Who Knew That Making a Game Would be Harder than Criticizing Them?

Over the last few classes, my group had been spending time in developing a concept for a video game of our own! This whole time in class, we have been playing and dissecting games from the perspective of players, but now we got to experience what it was like to put a story of our own into the form of an interactive, non-linear framework of a text-based game. Even making a bare-bones prototype up for a game demonstrated how intensive this form of storytelling can be. This is why my group had a good method for breaking up the task into fundamental parts: story, gameplay, and marketing.

Once we had understood the capabilities of the Twine software – learning how to make branching paths, actually coding the options, and writing in the bar effects, expansion of the game became much easier. Honestly, most of our time was spent on learning how to code the many exponential paths each option resulted in. Our “gimmick” was having the character wake up day after day and make seemingly repetitive menial decisions to emulate the Groundhog Day effect of the pandemic, where days seem to be the same events over and over. We then were able to integrate an overarching story through our use of a frame story, where the character exposits by writing their college essay, or dream ranting. Overall, making just this demo of a text-based game showed me just how challenging game development can be, giving me a whole new sense of respect for both indie and triple-A studios making new, amazing games.

Twine Game

Overview

For this project, you will work in groups to develop a Twine game that focuses on a social issue related to this course. It might be a personal story, such as the one in Depression Quest, or it might be more process-oriented, such as a game which walks players through structuring a college curriculum. It might be a resource management game that explores, for instance, the economic realities of being a student during the coronavirus pandemic. The possibilities for types of games and themes to explore are practically limitless.

Twine

Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. You can develop browser-based text games -- and, with a bit of coding, you can add images, variables, conditional logic, and/or CSS -- that walk the player through a series of decisions that lead to multiple different outcomes.

You can download the software from The Twinery at the link above. It's a relatively easy program to use, though you should expect it to take some probing and exploring to figure out how to make it do what you want it to. There is lots of help available on the Twine Wiki.

Role and Responsibilities

All members of the team will share responsibilities for the project and all of you should work in each of these areas; however, it is useful to have one or two persons designated with primary responsibility for an area so that the group functions in a healthy manner.

  • Asset Manager: This person is responsible for gathering game text, images, and other game assets from the entire team, organizing it, ensuring that it's all fair to use, and that each asset has proper attribution information. Later in the process this person probably serves as a bit of a project manager, keeping everyone aware of agreed upon deadlines.
  • Game Compiler: This person is responsible for compiling the assets into the finished game and play-testing it to be certain that it works.
  • Story Manager: This person is responsible for ensuring the voice of the game stays consistent, in spite of having multiple authors, and that all entries meet the expected level of grammatical and stylistic sophistication appropriate to the game.

Requirements

You do not need to have a finished game at the end of the project. I want you to develop enough of a game that you can show it as a prototype and explain what social issue you are engaging in, how your response is a gameful response to that situation, and why you are structuring the game in the way you are. You should be able to explain what additional elements you might add if you had the time and resources to flesh it out more fully (in other words, "if we had 2 more months to work on this and the funds to hire a dedicated programmer or illustrator, etc. during that time, here's what we would direct them to produce for the game and why").

Reflection post prompt here.