Feature Set

Feature Set
An interactive non-linear theatrical puzzle
Through interacting with the world in two hours, the player will have experienced a whole story in of itself; Then amnesia hits and the player can take on another experience through the world.

Complex dialogue engine
There are six characters that the player interacts with intensely, each with a unique subset that defines their behavior, and their perceived personality. Players make use of rhetorical dynamics to steer conversation. The dialogue, often involving unsettling facts or subject matter, may alter personality attributes of the characters involved and ultimately affect the game world itself.

Persistent single player environment
In each subsequent play-through, the results of the player’s actions remain in the world. Every play-through leads to an end-result, there is no death or permanent failures. Eventually the player will be contending with the characters themselves to achieve goals. If the player is successful in solving puzzles, and managing cooperation between characters, then a larger story can be uncovered as they explore deeper into the game world.

Adventure-Puzzle, Interactive Story

Target Audience
RPG fans; Puzzle and Adventure gamers; people interested in social and/or speculative science-fiction, drama, theater, and cinema. It is especially targeted at the story-content-obsessed audiences.

Look and Feel
There is of a cold, rocky network of chasms carved out by mining operations; Massive enough to house the unfinished city, suspended in the air on a frame of causeways. It forms the network of a planned metropolis, now abandoned under unclear circumstances. The world lacks consistent electricity. When it is out, the world is grey and bleak, appearing almost as a ruin. When it is on, it’s overwhelmed by artificial light blaring from nearly every city surface, sound is projected into the chasm, indistinguishable from its own reverberations. It is a city that was once bombarded by a cacophony of media, nearly therapeutic in contrast to it’s natural state.

Game Progression
The game’s trajectory is user defined. The world map is relatively large and the player can explore the areas available at will, however tasks must be accomplished to unlock certain areas. Conversing with NPC’s is essential to solving clues, as well as interacting with the memory fragment scenes.
Puzzle structure
As the player explores the world they will encounter ‘scenes,’ which are essentially large puzzles. In these areas the player will interact with objects, explore spaces, and most importantly: discuss the scenes with other characters. These discussions many times will occur when one or more NPC’s are accompanying the player through areas.  In this way portions of dialogue may be taking place simultaneously with puzzle solving and interacting.

When a scene is solved the player obtains a key piece of information, which will be part of the larger story. This piece of information is recorded in their journal. Other NPC’s will also retain observation’s of their own, all of which affects a number of variables in the subsequent scenes. Despite this complication, there is no way a player can lose, and all negative developments can be undone.

After a player has solved a scene, they are able to relive a fragmented memory. Essentially a dream sequence, fragments of the memory will play out and then pause until the player can find a way to trigger the memory to finish. When they accomplish this task, the memory will continue, this time with the events unfolding in real time. These memories will not detract from the two hours the player has between bouts of amnesia.

Puzzles will be designed to take an average of 1-2 hours to solve, fitting in the two hours of gameplay the player has. After each bout of amnesia, the player’s avatar will have lost any memories not recorded in their journal, and their personality profile will be a little bit different.

I. Rhetorical Dynamics

Dialogue is interactive at the sentence structure level. The player is given a set of variables for any given piece of dialogue. Every piece of dialogue is parsed into tokens: Subjects and Verbs. The player chooses from a list for each token, and applies an emphasis on scales of importance and emotion, referred to as the tone. There can be multiple subjects and verbs in a sentence, along with multiple tones. The A.I. will parse out the choices and reciprocate a preprogramed corresponding piece of dialogue. This corresponding piece has tokens which can be responded to by the player, and a list of the appropriate (and potentially inappropriate) subjects and verbs will become available.

From here the player can manipulate the conversation in a number of ways. Depending on the context, subjects and verbs will form the basis of more complex patterns, such as deceptions, persuations, arguments, agreements, requests, demands,non-sequitors, and etc. These are agendas. Agendas come up as options in certain, but not necessarily all, conversations. Every agenda has a success/failure rate. The tone and verbs have the largest influence on this. All these variables are interfaced with at key points in the conversation, once a player has locked in a topic, verb, tone, and agenda where applicable, the conversation will proceed on its's own, until the next key point in the conversation. Key points are defined wherever important information is exchanged, or action is to be undertaken.

This process is referred to as rhetorical dynamics, because the end results of choosing a subject+verb+tone & agenda, are multiple dialogue sentences which may be very similar but with subtle differences that elicit different responses.

II. Variables

Choose an inflection that emphasizes
an emotion, or a subject of importance

Player chooses from a list of topics to discuss with the AI

Player proposes an action regarding the topic of conversation

Player chooses from a list, which will limit the response topics and verbs to the desired agenda

An Example:

Rhetorical dynamics : A basic example
Subject/Verb variables articulated with tones.
Agendas drive the overall conversation.

Approaching Ida, Immediate topics of interest are:

Who are you
Where are we
What happened

These are subject variables, the thoughts of the moment which are cataloged and matched to reciprocating variables for the A.I. It's a listing so they can be mixed up:

Who are we
where (has) what happened
what are you

The verbs:

What should we do?
Where should we go?

Both 'do' and 'go' are the actions available. In this context the sentence contents are not logically interchangeable so the option is not available.

But here the inflection can be changed for emphasis. This is the tone of the dialogue, and in this case 'should' is the operative word. When combined with a subject change, the sentence takes on differences in emphasis, and therefore agendas.

Bold=subjects ; Italics=tone

Where should we go?---------inquisitive
We should go.-------------------Suggestive
We will go.----------------------Demanding
Can we go?----------------------Requesting
We must go.--------------------- Persuading

Agendas are the goals implicit in the conversation. The implicit goal is to go somewhere in the above sentence. That agenda is further modified by the tones, which imply any combination of urgency vs casualness, demand vs request, persuasion vs suggestion, and listening vs speaking.

These options appear to the player in this form, as word and sentence fragments for them to move around. It tests the English comprehension faculties a bit. But it gives off a high degree interactivity. The options are listed as what they are. They are not labeled, and so a player does not necessarily have the interface telling them which option is demanding or Suggestive. They inadvertently are choosing the inflection by choosing subjects, verbs, and tone.

Personalities play a role in how the player's tone is received:
Stanovene is suspicious when your nice.
Amin likes it when your rude.
Leo will go on and on and on.
Ida will listen carefully, and remember everything.

Scene Investigation:

Scenes contain a puzzle which unlock story elements. A given scene will usually involve a large area, and the player can go through the area collecting objects, reading notes, observing the surroundings, and discussing with other characters. Every scene will be related to one of the six characters, including the player's avatar. The scenes will contain information that is disparaging about the characters. Likewise, the A.I will collect information on the scenes as well. goal for all characters is to uncover their identities. But the player must keep some facts hidden in order to ensure continued cooperation.

Journals are the externalized source of memory for all characters, since each character is on a two hour clock before experiencing amnesia. Journals can be appropriated by the player. This allows for modifying their contents. But it is a risky endeavor, as it could cause damage to the player's goals should they find out, or if entries tied to important clues are removed, etc. These characters will uncover more information in the scenes based on how much information is recorded in their journals. Numerous play-throughs alone will automatically build up the journal entries, provided they are not continually wiped out by the player.

The probability of the A.I. Sharing information with the player is based on a trust scale. Trust is built or broken by numerous factors in dialogue interactions. There are both subtle cues the A.I. To parse, as well as glaring potential mistakes.
For example:

In dialogue, the player and another character (Amin) are discussing the scene involving Amin. The player will have some incriminating information. The player can choose to ask Amin about it with different tones:

Did you do it?
Why did you do it?

Do you know why you may have done it?
Do you know anything else about what happened?

Hiding information:
I don't know what your talking about.
I haven't found anything about that.

Each option has it's own potential consequences. If the player chooses to prosecute the Amin, it may turn into an argument, or a confession. If the player Sympathizes, Amin may divulge more info, or if he distrusts the player he may lie to you. Hiding information could have a variety of consequences:

Amin may not have the necessary facts to continue investigating the scene.

Amin may uncover those very facts on his own, and ask the player questions about them. The player's responses could reveal deception.

Prototype dialog screens - with whole sentences instead of fragments as examples