A Reminder: You Should Be Quite Excited About Storyteller

By Nathan Grayson on December 15th, 2012 at 9:16 am.

That's about how I remember it going, yeah.

Games and storytelling have never exactly been the most natural of bedfellows – what with our medium’s love of frequent, control-arresting cut-scenes and exposition-heavy codexes, among other things. But Storyteller creator Daniel Benmergui’s making it look easy in a way that will hopefully elicit a rhythmic chorus of face-palms and “oh, duhs” from developers the world over: by keeping things simple. In short, the idea is to “solve” a brief, few-panel-long story by inserting items and characters as you see fit. The result? Heartbreak, romance, drama, laughs, suicide, amnesia, and more. It’s looking quite special, in other words. Craft a love story for the ages between it and your eyeballs after the break.

Adorable, right? And also surprisingly dark. As of now, Benmergui says there are 35 levels and 18 objects to spice up each scenario, clocking in at around an hour’s worth of content. The plan, however, is to continue development until late next year, so there will probably be a fair deal more before it’s all said and done.

I’m quite interested to see how it’ll all come together, though. Benmergui claims that solutions aren’t predefined, so you can take all sorts of bizarre routes to meet the conditions each level presents. Moreover, I can see things getting amusingly convoluted, given that he’s touting “classic soap opera complications like amnesia, dark secrets and returns from death.”

Shame, then, that Storyteller’s still such a long ways off. Oh well, though. There are clearly loads of moving pieces at work here. The idea may be simple, but bringing it to life is probably anything but.

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30 Comments »

  1. sub-program 32 says:

    This looks like a combination of the Grow games and Scribblenaughts, and yet nicely different from either!

    • Harlander says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head there.

      (Incidentally, what’s the deal with Scribblenauts: Unlimited still not being available on the UK Steam?)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Scribblenauts is pretty what I thought of, but by limiting the actual things you can use solves one of the main problems Scribblenauts has… that you can just blow through most levels with any of the millions of options.

      • Myarin says:

        I actually had the opposite problem – there were a couple later puzzles where it was obvious that the developers had a specific solution in mind, and I couldn’t think of the words for it.

        Having a nice easy set of symbols makes things a lot easier, since there’s only a limited number of ways to screw up instead of an entire dictionary’s worth.

  2. Bluerps says:

    Late next year? But I want to play it now! :(

    • Myarin says:

      I know, right? All these teasers of games that are coming out infinityforever in the future are torture. I have this massive bookmark collection in my browser of games to try to remember to play “someday”, when they come out.

      Devs, I understand you do this to drum up support, receive funding, and generally be able to have a nice living while making your games, but do you have any idea what you’re doing to us in the process? :(

  3. Oozo says:

    Worth mentioning the (by now pretty old) flash prototype that shows the principal mechanics rather well:
    http://www.kongregate.com/games/danielben/storyteller

    Looking forward to playing the finished version.

    • Myarin says:

      Haha, I remember the first time I played that. That little game is truly a joy. There’s this “You can do *anything*!” feeling that comes from it, which is lacking from so many tightly-railroaded games today.

  4. leeder krenon says:

    I like the concept but this seems like a very limited implementation. I hope it has more options for completing the puzzles than this video shows.

  5. Choca says:

    Looks pretty cool. Could get unreasonably good with a puzzle editor of some sort.

  6. MistyMike says:

    “Adam suicides out of heartbreak”. Why dev cannot in English?

  7. Simplisto says:

    I’m not sure while they chose that particular art direction, but it’s a nice idea. I think some developers choose to go for the ‘retro’ look too quickly without consulting with an illustrator.

    • Hasslmaster says:

      You really have to get rid of the notion that big pixels equals retro. The most important property of pixely graphics is to leave room for the player’s imagination, to make him perceive the game world through his own filter. I think this is exactly what’s most conducive for a story building game like this.

      • Simplisto says:

        To claim that this style shouldn’t be referred to as ‘retro’ seems odd. The link this style has with older game technology is unavoidable.

        • Myarin says:

          What about new systems with blocky low-res pixel art, like the Nintendo 3DS or smartphone games? Or, if you want a PC example, there are plenty of popular online games such as DFO and Latale which use it.

          Low-resolution pixel art is still a big deal for portable systems and MMOs in developing countries, since in both cases their processors are slower on average and can’t handle 3D or vector graphics as well. Many devices even have trouble loading bigger pieces of raster art into memory – dividing images up into tiles is still a necessary practice even today on RAM-limited systems. Therefore, tiled art gets chosen, due to it being simple, fast, and guaranteed to work. It’s also easier to see on small or low-quality screens, since pixel art has such easily-discernible outlines.

          So don’t even worry about the artistic merit or lack thereof – even for a developer who doesn’t care about that sort of thing, using a low resolution is a great way to ensure that everybody’s computers will be able to run their games, and using bright simple art guarantees that everyone will be able to see it clearly. Evolution often means choosing the path of least resistance, and this just happens to be the most effective and efficient way of doing art sometimes, even with brand-new technology.

          • Simplisto says:

            The examples you give (DFO and Latale) are odd ones, as they don’t really reflect the ‘blocky’ style I was commenting on. Regardless, to suggest that blocky graphics shouldn’t be referred to as ‘retro’ is like saying flares and brown home-decor shouldn’t ever be referred to as ’70s style’.

            In terms of tech-limitations, the sort of pixel-art you pointed towards can often require a greater amount of memory than vector art. I studied this area for my MA a few years back, with a particular focus on the varying limitations of internet bandwidth across multiple nations. It’s an important issue, no doubt, but to raise this in your argument when discussing Storyteller does conflict slightly with your other assertion that ‘It’s a hobby, for chrissakes!’, doesn’t it?

            As I did in my other post, I want to make it clear there’s no (or should be no) negativity picked up from what I’m saying here. You seemed rather upset by my other comments, and I don’t want you to impart your own mood upon your reading of mine ;)

    • draglikepull says:

      A lot of small indie developers also go with a simpler art style because they don’t have the money to hire an artist and it’s the best quality art that they’re capable of.

      I would say that the difficulty of creating art assets is still one of the biggest barriers to entry into game development for someone doing it without much of a budget. There are more and more products hitting the market to help with game design and programming all the time, ranging from the very simple (RPG Maker) to the more complex (Unity), but there’s still basically nothing to help with asset creation.

      • Simplisto says:

        I’m not ignorant of this issue, but I would have to ask these developers, where’s the collaboration?

        If they don’t have the capital needed to hire people, there are plenty of designers out there (like me) who would love to work on a project like this as a partner instead. All too often though, developers already have an image of what they want it to look like in their head, choosing to ignore that they don’t have the correct training. There’s nothing wrong with a programmer being involved in the art direction, but they shouldn’t lead it any more than a designer like me (who dabbles in the programming side) should attempt to govern their side of the process.

        The best indie games are made by teams of developers and designers that work together from the start.

        • Myarin says:

          1. Having a partner you’ve never met before means having to worry about someone who might leave, might miss deadlines, might not care about the project as much as you do, and a myriad of other things. I’ve rarely had a no-pay artist who *doesn’t* take off eventually.

          2. “Developers already have an image of what they want it to look like” – Way to avoid assuming things about people, eh? I’m sure some of them do, but not *all* of them are like that. On the other hand, having an opinionated person barging in and saying what’s right and wrong in black-and-white terms would make anyone bristle. Even the most peace-loving person might have to resist the temptation to defend themselves.

          3. “don’t have the correct training” – It’s a hobby, for chrissakes! Not every indie game project is grant-funded and taken super seriously. Some people just want to make games, by themselves, for fun. Bringing in other people or bothering to “train” for it can mean taking away the innocent feeling of joyfully drawing with crayons like a child, which is what developing games can feel like if you’re in a good mood. Making the entire game-dev process feel like drudge work is a great way to kill off creativity, you know? :/

          4. Why shouldn’t a designer like you try to govern the development process? The whole point of indie gaming is that the formalities of individual divisions and ranks are removed. If you’re talking about what people “should” and “shouldn’t” do, then you’re applying unnecessary rules to it.

          5. “The best indie games are made by teams” – Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say to that. I’ve played tons of games made by single people which were awesome. How can you even say that?

          Sorry, but wow. I could be wrong, but “Pixel art is outdated no matter what, designers and developers should not mix, people shouldn’t try expanding their horizons, and games made solo aren’t as good.” is how it sounded to me. Maybe I somehow misread that entire thing, but that’s really what I heard. :(

          If I may be so bold as to offer a bit of advice: Maybe your issue is that you’re scaring people away. People who are more loose and casual about applying rules to things might be afraid you’re going to start forcing your will on them, due to how black-and-white your opinions sound on things. It sounds like you think they’re stuck-up and arrogant, but um… they probably think you are, too. *hides*

          I wish you the best as an artist, but I think coming in with less of a certainty about how things should be done would help. :/

          • Simplisto says:

            1. ‘Having a partner you’ve never met before…’
            Then meet someone first. Make friends cross-industry with shared ambitions and interests.

            2. ‘Way to avoid assuming things about people, eh?… Even the most peace-loving person might have to resist the temptation to defend themselves’.
            It’s not about a designer ‘barging in’, it’s about two or more people from separate professions brining their collective knowledge together to make something even better.

            3. ‘It’s a hobby, for chrissakes!’
            Indeed it is, and it’s a lovely one at that. Hobbies can be shared too though. In fact, hobbies can be made even more enjoyable with a friend.

            4. ‘Why shouldn’t a designer like you try to govern the development process? The whole point of indie gaming is that the formalities of individual divisions and ranks are removed…’
            I never suggested anything other than an equal partnership between designer and developer. In fact, I even brought up the subject of both parties freely working cross-discipline. I can’t quite figure out where you got this impression from.

            5. ‘Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say to that. I’ve played tons of games made by single people which were awesome. How can you even say that?’
            I didn’t say individually-made games were bad, just that games made by multi-disciplined teams are better. It’s an inevitability of sharing tasks between a team of people with their own specialities.

            ‘Sorry, but wow. I could be wrong, but “Pixel art is outdated no matter what, designers and developers should not mix, people shouldn’t try expanding their horizons, and games made solo aren’t as good.” is how it sounded to me. Maybe I somehow misread that entire thing, but that’s really what I heard. ‘

            Hmm. I’m afraid you *did* somehow misread the entire thing. I never said pixel art was outdated, I argued the opposite about designers and developers mixing and I expressed enthusiasm for developers expanding their horizons. The only correct thing in that paragraph was that I believe games made solo aren’t as good as those made by an equally enthusiastic team, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to suggest.

            I don’t understand why my post has been met with so much needless aggression. Perhaps I’ve hit upon the reason for the non-pay artists you mentioned taking off.

            No hard feelings though. You obviously misinterpreted my post and it hit a nerve; an easy thing to do when discussing something your passionate about.

  8. yatagarasu says:

    Does it have multiplayer?

  9. phaeros says:

    Actually registered to comment…I’m hoping this succeeds. I’ve wanted to give a shot at, but don’t have the game experience, of implementing something similar in a sandbox world. The idea would be that a statistical model would resolve decisions based on attributes and objects present, creating dynamic relationships and choices among actors.

    This kind of thing could be absolutely amazing if expanded to other game types or used to add a bit of randomization to other genres. Definitely excited to see where it goes.

  10. catherinecatherine says:

    If you think Edna`s story is unimaginable,, last pay-cheque my boy frends dad basically got a cheque for $5933 sitting there twenty hours a week in their apartment and there neighbor’s aunt`s neighbour did this for seven months and made over $5933 part-time at there computer. applie the guide here… http://www.tips15.us

  11. prunescholar says:

    I remember that Increpare made a game similar to this a few years (?) back: Theatrics. It’s a great game, if a little tricky. http://ded.increpare.com/~locus/Theatrics/

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