Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bottling Emotion

As the guys scatter the last few crumbs of love upon Margrave III, I busy myself paving the way for Margrave IV. We have map; we have intro and four acts (and corresponding reversals); we have the core of a design document and a style guide; and we will soon have the emotional topography guide. You know, I've never seen one of these in my decade of game developing; and yet it seems to me a fundamental guide... provided that you consider a game as an experience.
With this guide, the chaps are able to make informed choices, and know where to stipple in sinister shadows, or where the apple blossom falls; they can decide between melodies beaten breakneck from a xylophone, or a barren soundscape of groaning wind; the chimney stacks are garnished with fat pots, stuffed with birds' nests, or they are crooked and tall and wouldn't seem out of place in a death camp.
Because it all adds up - all these details pull up on their scooters to dance to the same tune.

By the same token, I made the decision to tailor puzzles to the specifications of the mood. So, rather than wondering whether to place, say, a 'match the pairs' puzzle or a 'figure out the equation' puzzle - rather than flitting about brain nodes like an electro-chemical butterfly - I began to select 'catch those wacky boggle-eyed critters' for lighter moods, and 'find the stabby, slimy, gnarled objects in this scene of dolls nailed through the face to broken mirrors' for... ahem... darker moods.

Really, we don't do much more than that. Our plots... our stories... our puzzles and riddles... are the bones upon which we drape emotional flesh. If the reader, or the player, feels nothing, then we fail.

So wouldn't it be quite something to be able to capture and bottle all manner of emotions!
Every now and then, I stumble upon something which makes me feel a certain way... which invokes in me a visceral reaction. I have to catalogue all these stimulae, and I kinda see them as bottled emotions. However, they're probably not distilled at that point, and it can be a hardy challenge attempting to filter the essence from each bottle. I know the contents of bottle A make me feel angry, but why?
Some recent visceral hits: A google image search which filled my monitor with people pointing at me (resulting emotion: paranoia); a stream of fire lanterns passing over my garden in the dark and rain (resulting emotion: child-like wonder; maybe a bit of pathos in there too); the music of Grouper (resulting emotion: hmm... very complicated... like I'm peacefully dying on a mossy bed in a still forest).

If I may, I'd like to share a handful of dream cards with you. The mechanics behind the cards are simple and scalable, and were tested and tuned using bits of paper. Think of this as a plot if you will: once it's stable and charged with interest, it's time to paper with emotions. And that's when to pull out those stoppers and sip!

1 comment:

esruel said...

Well over my head lol Most things are in the gaming world!
I am off shopping on Tuesday, so will look the Margrave series up. Will give it a go