Logical Choices

“…the goal was to tell a story in a way that could only be told in a video game.”

My Role(s): Design, Writing, Programming
Team Size: 1
Engine: Unity
Duration: 14 Days
Platform(s): PC
Click Here to Play

Note: The information below may contain plot, story, and mechanics SPOILERS for Logical Choices.

Logical Choices is a Interactive Fiction game developed in Unity to be submitted as part of Interactive Fiction – Text Based 2022 game jam. I completed the game in around 14 days in my spare time as a hobby project. I was solely responsible for all aspects of the Writing, Design, and Programming for the game, and I used open source files for the sound effects.

Game Overview:

The game takes place in the framing device of an interactive computer terminal. The player is immediately presented with an out-of-context choice. Using the menu options, the player can read through the information to uncover the mystery and answer all the questions.

Conception:

The theme for the jam was “cliffhanger.” I, personally, am not a big fan of cliffhangers, so I was disappointed at the prospect of creating a game/story that featured one. That led to me attempting to subvert the theme as best I could. What I came up with was making the cliffhanger the start of the game, instead of the end. I wanted to give the initial sense of confusion to the player, as if they started watching the episode of a TV show following a cliffhanger but didn’t have the context. With that in mind, all I had to do was come up with a story. I opened a blank Google Doc and started to free write. I had recently been fascinated with story structure — in particular, acts and character arcs — and wanted to make sure it was the main focus. I came up with the computer terminal idea almost immediately, because I wanted the player to feel like they were uncovering the story themselves as if they found the computer. I figured it would make sense for them to discover journal entries, like in countless other video games, and the story bloomed out of a mixture of justifying why there were journal entries, why the player would find them, and why you would be presented with the choice up front.

Writing Process:

Before I began writing the first draft, I wrote myself a guideline: “Questions to Ask for Success.” The idea would be to grade each draft based on those questions. As a result, I was able to focus on just getting writing on the page, and I wrote the first draft in a matter of hours. A lot of the key points I wanted to hit were there, so I had my wife read it. She missed a lot of what I was going for, so I had to continue rewriting the draft multiple times, asking myself those questions after each draft.

I wanted to make sure all of the elements were in place, because I didn’t want any plot point, line of dialogue, or twist to be unearned. Everything is set up beforehand, and everything pays off in the way I want it to. The character goes through a journey, and if the player finds the secret ending, he learns a valuable lesson.

Programming Process:

I programmed the tools I would use in Unity before I had any idea what the story would be. I figured I wanted to use the text aesthetics to my advantage as much as possible, so I designed a system with text that slowly types itself onto the screen with a sound effect for each character, the ability to speed up the text by holding a button (as well as prevent that ability if needed), the ability to change the music, and the ability to mute it. The idea was that, based on what part of the story the game was displaying, I could adjust the aesthetics to fit the mood — such as mute or change the music during a plot reveal.

The code was very simple. I created a scriptable object with all of the above features, as well as a text box to show the story text, and had the text component of the canvas change based on button presses. I was really pleased with this system. However, the story took a different direction than I originally thought it might, and several of these features never ended up being used as they no longer fit with the narrative.

Game Design Process:

There were a few main goals I had for the gameplay. First, I wanted the player to have to discover why they were presented with a choice that ends the game in very beginning and discover the story organically. Next, I wanted them to feel like they were navigating through a computer terminal. Finally, I wanted a hidden message in the game that gave them instructions on how to get the “true” ending. The first goal was simple, and I just had a choice that ended the game as the very first thing the player saw. The second goal was achieved by having the player’s keyboard correspond to the choices, as well as the aesthetics. The third goal was the most challenging. At the outset, the player has the ability to see the true ending before digging through the rest of the game. I thought about disabling that, but I didn’t want to cheapen the discovery. I took inspiration from Her Story, where the story could be revealed very quickly, but it felt a lot more organic. The first screen has an option to trigger the true ending, but it’s not mentioned on the list of possible options (since it’s not logical). In the journal entries, there is a clue in the narrative that reveals this to you. I was satisfied with the side story that I added to make that justifiable.

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