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Archive for August 2017

Since I’ve nothing really new to post, as the only thing I’m working on is the script, and I’ve already told you about that, this week I’m going to continue the Storytelling Column.

As said in the first part of this column, I’m going to write notes about storytelling, mostly inspired by Lisa Cron’s book “Wired for Story”, summarized through my own experience. This time I’d like to write about “emotions” and “feelings” in a story.
First off, let’s take a glance at how emotions work in real life and how the human brain produces them. If we divide the brain in three major areas, we get the primitive brain, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The former is the “software” that makes our body works and runs our automatic functions, like digestion or heart pumping, while the latter, the most recent one, is the part that we use to reason. Between the two, there’s the amygdala that “dictates” our emotions. With the reasoning, we can choose our reaction to an event, but it’s a slow process. That’s because, when we experience anything, the first part that reacts is not our rational one, but the amygdala, communicating the correspondent emotion to us.

The amygdala was useful during the primitive era, when it received information from the environment and reacted accordingly to it, for example, making us feeling scared when meeting a tiger in the wilderness. And it was so fast that no reasoning would have made us hide as instantly as the amygdala saved many of our lives and made our species survive till today. In modern times, there’re no tigers around, so we’re usually taught to repress our immediate emotions and to react only after we process them through the prefrontal cortex. Growing up, we learn how to wait patiently until our reasoning comes in help so that we can avoid saying something that’s harmful for others, or acting inappropriately to the rigid context we live in. Still, we can’t completely hide our emotions, and many are the times we say something while not realizing that our face shows the opposite feeling.

That’s interesting because what I just wrote works perfectly with characters’ psychology in storytelling as well. The amygdala is what makes half if not more of any character we write, after all. Let’s think again how this precious part of our brain affects our life. Since it’s activated before reasoning, it’s the very first reaction we would ever have towards anything. In other words: it cannot lie. Whatever you do, it’s almost impossible to fake the reactions our body and our face have. How difficult is it to repress swallowing your saliva when you’re facing a tense situation? Even if you fake your tension with an apparent confidence, if your interlocutor has a good eye, they can notice your mask simply by looking at your neck. Our body language never lies (unless we’re trained, I guess).
For characters is the same. In the gap between what a character wants to say and what they can say, there the body language speaks loud.
So, let’s talk about this precious resource in story telling: the body language.

What do we use it for?
  • ·        To tell our audience what they don’t know. Remember the famous line “Show, don’t tell?”. That’s it. We can tell our story in details, describe sceneries, actions and such; make our characters speak fiercely about themselves and, lastly,  show whether their words are true to them, or their actions reflect what they really wish for. A tension in their body, an unexpected silence, a glance of curiosity can reveal their true intentions.
  • ·        To show what characters don’t know. Same here. Characters as well can notice if a fellow OC is being sincere to their words or actions.
  • ·        To make our audience understand what’s between the events in our story and the reaction of our characters. We present the events, then we present our characters’ reactions to them. Our audience is perfectly able to link the two and draw the connections and the story out of them.
So we learnt that emotions strike first and reveal the inner nature of a character. But how do we exactly use them in our story? We forgot the most important ring in the chain indeed.

To use emotions to tell a story through our characters’ reactions, we must make our events have an impact on those characters.

We tell a story not to list a series of events, but to show what the protagonist learns by going through it. Everything that happens must be related to him/her. Even during a prologue when the protagonist has yet to appear in the story, the audience assumes that everything they’re reading it’s going to affect him/her someway. He or she must feel something towards what’s happening, because whenever those events are meaningless, when they don’t feel anything, every choice looks alike

Storytelling Column ②

This week's update will contain a bit of scene 5 and scene 6 progresses. Both of them are around 6k words long and, being the short demo made of seven scenes total, they're crucial scenes, mostly regarding the climax of the demo. Writing and planning for the visuals is proceeding quite slowly but steadily, and as I write I'm gradually getting more motivated since Serenade is somehow taking shape : D. 

So, let's begin talking about Scene 6 which was a rather compelling experience. I'll first show you its map, so you can get a general idea of its composition.

The game basically provides three scenes ("Lunch", "Notebook" and "Quest") that the player can play in the desired order. And that order is supposed to depend solely on player experience of the events told so far. I explain better.

In Serenade you play as Kairi who is not quite your impersonal puppet to identify with, rather he has a very defined personality and, at the beginning of the game, he makes some choices not everyone can agree with. In other words, while as the story progresses the player gets more control over Kairi's actions, at the beginning the only role of the player is that of coping with Kairi's attitude. ...Yeah, that may not be what you exactly expect from an adventure game. So why is it like that? I guess it's because of the time skip. Between scene 4 and scene 5 there is a hole of three whole years. During which the player has no way to control Kairi's choices. Therefore, scene 5 will show outcomes completely outside the control range of the player.

Is it a good idea to plan a visual novel game following this whimsical turn of events? A line that I often tell myself is "Why not". I've yet to test whether the scenes after the time skip work on an external player, so I can't report any substantial feedback. Anyway, I've decided to go all the way through this bizarre decision of mine, therefore let me explain how it works in details. 

From scene 1 to scene 4 you dive into Kairi's life for the first time and have the chance to talk to characters and have a preview of the mystery you're going to work on. Then there's the time skip, and some things evolved significantly, as consequences of Kairi's choices during the three years that the game's missing. In scene 5 the player can witness (and slightly interact) with the new situation and get a grasp of what's going on. I'd like the player to get interested in at least one of the developments that unfolded after the time skip. Depending on that preference, the player is supposed to choose a path and go through scene 6.

As you can see in the map, in scene 6 you have three sub-scenes and regardless of the one you decide to start with, you're going to go through all the three, just in different orders. So what's the thing I'd like the player to experience there? Just a bit more of control over the situation. It's not just a sit and watch session, the player is going to decide which is the action he wants to pursue above all. Kairi's attitude can have an impact over the player's experience, but, perhaps, the player can as well reply back and give instruction on how the story should proceed. As explained, it's not a choice, one of those that changes the story, rather, it's a statement from the player affirming what's the most relevant event regarding their own game experience. I'll let you know how the test for this goes : D

Now let's cover scene 5. I'm going to introduce a new character, the last one of the Kujikawa arc. Doc. Haruto Isahai in his early sketch.

He's a brain specialist and played a major role in Kairi's recovery after the car accident. I prefer not to reveal much about him before the release of the demo. Anyway, I can say that he will bring some comedy to the story, and that he's heels over head in love with Kairi's brain. The game itself will explain this last sentence better : D

Two things I'm currently working on are: 1) I'm preparing a file with the script after the time skip to present to my partner and have her "experience" to receive some feedback. 2) Saving money (-﹏-。) to probably get some help in finishing the demo. 

Next week (14-20) I'm going to keep working on polishing scene 5 and 6, and finally begin writing the last scene of the short demo : D See ya.

A new character appears

Another quick update to summarize what happened in the past week. A lot in percentages, but few in variety. : > Therefore, I guess it won't take much to write it.

  • First of all, I had the second test of the 40 minutes prologue of the game with my partner. This time it included the special choice options I talked about a few posts ago, and it went quite well! Apparently, this kind of game mechanics could turn out to be engaging, so I gained tons of confidence after our test! : D I will talk about this feature in details in some next posts.

  • I started working on the second half of the short demo that deals with the early happenings after the three-year time skip of the story. It's quite exciting to be finally able to work on this part. Note that I worked on the prologue alone for two times, for an early prototype and for the present game, and said period started in April 2016! Even though I'm excited about the change of routine, the early part of story after the time skip is as challenging as the prologue, so I'm working hard on that too to put all the pieces together and make it works. This part sees the appearance of a new character I'm quite attached to, and, guess what, he's another "comedy-maker" :D. I'll introduce him in next post, so that I can come up with some decent sketches in the meanwhile : >

For this second part of the short demo, my priority in game assets radically changed. Even if I had previously built a prototype back in early 2016, with time, I grew the final idea of game play and general appearance I wanted for Serenade. Therefore, since October 2016 I started working on the new and present version. Since I wanted to see how the game would flow as soon as possible, I hurried in coding the assets and the script, even if not definitive, for the tests of early July and early August of 2017. Now that I had a grasp of the game, I can slow it down a bit for what concerns the coding, and focus on preparing and polishing the different assets, first of which is probably the script. 

During the next week (7-13) I plan to keep on writing (I'm currently at one third of the job) and sketch the "visual storyboard" for it. This way I can determine which graphic assets I need and how the script has to be modified when in contrast with them. Which is a total different way of working and make me feel more at ease, letting me focusing on one thing at time. 

Nothing left to add, today's post ends here. See you : >

Back to the manuscript.

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