Dreamfall and Story Scripting

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

There are some very nice scripted story sequences in Dreamfall. Zoe Castillo, the protagonist, finds herself in a watery region of Arcadia. She traverses bridges to the edge of a wooden landing and sees a flare rise. A few moments later she catches two people on another far platform. She shouts, “April.”

The point of view in the adventure shifts to April Ryan’s. A conversation on a platform. April loses the argument and makes her way to a familiar friend, who provides her advise. She tells April that a messenger has come from Marcuria. April wends her way to make the meeting and walks to the edge of the predisclosed place. A flare goes up. She turns to find Kian, the assassin.

The POV shifts to Kian’s. He sees a flare go up. He finds April’s friend, who informs him that “The Scorpion” is available. He makes his way to the meeting place and there meets April.

As Kian and April speak, you can see Zoe traverse a far boardwalk, come to a stop, watch. Suddenly, time makes sense. Space and time square. Very nice.

I enjoyed this POV shifting. It made for an interesting pace, eased tension, and provided opportunity to wonder about the role of time in the developing story. Often I’d kick back to another point of view with a better idea about context. This POV shifting didn’t compromise suspense or suspension of belief.

This scripted plotting, however, came with a cost to a sense of shaping the story by player choice. While involved in Dreamfall, I had to give in to the fact that I walking through a controlled set of paths. Once you leave Zoe and go to April, Zoe is lost to you. April, Kian, and Zoe are embodied by “you.” “You” move April and Kian “sometimes.” “You” move Zoe all the time since she is the protagonist.

Sequences such as the one described above can be scripted without having to worry so much about degrees of interactivity. Dreamfall is what I would classify as “low-level” interactivity but the story and character interaction is strong enough to make things interesting. Thus Dreamfall often feels like digital movie, novel, and adventure genre. The rises in action and eases in tension also have the feel of digital theater and can be quite touching.

I enjoyed Zoe as a character. She begins as a fairly normal college-aged young woman properly gizmoed out and ready to face the world with her “mobile.” She finds herself in a tough spot and grows into the story and keeps going (if “you” keeps at it).

Dreamfall worries about story not so much with interactivity. Story itself is also creatively technical.


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