A Flower in the Desert
(We’re working on the title).
By: Cole Lee, Harry Moran, Gilbert Rosal, David Ryan, Tommy Tang
Our core idea is a story-based roguelike, where you learn about your characters from dialogue, and have to choose the right candidates for each dilemma that arises. Characters dying, or early failures, are an expected part of the story.
We also wanted to explore parallel universes, a (cyber/steam/solar)punk setting, magical realism, and dialogue-driven gameplay.
You’re directing a team of three inspectors, who each bring their own background and expertise to a case of murder? Suicide? As the story unfolds, you have to decide who’s best suited to each challenge that comes up by listening to the characters’ dialogue amongst themselves, and their observations about the world. Although the case seems straightforward at first, it quickly develops.
Initial clues that seem subtly out of place – a blue flower in a city that hasn’t had natural flora in decades, a man that died from a fall from nowhere – slowly build on each other to reveal that there’s a parallel world on top of their own, that’s beginning to intrude. This other world never suffered the same climate apocalypse that theirs did.
They – and the player – have to wrestle with the decision to either fight for the city and people they know, or allow this new, seemingly better, alternative reality to replace it.
We want our tone to be grim, but not entirely dark. We want to evoke both the grittiness of a cyberpunk future, but also the hopes and essential humanity of its inhabitants. In terms of specific emotions/themes, we want to highlight:
As our characters confront the dawning realizeation that something they thought was lost forever – the natural world they’ve only heard about in the past – we want the player to experience these mixed feelings alongside them.
Our setting is a dystopian future, after centuries of climate crisis. Inspired by near-future LA, and other desert metropolises, the only living things now are limited to Greendomes, and only accessible to the wealthy few. That said, it’s still full of humanity. As the parallel city of greenery and life starts to overlap and smear into the character’s reality, unusual magical realist spaces start to crop up on the fringes, leading between the two spaces.
Our core gameplay is uncovering a slowly unveiled mystery. The game is structured around a series of three scenes that correspond to the structure of the story:
- Inciting Incident/Rising Action: An unexplained murder.
- Climax/Twist: The revelation that the parallel city is infringing on their own.
- Resolution: Deciding whether to let the utopian city take over, or reject it in favor of their (arguably worse) home.
Each of these scenes will have a set of dilemmas, where the player has to choose one of their three characters to send to resolve them. For example, in the first scene one character has to examine the body. If you send a doctor, they’ll be able to tell that the cause of death – falling – is seemingly impossible. If you send the fashion designer, they’ll notice that the clothes aren’t from this city. However, if you send someone squeamish about corpses, you may learn nothing.
These decisions are the primary choice the player has in the game, and should be informed by the dialogue throughout that gives hints as to which characters have relevant backgrounds.
These backgrounds, or perks, will be assigned randomly each run of the game, so rather than simply memorizing which character is which players have to build up a picture of each character every time.
Choosing poorly could lead to a character dying, or, worse, losing the game entirely.
In terms of types of fun, we want to capture the challenge of a roguelike, while also crafting a compelling, character-driven narrative.
- Disco Elysium
- The Yahg
- King of Dragon Pass / Six Ages
- Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
- The City & The City
- Magical Realist (a la, Borges, Marquez, etc.)
- Concept Art (see individual docs!)
- Ghost in the Shell
- See our individual docs for playlists!
We want this game to feel immersive, with an evocative setting to exist within that suggests via small, specific details that there’s a much larger world it’s taking place within. We also want to make sure that the characters are compelling, and that the choices the player has to make re: who to send where are difficult, but can also be reasoned out. So, our main challenges are:
- We want to strike a balance between giving the player a lot of specific hints about which characters to use, while still keeping it ambiguous
- A lot of the quality of the game will rest on the writing itself, so we have to make sure this is successful
- Given the number of scenes and settings, we’ll want to make sure that we have enough art to capture them without overly burdening the artistic members of our team
- We’re leaving open the option of having static images to potentially alleviate this issue
- Striking the right balance of challenge, replayability, and fun will have to be heavily playtested. Figuring out what balance of hints and ambiguity works best, and how to space them out and structure them, will be an ongoing challenge.
In particular, we don’t foresee the tech being particularly difficult, since we are largely having static images with a fairly simple UI. That said, piecing together all the various components, and accounting for the range of possible responses, may require some additional fiddling.
Who is this for?
People who enjoy bite-sized stories, piecing together mysteries, and existing in interesting spaces. We’re hoping to target fans of walking simulators, visual novels, and roguelikes.