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Update #31: Enter the Story Zone

Story Josh Sawyer Chris Avellone Project Eternity

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#1
Adam Brennecke

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qto3oORvRf4&feature=youtu.be

Today's update isn't about lore as much as it is about the focus and process of developing our central plot. I'm not going to spoil any details of the story, but I do want to share what we're working on.

When we develop stories at Obsidian, we often ask ourselves (and each other), "What's the conflict and why do I care about it?" and, "What is my range of roles in resolving the conflict?" "RPG" means a lot of different things to different people. For us, it's important to let the player decide who he or she is in the story. That means when you set aside class, race, magic missiles, and all of the other goodies, the player needs to be able to define his or her own motivations, attitudes toward others, and ways of resolving problems in the story.

Finding the right level of player freedom and clarity of purpose can be difficult. It's tricky to develop scenarios that can convincingly motivate characters of many races and classes, many backgrounds, and many moral and ethical stances. A conflict that is too "hands-off" or impersonal (e.g. a political conflict that doesn't directly involve the player) can make it difficult for players to connect to it. A conflict that is extremely personal may rub players the wrong way if it assumes too much about their character or if it feels like their choices don't have a large enough impact on the world around them.

Because this is the first story your characters will shape in this world, we want to start with something small that grows into something larger. As we have hinted before, the story opens with the player's character witnessing a supernatural event that puts him or her in a difficult situation. The full ramifications of what you become a part of are not immediately apparent, but you quickly become aware that you have... new problems. Dealing with these problems makes you realize that resolving your situation is inexorably linked to the fates of many others. In some cases, these "others" are individuals. In others, they are much larger groups of people. You will get to interact with them all in various ways over the course of the story. If we do a good job in developing these groups and characters, the decisions you make in the course of resolving your problems will be interesting and difficult to make.

That's what we're aiming for, but that doesn't necessarily tell you what we've been doing. On this project, the process started with a rough idea for a story and a theme that went along with it. The story itself wasn't that important; it was just an idea to get us moving. What followed were critiques of the story's premise, the unfolding of the plot, the player's motivation and involvement, and the scope of the conflicts the player faces from the beginning through the end. For the past few weeks, we've been exchanging various small ideas, big ideas, minor tweaks, radical overhauls, and brand new storylines. Through it all, we regularly return to the questions I posed up above: "What's the conflict and why do I care about it?" and, "What is my range of roles in resolving the conflict?" We can (and do) write about all sorts of character and location ideas, subplots and interesting takes on themes, but until we answer those questions in a way we believe will be compelling to your characters and all that they may be, we still have work to do.

We like to develop fun ideas we come up with and every once in a while we delight at some clever character or situation we think of, but for us, it's more important for you to feel clever, for you to feel like you can take control of a situation -- by whatever means you see fit. Until we believe we have a few gems on our hands, we'll keep the Story Gnomes digging in the mines on your behalf.

Thanks for reading.

Update by Josh Sawyer

Posted Image

PS: Chris says he will start playing Arcanum mid-January.
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#2
Hellfell

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Props to Mr. Avellone. Arcanum is like a wife, you hate her and you love her.

Edited by Hellfell, 15 November 2012 - 05:03 PM.


#3
Techrocket9

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I just hope that you aren't forced to be the good guy, or a good guy who happens to do a lot of bad things but ultimately saves everyone.

What if I want to take over the world with forbidden magic? An evil ending lets you take the plot in different and interesting directions, allowing the exploration of more sophisticated literary themes and potentially doubling the replayability.

Edited by Techrocket9, 15 November 2012 - 04:57 PM.

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#4
Hassat Hunter

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Anyone think upgrades may be a bit too frequent?

I would rather like it when they could just, well, tell us stuff. Rather than mumble stuff. Just because there need to be weekly or so updates. While there is no clear definition of stuff.
Or am I alone there?
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#5
Hormalakh

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I'd be OK with a supernatural mace-bashing story. That's cool with me. I sat and tried to think about how it would be possible to actually have a story centered around any old character, and boy it's TOUGH! How much background do you give them, do we use the amnesia trope, do other people recognize our character (which ones?), etc.

All I have to say is 1) Josh Sawyer is hilarious 2) You guys have a tough nut to crack 3) My colored laundry does run, anyone know what to do about that?

Very cool update! THANKS!

Anyone think upgrades may be a bit too frequent?

I would rather like it when they could just, well, tell us stuff. Rather than mumble stuff. Just because there need to be weekly or so updates. While there is no clear definition of stuff.
Or am I alone there?


You're alone here. I want to see how they make games too. These last two updates have been great! And them talking about it gives us the players a chance to give our input too. If they just tell us everything after it's been set, then we can't really talk about what inspires us.

Edited by Hormalakh, 15 November 2012 - 05:06 PM.

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#6
Gyges

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I'd be OK with a supernatural mace-bashing story. That's cool with me. I sat and tried to think about how it would be possible to actually have a story centered around any old character, and boy it's TOUGH! How much background do you give them, do we use the amnesia trope, do other people recognize our character (which ones?), etc.

All I have to say is 1) Josh Sawyer is hilarious 2) You guys have a tough nut to crack 3) My colored laundry does run, anyone know what to do about that?

Very cool update! THANKS!


Anyone think upgrades may be a bit too frequent?

I would rather like it when they could just, well, tell us stuff. Rather than mumble stuff. Just because there need to be weekly or so updates. While there is no clear definition of stuff.
Or am I alone there?


You're alone here. I want to see how they make games too. These last two updates have been great! And them talking about it gives us the players a chance to give our input too. If they just tell us everything after it's been set, then we can't really talk about what inspires us.


Hell no! This time, theres one line of communication, the one between the studio and us. Sure, we don't really have that much power over the project, but because they update so frequently, they can quicker hear our reactions to aspects of the game they are considering to implement.
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#7
Greensleeve

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One thing to say. Avellone as logger is awesome.
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#8
InsanerPowder

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When I used to run D&D games, I came up with a cool mechanic that led to some really cool plot lines. I would tell the players about a bunch of stuff going on. They could choose what they wanted to participate in, which was often nothing I had planned! However, for every story, things would progress at a certain time, whether or not they were involved. For example, a village on the outskirts asking for help may be overrun if the players take their time getting involved. I would draw every step in the story out on 3x5 cards, and put story arcs in one row (y=n), then arrange them by time along the x-axis. Finally, I would try to find ways where the stories could interact.

I was fortunate that only one path could ever be traversed by my players, and that I ran most of my games ad hoc, but I wanted to share my mechanic with you, in case you found it useful.

Cheers! Happy coding!
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#9
thracian

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when will we see another screenshot?
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#10
AGX-17

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In mid-January, the "Chris Avellone starts playing Arcanum" date will be pushed back 6 months. 6 months later it will be revealed that the project codenamed "Puerto Rico" had been cancelled 4 months prior.

But whatever, how badass would it be if Josh Sawyer bludgeoned an intruder with that mace?

Edited by AGX-17, 15 November 2012 - 05:22 PM.

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#11
Osvir

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Some of my own answers to the two questions asked. I never realize I can just post in this thread~
http://forums.obsidi...31-2-questions/

#12
Hormalakh

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I just hope that you aren't forced to be the good guy, or a good guy who happens to do a lot of bad things but ultimately saves everyone.

What if I want to take over the world with forbidden magic? An evil ending lets you take the plot in different and interesting directions, allowing the exploration of more sophisticated literary themes and potentially doubling the replayability.


I feel like it can actually get more complicated than that. It's not just "Are you good or evil?" It can range:
  • Who knows you in the town that you start in?
  • What have you been doing before starting your adventure? Does that give you any advantages?
  • How much of the game world should you really know (Arcanum failed here...) about?
  • What have you been doing with your life until now?
  • Do you have a family? Wife? Children? Parents?
  • Where does your character start? Why was he/she there?
  • and so on and so on.....
From what I understood from the update, it seems like OEI wants us to be able to play as many different characters as possible from the beginning of the adventure and for us to fill in as much background story as we want to. Therefore, they can't "railroad" out characters too much by giving them too much background.

http://penny-arcade....ode/bad-writing
http://penny-arcade....story-structure
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#13
Cantousent

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I want folks who want to play the 'bad guy' to find something fulfilling in the game.

I want folks who want to swim around in 'morally grey' areas to find something fulfilling in the game.

I want folks who don't give a crap and just want to make it through the moral questions without losing sleep on any of the answers to find something fulfilling in the game.

I want folks who will go out of their way and forgoe immediate benefits in order to be the good guy to find something fulfilling in the game.

Folks who want to be the good, bad, grey, or don't give a crap guy don't always need immediate concrete fulfillment. I've seen Obsidz skill at giving rewards to players in terms of story and consequence that transcend game mechanic rewards and I expect they will manage it here. In fact, I will only be damanding about one thing from Obsidz, only one way I'll be a royal pain in the ass, and that's about the consequence of our roles. I won't speak for the "it's soooo new and novel to play a bad guy" folks. They can undoubtedly speak for themselves. Likewise for grey and don't give a crap folks. I want my good guy character to get rewarded in ways that don't end up feeling like 'lawful stupid' or conveniently compensated in like manner. Folks who are truly dedicated to being evil or good will follow those paths regardless of game mechanic rewards. Sure, maybe access to one or two traits, items, or skills constricted by making the hard good/bad choices, but, for the most part, the reward should be in staying on the path. Playing either truly good or bad should be your choice.

...And, this is the hard part, while there will be 'good' and 'bad' choices, I don't want them to be immediately or concretely apparent at every point. I want layers of consequences where the meaning and outcome of your actions become apparent over time so some goody two shoes, golden haired savior wannabe like me suddenly realizes that all those hard decisions, all those terrible things I've done, might not have been for the good I thought they would be. Maybe I'll have to live with the constant question of whether or not all those noble decisions actually made life better for anyone, even myself. Maybe I want that. ...Or maybe I'm convinced I was right despite the nagging doubts some other, less noble crusader would have had.

See, I'm not asking for much, right? I'm not such a demanding son of a bitch. I just want a story that surpasses even PS:T or New Vegas. That's all.
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#14
Muzzle

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Chris must finish Arcanum and it better be EPIC!!! He's gonna love it's soundtrack too...

Also Mace weapons rock and so do Morningstars so we need a lot of those in game!!

Edited by Muzzle, 15 November 2012 - 05:45 PM.


#15
JWestfall

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Did Josh say "punch the dolphin of choice?"

Because if he did, that was awesome.

Also, I must say I am intrigued as to what this "event" that the PC witness could be, and why it leads to the main story conflict.

Anyone think upgrades may be a bit too frequent?

I would rather like it when they could just, well, tell us stuff. Rather than mumble stuff. Just because there need to be weekly or so updates. While there is no clear definition of stuff.
Or am I alone there?


I'm fine with these - they are a small look into the development process, which is something of interest for me. And Josh is amusing. Obviously, just cannot expect anything like the updates during Kickstarter - meaty stuff likely has to wait until things are ironed out, which could be long time.
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#16
Muzzle

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Did Josh say "punch the dolphin of choice?"

Because if he did, that was awesome.

Also, I must say I am intrigued as to what this "event" that the PC witness could be, and why it leads to the main story conflict.


Anyone think upgrades may be a bit too frequent?

I would rather like it when they could just, well, tell us stuff. Rather than mumble stuff. Just because there need to be weekly or so updates. While there is no clear definition of stuff.
Or am I alone there?


I'm fine with these - they are a small look into the development process, which is something of interest for me. And Josh is amusing. Obviously, just cannot expect anything like the updates during Kickstarter - meaty stuff likely has to wait until things are ironed out, which could be long time.


I enjoy these little updates as well, a great number of us have already paid for the game so i am happy with any random bits of mumbling!

plus I have a mancrush on Josh so the more of him on video the better!

Josh Morningstars please!

Edited by Muzzle, 15 November 2012 - 05:52 PM.

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#17
Malau

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and all I can think of is this


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#18
Ignatius

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LOL @ the statements at the end of the video.

#19
Muzzle

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Make sure Chris is nice to Virgil on when he plays Arcanum!

#20
Ieo

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Chris Avellone bobble-head collectible for future PE funding?

Just kidding.

Good general overview of story development, thanks!

Edit:

OH. And more art in the first Sagani style. Plz. :devil:

Edited by Ieo, 15 November 2012 - 06:25 PM.

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