Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Story to be Told

If somehow you haven't noticed, v0.14 is live! Go play it!

That said, when I announced the new version two weeks ago, I mentioned the overarching structure for the game as being a mix between two parts and four parts. I said I'd get more into it later, and I believe now is a good time to explain things a little more in-depth.

My original, barebones concept for MVOL when I conceived it was complete a few versions ago. You play with Lith, you talk to him, you collar him. A very simple game. Early in the design process, though, I started thinking about the issues involved-- Lith has a very large, unresolved problem at the core of his being. I've worked with Lith as a character for many years, and sometimes I find him charming, sometimes I find him grating, but I believe it's high time he gets a little resolution for his age old problem.

As I thought over what could be done with the game beyond the simple simulation of Lith, I realized that this could finally be a chance to explore that resolution fully. If you play on the right path in the current game you can learn a fair deal about this conflict, but it's the content to come that will really explore the depths of the issue and allow you to act as the scale-tipper and ultimately choose how Lith resolves the problem.

So when I say that the game has two main Parts, I mean it in two ways. In one way, the most flexible and open-ended portion of the game is finished. You'll still have access to it throughout the new content, and it will serve as the foundation for everything to come, but it is, more or less, finished. It also represents, to my mind, half of the content in the game, quantitatively. Whether the second Part will actually be longer or shorter remains to be seen --the piece we've seen so far has certainly come out a bit longer than I expected-- but the intention is that they'll be roughly equal.

The other way that the game is split in half is in its role as a decision maker. The defining element of any story, in the long run, is how things change. A story in which everything is the same at the end as at the beginning is unfulfilling-- a story that didn't really need to be told. MVOL is the story of Lith's meeting with a strange person in a strange place, and how his outlook, his self-image, and his life in its entirety is changed forever through this meeting.

So this change will take place in two Parts. In the first, you will decide, through your actions, what general attitude you will use to approach Lith. As you become the most important person in Lith's life, you will influence his thought processes every step of the way until he ultimately becomes a new person, shedding his conflict in favor of something new. So when you collar Lith, though you may not realize it, you are making a profound decision for Lith that he has been unable to make on his own for all his adult life.

The second Part unfolds and explores this choice, and your further choices refine this answer to something more specific. The questions of life are never simple, after all, and there are many interpretations for any grand philosophy of life. As is often the case in life, the simple decisions we make from one moment to the next, seemingly completely unrelated decisions, can ultimately have profound effects on how we see ourselves and those around us. This story has many endings, and your actions will determine when, and how, it ends.

The other way to interpret the story is as a story in four Acts. In the first Act, we meet our two protagonists, and they get to know each other and develop a bond. In the second Act, as we have seen, Antagonists begin to appear and things get very strange. Two more Acts follow: large, separate chunks of content with a different feel to them, to be played through sequentially. Again, the story can "end" at any time-- the first "ending" is now in the game, though I intend to replace it with a more in-depth ending at some point, hopefully soon.

Beyond that, there will be endings in each Act. They will not necessarily be bad endings or good endings, but simply a branch that takes you out of the story as it unfolds, either to a conclusion or a new, more stable state of existence. I do enjoy "playable" endings, and I think you'll find some of these endings pretty interesting, and some will likely leave you frustrated and wanting to know more. I think it's good to have both :3 Although I may draft some kind of epilogue on the far end of all this, to give just a little more information about what happens after some of these endings.

I've used a lot of vague terms here, and I apologize if it's been a little hard to follow. It's hard to talk about these things without spoiling a lot of the peculiarities that are to come-- just imagine how hard it was to talk about the future without hinting at the existence of the doors :p It's my hope that the moment where the world bent in half and opened up into something new and bizarre was a great, topsy turvy moment for a lot of my players-- in the future, a lot of people will probably have that aspect spoiled for them before they play for the first time, but at least for some of you, I like to think it was an intense and memorable experience.

And I hope to offer a fair few more of those before this story reaches its completion, too :3 Thanks for reading, and keep an ear out for more!


Oh, and I believe the survey has pretty much settled to its conclusion, so I've closed it down. The results:
Came out roughly how I expected, though a fair number more Apple users popped up as the survey was slowing down in the end. Assuming that the survey is an accurate representation of my players (which is patently false, as the survey had a much higher incentive toward Apple users) about 14%
of my players have or are interested in getting a jailbroken Apple device and would like to play MVOL on it. This isn't an insignificant portion, and as the game expands in player base and budget down the line, it might become practical to expand into Apple devices, but at the moment, it doesn't look like it would be worth the extra work and overcoming the paywall for development.

If you find this a gross injustice and are insulted to think we should add Android functionality but not Apple, to be honest, the main obstacle is said paywall of $99. If you are both an avid Apple user and a person of means, you can, if you like, make a donation and add a note along the lines of "For Apple Paywall" and I'll note it. If we get enough support to negate or significantly pay off that paywall, then we'll do our best to make an Apple version happen. Otherwise, donations will continue to go to designer sanity maintenance and other investments in the game's future that can be shared equally among all the players. I hope this is a satisfactory compromise for any of you that are frustrated with the current mobile situation :3

Once again, thanks for reading! I hope to have another poll and blog post up soon, perhaps in a week.

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