Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pangenic: Adaptive storytelling and the stiff upper lip

Good writing, good storytelling, and infectious characters are excellent vehicles to deliver knowledge. Thus I justify having spent a good half of my youth obsessively playing story-based videogames like Heroes of Might and Magic. How else, I ask you, would I know what a troglodyte looks like? Seriously though, video games are scary immersive and getting better every day, despite the fact that they're bogglingly hard to make. On this note I'm happy to announce that Alex Haworth, the other half of the Dada Factory, is kickstarting Pangenic, an Indy game of his own based in a steampunk world of virulent mayhem.

This is good news. Al has had his hands full since the beginning of time. Before even finishing his master's degree in video game design he was snatched away to be the Program Director of the Leonardo Center. Whatever dynamic thing Al is doing, it always seems to involve taking a cutting-edge technology and bending it to his will in order to make novel and poetic worlds. Backing this game, for me, is to encourage a young artist to spread further into the possibilities of his oeuvre.

The game looks to be intimately rendered in an artist's hand, which is fun to see, and the makers strive to craft that authored whimsy into the dialogue and story as well. It's victorian conceit and ominous otherworldly threat should lead to plenty of opportunities for that kind of creation, in the vien of highly authored games like BioShock.

Video games are immersive worlds, and there are plenty of great ones out there, but they often lack the storytelling and depth that an interactive medium can accomodate. They need writing to follow the players through the various wends of the plot and reward them when they change a course of events with dynamic stories to reflect the alterations.

This is a daunting task, of course, because the team needs to essentially write exponential numbers of stories, but the reward is a living experience. I doubt this early indy game, being created on a shoestring budget without the thousands of programmers and designers that larger games have, will be so broad in scope as to be comprehensively intuitive and responsive to the player's inputs. But it's a very exciting step, and I relish seeing what they come up with. Throw a buck or two their way, or spread their proposal around to help make it happen.

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