Between worlds is a visual novel, murder-mystery and point-and-click game, that touches the theme of suicide. Here, its game loops and mechanics are discussed and presented, both from the beginning of the first prototyping and in the final prototype. Many ideas were brought to the table during the prototyping, but a lot had to be scraped and saved for another time, to instead focus on the main loop and mechanic.
Changing Between Worlds
The first concept ideas surrounding the game, before it was called Between Worlds, was similar to the current game, but had different mechanics. Originally the so called “super power” that the player has, was the ability to read minds. However, only strong memories that the player had to trigger in order to see, by either finding clues in dialogue or items and present them to the character in question. This would then results in more clues or more concrete answers. The loop here was essentially that the player had to walk around talking and searching the environment for clues, until they had enough to trigger a memory, and that would lead to another part of the game, where the investigation and loop would continue untill the next memory. Additionally, the intention was also to have some sort of management, in the sense that the characters in question were unstable, and triggering the memories would encourage them more to take the action of committing suicide. So the player had to consider their choices in gaining clues through dialogue and when to trigger the memories. All this was scrapped and the design process started over, since it would be far too complicated for three people, who were not used to programming. So the mechanics and loop was re-designed, keeping the core idea: Stopping a suicide attempt before it happens and stopping it through investigation and choices leading to a branching story. Instead of memory reading, the core loop changed to the player having the ability to switch between extreme representations of a character’s perception of the world and their surroundings: This changed the possibilities of player experience. Before the game would have a limitation in its variation in both mechanics, feel and representation. By switching between worlds the entire game’s visual style could change and that in itself could give a clue about the character’s situation. It could also open up for different methods of solving issues or finding clues, through instead of factual deducing, it would be more interpretable deducing. For example, an idea with a blind character was that most of their percepted world would be based on memory, so in their world objects could exist even though in the real world there would be nothing. The items meaning or appearance could change depending on who’s world the player was visiting giving it a different spin on the traditional investigation mechanics of finding clues and items to progress.
The mechanic changed, but the loop stayed more or less the same. It was still about exploration and investigation, but instead of having the loop end with activating a memory that would lead to a new part of the game, the loop was instead running around finding clues by using the ‘change-between-worlds’ mechanic to gather clues about how to approach the characters and who were possibly considering suicide.
Changes in Loops
Although having opened up for multiple options in both game secondary loops and mechanics, a lot had to be cut due to lack of time, people and skill in programming. The biggest and most influential part of the game was the freedom to move around and change between worlds at the player’s own accord. For the sake of making a prototype that touches the most important mechanic and loop, being the players ‘super power’ and a branching story. The sense of freedom was scarce and the story became very linear, and the character who wanted to commit suicide was the same each game. The original thought though, was that it would be random each time, and that the game’s dialogue, story and options would change as a result. Ideas like management of the character’s psychological state, taking advantage of how the different worlds could give different clues and make different puzzles, as well as an inventory system, were also scrapped. Instead it was fully focused on the core mechanic and loop of changing between worlds, how the idea of solving a murder case before it happened could work, but also how the players ultimately would respond the a game surrounding a theme about suicide.
The game experience were still more or less reached, with perhaps the exception of sense of freedom, due to the very linear storyline. Players were very curious about the different worlds and wanted to explore more, they felt a sense of tension and stress when they had to make choices, and some felt satisfaction from saving or helping the characters.
Overall Concluding Statement
In the end, people seemed interested in the loop and mechanic of changing between worlds. However, they were all missing the ability to move around more freely and the amount of clickable objects and items that would help the investigation. But it was all missing elements that we wanted to implement in the game at the beginning, and plan to in the future.
First Prototype loop: