Wanted: Feedback, Dead or Alive

It’s all just based on a simple comment: “So, like, what did she do all day? Did she just sit around twiddling her thumbs?”

And that started this story.

SD already had a fantasy series he was working on: The Stranger Realms, and that comment just started a long, amusing dialog about princesses in towers. Ultimately, SD decided that he wanted to make a full story out of that simple concept. Mess was bored and suggested they turn it into a game. Thus, “The Ridiculous Tale of Sena In The Tower” was born.

We need a lot of feedback to really make this story work.

If you havent played the PoC yet, and would really rather I don’t ruin the (short) story in it, go download it, play it, etc.

If you already have, or don’t care to, here’s the rundown of what’s in there:

Princess Sena is locked in a tower by an evil, insecure, neckbeared Wizard. After locking Sena in, Neckbeardo the Magnificent gets himself eaten by a dragon that he thought he had tamed. Sena wakes up a few days later and gets mail from Neckbeardo’s apprentice, Crazy Old Dude (Cod).

Cod tells Sena that in order to escape, she needs to write the King, who tells her that she needs to hire a local hero, Cowardice Maximus. Cowardice attempts to get to the tower to rescue Sena, but the dragon stops him and he decides to become a bard instead.

Sena writes back to Cod to see if he knows any dragon slayers. He gives her the contact information of Heroic Knight. Knight is busy, though, and directs her to his students, Swarmy Bastard and Drunken Idiot.

Sena writes to Idiot to get him to stay where he is while writing to Swarmy to get him to come to the local town. Swarmy is a bit of a creeper though, and Sena gets annoyed at his advances, while bewildered by Idiots letter written by his mother. Swarmy arrives a few days later in the local town and the pair tell Sena that they have a plan to take care of everything.

After Swarmy launches himself via “Shootypult” onto the roof, Sena sends Idiot to town with Swarmy’s coinpurse to hire a real hero. Idiot spends all the money drinking, but finds a flier for the Heroes Guild.

Throughout this, Sena receives mail from her bestie, Naddie, who helps her cope with the situation as best she can, mostly by distracting. She also gets updates on the state of the kingdom from her older brother, Richard. And Neckbeardo’s Junk Mail keeps piling up…

 

WHAT SPEAKS TO PEOPLE:

People tend to respond well to character driven stories. Look at BioWare. Look at any of the games that get praised for having great stories. From the Dragon Age series to Final Fantasy. Even Gone Home on the indie front. The story was told through character interaction rather than narration.

To us, this implies that the importance of storytelling in games revolves around the interaction model. In order to actually bring storytelling into the fold, the characters have to drive it. And this is of particular importance in games.

Games are sets of interaction models. So what if these interactions affect the game? What if the Girl doesn’t wind up with the Hero just because the writer said it was so? What if it resulted in the player having agency on the part of the Girl and the Hero being receptive or dismissive of it because of their reaction to that agency?

It brings to mind a lot of possibilities for storytelling without forcing the narrative to bend over backwards for the gameplay or vice versa.

WHY AREN’T MORE STORIES RELYING ON STRONGER CHARACTERS?

Well, for the most part it’s a marketing thing. The lowest hanging fruit assures the broadest appeal. So why bother with all that silly and expensive nuance? What does it actually bring to the table?

This is another reason that we wanted to do this project. Marketing is important, but it shouldn’t be making decisions and promises about a product. Marketing is a tool to get the people that should be interested in your product to be aware of your product.

But it does bring to mind the question of why writing a generic white male space marine is the lowest hanging fruit, so to speak. Primarily, it comes down to experience and comfort. A white male writer knows about being a white male. They have experience in the subject. Non-white, non-male writers also have experience. Not in being a white male, but in the white male story since it’s everywhere.

It’s more comfortable as a writer to write what you know rather than to know what you write. And it’s safer for a writer to not try to make waves by telling the same kinds of stories that they know have sold. That’s why the generic space marine is the lowest hanging fruit. And that’s why we don’t really have narratives driven by strong characters.

In order to write strong characters, they need to sound distinct, to think distinctly. And to really get them to be different people, the writer needs to have perspective. That’s a bit of a failing we have right now, and another reason that we need to get some feedback. On the story and the gameplay.

WHAT STORIES NEED TO BE TOLD?

We had at least one person suggest we’re telling this particular story for social justice reasons. That’s not really it. Honestly, it’s probably just because other save-the-world type stories have been done to death. Working on something that’s less common is just more interesting to write…

But SD is a stickler for characters.

So what elements should be in here? What doesn’t get covered in other game stories? SD and Mess have already had a few ideas, but it’s just a small drop in a very big ocean.

Looking for feedback about stories in games as a whole, but also special feedback about women in game stories. And especially need feedback from more ladies, since we don’t think anyone has ever really sat down and just asked women what they would like to see.

A FEW GOOD POINTS

Part of the thing that we need is feedback on the character interactions. For instance, SD needs a wealth of stories to know how exactly a misogynist hiding behind “chivalry” sounds. While the concept is rather straightforward, there are some things that experiential knowledge is needed for.

Another example of the necessity of feedback is the question “Is this funny?” SD has never thought of himself as a funny person. So he can only know if he finds something funny. Thus, the need for feedback on the humor, so that it can be honed correctly. We don’t want it to sound like a saltine when it escapes from the dungeon we’ve imprisoned it in on our hard drives… (That sort of illustrates the point.)

So that’s where all of you come in. Share your stories! If you need a spring board, here’s one: No doubt, this long winded stirred an experience in your brain. What was it? Let us hear about it! Your experiences and thoughts in regards to stories you’ve heard/played/watched, or that one time that one manager at that one company did that one thing.

Let’s kludge our way through this awkwardness together, and get some better stories out of it!

Author: Messica

A twitter bot which gained sentience, now doing freelance game development.

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