Embracing the Oubliette

Future God Games: Dev Blog
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Cinematic Language.

John Paul Messerly
United States
Sherman Oaks
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Recently I've been struggling to finding just the right names for the powers and events in Touchstone:Oubliette. There are almost infinite choices and so many work on so many levels but which are best for the game.?

I could pick names that enhance the sports theme like...

sponsorship deal
media storm
player walkout
free agent
product endorsement
team merchandising

or play off the fantastical and magical theme...

shape change
time mastery
plague season
jedi mind tricks
killer ooze
ring of inevitability

or focus on childlike phrases that add a playfulness to the game...

Charlie Horse
Sucker Punch

In the end I found that all these naming conventions ended up achieving their individual goals but became stumbling blocks to the cinematic flow of the game. The ultimate goal of the game is to create an experience that flows naturally into a epic cinematic story. Each action should be in itself a series of heroic or amazing events that are larger than life but easily understood. It doesn't matter how cute the name sounds or funny it may be if it doesn't flow with what is happening then its hurting the game.

Language is a very powerful tool but it can alienate us very quickly if allowed to evolve in isolation. I find games like Magic the Gathering to be create this type of isolation because the events that are happening don't make sense to anyone not totally immersed in the games secret language. The game relies on so much specialized language that it is gibberish to the uninitiated. A great storytelling game is one in which you can describe what happened in the language of the game and have a non gamer hanging on your every word. To this end I've been searching for the most dynamic, exciting, and naturally cinematic phrases to enhance the events in the game.

here are a few of the new titles...

Mauled by the Minotaur
Time Flows Backwards
Skewered by Spikes
Madness Descends
Cave in

The original events:

The new cinematic events:

The original set had a great event named "Do Over" that allowed you to recover a lost player from the depths of the Oubliette whenever you scored a touchdown. As I pulled off this amazing feat I found it impossible to figure out how to use the cards title to describe what had just happened in a cinematic way. The title just got in the way. The title was chosen for its playfulness which is great (I want to keep the game somewhat lighthearted) but the title fails to flow naturally into a story.The card has been retitled as "Daring Rescue". This is an improvement but its still not perfect. "Carried to safety", or "Pulled from the darkness", or simply "recover from the depths" might work better but I won't know until I play test all these events over and over and see how naturally the events flow into the internal narrative as I play.

The creation of this internal narrative should happen without concentration or effort. There are many storytelling games out there that can be very cinematic if you are focused on playing "in character" (LOTR:LCG is a good example) but that fail to flow into a satisfying story if you simply focus purely on the games mechanics. A great example of this natural flow is Ambush!, in this game every choice is a dramatic action and for the most part the mechanics are completely hidden in a game matrix that is encodes so well that the player has no choice but to simply focus on his cinematic and strategic actions.


reverse engineering:

In order to find the most cinematic events to finalize the game I've begun a brainstorming process where I daydream about the game. I simply let my imagination play in the world of Touchstone:Oubliette and see what crazy and wondrous moments arise. When the events in the game are just as wild and exciting as those in my daydreams I will know the game is done.
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