Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Narrative Map

As we mentioned in previous posts, Hellenica features a broadly branching narrative with a bunch of custom dialogue to help wrap the story around whatever set of choices the player has made. We're putting a lot of work into these features and wanted to make sure the player can get the most out of them. Because, as this Player's Delight blog post highlights, it can be easy to miss a bunch of non-obvious ways your choices might be influencing the story.

To combat this, we created a narrative map (an early version of which can be seen below) that displays the current social hub the player is in, as well as the plethora of other nodes available. The nodes all start out as question marks but are revealed after a player visits them. In order to encourage the player to explore different paths throughout the game, this screen also provides the option to go back to any social hubs she had previously visited. Each social hub automatically saves the state of the game when it was last visited, which allows us to effectively "rewind" the game to that point. (It also unfortunately means that you can overwrite your data by taking a different path to the same hub; we're still trying to find an elegant way of handling that...)

Early version of narrative map, using placeholder art.

To help the player keep track of the story path she’s taken (especially given the option to replay hubs), we felt it was important that the narrative map display social hub descriptions specific to the path taken to get there.

As an example here are two narrative map descriptions that could display for the same hub.

==Heading to Delphi from Corinth==
The adventurers decide to head to Delphi to seek the oracle's guidance. They are accompanied by Castor, who after learning his missing brother is likely dead, has resolved to undertake a quest to save their ruined home, Corinth.

==Heading to Delphi from the Isle of Circe==
Fed up with Circe's vague answers, Diona and Nephele decide to seek advice at the oracle of Delphi. They also hope to find the "fool" that Circe said was about to embark on a quest to save Corinth. Before they depart, Circe presents them with Brasidas, a Spartan that she previously kept as a pet turtle.

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