The Book Starts Here: Dreamfall Chapters

By Adam Smith on July 1st, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Dreamfall Chapters always sounded like an episodic game thanks to the second word in the title right there. ‘Chapters’ are separated from one another in a way that seems more distinct than pages or paragraphs. The use of ‘Chapters’ was, as I understand it, in keeping with an idea of progression and storytelling rather than separation though. Whatever the semantics might be, Dreamfall Chapters will now be released episodically – split into Books – and the trailer for Book One has just arrived. I recognise these places because I’m the sort of person who wanders around in virtual worlds before they’re released.

Here’s my tuppence on the episodic release – it seems sensible given that the reasoning is to ensure that content isn’t cut and that the level of polish is high throughout. There were only a few aspects in the opening hours that I played that didn’t seem complete and some areas that looked impressive were still due for another round of work.

The biggest potential drawback lies in the pacing. I like to consume media at my own pace, whether that means waiting for a TV show box set and binging, or stopping a film mid-way through so I can have a nap. Sometimes I read a book in one night, sometimes one lives with me, unfinished, for months. If I want to play Dreamfall as soon as possible (and I do), there are going to be breaks at various points and those breaks could naturally become cliffhangers or otherwise climactic. Nothing wrong with that unless the switch to episodic breaks shapes the narrative toward unnecessary ends.

That said, the section I’ve played does end with high drama brewing. Contemplative and thoughtful it may be, but Dreamfall has high stakes and tensions aplenty. I guess what I’m really hoping is that the episodic format is used to bring out that tension without chopping up the narrative too sharply. It’s a choice that was made out of necessity but that doesn’t mean it has to be purely a logistical edit.

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15 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Hey Adam -

    Having perused a very lengthy Q&A with Ragnar on this subject, you shouldn’t have to worry about it shaping the narrative. The game was *always* designed to be chapter-focused; consisting of five books that had natural breaks between them (including time gaps). The original plan was simply for to release them as a set – now, for time and funding reasons, they are releasing them individually. The controversy here is the classic “they’ve changed the plan as presented in Kickstarter!” objective, which is one of those tricky quandries that is never going to go away. But they’ve said – and I wholly believe them – that this will have no impact on the narrative structure because there has been no actual change to narrative structure.

    As for wanting to play them all in one go – I am definitely sympathetic. Of course, one can always do that, and just treat this as a classic “full game delayed for additional polish and content” announcement.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    P.S. I didn’t realize Batou was in this game.

    • YogSo says:

      Forget about Batou, those are clearly alterna-reality versions of Laputan Machine and Flatlander Woman right there.

  3. Michael Fogg says:

    The switch to an episodic model really speaks volumes about how well the devs handled their (kickstarted) budget.

    • spec10 says:

      As in “they put too much money into part of the game, instead of finishing a whole game”?
      If so: I think it’s a wise decision to deliver a piece of high quality to generate more income for future development on the same quality level.

      I might have missed your point completey though. ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Um, no, it doesn’t? They have been very clear that this is not a “we’re short of money” situation. They can finish the entire game in one go, on the budget that they have. But that would require, you know, making a game within that budget, and the response from most of the backers (you know, the people who gave that budget) was that they wanted a lot of side-characters, expansive content, bigger worlds – basically nothing of the ambitious story left on the cutting-room floor because of time constraints.

      It’s not an easy decision, but one way you can guarantee mediocrity is by making a plan before you’ve even started pre-production and then never deviating from it. The team agree this was the best way forward, the vast majority of the backers agree this is the best way forward, and we gave this team money because we trusted them to make a game we want.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        Um… Well given that those things were all part of the original pitch or the stretch goals publicised with the Kickstarter, the fact that they’re now not able to deliver those things when they said they would does kinda inherently mean they’ve gone over time and therefore over budget. And that’s even after the second round of Norwegian Film Institute funding they had.

        None of which is to say that they’ve been in any way dishonest or wasteful. Games overrun and go over budget. Programming is all essentially problem solving, and asking anyone to tell you how long it’s going to take them to solve a problem before they’ve started it is never going give accurate results. Both of the last two games this team have worked on took many years, and came out way later than expected. Anyone who backed it without at least some inkling this might happen hadn’t done their due diligence, tbh.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Actually, no, it speaks absolutely nothing at all whatsoever about how they handled their Kickstarter budget.

  4. Sardonic says:

    This better not have combat, the combat in the previous game was terrible.

    But as long as it has crow it should fine I suppose. Can’t get enough crow.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      Dare to dream, maybe Crow will be one chapters’ protagonist.

  5. gschmidl says:

    Given the way Kian looked in some of the previously shown footage, it could also be “Dreamfall: Chapped Arse”.

  6. Megakoresh says:

    Meh, I don’t like it. I will probably buy it once it’s fully released, I really dislike waiting for episodes.
    BTW what’s the gameplay there? Just a puzzle game with story focus?

  7. Premium User Badge

    _Nocturnal says:

    I don’t know about the “kill him/let him live” part.
    I trust Ragnar to make it count, but we have enough of that.
    What we don’t have enough of are waking up and giving hugs simulators.

  8. kibayasu says:

    Clearly the biggest part of this change is that “Chapters” are supposed to be the smaller sections of “Books” but now Red Thread have gone all crazy and made “Books” the smaller part of “Chapters.”

    This is clearly not something we can stand for. I’m starting the petition to change the name of the full game to “Dreamfall: Books” so proper writing standards can be upheld.