Category Archives: Blog

Inventory Memos and other controversies.

By Christian on

When we designed the interaction system of “Ceasing to be Her Demise”, our latest game and the final episode of our “Fragments of Being Her Demise” trilogy, we knew one game design decision would surely cause controversy: The player can‘t just pick up every object he runs into but Selina, the protagonist of the series, decides by herself if she picks it up or not. Coming from other point & click adventure games, this could feel awkward. We are very aware that the “Loot every object you come across”-principle is as old as adventure games are, but we decided to try another approach.

In „Being Her Darkest Friend“, the predecessor of Selina‘s final episode, there is one puzzle where she has to burn a book in a trashcan. She has to use a burning cigarette located in an ashtray nearby, but she also has to be know that she needs to burn the book at all to pick up the cigarette. When she interacts with the cigarette without knowing about the book, she just won’t pick it up. Why should she carry a stinking, burning cigarette with her? She has to interact with the book in the trashcan once, so she knows what to do with the cigarette and then she will pick it up. Totally understandable that this caused confusion among a lot of players.

For Ceasing to be Her Demise we tried to solve this issue by introducing the „memo“ system: When Selina interacts with objects that could be useful later, but are not at the moment, a memo-icon appears in the inventory. This item is purely passive and the only interaction possible is examining it. But every time the player interacts with the memo, he gets information about the object. This should help to find clues on how and why to pick up the object or on how to solve the related puzzle.

So, if this memo-system would have already existed in Being Her Darkest Friend, Selina would have got a „Cigarette“ memo when she interacted with the cigarette without knowing that the book needs to be burned.

We‘re pretty happy with the memo-system in Ceasing to be Her Demise, but since a lot of players complain about not being able to just pick up and combine everything they find in the game, we‘d like to point out the two main reasons that lead to our design decision:

1) We don‘t like the looting-aspect of most adventure games. Being able to pick up everything quickly fills up the inventory and when the number of carried items exceeds about seven, it usually gets hard for the player to keep track. Hiding all the items in a separate off-screen inventory which has to be manually opened adds to the problem. The player easily gets stuck at puzzles because of the overwhelming and confusing number of items and seemingly possible interaction options. As a result, he starts to randomly combine every single item with every single other item and object in the game the trial-and-error-way.

This is a problem that has existed since the dawn of adventure games and has never really been solved, but only bypassed by giving the protagonist a reason to pick up (aka steal) everything he finds (Pirates anyone?). In our opinion, that‘s one of the reasons why the most successful point & click adventure games of the past almost always have been of a comical and cartoonish nature.

2) Selina, the protagonist, is not a mindless puppet who does everything the player commands her to, but she decides for herself, according to her current knowledge. The player isn‘t a puppet master, but more of a director, who only pushes Selina in the right direction, but the actual actions are her own.
This comes with a cost: It only works if a player plays the game for the very first time and has exactly the same knowledge as the protagonist. When the player plays the game again and already knows the solution of all puzzles, he can easily get annoyed by Selina, who just doesn‘t want to do things because she has less knowledge than the player. On the other hand we found out that in modern times the vast majority of players never plays a game more than once – or he watches a Let‘s Play video of someone who is playing the game for the first time. So that‘s a price we are willing to pay.

Summarized, that‘s our take on how to solve, or at least reduce those ancient adventure-game problems in Ceasing to be Her Demise:

1) Selina is not a mindless puppet controlled by the player, but makes her own decisions based on what her current knowledge is.
2) If it doesn’t make sense to pick up an item at the moment, but it will be useful later, the item will get a passive memo-inventory object. This prevents the player from randomly playing the „desperately combine everything with everything“-meta game.
3) Drastically reduce the number of items in the game world, so the protagonist can only pick up and carry around few items and they always stay in his short time memory. We think that the player should never carry around more than seven items at the same time.
4) Never hide inventory items in off-screen menus but always show them on screen. This way the player always sees them and never forgets about them.


Blog: AFoH Design Principles Validation

By Christian on

A while ago we published our twelve so-called “Design Principles“. In a perfect world, a perfectly crafted game would fulfill every single one of these principle, but when we produced “A Fragment of Her” for the Point & Click Jam 2014, there were several constraints which prevented us from fulfilling all of them. Let’s check and see which principles were fulfilled and which were not. Have fun 🙂

1 – RESPECT THE GAME.
AFoH is mostly reading texts, clicking on a couple of obvious things, and reading texts again. Because not much “game” made it into the title, we called it an “Interactive Short Story” instead.
Verdict: Failed.

2 – CUT THE CUTSCENE.
AFoH is basically one big cutscene with loads of texts, connected by some light interactive elements.
Verdict: Failed.

3 – DON’T TAKE CONTROL AWAY.
Control is constantly taken away from the player. Most of the time the player character even walks around and leaves the scenes on her own.
Verdict: Failed.

4 – GRANT QUICK ACCESS.
AFoH has no classical title screen and the game starts instantly after clicking “START”. There’s even a web-demo where interested players can test the game withouth having to install it. On the other hand, there’s no save and load options, so players who quit in halfway through have to start over.
Verdict: Passed. (More or less)

5 – FUN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ART.
We tried to make a fun, short, interesting, and also a bit demanding experience, but it wasn’t our goal to create an artistic masterpiece the academics would still talk about in years to come.
Verdict: Passed.

6 – FUN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHALLENGE.
Telling a story straight forward was more important to us than challenging the player with tricky puzzles.
Verdict: Passed.

7 – CHALLENGE IS OPTIONAL.
The only challenge in AFoH is to get as many information about the game world as possible. Going back to Selina’s department more often than necessary to examine everything can be considered as optional.
Verdict: Passed.

8 – DON’T PUNISH.
There’s no fail state and the player can’t do anything wrong. For the few easy puzzles in the game, we tried to give as many hints as possible.
Verdict: Passed.

9 – DON’T LOCK THE PLAYER.
In AFoH, the player is locked all the time, she has to read a lot of texts and she has to solve the (easy) puzzles in an strictly pre-defined order.
Verdict: Failed.

10 – BE SHORT, BE FUN.
AFoH is very short and players seem to like it.
Verdict: Passed.

11 – GAME ENDING FIRST.
Right from the start of the production, how the game whould end was very important to us.
Verdict: Passed.

12 – SOUND. USE THE POTENTIAL.
We tried to achieve the right balance between athmospheric, quiet sequences, and dramatic sequences accompanied by leitmotifs. We also created and used many sounds, some of them have even several different variations.
Verdict: Passed


Blog: There is more in the diary than just the map.

By Christian on

It was the end of June 2012 when I watched Episode 2 of the Double Fine Adventure video documentary and heard about “Free Writing” for the first time.As a big fan of the old-school way of taking notes by simply putting ink (or graphite) on paper, it inspired me to give free writing a try. So I bought a notebook and started to write down everything that came to mind.
To be honest, I never managed to “free write” like it’s supposed to be done. Instead, the notebook became more of a mix of a personal diary, a sketch book, and a notebook (for taking notes) in the classical way. And it’s quite handy for tracking the progress and direction the project takes, too.

In my opinion, working on paper is still the best and quickest way to work out ideas. I love working on the computer, too, of course. But I think the process of working out and developing fresh ideas is best done on paper.

Now, 21 months after I bought the notebook, which I fondly named “Grail Diary”, I finished its last page. Its successor, the “Grail Diary, Part 2” is already waiting eagerly to be filled with stuff the odd grey mass called “my brain” spills out.
GrailDiary06Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
Christian
aka humaldo


Blog: 2014.

By Christian on

Another year is gone and it’s now 2014. Only a few days ago, we called 2013 “now”. But it has changed, in the same way that this very moment will be gone soon. And as promised, it’s gone and a new “now” is here. And now this one is gone as well.

Time is constantly passing by. That’s a fact, isn’t it? But – what is time anyway? Is it just the accumulation of countless “nows”, every one replaced by the next one? Does time even exist at all? Or is it only a concept, purely made-up by us human beings to be able to better deal with the innumerable challenges of our daily lives? So many “nows” are passing by all the time. So many “nows” are gone forever and only remain in our memories. It’s just not fair – the “nows” are so short, while the memories are there forever.

Who doesn’t wish she could just stop the flow of time, if only for a moment? Or even rewind it, at least a few seconds or minutes, to enjoy previous, precious “nows” again? Or to make some wrong decisions of former “nows” undone? Or perhaps just to witness them again to gain a better understanding of why things happened the way they did?

When we – the chronerion entertainment team – are looking back at the numerous “nows” of the past year, we don’t feel the urge to rewind. Things evolved pretty well and virtually everything runs the way we hoped it would. But there’s still a long way to go. In the “now” of 2013 we stepped out of the dark and showed the world that we are here. In the “now” of 2014 we will continue to work hard to realize the vision we have had since the long bygone “nows” of the last couple of years.

We hope that 2014 will be the year where we’re finally able to show you more of the things we’re working on. As you may know, we’re in the pre-production of our first project (working title “The.Game”) and most of the things which are going on right now are probably not that exciting to outsiders. Countless Word and Excel files, countless rough scribbles on paper and post-its, countless discussions, countless discarded ideas, countless times where we started from scratch again.

That’s the reason why it’s so silent at chronerion entertainment at the moment. But we promise, as soon the real production starts, we’ll provide you with more frequent news, we’ll regularly update our blog and we’ll produce more YouTube webisodes.

Unfortunately, we don’t know yet when this will become “now”. Until then, we’d be very happy if you connect with us via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or/and IndieDB, so you’ll be informed about every single piece of news immediately.

Thank you very much for your attention – and your patience. We very much appreciate it.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the “now” of 2014!

Best whishes,
Christian
aka humaldo


Blog: If Mr. Gilbert would make another Monkey Island

By Christian on

RonGilbert2011

Yesterday Ron “Grumpy Gamer” Gilbert published a blog entry on his website discussing his ideas on how he would make a new Monkey Island game if he had the money, and, more importantly, the rights to the series.

This post is a must-read anyway, but I’d like to highlight some excerpts here anyway:

Three – It would be a retro game that harkened back to Monkey Island 1 and 2. […] Nice crisp retro art, but augmented by the hardware we have today: parallaxing, depth of field, warm glows, etc.  All the stuff we wanted to do back in 1990 but couldn’t. […] It’s authentic.  It doesn’t need 3D. […]

Six – Full-on inventory.  Nice big juicy icons full of pixels. […]  They will be so nice you’ll want to lick them. […]

Nine – I would rebuild SCUMM. […] It was a language built around making adventure games and rapid iteration. […] I’d build an engine and a language where funny ideas can be laughed about at lunch and be in the game that afternoon. SCUMM did that. It’s something that is getting lost today.

Ten – It would be made with a very small team. Not 30 or 20, but 10 or less.  It means the game would take longer, but it would be more personal and crafted with love. […]

Eleven – […] I’ve spent too much of my life creating and making things other people own. Not only would I allow you to make Monkey Island fan games, but I would encourage it. […]

Seventeen – The game would be the game I wanted to make. I don’t want the pressure of trying to make the game you want me to make. […]

Ron really knows his gig. I wish him all the luck in this world and say: thank you for the dreams!

Sincerely,

Christian
aka humaldo


Blog: Sharing thoughts is a good thing. So let’s do it!

By Christian on

Welcome to the chronerion entertainment blog!

We believe thoughts and knowledge thrive best when shared with others. That’s why we’re going to talk about interesting things here in our blog and keep you updated on the progress and state of our projects as regularily as it is possible for us.

You are very welcome to comment on our blog to give us direct feedback! For the ones who prefer the more discreet route, we love to get email too.

Thanks for the attention!

Christian
aka humaldo