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Of Tutors and Storytellers

I wasn’t sure we were going to have a story for Haunts, not a real one anyway. I knew we’d have characters and setting and background and atmosphere, but I wasn’t sure how much narrative there would be. We’re working with limited resources on a tight schedule, and putting in the capability to tell story moments - dialog boxes, scripted events, etc. - seemed like it might be a luxury that would have to wait for a post-release update. This week I was working on the latest iteration of our Master Schedule and planning our year and I found myself assigning time and energy to an absolutely vital feature: the tutorial.

A game like Haunts has to have a tutorial, and it has to be fun and engaging. It’s not an incredibly dense and difficult game, but it’s not super-simple either. You have a lot of options. We need to be able to clearly explain those things, and that means an interactive tutorial, not just some static how-to-play screens. I wrote up what features we’d need for a good tutorial and, lo and behold, we had just about everything we need for a pretty straightforward storytelling system! I was excited.

But what kind of story to tell? The whole point of Haunts is that you can play it over and over and the house and the events that happen in it are different every time. We have specific Explorers and Haunts, but each game they have different goals. It’s not something that lends itself to a traditional video game campaign. Besides, we’re letting people rename their characters and personalize their haunt rosters, so that’s weird for storytelling too. Really, the sprites we’re making are more like actors in a series of horror movies, playing the same kinds of roles in lots of different stories.
That’s then one of my current tasks (in addition to play testing and learning Quickbooks) - forging the 13 links in my chain of terrible tales. I’ve already found places for Aleister Crowley an the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, so things are going well!


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