When asked to describe the game I want to make, I often reach for touchstones of inspiration, examples of other games that have broken ground on the narrative front. One such game is the recent Kentucky Route Zero. I had heard a lot about how great it was but until I really sat down to play, I had no idea how much it would blow my mind.
Check out a few minutes below (you may want to go full-screen to see all the text, you’ll get the idea within 2-3 minutes)[WARNING: Spoilers if you watch it through!]
Zero was one of the first games that forcefully took me out of my traditional gameplay mentality and required me to live in the moment. From the first conversation option (what is the dog’s name), you immediately grasp that your conversation choices are final and that every action is irrevocably moving the story forward. Traditional adventure/rpg games allow conversations to be information gathering exercises, with only occasional story-progressing decisions. Your goal is normally to explore every possible branch of conversation before clicking on any options that require you to move forward.
After a few minutes of playing, I realized that almost any decision I made was going to be interesting (and probably not affect the overall storyline too much anyways) and I was able to just enjoy everything I did. Instead of trying to figure out what would end up with the “best” ending, I just picked conversation options that resonated with me personally (not just my gamer-self). Throw in the amazingly focused visuals, scene transitions using stage lighting techniques, and the presentation of the text in script form, and I totally surrendered to the game directors and just let everything soak in. Without giving too much away, your options even start moving away from the main character of Conrad and help you experience the events through several other perspectives. Only two of the five acts have been released but I already feel like I’m simultaneously watching and directing a play as it unfolds in front of me.
What I want to emulate the most about this game is the sense that the story is so much bigger than just solving a puzzle or min-maxing actions to steer the game in the player’s intended direction. I want to provide a framework that allows the player to embrace every decision instead of fearing consequences and trying to minimize bad decisions. Just like when you’re reading a book or watching a movie, tv show, or play, it’s not until you leave your critical brain at the door that you really enjoy the scene before you. Our innate desire to critically dissect a situation can neuter the possible enjoyment of just living in the moment and enjoying the world created for you to experience.
So keep me honest. As I progress through this effort, help me stay focused on this goal and hopefully we can make something amazing!