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    Just Gotta Let Go: Life is Strange and Choices (Spoilers)

    Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2015 by Malin

    I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about the end of the game Life is Strange. To sum it all up, people seem to be disappointed that their choices didn’t matter in the way which they had been promised. However, I think that statement comes with a lot of baggage due to the statement being used in a game that sort of changed the tide for the genre– The Walking Dead. In The Walking Dead, each time you made a decision it was always an impact that was made itself known quite quickly after you made the choice, and in Life is Strange, it isn’t quite so.

    The beauty of Life is Strange is not that you can rewind time and make everything perfect– it’s the fact that even with the capability of rewinding time, you have no idea of what good it will do in the long run. Ever since the beginning of episode 1 the player can alter the way characters see them, but they consist mostly of slight shifts that do not change the course of action of the story. Nathan may smile when he sees you and deliver his lines in a less contemptuous fashion, or Chloe might not guilt-trip you for not being on her side in a certain moment, but there are always plenty of memories and scenarios that have already pre-destined a character’s disposition towards you.

    And in the end… Does it matter?

    In the same way The Walking Dead killed off characters one episode after you could choose to save them or not, Life is Strange may feel for some as though all their hard work was for nothing. But I wonder if that is true. For me, Life is Strange was about exploration rather than the outcome of it. If anything, Life is Strange tells you that you cannot manipulate everyone and everything around you to suit your needs, as you have no idea of the outcome, no matter how far back in time you travel in order to fix it. Perhaps we as players are so used to feeling as though we are all-knowing Gods that we can’t deal with the fact that a game might leave us with nothing more but memories of things that never happened.

    We are so used to having “replayability!! everything will be different next time around!!” stuffed down our throats that a game that specifically is made to shift our thoughts of the story it represents as the game develops makes us feel as though we’ve been set up for failure, when in fact, we were taught the same lesson our main character was. Some things must happen, and you are only prolonging its outcome.

    Even so, though, DONTNOD gave enough blank space inbetween the time travelling that Max might still have made the decisions you made for her previously. Who is to say that Max will never find herself in the scenario of pouring white paint over Victoria just because one or two characters in the game aren’t at campus anymore?

    Personally, I have never been so proud of a game that uses tropes of many crime thrillers or horror movies and still manage to do it far more tasteful than I have seen in games previously. Max might have needed rescuing, but she manipulated her captor to clear the path for her savior as well as guide him towards victory. Thinking about it just now, perhaps it also restored a bit of her faith in adults.

    My personal favorite scene in Episode 5 was when Max does not take a picture of Mr. Jefferson as he lay out cold on the floor, his hands duct-taped, just like she had been moments before. There is a trope within horror where the pure victim becomes tainted by their captor in order to make the tables turn. The captor becomes the victim and the victim the captor in this scenario, but there is a certain type of strength in not letting the terrible things that happened to you corrupt you into someone you would never become otherwise.

    Perhaps I am bias as I did not mind Jefferson’s exposition dialogue since I myself was curious as to how he justified his actions, and I was so proud over the fact that Max got to deal with the aftermath– the trauma of having one of your rolemodels turn into such an awful, awful person. At first I wondered why her nightmare only consisted of men trying to chase her down, but then I realized that Jefferson probably put a chink into her trust for them. After all, the nightmare happened mere hours after she escaped the Dark Room, and it showed the fear she must have had at that moment, of all men wanting to either kill or possess her, intermingled with the fear of her friends not caring for her at all.

    The developers could have ignored Max’s inner self completely to create more of a story for the universe, but the beginning of the game was so devoid of Max’s inner feelings that I found it to be an absolute treat to know what she felt, and the universe had been set up quite neatly beforehand, with certain things left unsaid that I found were fine being left as they were.

    In the long run, I found that episode 5 set out to deliver what it promised; finding Rachel Amber and capture her wrong-doers. …and have an amazing adventure with an otherwise lost friend.


    Categories: Gaming | No Comments »

    Dreamer

    Posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Malin

    As I am here, writing this,  Zoë Castillo is staring into the abyss of dreams on my computer screen. It is the launch day for Dreamfall Chapters, and I have played nothing of the real game, yet hundreds of emotions have swept over me throughout the introduction. I had to pause. I had to collect my thoughts. I had to stop because tears were filling my glasses to the brim and I couldn’t see anything anymore. I haven’t interacted with the game in any way; I have just been a passive observer and yet it has affected me far greater than any game I have played in years.

    It is quite unbelievable how games and the memories connected to them can affect people this way. You grow up with them, and the good ones always walk with you on your own journey. I’ve waited eight years for this game, and so have many others. During those eight years I have grown up considerably, and the mere panorama of the worlds I’ve loved to walk in ever since TLJ’s release in 1999 was apparently too much for me to handle.

    I am still crying, and I find it odd, and… fascinating. Embarrassing, even.

    When Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was released,  Zoë and I were in the same head space. I played it during a summer of incredible heat amidst a depression of not knowing what my life held in store for me. I was barely seventeen years old, and her interaction with Wonkers is something I still have etched into my mind.

    As the game came to a close I felt lost and abandoned, but life goes on. I found a path and followed it, never truly looking back until I was at JourneyCon, the convention held by Red Thread Games in Oslo. As they played through Friar’s Keep I remember looking around me in the audience; seeing the amazed and happy faces of those around me. I felt very disconnected and slightly jealous. If this moment had happened when I was seventeen I would have been just as ecstatic as them, but I seemed to have gotten lost while growing up.

    What happened?

    I’d like to blame game making, even though it has brought so much joy to my life. When working with games and playing them on your free time it usually takes the edge off certain things. You start analyzing and appreciating the craftsmanship instead of being immersed. You applaud their makers and try to memorize things you liked so that you can develop certain aspects yourself.

    When logging into Steam today I was terrified of feeling the same thing while booting up Dreamfall Chapters.

    Instead I was met with too many emotions to count, bawling my eyes out over seeing a glimpse of April Ryan and the confident smile of  Zoë Castillo. The introduction made me feel like it was only yesterday I saw April on that bridge.

    I don’t even know what to say except that I am a tad bit jealous of the lovely people of Red Thread Games for making me feel this way, but I am also ecstatic over the fact that it was still possible.


    Categories: Gaming, Personal | No Comments »

    NaNoWriMo, Comic and Writing

    Posted on Saturday, July 12th, 2014 by Malin

    Holy moly. I haven’t updated this blog in ages. I  suppose I lost track, since after I moved from Germany I’ve been doing work samples and running off to different countries for interviews (you have to give the Employment Agency a little bit of creds– they payed a little of my airplane tickets at least). Funny enough, I ended up in Sweden anyway.

    Ah well. It was amazing meeting the people behind games you love and admire!

    Something I haven’t mentioned before is that in November last year I was a part of NaNoWriMo, and it was spectacular. I have been wanting to take part of it since 2006 I believe, but I was being a lazy bum, and since I truly wanted to get a story out of my head that has been gnawing there for a couple of years, I decided, 2013 was the year it was going to happen.

    Woohooooo!!

    I got a 50k word draft out of it, and it was brilliant! Not the draft of course, but it gave me a great picture of what characters were important and how my world was structured. I even got to research how to hunt and  how to skin a carcass!

    Anyway, since it was just a blabbering mess, I started re-writing my NaNoWriMo novel awhile back this year, amongst moving and working and all that. To be honest, it would have been better to just continue right after November ended instead of postponing it for so long, as I barely remembered the changes I wanted to make last year.

    Even so, after tons of anxiety, chapter 1 finally got finished today! Alongside a few drafts and structures of the other chapters of course, but I truly wanted to get the gist down before continuing. I’ve been having a terrible block for ages since I couldn’t get a good flow of introducing the rules of the world alongside the main characters and the way they looked. It had to not be too fast so people forgot them– but not too slow so people already think they know what they look like before you tell them. I think it’s decent now at least. Phew.

    To be honest I’m really psyched to continue… So I am not sure why I decided to post a blog instead?!

    I’ve also started a comic project with Ylva. She is fabulous and is currently drawing life into my characters and story in a way I never would have imagined. I love team work, which is probably why I am working in the Game Industry in the first place. Games are aaaalmost always a collaboration of sorts. Almost.

    As we get further along I might post some sketches and outlines, but if you’re super-curious there are some up on her tumblr; http://spader7.tumblr.com.

    I am also considering using a tumblr and sort of create a cross-post between it and Instagram. Perhaps even to this blog? I’m not sure what format I would prefer. Scrolling through Instagram pictures on a blog feels sort of pointless, but it works for tumblr. But blogposts also work for tumblr. Ack! We’ll see.

    Until then– toodles!


    Categories: Writing | No Comments »

    Skyrim Module/Quest Design Outline

    Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 by Malin

    I’m teaching myself Creation Kit at the moment and have constructed a level after writing a synopsis of the quest outline. I’ve been working with figuring out scenes, triggers and dialogs (and some Papyrus, obviously), but soon the necessary assets are going to be implemented. In the mean time, check out my outline “scribble”:

    Click the image for full view.


    Categories: Personal | No Comments »

    The Night of the Rabbit Welcomes You to Mousewood

    Posted on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 by Malin

    Gamespot has posted a preview of a game I was a writer for; The Night of the Rabbit, a point-and-click adventure from Daedalic Entertainment. This is the first time I hear the English voice acting inside of the game, and gosh do they sound amazing! I can’t wait to play it, so happy.


    Categories: Daedalic Entertainment, Hamburg, Writing | No Comments »

    That Moment When Your Rolemodel Notices You

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 by Malin

    Have you ever had that moment? I’ve had a few, unfortunately or fortunately, mostly including fan-art contests (where I usually didn’t win, but at least I got nominated! One time my favorite illustrator even asked if she could exhibit my fanart – which were dolls of her characters – on a show she was doing. I was so happy I could die).

    This time contest was a little swithed up and included a postcard, hosted by my first love when it came to doll creation; Marina Bychkova. The winner is presented with the best prize she could possibly think up; one of her gorgeous Enchanted Dolls, cast in resin. I doubt my dear Rolf Lidberg postcard stands a chance, even though that illustration means a lot to me (he was born in the same town I grew up in, and I miss Sweden a little, so seeing his cute trolls in forests always make me happy). But to be a top 50 out of ~450 isn’t too bad, right?

    Especially when I read her description to the postcard:

    Fangirl Squee! :$


    Categories: Personal | No Comments »

    Tiny Scheduling

    Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2013 by Malin

    Hello? Hello? Yes, yes, I’m still here! Unfortunately there’s not much to say nor show that wouldn’t bore you, dear reader.

    Well, alright, since you look so sad, I got something for you. Today I created a quick schedule for one of the chapters of a project I’m working on. I needed to see what has been implemented and what can be implemented, since some things, like the walkmap, has to be done before the scaling can be done, and after using Excel for managing some of my other projects I’ve gotten a bit fond of it (and I bet my teachers are happy to see my development).

    Strange, isn’t it? Four years ago I wouldn’t have believed it; Me, keeping track of myself, and in Excel of all things?

    “Ew,” Malin from four years ago would’ve spitten out with disgust.


    Categories: Daedalic Entertainment, Hamburg, School | No Comments »

    New life, but not really.

    Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2013 by Malin

    As I’m sitting here, eating my lunch, more than one year later since I first arrived to Germany, I realized something.

    …I haven’t updated my blog! HEH. Things have been very hectic lately, and actually, quite fun. Just before the new year started, I moved for the fourth time. This time together with two amazing people that I got to know through Daedalic; two of my former work colleagues, actually! It’s late January now and we’ve been getting along quite well at the new place, even though I did accidentally splash wall paint in one of my roommates’ hair (the “bird poop brings good luck”-joke I made after was not appreciated) and unfortunately I also broke one of the doors’ handles while trying to close it, making me fall flat on my ass. (Either I’m the she-hulk, or that plastic monstrosity was old and crappy. You choose.)

     

    My last three rooms.

    Before all three of us could move in completely we needed to repaint all of the rooms, as well as a horrendous dark brown cupboard in the kitchen. It’s stylishly white now along with almost everything else in the apartment.

    One of the rooms being painted and our improvised clothing rack for our washed laundry.

    It took many nights after work and a lot of chinese food, but we did it! Well, the inside of the cupboard is still left and we do not have any pans to cook food in, thus leading to more chinese food (and boiling water for tea inside of the oven), BUT this is one of the first apartments in a long while I’ve actually felt at home in.

    Living Spartanian.

    After one of the rooms were finally dry from all of the paint, we assembled and packed the necessities out of the boxes.

    Bed and Nintendo. Unfortunately the PS2 was scuffed away as soon as one of my roommates found Golden Eye. ;)

    I started this new year by working at Daedalic again; once again in January (I started last year in January, heh), and I’m now working with Scripting and Staging instead of Game and Narrative Design.

    There’s a lot of new stuff, leaving me with the manners of a sloth as soon as I come home; eat and sleep at once, but hopefully as the new impressions turn fewer I’ll be able to work some more on modding and quest designing when I go off work, or, at least during the weekends. For now I’m keeping the weekends for sleeping (and a little bit of video gaming… shhh!)

    Me and the sloth bid you farewell for now~!


    Categories: Personal | No Comments »

    Project: Neverwinter Nights Quest- First Steps

    Posted on Monday, November 26th, 2012 by Malin

    Howdy-doody, I’m back from the dead! Sorta. Lemme show you what I’ve been working on~

    I am on a quest (heh!) to learn a scripting language and some Creation/Tool Kits for some added skills to my tool belt as a narrative and game designer. As my plan stands for the time being, I’m starting with reading the book Beginning Lua Programming (Programmer to Programmer) – one chapter per week. I really have no scripting skills except using a little bit of Kismet in UDK in school, and this book, is at least for the time being, really good. It explains everything in detail (sometimes a little bit too much, but it’s a good thing!) and there’s never anything I am left questioning. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but, for the time being I am very happy.

    Anyway, I can’t really be using my whole week to read, now can I? Nope! Two of the work days I’ve planned for (…doing the fun stuff!), creating a quest in a specified Creation Kit.

    As I already had Neverwinter Nights installed, I decided to start there. Now, I like having a plan before I start doing things, so I read the amazing Toolset Manual and then planned what needed to be in my quest (specified with what I thought Neverwinter Nights’ toolset could handle), creating a dandy SCRUM-like planning; including how much time I thought each feature would take. After that I took all priorities marked with “High” and added them to the side; creating an MVP – Minimum Viable Product, to see if this was something I could achieve.


    When done with that, I wrote about two or three different scenarios that the quest could be… But none of them felt good. I was at a loss, so I decided to start dabbling with the level design hoping I’d get inspired. I ended up looking through all assets, seeing what was I was drawn towards – most of it being statues and water. I also knew I wanted a dungeon, because… Well… Dungeons are cool! At the same time I had a Word document open, writing down the ideas the level gave to me as I was creating it.


    I still have some question marks, and I’m not sure the layout is really enticing for the player, but I’ve got an outline that I’m really happy with. I’ve also sort of realized that my stories get way better when I get inspired with what’s available than the opposite. Heh. Lesson learned!

    It feels fantastic to be sort of “back in the saddle” – so many months have been spilled this year on writing a bachelor thesis and other academic papers that I almost forgot how happy creation makes me. I’m extremely glad to be back.


    Categories: Gaming, School, Writing | No Comments »

    School Assignment: Why should we care?

    Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 by Malin

    QUESTION 01: What is at stake?
    I need to to work with a video game’s mechanics and narrative because there is so much to be discovered. Video games might have a few set of rules, but nothing is really set in stone. The rules are bendable and exchangeable, which means this might be the medium we can tell stories on without feeling constricted. I am perfect to explore that adventure, and I’d love to do so.

    My window of opportunity is the fact that the need for narrative designers is potentially growing inside the video game industry – especially for those who understand game design along with a story arc structure. With new and heavy story-based games as Uncharted, Bioshock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution who all feature Lead Writers / Narrative Designers, the need and populace of such said writers are growing stronger. Mary DeMarle even stressed the importance of a narrative designer in her GDC talk “Building the Story-Driven Experience of Deus Ex“.

    With that in mind, as Tom Jubert once said, “[...] realise that being a video game writer is one of the most sought after jobs on the planet because it’s one of the most amazing jobs on the planet.” I definitely believe that is true. There’s a bucket-load of competition out there, possibly even from your own friends. But instead of seeing them as competition  I prefer to see them as a partner in crime. No one is ever alone, especially not in the video game business. The companies thrive on teamwork, and though there might be “too many cooks for one soup”, I am one of those who have on many occasions followed another designer or story writer’s vision and branched it out, as well as being the Lead writer and asked co-workers to flesh my story out. As long as the main ingredients are in there; team work, friendship, and respect – the soup will be delicious. Fantastic metaphor, right? (curse sarcasm for not being readable in text..!) Anyway, that said, there is always the chance that I will fail. My dream job might not knock on my door, but you know what? If the mountain won’t come to Muhammed and all that. Creating experiences matter to me, so if there’s nothing out there, I’ll create it myself. How? Well, as a designer that’s the point of the whole job, isn’t it? I’ll think of a way – you can bet your little tushie on it!

    QUESTION 02: Why should we care?

    I want all of my co-workers to support and believe in the vision I have. That is, that they believe in the story I want to tell. For concept artists it’s important to me that they get inspired to draw something they love; thus in turn, inspiring me right back. (Once again; the friggin’ Team Work!! LOVE! <3 )

    To the players I’d like the work I’ve created to reek of the sentence “I have a story to share, and I want you to take a part of it”. This does not only include them to play it once and say it was “alright”. One of the most fantastic compliments a game/narrative designer can get is a fan who gets inspired to be creative with what you’ve told them. This includes mods, fanart, fanfiction, cosplays and perhaps even fan-made roleplaying events, based on your universe and story, and THAT is a true partaking in a story – showing how much you love it by either dedicating something to it, or even continuing it. If I were to get just a tiny little fanart or fanfiction for the characters or world I’ve created, I’d be happier than can be.

    QUESTION 03:    What are the opportunities?

    As a Game Designer and having the job of one, I’ll be able to add the competitive advantages of  knowing a scripting language (possibly LUA or Python or any web-based scripts out there) to my skill set, meaning it would be easy to implement and test game/narrative designs I might have. As a Narrative Designer, I would more than enough understand the Hero’s Journey, and perhaps even know how to break the mould of it, in the way I’d design my narratives. I’d know how to communicate with game designers as a narrative designer, and work with them instead of against them as many seem to believe. I am not there to create a story outline and push my cut scenes onto the game designer, but to merge it all in one ecstatic experience. Implementing narrative into game design is awesome – if successful – so to actually make that happen is a perfect skill set to have.

    There might not be an estimated financial game to become a narrative designer, but let me pull something from a new IGN review. The game Amy from 2012 got the following rating: “The game’s plot could have very well been Amy’s only saving grace, but the highly nebulous nature of the story doesn’t really tell you much of anything at all.” That more or less means that even if everything was horrible in Amy; if the story was good, it would’ve saved it and made it bearable. And let me remind you that one of the greatest games out there (I’m not biased, aherm!) Silent Hill 2, is not remembered for its amazing game play, but for the genius story telling. Needless to say, there’s a huge financial gain in having a narrative designer on your team that knows how to sell and tell a story. It really shouldn’t be underestimated.

    QUESTION 04:    Who can share this potential?

    As a Narrative Designer, I can help the game designers find meaning behind puzzles, levels, characters and push the story forward. I can help inspire them in their work, and maybe even help them use the tools of a story to create an intoxicating game play and level design that keeps the player coming back for more. This also goes to make the world more plausible. If creating a town that doesn’t have a blue-print, there are always things that might turn on the “Uncanny Valley”-alarm if the level designers doesn’t know what to put in there, and why. I can help them blend the lines between story and game design, as I’ve already tried explaining in my text. I can help encourage their work-flow, and this goes for concept artists as well. In my work-process with concept artists; style sheets only goes so far. Style sheets are nothing if you do not add a little bit of personality to each character, level, or world – together  with a bit of a description to go with it.

    People say that a picture speak more than a thousand words, but to create a picture, some describing words might actually help to create the image in the first place.

    That said, all participants need to actually be interested and read what you put in front of their noses. Text can be boring, and thus, being a narrative designer is not only typing text, it’s about knowing how to tell every participant a story in such a way that they are interested in what you’re telling. Music videos, informative and easy-to-understand style sheets – anything that you know works with the ones you’re working with. Including the player.

     


    Categories: School | No Comments »

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