Decide who lives and who dies in this long-awaited continuation of The Longest Journey.
By Stace Harman on June 25, 2013 at 11:43 am
That the choices we make can have far-reaching consequences in the digital worlds we inhabit is a concept that we’re all familiar with. Choices that shape relationships, choices that alter physical appearance, even choices that determine who lives and who dies; we have all made these choices many times over and lived with their consequences.
How is it, then, that in the space of just ten minutes Red Thread Games’ Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey manages to make me feel sorry for a drone whose sole purpose it is to weld?
The scene in question is presented by studio founder Ragnar Tørnquist and depicts protagonist Zoe Castillo in the Prague sector of the sprawling cyberpunk megalopolis known as Europolis. She’s tasked with hacking a welding drone so that it might be coerced into “delivering a package” — which is a gently euphemistic way of saying that she’s sending this drone to blow itself up.
“We want to include choices that matter and that feel important”, explains Tørnquist. “It’s not always going to be apparent what the consequences of these choices are and sometimes we won’t show those consequences until many hours after the choice has been made.”
The reason that this choice feels important is because of the effect that the hack program has on the drone. The program, coded by series newcomer Wit, replaces the drone’s personality — turning it from a monotone service-tool into an inquisitive, cutesy character with the voice of a child.
This new “child drone” suddenly becomes full of feeling as it marvels at “all the pretty colours” of the city and exchanges playful banter with both Zoe and its erstwhile welding drone colleague. After several proclamations of love for Zoe the drone’s innocent wonder becomes a focused desire to help Zoe in whatever way it can.
Suddenly, ordering this drone to certain fiery doom feels like strapping explosives to Pixar’s Wall-E and sending him off to the great scrap heap in the sky. It’s at this point that a choice can be made whether to follow through with your nefarious deed or instead spare what is the robotic equivalent of an affectionate duckling.
“We’re also looking at ways to allow players to connect to other players while playing the game,” says Tørnquist, before offering the assurance that this feature will be at the discretion of the player. “Of course, this is a single-player game and you can play it offline if you want to, but you can also connect to see what your friends are doing on the game and what the world is doing. ”
“So, in the instance of making a choice you can show what other players have chosen before you make the choice or after the choice is made, if you want to.”
Tørnquist goes on to say that the end of the game will always be the same — but that choices made along the way will determine the fate of certain characters and that, in some cases, that could be the difference between life and death.
Considering how capable Red Thread Games apparently is at eliciting empathy from me for a pile of scrap metal, it makes me wonder just how devastatingly effective it might be when these choices and consequences involve characters that I’ve formed meaningful bonds with over the course of the entire game.
We’ll find out when the crowd-funded Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey launches in November 2014.