Our story will be a computer game in the mystery/suspense genre. It will use both first and third person perspectives. It will be quite linear (a nodal plot structure), though the storyline will branch into two different endings depending on what the player chooses.
The story involves 3 sections. In the first section, the player attempts to solve a mysterious disappearance and murder. In the second section, the player is presented with evidence collected from the first section indicating that the protagonist is unknowingly the culprit. The third section branches off into two different storylines depending on whether the player chooses to believe in the protagonist's guilt or innocence.
A cinematic introduction reveals a small college campus on the Sunday before spring break. The scene cuts to a classroom in the middle of campus filled with a dozen students. They talk about the experiment they are about to participate in. Something to do with the company DrugCo and some new drug they've invented. It is obvious that no one know for sure what they'll be subjected to, but no one seems to mind for $200 for 4 hours of their time.
The camera focuses on the protagonist, Henry, a nice, nerdy-looking, clean-cut guy who has come to the experiment with his good friend Phil, a tan, good-looking, alpha-type baseball player who is forever trying to solve the Rubik cube. They talk about shooting some hoops on Tuesday when Phil's teammate, Stan, and Stan's close friend, Sandy, walks in. It is soon clear that Henry is smitten with Sandy as all four of them hit it off. Phone numbers are exchanged just before they are ushered into different rooms by people in white lab coats. The students are given either a pill or an injection and subjected to various hand-eye coordination, reflex, memory, and endurance tests.
Four hours elapse and Henry is seen staggering into his apartment, exhausted from the event-filled day. He collapses onto his bed. He dreams about events from that day and from the next day (but the player won't realize until later).
The player (in first-person from the perspective of Henry) is given a chance to find out more about Henry by exploring his bedroom.
Then the player gets a call from a hysterical Sandy. Stan is missing.
The player goes to Stan's house and looks around, collects clues and talks with Sandy. The player will have a choice on whether to call the police or not (will not affect plot outcome).
After the player is done exploring, Sandy asks to be escorted home.
The player is given a chance to explore Sandy's apartment and learn more about her. A discovery at her place (hinting to a romantic involvement between her and Phil) upsets Henry and the player is given no other choice but to leave.
Henry goes back to his apartment and falls asleep. He dreams about events from that day and the next day.
Henry wakes up and the player is reminded of the basketball game with Phil today.
The player arrives at Phil's apartment and finds him dead on the floor. The player collects clues (similar to those found at Stan's house the day before) and leaves.
With no where else to go, the player heads to Sandy's apartment. There, the player and Sandy discuss what happened to Phil (and Stan) and the conversation eventually points an accusing finger at DrugCo. Henry decides to investigate the company.
At the library, the player goes online and looks for background information on DrugCo, finding nothing but rave reviews, except for a single website. The website is the homepage for a resistance group claiming the company is up to no good, but no details are given and no contact information can be found for the organization.
The player goes to DrugCo's headquarters, talks to the receptionist, and digs through the trash, finding what might be incriminating evidence.
Henry goes back to his apartment and falls asleep. He dreams about events from that day and about the criminal entering Sandy apartment.
Henry jolts awake and rushes over to Sandy's place. As he rushes through her front door, all goes black.
This section will be a cut scene in the third-person perspective. Henry wakes up in a psychiatrist's office. He was discovered unconscious in Sandy's apartment with Sandy no where to be found. He is informed that he has a split personality brought on by recent stress and authorities believe that his "bad" self is the kidnapper/murderer. The evidence which points to this conclusion is reviewed (including possible motives for harming Stan, Phil, and Sandy and explaining his dreams of future events).
After being presented with all the facts, Henry escapes from the psychiatrist's office.
All scenes in this section will be in third-person perspective.
In a cut scene, Henry is trying to reason out everything that has been presented. In the end, Henry asks himself (the player), "Am I guilty?"
The player finds out (through Henry's dialog with himself) that maybe if they figure out where Sandy is, that will "cure" Henry's split-personality disorder.
Henry will be able to go back to crime scenes, maybe view some flashbacks of the crimes, review clues found, and analyze his dreams. All of these will point to where Sandy was taken to: the storage space Henry rents out. Once there and Sandy is discovered tied and gagged, the player watches as an evil smirk creeps over Henry's face, showing that Henry was wrong in thinking he could rid himself of his split-personality.
Talking to himself out loud, Henry says that he doesn't believe he has a split-personality, and the only logical perpetrator of the recent crimes is DrugCo.
Henry will be able to return to the library to do more research, where he will unexpectedly meet with a person from the resistance group (the website found earlier). Henry is told about experiments DrugCo conducts which deals with ESP and super-human powers. (Henry is able to see through another's eyes, explaining the weird dreams of future events.) Those kidnapped or killed were done so by the company in the efforts to recruit those who showed success signs of the drugs and eliminate those who resisted. When asked about where Sandy might be found, the person tells Henry that she is probably in DrugCo's secret laboratory which is supposed to be found through the clues in dreams the test subjects have.
Now given the power to review Henry's dreams, the player analyzes the clues which point to the sewers just below DrugCo's headquarters.
When Henry arrives at the laboratory, he finds out that Sandy has been the one doing the dirty work for DrugCo all this time (and has been the eyes he's seen through in his dreams).
In the development of our game's plotline, we unintentionally ran into similar events from Stephen King's Firestarter. In the book Firestarter, the main plotline was that the government was conducting experiments on innocent people and trying to cover up those experiments. Furthermore, the government also wanted to harness the psychic powers produced by their drugs by doing whatever it took to control the individuals.
In our narrative (if the player decides that Henry is innocent), we also have a drug/technology corporation that developed new drugs to test on humans where all its subjects are willing college students but are oblivious to the side effects and the corporation's agenda. The drugs that our protagonist, Henry, takes give him the ability to see through someone else's eyes. This leads him to uncover the corporation's wrong-doings and attempt to stop them.
Another movie that our narrative unintentionally relates to was the recent movie, Identity as well as the movie, The Sixth Sense. Our narrative has a few twists and clues which allow the player to decide on the fate and the "good guy"/"bad guy" character of Henry which is similar to the main concept in Identity and The Sixth Sense which forces the audience to use their own imagination to think of events in a different perspective than what is currently presented in the film at a given point in time.
For instance, in Identity, we soon realize that all the events that occurred in the motel were actually only happened in the mind of a psychotic killer. Also, in The Sixth Sense, we find out in the ending twist that Bruce Willis was a ghost, something the general audience didn't pick up on until all the clues were re-presented. The similar concept is strongly found in sections 2 and 3 of our game where the player decides on the outcome for Henry based on how they associate, comprehend, and interpret the clues that are found.
The interaction style of our narrative would resemble that of the games Rise of the Dragon as well as The Uncertainty Machine. There will be a city map consisting of a screen shot of all the places the player must visit to finish the game. But the player will only be permitted to go to certain areas at certain times of the game (or only after certain clues are found). If the player clicks on an area in which they are not permitted, there will be a message, "You don't have privilege to access this area," or some clue that tells the player where they should go next.
(Image from http://www.mobygames.com/game/shots/gameId,98/)
In section 1 of the game (in first-person perspective), the main interaction would be the mouse. The player would use the mouse to move, walk, pick up items, etc. with just a click on a point on the screen. There would also be a menu screen where the player can select certain commands to set for the mouse, such as walk, run, look, etc. When the player selects a particular command, the mouse click is effective only for that command. For instance, if the player selects walk as the command and clicks on one point of the screen, Henry would walk up to that point. Also, the cursor would change on items that could be selected or clicked. For example, if the mouse cursor is placed on top of a gun, the cursor would change into a hand or something. We would have different mouse cursors when the player passed the cursor on top of objects within the screen so the player doesn't have to click on every object. There would also be some sound effect when the player clicks on an object to give it a more interactive environment.
(Image from http://www.mobygames.com/game/shots/gameId,98/)
We were thinking of giving the player an inventory that they could work with that would be similar to the one in Rise of the Dragon, but there aren't many things the player would have to pick up and keep. Most of the clues will remain where they are, so if they player needs to see them again, they can just return to the scene (but most times, they won't have to).
The psychological perspective is always in the first-person perspective. Hence, the player is Henry, while the visual perspective of our narrative consists of both first- and third-person perspectives.
The visual first-person perspective is found in section 1 of our game. We chose to make it this way so the player will feel like they are actually experiencing everything Henry is going through. The bond they make in the first part of the game will be important when the player makes the decision on Henry's innocence or guilt in section 3. And the stronger the connection the player makes with Henry, the more shocking section 2 of the game will be when they find out about his possible split-personality and possible involvement in the crimes. The first-person visual perspective also helps us narrow the player's vision of certain scenes and lets us show them only what we want them to see to make sections 2 and 3 even more surprising.
The third-person visual perspective in sections 2 and 3 promotes the idea of a more detached relationship between the player and Henry. Though the player is still linked to him psychologically, we're giving them a more distanced view of the whole situation (giving them a look at the bigger picture). There, they can observe scenes from a different perspective and maybe realize that they misinterpreted certain clues and events (similar to what happens in real life when investigators get too close to their subjects, objectivity is lost).
The introduction will take place on the Sunday before spring break. The main characters, Henry, Stan, Phil, and Sandy, will be introduced to the player in movie-like quality. They are all subjected to experiments by DrugCo for about four hours. After, the camera follows Henry back to his apartment where he falls asleep.
Scenes and faces flash by. Birds flying. Sandy talking. A fish in a fish bowl falling off a table. Water dripping from a faucet. Stan laughing. Brown snow. The words "can't escape". Scurrying rats. A black gloved hand reaching.
All of section 1 will be in first-person psychological and visual perspective of Henry.
The player can look at the things in Henry's bedroom. Things found: overdue bills, a checkbook, woodworking magazines, an eviction notice, a letter rescinding a scholarship, a reminder of the planned basketball game with Phil, a bill for a storage space, a letter from home about Henry's father losing his job and his ill mother, and a signed waiver in an envelope with the DrugCo logo (a hand covered in a dark shadow cast by a torch).
After the player has looked at all the items above, Sandy calls to say Stan is missing. The player, with nothing else to do in the room, exits Henry's apartment and goes over to Stan's house.
The player looks at clues left at Stan's house: door not forced open, papers strewn all over, a dead goldfish surrounded by broken glass on a wet pile of paper, an empty envelope with the DrugCo logo, and a black handprint and message ("You can't escape the Black Hand!") on the wall.
The player can talk to Sandy and call the police, but neither will affect the outcome of the story.
As the player is about to leave, Sandy asks to be escorted home. Given no other option, the player complies.
When reaching her apartment, Sandy comments about a dream-catcher on the outside of her door, prompting the player to look closer at it (it will be important later in the game).
While inside, Sandy goes to the bathroom, giving the player time to explore her place. Items in apartment: magazines, photos of family and friends, and a glass vase filled with 2 dozen long-stemmed roses with a note ("Sandy-- Happy Birthday! Hope this year is as wonderful to you as you are to me. Call me. Love, Phil"). The player is not allowed to leave the apartment until they read the note (message: "I can't be rude and leave now!") and are not encouraged to stay after they read it (message: "My best friend stabbed me in the back! I just want to go home.").
The player can explore his place more, but there will be nothing new to find. There will be no other option but to sleep.
Scenes flash by. Black gloved hands griping tightly onto a Rubik cube, then letting it fall to the floor. Water whooshing by. Brown snow. A fish in a fish bowl falling off a table. A close-up of a rose. Rust on walls. A black gloved hand reaching for a doorknob.
The player hears a buzzing/ringing noise and is encouraged to find the source. (message: "What is that noise?!!?") The player finds that it is the alarm clock. On it is a sticky note about the basketball game with Phil today. The player is encouraged to leave. (message: "I better get going and meet Phil.")
The player is presented with Phil's front door where they can knock, yell, or pound the door in. Only pounding the door in will get them in the apartment. Once inside, Phil is found dead in the middle of the floor. Clues found in the apartment: Phil was strangled (handprints visible around neck), an empty envelope with the DrugCo logo, papers all over the floor, and a black handprint on a cabinet door.
Once the player has looked at all the clues, they may leave. The only place available for them to go to is Sandy's apartment.
The player can discuss certain topics with Sandy:
The discussion ends with Henry telling Sandy that he's going to do some research. The player will be encouraged to go to the library. (e.g. If the player goes to Stan's place, the message: "I really don't think this is the best place to do research," pops up.)
The only thing the player is allowed to do in the library is look things up in an online search engine. (The player will have a first-person view of the screen and will interact by typing search topics on their keyboard.) The player can type in any words or phrases to look up, but the only one that will come up with a result will be "DrugCo." Five website links will pop up, four of which will go on about how wonderful the company is and how perfect a record it has. The fifth website will be the homepage of a resistance group called HALO. They claim that the company is up to no good and their perfect record is proof (since no legitimate corporation ever has a perfect record). They say that money is being passed under the table and innocent people are being used (though they don't elaborate). The website has no contact information.
The player is now encouraged to go to DrugCo's Headquarters (it is the only place where new information can be found).
The player goes into the headquarters and talks to the receptionist. If the player goes through the right line of conversation, they can charm some answers out of her that makes it easier for them to figure out where DrugCo's secret lab is (if they decide that Henry is innocent in Section 3). If they insult her (or are just not charming enough), they will just get kicked out and will have a more difficult time finding the secret lab (if the need arises in Section 3).
Once the player is done with the receptionist, they are encouraged to look around the building (message: "Maybe I can find something useful around here."). They find a dumpster and, while digging through it, find: a manila folder with Phil's name typed on it and a blank company letterhead. While looking at the company logo more closely, Henry talks to himself, "There's something odd about the picture. The torch the hand is holding seems bright, but not bright enough to be throwing such a dark shadow, and not in the direction it is in the image. It's only thrown over the hand. A dark, black shadow. GASP! The Black Hand!"
With nothing else to find at the headquarters, the player's only option is to go back to Henry's apartment.
The player is given no other option but to sleep.
Scenes flash by. Black gloved hands griping tightly onto a Rubik cube, then letting it fall to the floor. A fish in a fish bowl falling off a table. A close-up of a rose. Brown snow. DrugCo's company letterhead. A black gloved hand reaching for the doorknob, twisting it, pushing the door open slightly and looking up and seeing a beautiful dream-catcher hanging on it...
Henry wakes up with a start. "That was Sandy's door," he gasps. "The Black Hand was going into Sandy's place!" Dream or not, he has to make sure Sandy is safe. He rushes out the door.
He runs up to Sandy's door. His hand reaches out to the doorknob, just like he's been seeing in his dreams for the past 3 nights. He pushes through the door when all goes black.
[All of section 2 will be a cut scene in the third-person visual perspective.]
Henry is just coming-to in a psychiatrist's office, an armed guard clearly visible through the door window. The psychiatrist's speech is as follows:
"Hello, Henry. My name is Dr. Wong and I'm the state psychiatrist. You're just coming out of a hypnotic trance, so don't be alarmed if you're a little disoriented. I doubt you know why you're here. The police found you unconscious in Sandy Weaver's apartment last night. You have what we call split personality disorder. We believe it was brought on by the enormous stress you have been experiencing recently: your eviction notice, the loss of your scholarship, your ailing mother and your unemployed father. But what we think finally triggered your personality to split was your infatuation with Sandy.
"The police and I believe that you--and by you, I mean your other personality--kidnapped and, we assume, killed her close friend, Stan. You felt he was a threat to your ultimate goal of winning over Sandy.
"You also felt that way about your friend, Phil. The police found flowers at Sandy's apartment from her brother, Phil. We know you visited her place a few days prior, and can understand how you might have mistaken the two. One can only imagine how you must have reacted when you thought your best friend went behind your back.
"And now Sandy has disappeared. I don't think you did anything to harm her. I believe you did it so you could have her all to yourself.
"Under hypnosis, you spoke about DrugCo. You believe they are behind the murder and disappearances, but they aren't. Your subconscious blames the company for your stress, and you're finding any way you can to get revenge.
"Do you remember your dreams, Henry? You also spoke about them under hypnosis. You saw parts of the crime scenes the night before the crimes. You saw things that no one would know about unless they were there. And you can't blame DrugCo. The police did some investigating on the company. All they gave you kids during the experiments were sugar pills and saline injections. They weren't testing new drugs. They were testing the power of suggestion.
"The only thing left for you to do is to accept my diagnosis. Then we can move on to the next important step: finding Sandy.
"If you don't accept my diagnosis, I cannot help you and you will be on your own to prove your innocence."
At the realization of him possibly being a criminal, Henry jumps up, pushes the psychiatrist to the ground, jumps through a window and escapes to straighten things out in his head.
[All of section 3 will be in the third-person visual perspective and first-person psychological perspective of Henry.]
Henry is talking out loud to himself, trying to decide whether it was possible that he did all those things the psychiatrist said he did, or did he know more about DrugCo than the authorities and that they were really behind it all.
Then Henry asks himself (the player), "Am I guilty or innocent?" The player decides and affects the ending of the game.
The player learns from Henry's babbling to himself that he believes that if he finds Sandy, his split-personality disorder will be "cured."
The player can go back to the crime scenes and review clues. When they are at the scenes, the viewer is shown flashbacks of the crimes as they happen. (e.g. Henry knocking Stan unconscious and dragging him out of his house. Henry pushing Phil to the ground and choking him to death. Henry gagging a struggling Sandy and carrying her out of her apartment.)
The last place the player is allowed to go to is Henry's apartment. There they can sit down and review his dreams to look for clues on where Sandy might be hidden (this might be in first-person visual perspective). With each flashing scene, Henry might make a comment to give the player hints. (e.g. "Who ever heard of brown snow? Or is that snow?") This will eventually lead the player to the storage space Henry rents out for his woodworking equipment.
In a cut scene, the player can see Henry rush to his storage space, open the door and see Sandy bound and gagged inside. Then the player can watch as an evil smirk sneaks over Henry's face, he walks in, and closes the door behind him.
Henry confirms out loud that the psychiatrist is full of crap and that he didn't do anything she said he did. The only ones who could, and would, do those crimes is DrugCo. Henry says out loud, "I think I need to do more research," hinting to the player to return to the library.
Once there, the player is met by a woman from HALO. The allowable topics are:
Now given the ability to review Henry's dreams (first-person visual perspective), the player can go through the scenes one at a time with Henry making comments and giving the player hints in the background. Also, if the player got information from DrugCo's receptionist, those facts would be reiterated by Henry. These clues would eventually lead the player to the sewers under DrugCo's Headquarters.
In a cut scene, the player will watch Henry sneak through sewage pipes and find the entrance to the DrugCo's lab. He easily gets in only to find a terrified Stan strapped to a chair and a grinning Sandy standing next to him holding a needle. Henry, stunned, calls out, "Sandy?!" She looks up at him and giggles, "Whose eyes did you think you were looking through, Henry?"
King, Stephen. Firestarter. New York: Viking Press, 1980.
Identity. Dir. James Mangold. Konrad Pictures & Columbia Pictures, 2003.
PowerDVD Version 5.0. Computer software. CyberLink, 2002.
Rise of the Dragon. Computer software. Dynamix, 1991.
The Sixth Sense. Dir. M. Night Shyamalan. Hollywood Pictures & Spyglass Pictures, 1999.
The Uncertainty Machine. Computer software. Ratracer, 2003.
Primary Author: Jennifer Kaneshiro
Though the game is designed to be graphical, we have implemented the first day and a half of the story (through Phil's death) in Inform.
Two example cut-scenes were also implemented by Jennifer Kaneshiro, but they could not be posted here due to their massive file size.
CIS: 491--Project, Part 4
|Last Edited: 31 Dec 2003|
©2003 by Z. Tomaszewski,
J. Kaneshiro, & N. Phan