"large entity" asking them to consider something like Heavy Rain, an interactive adventure with branching storylines.
He'd "never thought" of doing something like because most cutscenes would never play - waste of money. What if you weren't a person but a "cursed artifact" using love and hate?
A year ago Double Fine toyed with a prototype Kinect idea for their own branching adventure game, but the player would have been an inanimate object 'screwing with people'.
"Around the time after Heavy Rain came out, a lot of people were very excited about interactive narrative and branching storyline,” said Tim Schafer. “Because we do a lot of story-based games at Double Fine, a ‘large entity’ came to our office and asked, ‘have you guys ever thought about doing something like that?”
“I never thought of doing a game like Heavy Rain, because it just looks really hard... characters can die and then you have to make all these expensive cutscenes that no one’s going to see unless you play the game 50 times or watch the cutscenes on YouTube like I did.”
They ran with the notion that Heavy Rain's style of storytelling could be mixed with something else new, like Kinect, and give its own unique gaming experience. Instead of following different characters like in Quantic's game, the focus would remain on a "cursed artifact of some kind... on a ship, and you were just screwing with everyone on the ship.”
“It made me think of an old idea that we used to talk about in the really early days of LucasArts," he said. Schafer had apparently floated an idea along with Ron Gilbert about replacing verbs with emotions in adventure games, simplifying the interface. He wondered what it would be like using emotional combinations and strengths on the game world.
Back in those LucasArts days it was deemed "too crazy" to even try out, but this publisher-sought prototype of a new kind of interactive adventure game provided an opportunity. The premise was that this cursed artefact would manipulate how characters feel toward certain objects through Kinect. The left hand was for love, and the right for hate.
The more a general love or hate sentiment was applied to an object or another person the more they'd focus on it and react. The prototype's audience liked the idea and two guys in a jail cell were shown with one armed with a shiv as an example. A later addition added more feelings like courage and fear, trust and distrust.
Hand waving wasn't enough for Schafer though: "What if you could act in front of the screen, and the game would pick up on the emotion based on… your body? We decided to go for that method.” Our sentient artefact was to be a dagger.
A further example had Schafer shake his fist for 'hate' of an object while placing his hand over his heart to signify 'love'. While interacting with other NPCs the main character could pass along the dagger artefact. “The idea is that this would be played many, many times, so you can see all the different endings,” explained Schafer.
The set up was a guy named Thurston who had boarded a vessel looking to disrupt his love's wedding with the dagger in hand. The demo had five possible endings and each time it started over there'd be new elements introduced.
"I really liked writing for it, because writing a main character on the game… it’s really hard, because you really want people to like the main character and ‘likable’ is hard to write,” he says. "‘But it was still really daunting to make all the endings… so we thought ‘oh man, I hope we don’t have to make this game.’”
In the end the publisher pulled out not liking the emotional mechanic. It did help Tim Schafer understand how such a defined role for the player can affect the adventuring experience. Should they 'kickstart' a cursed artefact Kinect game?