Welcome to devlog number two! The plan here is to talk a bit about interactions in The Edgelands, the ways these interactions are presented, and the decisions behind that presentation.
One of the main aims of the game is to evoke a particularly atmospheric experience. The is partly achieved through the way the game looks, partly through the evolving soundscape I talked about last time, but also through text. All the interactions and conversations in The Edgelands take the form of text dialogues, which give flavour and meaning to the situations which emerge in the narrative. The mechanics behind these interactions draw their inspiration from two gaming sources which are a big part of my gaming history – Infocom text adventures and choose your own adventure books.
The choose your own adventure aspect is present in the way certain conversations or decisions are made by the player. Often dialogue trees have several branches, and starting down one will close off the others. Conversations flow in a direction based on what you choose to discuss, rather than always having access to all avenues of investigation. The reason for this is that, like in choose your own adventure books, your decisions matter, and in many instances shape the way the game presents future encounters to you. This is not intended to create a high pressure stressful situation in which you agonize over giving the mouse some cheese or keeping or for later, but rather to encourage a small sense of roleplaying in the player, drawing them deeper in to this world, choosing areas of conversation they feel they have become invested in. There are no right or wrong paths in The Edgelands, and what paths there are weave over each other many times, so your choices are meaningful in terms of atmosphere and kinks in the narrative, but there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ending.
The Infocom text adventure aspect (which really draws on all sorts of interactive fiction (and also classic point & click adventures), but Infocom is the IF I cut my teeth on, so that’s my main point of reference) is in the way text is presented in The Edgelands.
Early in development I decided that I did not want to use a parser based approach, and I did not want to have any sort of inventory management in the game. Puzzles and interactions exist in The Edgelands to provide lovely chunks of evocative text and a sense of involvement in the world, they are not epic brainteasers for you to mull over for days. There are multiple solutions, but these are based on your narrative choices and decisions, rather than using every item on your inventory on every other item in your inventory, or by exhausting every ‘verb noun’ combination you can think of. Avoiding inventory and parsers is my handy way of sidestepping these perennial adventure game pitfalls. But in order to still evoke the spirit of the lineage of videogame adventures, I have drawn on the methods used to present text and interactions in Infocom games. The prompt which appears to let you know you can interact with an object is designed to mimic the prompt of parser based IF, the text of the action available to you appearing one letter at a time, as if you were typing it yourself. These ‘hey you can interact with/ talk to / poke this’ icons even try to echo the phrasing of an Infocom adventure. So I have sacrificed more flowery prose in favour of phrases like ‘use door’ or ’ask about raven’.
This applies to the choices you have in dialogues as well, and I think this is a good way of capturing some of the feeling of a parser based text adventure and dragging it into The Edgelands. In a small nod to more traditional point and click games, all the dialogue is presented on top of the environment, rather than in a window or with a darkened background. This can sometimes get fiddly trying to find the best bit of screen real estate to slot the dialogue into, particularly if there are twinkling lights or burning effigies in the background, but I think it is worth the extra bit of organizing.
That’s enough for now, next time I’ll ramble on about folklore!