This could get emotional – we check out Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey

dreamfallthelongestjourney

By 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.

7 comments (Leave your own)

My problem with choices in games these days is that their just about skin deep. Story paths don’t change in any massive way, you just swap out one character here and there and some lines of dialogue chance but the events generally stay the same.

Just look at Mass Effect, people were hoping for all their choices to mean something and in the end it meant just about nothing. Same with The Walking Dead series. I played through this and then after having played one of the best games I’ve played recently wanted to replay it because every time I start the game it says it’s tailored to the way I play, only to see about 2% difference in the entire experience.

The illusion of choice in my first game had me entirely happy until I found out it was just an illusion.

 

Strange, I saw no Kickstarter update about this new gameplay footage =(

In any case, looks like it’s shaping up to be $165+ well spent :P

 
Artful-dodgeR

Cyrinno, ever played Heavy Rain? Every choice you make really does make a difference.

 

cyrinno:

The illusion of choice in my first game had me entirely happy until I found out it was just an illusion.

It’s never going to be possible to give a great variety of choice without making it directionless (like a DnD campaign with no DM) or driving up your budget so high for such a miniscule amount of gameplay that it wouldn’t be worth it.

Shamus Young pretty much summed up the issue nicely http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=20191 in particular points 5-9

Until game development becomes trivially easy (or if you make a very simple game in all other facets besides choice) then choice isn’t a very high priority. And it shouldn’t really be, as most ‘choices’ are just moral ones with no impact on gameplay. Choosing whether to take the front door or the back door into a situation is what should be most strived for in terms of ‘choice’; immediate benefits. Long-term benefits are nice, but that could lead to a player getting annoyed if the plot or gameplay differ too much from another choice.

In something like The Witcher 2 where choices have effects a few hours down the line there is no effect on gameplay and minimal effect on plot outside of cutscene A or B which have no effect on the overarching plot anyway.

About the video: Lots of cyberpunk stuff being shown this year (and with kickstarter) especially with shadowrun coming out. The new zombies? Modern media is sorely lacking in cyberpunk.

 

rapid101,

That was a really good read that link. Bit of an eye-opener. Thanks for that!

 

rapid101,

Oh I know why it is. I just wish companies would stop advertising so heavily about how your choices impact the plot when it doesn’t really change much. I appreciate the illusion but I don’t need a big sign in my face like The Walking Dead for example going on about it when it starts up. Because with that sign they overstate it.

 

rapid101,

Eh, I mean the funny thing is, Game’s while can bring emotion etc. are not meaningfull, sure some will give you a experience that can change you (rarely) they are a distraction, simulation or time waster. trying to get meaningfull choices out of a distraction is a hard pitch….
don’t get me wrong, ive come to the same thought process, esp with ME3. but when i stood back and calmed down “it’s just a game” is kinda what i came back to.

if your realy want a lesson on meaningfull choice and the best game that explains it. play the Stanley Parable. if you do not “get” that game, then such constructs of choice in games may for ever be lost on you

 
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