Project Report: Part 1

by Zach Tomaszewski, Jennifer Kaneshiro, & Neil Phan

for ICS491, Fall 2003, taught by Dr. Kim Binsted


Our story will likely be a computer game in the mystery/suspense genre. It will use both first and third person perspectives. It will likely be quite linear (a nodal plot structure), though there should be one or two major storyline branches.

The story involves 4 sections. In the first section, the player (in first person) attempts to solve a series of bizarre disappearances. In the second section, the player reviews the first part of the game from a different (3rd person) perspective to find further clues that were hidden the first time. These further clues lead to alternate conclusions about the cause of the disappearances. In the third part of the game, even further review is possible, leading to other possible interpretations. The final part of the game is again in first person and allows the player to resolve the plotline.


The storyline is basically as follows.


A cinematic introduction reveals a college campus and our protagonist (we shall call him Hero for now) getting settled in, talking to friends, attending classes, etc. He and his love interest (LI) get involved with a small experiment on campus by a large drug and technology Corporation. The experiment is supposedly to test a new drug that aids in concentration--students get paid to participate, take a pill, and hang around and play games for a few hours while people in white lab coats watch them and take notes. It's all very harmless. That night, Hero has a strange, disjointed dream about opening a door.

Part 1

Then the actual game starts in first person. One of Hero's friends calls him with an urgent request to come see him. When Hero arrives, his friend is gone and his apartment is in disarray--there's a broken window, knocked over furniture, and a weird symbol painted on the wall (possibly in blood). But there's no body at the scene. Hero comes under suspicion when police learn he was there around the time of the disappearance.

While trying to avoid the police as much as possible, Hero follows up on clues from the scene, which lead him to further disappearances and further clues. (Clues include things such as jotted notes, phone numbers, answering machine messages, comments from neighbors, matchbooks from a certain bar, etc.) Many, but not all, of the disappearances are of people who were at the experiment on campus.

During of all of this, Hero checks in with LI occasionally to get the latest news about what the papers say and what the police are doing. He also suffers an increasing number of weird dreams and short lapses of time he can't remember. Eventually, after three or four disappearances, the latest clues imply that LI will be next to disappear. Hero rushes to her place, but just as he opens the door to her place, he blacks out.

Part 2

Hero wakes up in a psychiatric ward. He is being held in suspicion of murder. (One of the missing people's bodies was found.) The evidence is all rather circumstantial, but there is a lot of it. A psychiatrist is trying to find out what's going on with Hero, since he was muttering incoherently at the time the police picked him up. Hero can't remember, so the psychiatrist takes him back over the first part of the game under hypnosis.

It's not yet clear how this will work, but it will likely involve a 3rd person perspective of past events. Maybe the player can hear (or see the text of) the psychiatrist talking and Hero answering. She can control the speed and angle of the camera, and see all the action she saw before through Hero's eyes. But now she can see other things in the scene. For example, she can time-lapse through Hero tossing and turning in bed. But at some point, he gets up and leaves the room for a few hours. But the player can't see where he goes. The player sees an episode where Hero talked to LI, but now she can see his back and see that he seems to have blood on his jacket. The psychiatrist focuses the player's attention on all these clues that point at Hero as a killer.

However, there's also a lot of missing pieces. The disappearances are strongly (but not completely) tied back to the experiment. The victims seemed to be working on something together in secret. Also, many of the clues coincide with images from Hero's visions.

After these sessions, the psychiatrist says she's got enough evidence to present in court that Hero was at all the disappearances at the time they occurred. We never actually see him commit any crime though--he's usually off camera. So for example, we see him walk up the stairs of a building and turn the corner down the hall, but we don't follow him. 20 minutes later he comes back out with blood on his jacket, and the person has disappeared. Additionally, the psychiatrist reveals that she has talked to the Corporation that ran the campus experiment. Hero was in the control group of the experiment--he didn't take any drugs at all, only a sugar pill! His "visions" and blackouts are obviously a product of his own deranged mind. This would explain any connections to the crime scenes--suppressed memories of Hero's own crimes!

Part 3

With all these clues pointing at him, the player/Hero gets to decide if they really did it. If so, the game takes one direction. (Possibilities discussed below.) If not, Hero finally succeeds in opening the door in his dreams. He gains greater control of his own mind, and can again review the past. This review is still in third person, but now the camera can follow Hero, rather than remaining fixed.

So, watching the scenes again, the player sees that when Hero gets up out of bed, we can follow him around the corner and see that he doesn't go outside, but into the bathroom to throw up (a drug reaction) and fall asleep on the floor for a couple hours. We see him go up those building stairs, but this time we can follow him around the corner and see him get attacked by two guys in dark sunglasses (who maybe inject him with something). He gets knocked against a red wall with a large "Wet Paint" sign on it (hence the "blood" on his back).

These extra clues not only point to Hero not being the killer, but also reveal that many of his visions were of the crime scene BEFORE the crime occurred! Also, the experimenting Corporation is indeed trying to cover up what happened that day. Remembering the experiment in full detail now, Hero realizes he was brainwashed to forget most of it, and also that, when he succeeded in realizing his psychic potential as released by the drug, he was "programmed" to go to a certain address. However, one of his clues suggests a different contact point.

Part 4

Somehow managing an escape from jail, Hero heads to the alternate contact address. There he learns the truth--the Corporation is using high-tech drugs to release latent psychic abilities in people. Normally brainwashing subjects to recontact the Corporation if any psychic abilities manifest themselves, this time a resistance group has been trying to lure subjects away. The Corporation learned about this, and quickly moved to kidnap any remaining subjects and to pin the crimes on someone who was slow to reveal any psychic powers of his own--our Hero!

Conclusions and Alternatives

While this explains all the events up to this point, it's still quite a cliffhanger. What happens to Hero? Does he clear his name? Does he join the resistance group and take down the Corporation? What are the full extent of his awakening psychic powers? Are there side-effects, such as heightened neural damage and a shortened lifespan? What happened to LI? All these questions imply an interest sequel, but we may need to tie up many of these things as well as we can at this point.

Also, there's the possibility that the player was convinced at the beginning of Part 3 by the hypnotist's argument that Hero actually committed these crimes. If the player believes this, the resulting story path will assume that Hero DID commit the crimes. However, further investigation may reveal that he did so under the influence of the Corporation. It's possible the two paths would rejoin in Part 4, with Hero attempting to break the Corporation's control over him. However, he would have a much harder time clearing his name. Also, the psychic nature of the drugs would be downplayed.

Overview Again

Possible story arc
The story arc of one possible path through the game.

Works Cited

This plotline has independently and unintentionally paralleled many of the premises of:

King, Stephen. Firestarter. New York: Viking Press, 1980.

Other developmental ideas were also similar to:

King, Stephen. The Dead Zone. New York: Viking Press, 1979.