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Mnemoscene: JRPGs and WRPGs

Sure, today I went to work and progressed my projects there, I am mostly recovered from the crazy muscle spasm that laid me out yesterday, but what I want to write about is progress on Emergence.  Or, rather, progress documenting it, I suppose.

At the risk of protesting too much: I think it's important to establish and articulate a vision for a project.  When everything else falls away or goes to hell and must be thrown out, what should be left?  Why am I spending a bunch of time doing this thing rather than some other thing?  This is why I've been letting myself write about this world, write about the game mechanics, and spend time exploring relevant games rather than just shutting everything else out in order to sit down and code/build.

What I've found recently is the heart of the game, what I'm trying to that feels new.  Narratively, I want to make a story about emergent intelligence, I want to blend magic and technology, and I want to explore attitudes about what technology can and should do or be for us.  Anyone who's heard me babble or played in a game of mine will not be at all surprised by this; the only question is how long it will be before the logo from Marathon gets stamped all over everything.

Mechanically, I would like to blend JRPGs and WRPGs.  In JRPGs, the player guides a character or party of characters through their stories, making tactical decisions about how the characters fight, negotiate, or otherwise don't fail, but not controlling the characters' stories. In WRPGs, the player makes choices about who and what the main character is and does and in what direction the story goes.  Often the PC represents the player or is a cypher for the player.

These structures are at odds.  You can't tell a strong story through a cast of characters and let the player decide who the main character is and everything that they do.  Certain hypertext structures place the reader onstage in the drama, and you have to be ready for the reader to go where they want to, or to test the bounds of the system as players do.  Other structures put the reader off to the side, watching a drama play out and exerting agency mainly through where the camera goes, in what part of the story gets the attention.

I think there's a middle ground.  Perhaps we can have a cast of characters doing their own things, and let the reader choose where to point their attention ... but in so doing, influence how the characters do what they do.  Along the way, those choices determine the kind of reader/character/agent that the player eventually steps onstage with, by which point the other characters already have relationships with the PC.

Modeling those independent actions (with player influence) and the relationships that predetermine the PC ... there's my challenge, but one I'm exploring deeply now.  I can't stay up any longer to write about it, so I'll leave this here: Card Shark and Thespis.