Recipe and Plot Work
Today began with some follow-up on yesterday's items and recipes. I had to create the sled item stats, recipes, and some new conditions for when the sled is equipped. I decided to try making two sled items. The first is a plastic sled, the second is a sled with a strap.
The main difference is that the strapped version is beneficial when equipped, while the un-strapped version is a hinderance. I figured squatting down and tugging a sled by the front lip is actually more work than just walking upright. Conversely, a sled with a string makes carrying additional load possible before becoming encumbered.
Both have negative effects on player visibility and tracks left behind, however. As with the shipping cart, people and creatures can hear it from a mile away.
I also decided to try making the sled with strap craftable from any large, rigid, flat container, instead of strictly the plastic sled ingredient. I can't recall any containers that fit the bill right now, but if any more get added in the future, they should be possible ingredients for the strapped sled.
The rest of the day was spent brainstorming plot. I have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the world, but I wasn't entirely sure what the player's role in it would be. There were mysteries to solve, of course ("Who am I? Why was I in stasis? What happened to my memory? Why is someone trying to lure me to my doom?"), but I wasn't sure if there were any bigger questions.
I actually spent some time in the library reading a book on plot archetypes and storytelling. It actually got me thinking critically about some elements of the story, how the protagonist and antagonist can be related, motivations, and critical scenes. I noticed a few opportunities for foreshadowing and tension, and maybe even some places I could work in a betrayal or alliance.
I think I determined some things about our protagonist that I wasn't able to answer before, and also some things about both he and the antagonist that can make them more well-rounded.
Finally, I did some reading on the plot templates the author called "quest" and "adventure." Both seemed far more apt descriptions of the goings-on in NEO Scavenger than some of the others I perused (such as "the rescue," "the escape," "the chase," etc.)
In it's current form, NEO Scavenger is almost a dead-ringer for the so-called "adventure." Most of the plot centers around action, exotic locales, and the protagonist using tools and wit to overcome obstacles. There's little character growth in such a plot, as it's more about causal scenarios. Indiana Jones might be a good example of this.
That's well-enough, but the "quest" plot-type actually enticed me a bit more. It contains many of the elements of "adventure," but involves one key difference: character growth. In a "quest," the antagonist is seeking something, whether it be a person, object, or place, and they meet resistance along the way, and the journey transforms the way they see themselves or the world. They finish their story having changed in some way. Examples of this type of plot might include Gilgamesh, or Don Quixote.
In retrospect, one could argue that many "adventures" are also "quests," so this may be more subjective in nature. But the point of interest is whether to allow the player to "grow" their character somehow. When faced with certain obstacles, are there opportunities for the player to overcome their weaknesses? Or to change their outlook?
It'd be a tricky thing to accomplish. Player choice makes narrative hard to predict or control, and player customization makes it even harder to prepare for. With so many possible outcomes, I'd be hard-pressed to write satisfying growth opportunities for each combo.
However, maybe there are some ways I can let the player develop their own character over the course of the game. Not just adding new skills and items, but actually changing they way they behave. Does the character learn to be brave after starting a coward? Or do they become jaded after starting naive? Maybe they are faced with a choice between exposing a lie and maintaining secrecy, each with penalties?
Lots of food for thought. However, today helped me get a handle on many of these things, and helped me identify questions I'd like to answer. And as usual, it reminded me how hard writing can actually be :)
Have a good night, all, and see you tomorrow!