14 January 2007

Four Nations: Teleconference Summary

Selene was traveling this week, but we started up the bimonthly Four Nations teleconferences again, to get this project back on track after several months of nothing happening. It was probably the most productive conversation we've ever had too, even with just Thomas and Shreyas. I think the months off gave us a chance to think independently about the project and which aspects we really care about.

Four general themes emerged:

1) We want Four Nations to have tricked out player interface. Shreyas compared it to what the Wii has done in video game interfaces. The actual things players do in game and the manner in which they do them should be intentionally constructed to efficiently accomplish the things we want to have happen in play.

2) We want to use props or other elements to create a visual representation of what has occurred, is occurring, and will occur in play. I compared it to Shadows Over Camelot, where the board is constantly adjusted to represent the developing situation. Passersby should be able to watch or glance at the game in progress and get a good sense of what has happened, what is happening, and what might happen soon.

3) We are committed to structuring play as a series of stories that can be told in an order chosen by the players, based on four booklets that map out how each player approaches the game. There is the possibility that maps or other components may be added as we build the interface described previously.

4) We are interested in exploring ways that the narrative and setting components of play can be given a pre-determined structure without forcing players down specific paths or to embrace content that doesn't excite them. One way is to give players a limited number of interesting choices at any given moment and have choices lead, in turn, to other interesting choices (instead of more open ended lists of options, like the loresheets in Weapons of the Gods).

We also spent some time worrying about components and whether this is going to be an real commercial project or limited series game (like untitled) or a hand-crafted game that we make a few copies of to play with our friends. But we decided that didn't really need to be determined right now, though we need to keep those different options in mind.

We also talked about the need to develop "proof of concept" for each of the components that we're interested in using in this project. We talked about the idea of writing a series of micro-games on the way to creating Four Nations, to develop pieces of the eventual puzzle and try ideas out before we settled on them.

As such, we each chose a project for the next couple weeks:

1) Thomas is going to work on a sketchy mock-up of one or more of the booklets that each player will use.

2) Shreyas is going to play with maps as one possible component of the interface and see what some different ways of using them might entail.

3) I'm going to try to develop a working example of the "narrative seed web" I was pondering for Red Star White Sun, either by finishing that micro-game or doing a similar one based on the Four Nations concept.



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