Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome to Level 6

**This post contains vaguish spoilers**

This past week I've begun work on the sixth (of 8) levels of social hubs in Hellenica. This is taking us to the final stretch of the story, and setting up all the good dramatic twists/betrayals and deaths that mark the act 2-3 transition.

Social hub six is also probably going to be the last social hub the player makes story-shifting choice in. One reason is because the cumulative weight of all the previous choices is making writing scenes at this level more difficult. My current social hub in particular feels like it's 80% devoted to either tying together the various plot threads that could have lead to this point or setting up the various choices the player will have going forward.

A lot of the difficulty is the NPCs, which will follow their own paths through Hellenica mostly regardless of the players’ actions. Maybe you've bumped into them before and have some catching up to do. Or maybe you have no idea who they are and what they stand for, but they might be important for the way the plot’s about to turn. My current social hub features an intersection of 3 such NPCs, so getting the player up to speed without grinding the story's momentum to a halt is a significant challenge.

The second reason we’re doing away with branching for the rest of the game is to really commit to each of six endings. We never liked games where you could just reload a few minutes from the end, make a different choice, and then get a completely different ending. It frequently felt unearned, and the plot would often have to twist itself to justify how this one final decision was more important than any other decision you made the whole game.

The Hellenica approach is completely different, with your last storyline-affecting choice happening at the end of act 2. The whole climax and conclusion are a reflection of all the previously made choices. This will hopefully lead to better narrative flow to the conclusion, as well as making each ending feature enough callbacks to previous choices to make it a unique experience.

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