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  • Emotional Context In Decision Design

    [01.07.20]
    - Artur Ganszyniec

  • On Personalization

    The mood simulator was just a specific, and the most universal, case when we used variables to personalize the story. In short, it worked like this: the main decision in a scene branched the story, but some of the decisions also changed a variable value (be it fatigue, the strength of a relationship with another character, or just noting that a certain event took place). The variable then fed back to scenes down the story-tree, no matter which of the branches we explored.

    We used this simple and effective mechanism both to personalize small details of the stories and to decide about the outcomes of whole character arcs.

    The details can be as small as whether Henriette is a tea or a coffee person. The first choice the player makes about their favorite beverage reflects on the whole long sailing to Antarctica-with a steaming cup of tea (or coffee) in hand. Sometimes the changes are about people. Depending on how the player directs Adília's relation with her husband, she talks about him using his name "Jose" or coldly calls him "the husband." The mechanism is crucial in the story's finale, when the available options that shape Adília's future, are gated by variables reflecting her relationships with various people in her life.

    Looking Back

    We wanted to tell stories that were real and personal, and we knew that we would be working in a small team and within the limits set by our research. Those factors advised against extensive branching of the story (which was our first idea), yet we wanted to keep the experience varied among different players, and we wanted it to feel personal. 

    The solution we reached for, was to use the player's decision points not only to branch the story but also to set different variables, which then fed back to the following scenes, modifying them to reflect how the player directed the character.

    The most universal and crucial of the variables, were stress and fatigue, which we used to track the mood of the characters. The mood then influenced how surroundings were described, providing changing and personal context for every decision. Thanks to this, using a limited number of story branching points, we aimed to create a significantly higher number of unique decision situations.

    We learned how to use the mechanisms as the production progressed, so the implementation is not perfect, but we believed the idea was interesting enough to share it with you.

    If you have similar (or totally different) experiences from your productions, I would love to share stories.

    And, while you're here, you might be interested in my post on Slow Gaming, a philosophy we try to put in motion in our games.

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