P2 Reflection: Tunnels



I knew that I wanted the final choice to be between staying in the unknown or returning home. Then, I had to create a situation in which that decision would feel meaningful and both options would be compelling. I came up with the idea of a cave-in separating someone from their friends, but originally I had him wandering alone. I realized that it would be difficult to keep people invested in staying in the caves without a companion, so I created Stega. The choice was thus between the familiar and the unknown, but also between two relationships. I also tried to give the choice a moral dimension, but I didn’t want to make one decision clearly right. Hence, there is no clear antagonist or conflict, making it challenging to keep the player engaged in the story and the choices.

For the format, I was inspired by Chunsoft’s tradition of sound novels and visual novels, such as Machi and 428: Shibuya Scramble. Two things stood out to me from these genres: the way sound was used to create atmosphere, and the way the text appeared in chunks rather than all at once. 

I  included sound effects throughout the story, but I ran out of time to actually implement them. If I had more time, I would have added sound effects and ambient noise. 

I implemented the “click anywhere to continue” macro to break up the text into more digestible chunks, and add natural pauses to the characters’ speech. I preferred clicking anywhere rather than clicking on specific links to advance to the next page, in order to remove some of the effort required to continue. As I playtested my own game, I tried different ways of breaking up the text, and found that adding pauses at different points helped influence the pacing of each scene.

Another challenge was finding ways to include player choice. My first draft only included decision making before each ending. To add more interactivity, I included some unimportant choices that only changed a few lines of dialogue, but I was worried that players would feel bored or offended by trivial choices. 

Other feedback I got during playtesting was that the dialogue was unnatural and that there was not enough environmental storytelling. If I had more time, I would spend more time fleshing out the world and how living underground would affect the characters’ lifestyle, culture, and way of thinking. I would also develop the map more and think about the story in space. I also received feedback that the final endings were abrupt. I wanted to have the story end when the player made the choice to stay or go, leaving what comes next up to imagination. I was still not able to strike a balance between keeping the endings open and keeping them satisfying. If I had stronger writing skills, I would try to implement these comments more effectively. 

Some random facts:

  • Carpon: from Rhizocarpon, a genus of lichen.
  • Talpa: from Talpidae, the mole family.
  • Gryllus: from Gryllus, the cricket genus. Gryllotalpidae is the mole cricket family.
  • Stega: from Schistostega, the genus of a type of bioluminescent moss.

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  1. I’m not able to proceed beyond “Stega stared at him for a long time. Carpon shifted uncomfortably in the cart as Stega studied him, but eventually he must have found what he was looking for because he nodded once. “Okay, I’ll teach you.””

  2. Effectiveness:
    – I like the plot and the dialogue! Captures the bleakness of the story and helps the player empathize with characters
    o I also appreciated that you ran through one full day without choices to give the player a sense of the Digger lifestyle
    – Run through a few more playtests if you want to focus on this for the final
    – Sounds like the main choice is the decision to explore the cavern, and the following consequence is isolation and uncertainty
    o Might be interesting to encounter more dangers (and provide players with more choices), as it seems your initial map/premise had more details
    Honoring the Medium:
    – I like the “click anywhere” option!
    – Like how you decrease the font size for Talpa’s dialogue to show he’s barely audible 
    – Adding an intro section with a concrete outline for map/premise would help give this more context ( I saw your map/premise, so moving that here would help)

  3. 1. The value in this game was the choice between venturing into the unknown and learning more about the world or returning home to something that is familiar. The game designer conveyed this message by having it be the final choice in the story, which made this decision have a lot of gravitas.

    2. I felt pretty invested in Carpon’s story, so I think the game got me to care a lot about his final decision. The game used the medium, Twine, pretty well. Some things in the game unique to Twine were the text sizes and the speed at which text appeared. Text sizes indicated the volume of noises and voices, while the text speed made things feel like they were happening in realtime. The final choice in the game was pretty consequential, and it was tough to decide between staying with Carpon’s new friend or his old friend. Both lives sounded enticing and were equally “good” endings.

    3. I thought the narrative was great and the author has great story-writing skills! All the characters were likable, which made the final decision hard. I also appreciated the way the sentences appeared one at a time, so I was never faced with an overwhelming wall of text.

    4. I think it would have been cool to have audio, especially for some of the sound effects that were written out.

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