrote backstory for the rest of the characters, who's art does not exist yet. It is my hope that my character backstories and personalities help influence the character portraits going forward. 

With this, after reviewing it with the team, I'm ready to move forward to actual dialogue, putting the pieces in place for the rest of the game. I'll essentially be writing all of the dialogue and thus setting the tone, pacing, and difficulty of the game forward, which is an exciting prospect. 

Senior Production Blog 8 (3/10/2017)

This week I reviewed the overarching story beats set out by Glynis and got to work starting to smooth those rough plot beats into something more approachable for the player.

The game starts with the players village being attacked, and razed to the ground by an evil Samurai clan, causing the player to flee for their lives and train to fight the Samurai. While you are fleeing you seem to see your twin get killed, and you swear revenge. Along the way you meet various Sensei and Samurai who challenge you and fight you and train you along the way. Each Sensei brings up the moral quandary you find yourself in: is revenge worth it? While you venture through boat, across great bridges, through forests and temples you become stronger, and when you confront the evil Samurai clan, you discover that your twin has been kidnapped by them and has been formed into a fighting machine. To defeat the clan, you must defeat him.

It's a large concept, and we might not be able to fit all of it in considering the time remaining in the semester, so I wanted to start breaking down the story piece by piece. I started setting the scene two weeks ago by writing the introductory prologue and tutorial that introduces you to the game. Changes have been made on that to change the controversial forced failure section, as well as early talks to potentially make it more story driven then it currently is. I noticed that when writing that tutorial dialogue, I was writing from the perspective of this old sensei lady, who's art was one of the first things that Artist Connor finished:

I always saw a Yoda-esque figure in her, and I wrote her dialogue accordingly, somewhat cryptic, yet kind. She never berates the player, but instead puts her trust in the player. There is some light ribbing from her in battle dialogue, but beyond that she's just a kind old lady. I wanted to do a similar thing with the rest of the current drawn sensei, so I set out to make a short document detailing the backstory and characteristics of each character.

Forest Sensei is a slightly paranoid man, who lives in the forest after being exiled from the army he worked for (the same army that destroyed the player's village). He is changed, and has seen the evils that he was commanded to do and has decided for himself to live a life of good... by becoming a hermit in the woods. He's slightly aggressive to the player, not out of rude behavior, but because he's been alone for so long.

Temple Sensei is a small, yet fierce woman. She's to the point and aggressive, and a perfectionist when it comes to form and training. She fairly reluctantly takes the player into her tutelage and acts as a trainer for the player. She has a darkly sarcastic sense of humor, and she's rough, but once she gets to know you she opens up. Her personality was strongly inspired by Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road, a quiet, aggressive personality that assumes that you are an idiot until proven otherwise. I wanted to have this aggressive character in order to jar the player out of the fairly safe space that the previous two characters keep you in. This game is hard, learning a new language with strict battle guide lines is a difficult concept, and while the first two levels start easy, Temple Sensei is a starting off point for when things get tough. 

Mountain Sensei is a sword for hire that lives in the mountains. Not out of a desire to be a hermit, but because he can wear no shirt there and not receive any weird looks. After two fairly aggressive characters, Mountain Sensei acts as a cooldown, he's much kinder, down to earth, and loves nature, but is as deadly as all the previous Sensei combined. While the game continues it's upward difficulty curve, I thought it would be nice to get back to a Yoda-esque calm with Mountain Sensei, taking things down a notch narratively while things are kicking up a notch gameplay wise.

But that's what I have so far, as that's what we have drawn so far. I'm going to be working with preliminary story beats to try to create other characters and backstories and build myself a really rich groundwork for which the rest of the narrative will flow. 

But for now, it's spring break. Party time. Excelent.