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'Depression Quest' Creator Zoe Quinn joins interesting indie 'Framed'

Loveshack Entertainment has bolstered the team building its highly praised and eagerly awaited #indie game Framed with the addition of Zoe (Depression Quest) Quinn as narrative designer.*

Although best-known for Depression Quest, a Twine game based around the narrative of a young person struggling to live a functional life while dealing with depression, Quinn has a prolific record of single-shot #games, including Crystal Crashers, a note-perfect parody of the in-app payment-driven matching game phenomenon, and the entirely unsafe for work quiz game Hitler or Lovecraft (trigger warnings for examples of racism, dubstep).

Framed, meanwhile, was one of the most interesting indie prospects previewed last year – an action-puzzler of sorts, based around a novel mechanic. The player moves “frames” of the narrative around, as if building a comic book or movie storyboard. Depending on the order of the frames, the hero either escapes his fate or succumbs. So, switching a panel in which his flight disturbs a bird with one in which a pursuer fires their pistol might change the outcome from a dead hero to a missed shot, as the shooter is now distracted by the fluttering of feathers.

The subject of considerable interest during previews last year, Framed has already collected accolades including an Excellence in Design win at China’s Indie Games Festival, and selections for the curated Indie sections at the Eurogamer Expo in Britain, PAX East in Boston and South by SouthWest in Austin, Texas.

Although impressed at the originality of the approach when I saw it at the Eurogamer Expo Indie Arcade, I was curious at the time as to how long the conceit would hold the player’s interest. Bringing Quinn, who is notable for an ability to inject emotion into simple gaming structures, in as narrative designer reads as a move towards a more involved narrative experience.

Contacted for comment, Joshua Boggs of Framed‘s creator Loveshack Entertainment said:

I sought out Zoe’s skills and expertise because we’re trying to do something very ambitious with the narrative treatment for FRAMED. It became fairly apparent early on in our discussions that Zoe really understood what we were trying to achieve, and that we had a great opportunity to do something completely new in the delivery of the narrative. I respect Zoe immensely, and we’re both super excited to work together to guide and flesh out the finer details of the narrative.

Although lead writers are often involved earlier in the process, especially when already in-house, there is certainly precedent for a narrative designer to be added to the team after the core mechanics and aesthetics of a game have already been set. Narrative design (and variations such as Rhianna Pratchett’s humorous self-description as “narrative paramedic“) often includes, but is not limited to, traditional scriptwriting (thatgamecompany’s Journey, for example, was a triumph of narrative design but had no meaningful script at all), and will generally include consultation the emotional and narrative elements of level and character design, graphics and pacing.

On a business level, strong narrative design, whether assigned to a dedicated staff member or not, can have a considerable impact on the success or failure of a game, particularly in the case of independent games where budgets for assets and mechanical enhancements may be limited.

Framed has no official release date, but is planned as an iOS launch initially, with PC, Mac and Linux versions to follow.

* Obviously, the headline would have worked better if Christine Love, creator of Analogue: A Hate Story, had been hired by LoveShack Entertainment etc.

Except then there would have been no “Quest” part.

OK, so if Christine Love had joined the team making Depression Quest. But why would that even happen? Depression Quest has already been made.

I suppose that one could build Depression Quest in Ren’Py, and make it a visual novel, in which case Christine Love would be an amazing hire. But would that actually make it better, or just different? And how about the Steam release? Is it cheating to get a Twine game approved for release on Steam through Greenlight, and then release an entirely revised version of that game built with a different tool? Not that this matters, obviously, because this is a hypothetical. Although it would be pretty cool, actually…

And just think how angry some people would be made by a visual novel of Depression Quest! There’d be another story in that! Sometimes, better worlds seem so tantalizingly close…

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