LCC 8823/4725 Concept Pitch
Vignesh Pro Studios presents:
Team Members: Vignesh Swaminathan
Dysphoria is a simulation game with a dysfunctional insomniac as its central subject and character. However, the character is not controlled directly by the player. Instead, the player has control over the environment (the subject’s house), with the ability to add, remove or alter objects in the setting. The character has his/her own goals, intentions and behavioural patterns, but the player can alter these by modifying the environment.
The character, who is jobless, unmotivated and a bit anti-social, wakes up on a Sunday afternoon and commences the routine of a lazy, unproductive day around the house. Ordinarily, the character will engage in a series of personally destructive or non-productive actions, such as over-eating, napping, drinking too much coffee and being lazy. Modifications to the world can cause the character to alter his/her behaviour – for example, placing a newspaper on the front lawn could cause the character to pick it up and read it, which could then prompt him/her to become interested in job listings. Unplugging the television would prevent the character from watching hours of TV on end, so that he/she might choose to do something more productive, like exercising.
There is no one set goal or win condition. The game starts when the character wakes up, and ends when he/she goes to sleep again. In the meantime, the player can…
· Let the character do his/her own thing (completely passive player), until he/she finally crashes from exhaustion in the early hours of the morning; or…
· Alter the environment to promote productivity, growth or better moods, such that the character gets to bed at a reasonable hour and sleeps easily; or…
· Mess with the character’s head by attempting to frustrate him/her at every turn (e.g. keep pulling out light-bulbs every time he/she tries to turn on a light), so as to produce worse moods, again causing the character to stay awake until he/she crashes from exhaustion or goes completely bonkers.
The player is not limited to the above choices, but these are the three basic play patterns that we anticipate. The player can, of course, combine multiple approaches. The end goal is really just to shape the story of the character’s ongoing day. Our goal is to engage the player by encouraging him/her to make alterations that affect the character in meaningful and lasting ways.
The interface is laid out thusly:
· A main window with a third-person 2.5-D view as in traditional point-and-click adventure games (see Kings Quest or Monkey Island), showing at any given moment one of the rooms in the character’s house. Certain highlighted objects can be altered or removed, while other objects from the inventory can also be added in highlighted locations. This room isn’t always the character’s location, meaning that the player can modify rooms even when the character is not present.
· An inventory window containing objects that can be added to a scene by dragging and dropping.
· An overhead map of the house, clickable so as to allow the player to pull up a different room in the main window.
· A clock indicating the time of day. The clock starts at 1 PM when the character wakes up, and continues counting off time at a rate of six real-world minutes to the in-game hour, until the character goes back to bed (6 AM at the latest, if he/she crashes from exhaustion). This means that gameplay should last around 90 real-world minutes. The character can be put to bed earlier if the player makes choices conducive to an early bedtime and good sleep!
Main-window backgrounds will be photographed from real locations and then digitally altered. We are going for a sort of rotoscopic or pencil-drawn effect as seen, for example, in Waking Life, to create an overall surreal aesthetic in keeping with the theme of sleep-deprivation, depression and withdrawal from society.
Foreign objects that are placed on this background will appear as cartoony computer-drawn vector graphics, so that they stand out (this is how “highlighting” is accomplished).
Throughout the gameplay, the character is without identity, appearing as an animated black silhouette against the background of the main window. Only at the end of the game, when the character looks in the mirror just before crashing, is an identity revealed (chosen more or less at random – it could be a woman or a man, young or old, etc.).
Our playtesting has thus far consisted of drawing out maps and brainstorming possible inventory objects and the ways they can be used to alter the world. We also used Lego to model individual room-views.
Attached is our provisional event-flow diagram for how the character behaves if the player is completely passive. This provides the skeleton off of which we build a web of possible alterations.
Fig 1, a-c. Concept work: Interface, main view, adding an object to the game world.
Fig 2, a-b. Prototyping/testing
Fig 3. Basic story progression.