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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nightmare Scenario

I'll leave the room, because if I'm there it might not be an honest reaction and I'll need the honest reaction. And then I'll pace around in the hall a little, running through all the ways the conversation could go.
What is it specifically you don't like about the character?
Was it hard to understand what I was doing with the interface?
Thanks, I am really proud of this.
But y'know, it's still only the beginning of the game.
You haven't seen the good stuff yet.
Is that really what you think?
You're not just telling me what I want to hear, right?
It'll be silly, worrying so much when it's still just the first scene. I'll imagine the game playing out in my head, trying to guess reactions. Now that it's too late, I'll realize a few ways to misinterpret what's going on that I'd never thought of before. Not that there could have been any way to get around those. A few times I'll suppress the urge to walk back in. Don't look desperate. Don't look desperate. I'll try doing other things, but my mind'll be back in that room. Nothing else will seem to matter.

I'll leave the house, wander around scared, hide in a corner, find that I don't feel any more safe in that corner, go back, eat some junk food, and go back to pacing. No, not pacing. Stop pacing. When she comes out, she shouldn't see you pacing. It's not important, no pressure. (By this point I'll be sweating.) No pressure.

So? What do you think?

It's nice.
What does that mean? Did you like it?

Yeah, I'm really impressed.
"Nice" can mean a lot of things.

Can it?
You know you can tell me if you hate it.

But I liked it.
Were there any specific things you liked about it?

What is this, an interrogation? I like your game, okay?
Look, I need to know what you thought more specifically. You understand.

No, I don't. What do you want from me?
Please, just tell me what you thought!

I'm sorry. It's just, I really need to know that my wife-
I just need to know your honest opinion.

I'm always honest!
I know.

But if you're going to be all annoying about it, I guess I thought it was sort of…
hard to follow
reinventing the wheel
lacking in drama
not meeting its potential
..I dunno. Maybe it's just not for me.
Is it the tone of it? Too realistic?Maybe it's too realistic.

Realistic? It has a shape-shifting spy.
But did you think he was treated too much like a normal person?

No, I think that if he were a real person he wouldn't be interesting at all. Nothing happens with him.
But I was trying to treat him like a real person. All the buttons that pop up are things which I think he'd do if he were a real person. And I was trying to make it feel like a real person going about his day in the beginning part, so that you get the juxtaposition between the banality which you might recognize from real life and the weird science-fiction thriller plot of it. Did that not come across?

Is that why nothing happens?
He's sabotaging a high-tech weapon that could be used against his country! There's all the tension of almost being caught, and then the whole thing of trying to get out of the country after his DNA's been targeted! There are people trying to kill him!
The whole world order falling apart is "nothing"?! Having to get away from a biological weapon that's targeted your DNA is "nothing"?!
That's like an hour in! Before that you have to put up with all the talking! "Blah blah blah", they just talk and talk..
Well of course there's talking! I need to do that to set up what's going on! It's a complicated story, it's not just "he stops the weapon, he saves the world". The whole global political landscape is falling apart, where
Enough already.
all these countries and their old ways of doing things are proving to be obsolete when these new
Stop talking!

Sorry. It's just, I thought you'd like it.

No, you thought I'd love it. Well, I don't. Get over it already.
I don't see why not. You like science fiction stories. And you liked Next Door!

That was different. That was short. This just goes on and on and on.

So you thought the pace was too slow?

No, I thought it wasn't as interesting as you seem to think it is.
So you thought it was spending too much time on people who were ordinary.

Yes! They're all so boring, just like ordinary people having boring little conversations that no one could care about anyway because it's all so boring! And you want me to play an entire game made up of things like this?!
Yeah, and what would you have preferred- big over-the-top caricatures?

Yes, actually. They would have been interesting.
But that's how people actually are!

If I want to be with ordinary, boring people, I'll live real life. Like how I'm talking to you right now, and you're boring and ordinary. But if you give me a science-fiction game, like this, I don't want ordinary people. I can get that without the science-fiction story, just from real life!
So all the effort I put in to make these characters seem real, there's no way I could possibly have interested you with that.

Probably not.

If you were really enjoying it, why would you mind it continuing?

Maybe I can only take so much of it.
Or maybe it is, and you just didn't give it a fair chance.
Now you sound like you absolutely hated it.
Wow, you really hated it, didn't you?

You know what? You're right. I hate your game, it's the worst thing ever made, it's slow and annoying and stupid. Now leave me alone.
God! Can't I talk to you without you going into this hostility and sarcasm?!

No, I guess you can't. So stop bothering me.
You never told me you didn't like the dynamic interface!

Is it the interface that bothers you? You know that dynamic interfaces are sort of a new-
Oh, I don't care about your silly "dynamic interface".
It's not silly!

Sure it isn't.


Change topics
It's a valid design choice!

Leave me alone.
What's wrong with it?

Ha. What's right with it.
Now you're just being annoying.

Well, so are you.

Look, I'm sorry. I just want to know-
No, listen. It's a good game. Really. Very nice. But I'm not going to say it's, like, the best game I ever played, because it's not. It's not that good. Now leave me alone.
Fine, forget the interface. What about the story?

What about it?

Go fishing

Assume the worst
It's a good story!
No, it's a great story! I've been planning this for twenty years! It's about real emotions; maybe that's something you wouldn't know anything about!
You didn't think it was thought-provoking at all? You didn't think Michael was an interesting character? Do you not care about the whole social thing, where everything's falling apart because of the new technologies?
Okay, calm down, will you? It's fine, okay? Your game is fine.

Keep going

Give in

Change topics
Did you not like the way I tell the story, where you jump in in the middle and are figuring out what's going on? I guess I could have put in-
Shut up!

Enough already. It's fine. Your game is absolutely perfect, and there's no way anyone could ever possibly think it's anything but the best thing they've ever seen in their lives. Is that what you want to hear? Eh?

I'm going to go read a book now.
Okay. Fine. I'm sorry for being annoying.

You should be.
Do you not like Michael Nolan as a character? Too hard to relate to?

I don't know. He's fine, it's all fine. What difference does it make if I don't like it?

So you admit you don't like it!

Fine! I don't like it. Are you happy now?
Happy? Happy? How could I possibly be happy? I've been working on this story for twenty years!Don't you understand how much I care about this game?

Well, I don't know what you want from me. You can't force me to like this.
It does make a difference! Your opinion means everything to me!

Then let me have an opinion, and stop trying to get me to agree with you! what is your opinion, exactly?

I'm going to read a book now.

I'll sit down at the grand piano. And I'll sit, and sit, inspiration never coming. I'll finally press a note, but why that note? That note isn't anything special.



Very enjoyable game/post/story. I really enjoy how it is like a blog post that gets written as I play through it. I get choices, yet I am simply pushing the character in a directions.

This post triggered an idea in my head. I have been watching animations such as this Mad as Hell.

This "kinetic typography" idea has become a standard exercise for motion graphic students, and I questions whether or not it actually adds anything to the dialogue. But I'm getting the idea that such manipulation of typography could be an interesting way to make a larger interactive text experience.

Now that I look over your post here again, I see that you are already exploring the typographical possibilities that are within the limits of a blog post. I guess all I am suggesting is that there might be a way or making a bigger experience, yet still only working within the realm of type.

My link didn't work.

That video is fantastic. I've had the movie Network on my to-watch list for months now; it looks exactly like the sort of movie I'd really like. I'd really like to see some sort of text adventure following similar principles to this "kinetic typography" thing.

Wow. a kinetic-typographical text adventure. Now that would be something to behold. You'd have worlds rendered in 3D out of statements of fact, objects placed around the room which aren't really objects at all but descriptions of the objects. A vivid world built out of your own imagination, where the movement of words across the screen creates a gentle framework for that imagination. The input would keep changing location to be more aesthetically pleasing, and its function might change every now and then. Now that's a game I want to play!

I had the idea of making a blog follow similar design principles around the time of this post, which does not do any of that but is as close as I'm going to get here. The reason it doesn't play with typography is because when I tried, I found it was not possible. Writing in standard computer text is like how it must have been playing a harpsichord before the invention of the pianoforte, back when a note would always be the same volume regardless of how you pressed it. I wrote out a whole version of that post which used subtle changes in size and boldness for dramatic effect, and when I clicked "Preview" I found that none of it was making its way through to the browser. There are a limited number of distinct font sizes, and boldness can only be on or off even though CSS accepts numerical values of boldness. So I gave up at once, and that's that.

I'm quite sure that there's more potential to blogging with more visual elements, but the current standards just don't allow for it. Maybe a Flash-based site, but I hate Flash-based sites. They're so darn slow.

I'm not sure what typographical opportunities you think I have in this particular post. "Ooh, look, I can have several fonts!" is about the extent of it, which I've been doing since 2005. I would absolutely like to do more, and I always have wanted to, but there's only so much that's possible without rebuilding the foundation. (Which is not to say, of course, that I don't have a few more tricks up my sleeve. I just haven't seen a good excuse to use them yet.)


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