Mirror Mall // a non-linear interactive fiction

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Mirror Mall // a non-linear interactive fiction

Post by troyduguid on Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:08 am

Hello everyone! I started a devlog a couple of months back on TIG, and I thought I'd start again here from the beginning, so these first couple of posts will be old Wink
///originally posted August 11


Entry #001: Introducing MIRROR MALL - the Chaos Simulator/Look ‘Em Up for the home computer and virtual reality goggles.



He-hello people. This is my first post here, but I've been lurking for a while, needless to say devlogs have been an enormous inspiration, and so here goes nothing...


PART 1: HELLO THIS IS ME *skip if you don't give a shit about who I am!!*

Hello! I am yet another fresh-faced babby making the terrible mistake of creating an esoteric indie game. My background is animation, and before starting this project I made a bunch of animated films - also I worked commercially on an app game. So naturally as someone from a visual background I am a complete hack and fraud and barely know how to program.

Anyway I started working on this project about six months ago. Although at this time I also semi-spontaneously moved from Australia to Germany (with zero contacts/prospects awaiting my arrival) and somehow severely underestimated how much of an uphill battle sorting out general life stuff would be. Needless to say I've been very busy (and still am, got any spare change?), but I have been working on Mirror Mall whenever I can.
Now that I think about it, grossly underestimating things is probably going to be a reoccurring theme around here :p  :O  ٩(இ ⌓ இ๑)۶


Whaaaat have I gotten myself into?


PART 2: MIRROR MALL

Mirror Mall is a Dwarven voxel survival rouge-like nah just joking it's a fucked up game with barely any mechanics set in a shopping center. Are you still reading? I will go more into the setting and artistic goals next time, but for now I want to talk about the broader concept and how it has changed, so suffice to say it is 'Magnolia meets LSD: Dream Emulator meets Pokémon Snap'. Below is the INITIAL CONCEPT of this project I had earlier this year...

INITIAL CONCEPT!! A mix of interactive film and videogame. A passive, sensory experience in which the user's only control is the direction in which they look. At different points in the story the user's gaze influences aspects of 'chance' or 'fate' in the world of the game (some examples: natural forces such as wind direction, a coin toss, ) elements outside of human control. In this way the audience is not a character, nor an avatar, but chaos itself, an invisible entity altering the universe (and therefore the story) of the game. The choices the audience makes have unpredictable consequences that dramatically influence the story in surprising ways. /INITIAL CONCEPT!!


Sequence from first prototype.

That was my Big Idea, and I came at it from more of a film angle and focused on character designs, writing, thumb-nailing - typical Pre-Production stuff. However in late June I heard of a local games festival and crammed a prototype for the deadline. I am SO glad I did this, as a lot became ABUNDANTLY clear to me about this project. Through this prototype I had a (what I assume will be a first of very many) painful lesson: for all the design and talk in the world a game is nothing but the Unity project you’ve got on your computer. Obvious when you read it, but learning it was pretty huge for me. But then again, it wasn’t painful at all but kind of liberating, now that I have a framework things have really simplified for me.
This first prototype had two significant flaws - firstly tying choice to the same input as camera direction went directly against the concept of exploratory observation that I wanted. Secondly, although there was interactivity and various outcomes, the core structure and experience remained incredibly linear.

This structure must sound familiar, as it is very much the typical 'choose-your-own-adventure' template seen in titles from Telltale Games - a type of structure I would call an ultimately linear story (no hate though, goes without saying Telltale are very skilled at what they do). In my opinion, this kind of structure needs well written, complex characters - the key engagement coming from the reactive script. It's not the kind of story I am good at (and more importantly) not at all the kind of story I want to make. I had been going mad trying to get all these little visual ideas into this linear structure and this project was growing into a terrifying monolith. Because of this linear structure, every element of change added would further complicate the entire project. Imagine a metaphorical dish, and each choice was an additional ingredient. Somehow every possible combination of ingredients must somehow result in a satisfying palette on some level. In addition, this dish would always start the same, and only grow more complex over time.

So I went back to the drawing board on what this project actually is. I wanted structure that was free, modular. I have a personal rule now that the only tools I can use in this design phase are a pen, paper and Unity (and Lego!). Firstly, what were the key attributes I wanted this game to have?


  • Passive, experiential, voyeuristic. Although Mirror Mall started as an interactive film, this was not to pursue a ‘cinematic’ experience. I am striving for a feeling of dream-like total immersion, a trip inside your own head.[/li]

  • Accessible to people not game-literate.[/li]

  • Interactivity used in a way that enriches and strengthens the theme of chaos - an interconnected environment pushed in surprising directions.[/li]


My theme was chaos, dynamic systems - how could I use that to drive the story and interactivity in a meaningful and engaging way? After some researching and mad doodling it started to slowly dawn on me how similar this is...


(Metroid Prime, 2002)

To this...


(Bifurcation Diagram)

And so that was a bit of a personal epiphany: Mirror Mall is a labyrinth. But not of rooms, a labyrinth of possibilities, of moments in time - the experience itself is literally a dynamic system. I want the labyrinth of Mirror Mall to represent a (simplified) bifurcation diagram. Like a maze each branch, each fork in the road can be revisited. Think of the branches not as different variations of the same story, but each a standalone diorama that can be witnessed in any order - each revealing truths of other branches, there is no linearity to the story anymore - a fractal labyrinth of sequences telling a broader, meta story. The core experience (much like Metroid Prime) is navigating this maze and discovering the shape these rooms all make together.

So I am really excited about this structure 2.0, although I still need to do further experimentation for how the player navigates these possibility branches. My current goal is finding a solution based more on player discovery and experimentation - less rigid, less linear. And with these discoveries in mind I am now working on a new prototype - I will report back with my findings.


This will be you inside my Hyper-Capitalist Fantasy Hell World. Hopefully by 2016 but probably more like 2099999999999999999

And finally, #JUST4FUN an unrelated video showing a  test of the system I am building for modular facial animation (all animated inside of Unity)...



Thank you for reading xo
- troy
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Re: Mirror Mall // a non-linear interactive fiction

Post by wzackw on Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:06 pm

I like the art and chars! And that you are a fresh-faced babby! Go babbies!!

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Re: Mirror Mall // a non-linear interactive fiction

Post by troyduguid on Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:42 pm

wzackw wrote:I like the art and chars! And that you are a fresh-faced babby! Go babbies!!
lmao  Laughing ARTGAMES aka Bab Crew 2015  Cool <3
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