History of the Time Project – Chapter Three: Little Red Riding Hood
*More pages turn. A plot comes to the fore…*
In Time-Travel Treasure Hunt and Time Trackers, we shift through time by moving a timeline scrubber left and right. It is like fast-forwarding and rewinding a scene in a movie. The best way for the team to convey time moving is to have events unfolding as the player moves through time.
The team found that these little events (like boats sailing or a princess moving to her balcony at the top of a castle) were curious and delightful. There appeared to be small stories everywhere!
Players were moving the timeline scrubber to watch the these events unfold even though this wasn’t the object of the game, it was to locate the stars hidden in the environment.
The challenge of finding the stars was encouraging exploration of the story and vice versa! A kind of harmony was occurring between these little stories and gameplay.
It was only natural for the team to see what happened when story became a focus of the design. They decided to let players influence the events of a story by shifting time. For the prototype, the team used a popular story, Little Red Riding Hood. Why?
It was a way to ‘establish a language’, one that was universal for the team and for those testing the game.
Plus, fairy tales are plot driven, they have a clear sequence of events. Sticking to an old, established story allowed them to try this new game play and it meant they didn’t have to write a story before diving in! Besides, too much ‘newness’ for the prototyping process would be disorientating. It’s important to thrash out a first draft.
(Little Red moving through the market square, on her way to Grandma’s house)
Little Red Riding Hood, in it’s most distilled form, is a chain of cause and effect:
When Little Red Riding Hood sets out to visit Grandma, she encounters a wolf who asks her where she is going. She tells him and the Wolf decides to beat Little Red to Grandma’s house so he can feast on them both. When Little Red arrives, the Wolf is disguised as her Grandma… You know the rest!
We potentially have three stories that account for the same events from different points of view: Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf and Grandma. This prototype allows the player to ‘help’ the characters fulfil their needs in the story. Players get to see three different stories unfold by changing between these three points of view.
I joined the team a bit after this prototype was completed and I was fascinated.
Call me a control freak, but I love narratives that make me feel like I’m influencing events. These stories draw me in and give me sense of the world reacting to me and not ignoring me. Game of Thrones and the books written in the Vampire the Requiem world (that start here!) give me this feeling. So do games like Dragon Age: Inquisition (how I love thee). The prototype uses a similar premise.
The Little Red Riding Hood prototype revolves around players changing points of view to solve story-based puzzles. For example, they can help Little Red to Grandma’s house, Grandma light her furnace to stay warm:
(Grandma’s house – you can see some items that need to be collected and moved, like the key to unlock the cellar door to get some firewood for the furnace!)
One of the best things about this prototype was it allowed the team to explore the concept of branching narratives, switching scenarios and telling stories from different points of view.
It also led to the decision to scale back.
Henrik said exploring splitting timelines was “a dark rabbit hole.” While they had a lot of potential for fun, complex puzzles, this prototype lead to one very important decision.
The team wanted to stay focused on one thing: moving time.
They also realised how important story was to this project and decided to keep it in there.
That’s what lead to their decision to seek out a writer. And that’s how they ended up with me! 😀
In these ‘History of the Time Project’ posts, I have been slowly moving you from the past to the present unfolding a sequence of events. Whoa, this just got meta!
In my last chapter, I’ll tell you about the new direction of The Time Project. Some of which I am sure you have been able to guess…