Menu Bar and Story Planning

This week I’ve been trying to tidy up the interface a bit.

The first order of play was the menu bar. Initially I shoved everything onto the same page, which was never going to be sustainable! My plan is to have a themed menu bar – along the lines of A Dark Room where there is a theme to the screens – so currently I have outside and inside as well as an options page.

The idea here is that outside will contain things like buildings and exploration; things that you do outside the cottage. Inside contains rituals and a list of unlocked things; things that you would do inside the cottage. There’s also an options will contain non gameplay items. There’s a few bits of theming left here – really the names of these pages is a bit uninspiring. I particularly like the idea of making “Options” into “Basement” or something like that, where there’s mysterious tomes that can transcend reality (eg export save, or give you stats about what you have done).

Story Ideas

Its sort of strange how a post about menu bars turns into a post about story, but the simple fact of having the words Inside and Outside means I feel that I have to justify them in the game world! There are questions such as

  • Why do we have these tabs?
  • Which is the first tab you see?
  • How is the player going to know there are other tabs?

In order to solve these problems, we need to think about the story.

Story Idea 1 – Memory Loss

One idea at the moment is to have you simply appear outside the cottage with no knowledge of anything and give you two options: Explore the forest or enter the cottage. Each of these options is a one-time action that unlocks the inside and outside pages, and gives some tutorial. This gives a bit of story too, placing you at a cottage in a forest which you don’t know about – Why are you there? Where did the cottage comes from? These are things we can answer during the gameplay – and that gives an main story arc that you need to discover what and where you are. Perhaps you can read tomes in the cottage? Perhaps exploration will lead to an event?

Story Idea 2 – Summoned Demon

If the player didn’t build the cottage, then perhaps there’s another story: You are summoned into the cottage by it’s current owner. The owner then tells you something with their dying breath, setting the scene. You can then have an initial action for leaving the cottage to explore, leading to the forage action. This has the bonus of a pretty clear origin for where the cottage came from, but leaves an interesting question: who are you? Where did you come from? It also leads (possibly) into an interesting reset concept; rather than a ritual of summoning, you could try to force yourself to be the target of a summon instead, supplanting the earlier version of you that was initially summoned with a better you.

Story Idea 3 – Quantum Leap

It is a dark stormy night, and you are wandering in the forest – lets say that your car broke down and you saw a light through the trees. You reach a cottage, and knock on the door, and hear someone shout “Come In!”. As you enter, you trip over and black out…

When you wake up it is day time and noone is around. You’re left with two options – explore the cottage, or go and find your car. You quickly realise you’re not in Kansas any more, and now we have a story arc – How do you get home? You read in the cottage about a ritual of transference, which takes you to another world, perhaps that will help? But you need resources…and so the game starts.

This is a cross between the first and second; much more grounded and it is clear that you didn’t build the cottage or live there.

Picking a Story

I’m not going to pick any of these right now (or at all; I am not set on having one of these three stories). Fundamentally, the gameplay can progress a long way without a story, and as I think more about them it will tend to develop itself – it might well be that I want to introduce game features that would make one of the stories difficult to tell – for example if I plan that you move the whole cottage into a new world in order to keep things you’ve built, then the summoned demon story falls down a bit (“Demon! I summon you! Oh…and your suitcases and a nice herb garden.”)

But regardless it’s good to have some stories in the back of my mind.

Next steps are more interface tweaks – I’ve nearly got to the point where we can build buildings again.

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