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I dreamed a game again — Fairytale Adventure

I’ve written here before about playing amazing games in dreams, and waking up, describing them eagerly to T, and realizing that actually they aren’t very good at all. The only one that’s actually been turned into a playable game is Nice One Squirrel (which was actually nothing like that in the dream, and even so is still a bit dull and fiddly to play).

This morning’s dream seemed to have a bit more potential for being fun, though. It’s a computer game which I guess is in the point-and-click adventure category. Your character explores a level through which are scattered an assortment of entities — people, animals, objects. You can interact with these by clicking on them. When you click on one, one of the following  things happens: it changes into something else, it gives you an object, or you assume its form (discarding your current form). Which of these happens depends on (a) what sort of entity it is, and (b) what your current form is. If you’ve assumed its form, you may now be able to see different things about the room you’re in (eg. secret doors may only be visible to some forms) — and of course other entities may now respond differently to you.

You complete the level by collecting (by being given, or picking up) a predetermined and known selection of objects. So to accomplish that you will probably have had to change form several times, so as to see all the required locations and to elicit the required set of responses from object-holding entities.

Now of course this could just be a chaotic and frustrating exercise of rushing around madly clicking on everything so as to eventually brute-force your way to the solution. The game is quite forgiving, in that you can save anywhere and should be able to reverse any action, but even so it could be quite bad. So the skill of the level design will be in making the “correct” sequence of actions tell a good story — such that if the player moves in a logical story-like way, their path will be reasonably straightforward.

Of course, lots of adventure games include these sorts of elements. But this one has a narrow enough set of parameters and types of thought required that it would be suitable for quite casual play.

My feeling is that the theme should be fairytales. The sorts of actions and transformations that take place in the game are quite common in fairytale, and people should be familiar enough with fairytale story logic to be able to work out that in order for the X to give you the Y, you have to be in the form of Z, etc.

Unfortunately I’m very out of date with computer games, so this is the point where you tell me that there are already a spillion-and-one games just like this. (And remind me that I never get around to developing most of my game ideas anyway.)

21 replies on “I dreamed a game again — Fairytale Adventure”

Sounds fun 🙂
I can’t think of any games that are just like it (but I’m not that in-touch either!) but it does remind me of the http://www.eyezmaze.com/ games – especially Galve’s Adventure. In this game there are various objects and things that when you click on them do various things – and the order of clicking changes it too (my explanation sucks, but it’s a quick game to get into).

Mm, I’ve seen quite a few like that — it seems to me they tend to be mostly about visual ingenuity to guess the manipulations required, rather than what might make sense in a story-like way.

I’ve not heard of anything like this.

the skill of the level design will be in making the “correct” sequence of actions tell a good story

Yep, I think you’ve got the key point here. Your gameplay here is of the “get inside the designer’s head” variety. Lots of fun if you’re on the same wavelength as the designer. Not so much otherwise.

And remind me that I never get around to developing most of my game ideas anyway.

This is a good thing provided that the subset you do develop are your best ideas!

Lots of fun if you’re on the same wavelength as the designer. Not so much otherwise.

Mm, this is it. But I would hope one could (to some extent) select for players more likely to be on the same wavelength, by careful design of the visual trappings, blurbs, etc relating to the game. If said wavelength is based around a pre-existing narrative mindset (eg “Cthulhoid”), that must help too.

Unfortunately the subset that I do develop tends to be “whichever is nearest the top of my mind when I unexpectedly have some free time”. I ought to be more organized about it!

Also, I imagine there’s a component of time required to develop as well?

I’d be very wary of attempting a project like this one because it sounds like a huge amount of work!

Mm, I was thinking that the most do-able way would be to first develop it as a text-based adventure (/ interactive fiction) using one of the established dev kits for such. See if people liked that, and if so then try and get someone else keen to help with the difficult stuff required to do it in a graphical game engine (for which I’ve currently got no idea about what might be suitable). I don’t see it as a possible money-making project, so I can’t really afford to take time away from paid work for it.

But, well, I’m not going to have any time at all for it this side of June at the earliest, and by then something else will probably have come up…

I played a bit with Inform 7 last year as part of a (purely recreational) project was running. It was a lot of fun to write in, but as a language it’s actually not much more efficient than doing the same thing in PERL. The main advantage was the huge amount of stuff the libraries give you for free.

It occurs to me that since only three different things ever happen in the game (see something, receive something, change form), level design here can be almost completely separate from the UI. As you imply, the same “story” could make equal sense as a text adventure, a bunch of clickable still images, or as a fully-animated hoojamaflip.

So, if you can provide a framework, there’s a strong case here for user-generated content. In-jokes work better if your expected audience are in on them, so a dragon in a Tolkien fanfic game behaves differently from a dragon in a Pratchett fanfic game.

If the engine can combine objects which have full animation for the transformations and whatnot, with objects which don’t (yet), then it might all work fairly smoothly while still giving designers the freedom to invent arbitrary objects with minimal effort.

I’m not sure how one goes about turning user-generated content into dollars, but there certainly seem to be a lot of people who believe it to be possible.

I’m assuming, by the way, that if people enjoy playing the levels, and if the tools are there and work well, then they will enjoy designing their own, even if they aren’t usually games modders.

This might be completely false. But the level design kit I’m imagining is basically a graphical chart of what happens when X clicks Y, plus a means of assigning descriptions, graphics and sounds to the various forms and interactions. So providing working tools is hopefully not the insurmountable challenge it is with many games.

Mm, that’s the sort of thing I’m imagining too. I don’t know of any game where it’s really at all practical for casual users to create levels, but this idea is limited enough in scope that it might be.

(Of course, if they’re really casual, then the levels they create will be rubbish 😉

there certainly seem to be a lot of people who believe it to be possible

Call me again when one of them makes their first dollar!

(In the games industry at the moment the received wisdom is the opposite – that it’s basically impossible to make money from user created content.)

Mm, my feeling is you can raise interest and extend user enjoyment by letting users create content — but I don’t see any realistic way to make money in any direct sense.

Call me again when one of them makes their first dollar!

There is that, but belief can be a powerful thing. My best-guess strategy at the moment for making money out of user-generated game content would be to take it to someone who is currently making money out of user-generated non-game content, sell it to them before they notice that it just doesn’t work, and run for the hills. But as I say, I don’t actually know how to do all that. I know you need numbers, and enough ad revenue to make it look as though you might some day break even. From what you say, it sounds as though you also need a subject isolated from the games industry.

Mark Zuckerberg would be an excellent mark if he could be hit. In revenge for his infamous business card and other such wankery.

In revenge for his infamous business card and other such wankery.

I thought that was pretty funny, actually. But if you need revenge, console yourself with the thought that he failed to sell FaceBook back when it looked valuable, which likely cost him millions of dollars.

It sounds a bit like a cross between the Grow games and a bit like the Escape the room games (which are normally horribly obtuse, in my view). I do like room escape games, but the logic is often horrible.

The IF world did have a series of one room games, which were kinda fun.

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