Decisions and Endings in Video Games

When taken as a whole, it’s really only been in the most recent sliver of video game history that we’ve seen an explosion of robust narrative development. Sure, we must acknowledge the early pioneers, companies like Infocom and their titles like Zork. Still, modern video games, thanks to Bioware, Telltale, Quantic Dream, and others, have provided immense richness within the limitations of hardcoded storylines, settings, and decision points, richness that was not reachable earlier on.

Tabletop RPGs arguably got to this point earlier and have been there longer. It is simply more straightforward to write out several possible endings to a given module or adventure path than have to code them out and make more ingame content knowing that many players will never see it. In a weird way, though, that’s why I think looking at how narrative complexity presents itself in video games is so interesting and instructive. When video games fracture their storylines into multiple endings or complementary subplots (like, for example, character romance subplots), it has to be deliberate. Everything is designed intentionally, and for some players figuring out the combination of actions that leads to a given outcome is part of solving the puzzle of the game. 

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The Trouble With Marketing

Game design doesn’t sell games. Sorry. No, what sells games is the promise that that game offers, articulated by its designer. If the promise is good, it doesn’t matter that the game is bad; that’s what got the Fallout RPG into the ICv2 top 5. But whether the game you designed is a work of art or a slapdash ashcan, sorry, you’re still going to need to market it.

The Trouble with Marketing is either that no one knows how or no one wants to. I tend to believe the second of those two items; plenty of game designers don’t really know how to write but they manage to hire someone for that in most cases. No, marketing, in addition to being its own skill which is challenging to learn, really turns people off. It reminds you you’re selling something, it makes the whole process feel less like art.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: June, 2022

Welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival for the month of June in this two thousand and twenty secondth year! Not to worry, Aaron is fine – just lost on a bike somewhere in the continental US, definitely not my fault. While he’s away I’ve snuck in and nicked his top hat and baton and gone looking for some tabletop roleplaying game crowdfunding attractions that are worth your time and possibly your money. There are chaotic cafes, regency scandals, vibrant seas, divine tales, monster-collecting kids, meta games, and exigent exalts along with a few observations from my unusual perspective up on this stage. So, without further ado, on with the show!

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Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 11

There are many reasons to return to somewhere you’ve already been. Maybe a favorite bar has the right atmosphere for you, or a certain country provided an unforgettable vacation. For CabbageCorp, though, retracing steps usually happens when an earlier discovery is about to turn bad.

Don’t get me wrong, the team’s apartments in Potwin provided a safe (though corporate controlled) haven, and downtown Hydropolis has been walked up and down. But just like building a bar on the wreckage of a former enemy, the team once again will have to pull something useful out of an earlier haunt.

While returning from the ill-fated visit to the Biotechnica Nature Preserve near Spokane, Mason was informed that his former direct report, Brick, had been promoted to lead a team of his own. Mason interviewed a new team member, a support netrunner, but his relationship with Brick wasn’t exactly over. In fact, just a day later Mason and CabbageCorp were answering Brick’s distress call out in Emporia, Kansas.

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Solitaire Storytelling: Laser Beams Like So Many Stars

I am a huge fan of mechs and their amazing pilots. I love to watch their heroics on the news; I visit when pilots come to my town; I own multiple letterman jackets emblazoned with mech pilots’ insignias. I’m burdened with the dream of piloting and eclipsed by the fear that I will never be more than a spectator. I love that which is unfathomably above me, as they exchange Laser Beams Like So Many Stars.

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Good Strong Hands Review

I have to admit, fantasy games come to the plate with two strikes for me. The ubiquity of Dungeons and Dragons, coupled with the large number of single-game players, means that fantasy games generally need to work twice as hard to do something interesting within the existing constraints of the genre. When I first read Good Strong Hands, I saw a game that leaned hard into a very broad, often repeated conceit: A great evil is corrupting the land and you, the heroes, must stop it. Couple this with light, fairly basic mechanics, and I didn’t really know if I was going to find anything interesting in this game.

Luckily, I was wrong. While Good Strong Hands is a rules-light game, and while it absolutely leans on a simplified view of good and evil, it takes this basic struggle and makes it the centerpiece of the game. The mechanics of the Void, Shadow and Corruption, force players to make tough decisions and place the voice of evil with the GM to play with as they wish. The game does want to see its players triumph, but the risk of falling to the Void is very real and a party will likely see at least one character lost to evil in a campaign.

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