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  • Writer's pictureTiago Massochin

Government Espionage: In-depth Game Analysis for Under Choices

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Greetings, everyone. This week, our team delved into an exciting aspect of game development: analyzing games that share similarities with our project, Under Choices. The goal was not to imitate but to dissect and understand the key elements that contribute to their success.

Inspiration and Approach

In the words of John Lasseter, as he speaks about Hayao Miyazaki in the book "Starting Point":

We sat down and studied the rescue scene in Castle in the Sky very carefully. We didn't copy it, but we tried to pick the scene apart to identify why it worked so well. I know what's going to happen. Of course, she gets rescued. I know that. But every time I see it, I get the chills. It inspired us.

This quote perfectly encapsulates our approach to the game analysis we conducted. We didn't aim to replicate ideas from other games. Instead, we dissected them, striving to understand the key elements that contributed to their success. By understanding their "formula," we can modify it with our unique ideas, crafting our distinct game.

Analyzing Headliner: NoviNews in the Context of Game Analysis Under Choices

One game that caught my attention was "Headliner: NoviNews," a narrative-driven game about a newspaper editor who selects daily news to publish, influencing the fictional city's populace.

Gameplay and Narrative Systems

Headliner: NoviNews operates on a symmetrical gameplay system. Each day, the player performs the same functions and actions. On some days, minor challenges or limitations may appear, but these don't significantly impact the gameplay.

Gameplay cycle diagram of Headliner: NoviNews
Headliner: NoviNews - Gameplay System Diagram

The game truly shines in its narrative. It employs a hyper-narrative with multiple stories and branches that can lead to vastly different outcomes. This is made possible by a hidden player scoring system, where each chosen subject increases or decreases the score of each theme relevant to the plot.

Main story system infograph of Headliner: NoviNews
Headliner: NoviNews - Main Story System Infographic

NPC Side Story System

The NPC narrative system in Headliner: NoviNews is similar to the population's concern system. However, each NPC has their own personal concerns, including specific elements. An NPC who doesn't care about crime, for example, won't have his story affected by choices that vary the perception of crime in the population. Likewise, NPCs' stories are not only affected by the news but can also be influenced by the player's interactions with them.

NPC side story system infograph of Headliner: NoviNews
Headliner: NoviNews - NPC Side Story System Infographic

Beatmaps and Narrative Arcs

However, a scoring system alone is not enough to make a game with this gameplay proposal work narratively. We also need beatmaps. Beatmaps are excellent game analysis tools that help us understand how the game progress behaves or should be, avoiding repetitive moments and ensuring that the gameplay follows the necessary flow for its apex.

Main story beat chart of Headliner: NoviNews showing climax level over time
Headliner: NoviNews - Main Story Beat Chart - Climax Level:Time

As Headliner has multiple endings, one way to make this hyper-narrative viable is to stipulate that the key elements of the narrative remain fixed at distinct points in the narrative arcs.

In essence, the developers' primary task is to ensure that each distinct scene aligns with the game's beatmap, guaranteeing that regardless of the player's choices, the narrative arc will always deliver the expected impact and climax.

NPC side story beat chart of Headliner: NoviNews showing climax level over time
Headliner: NoviNews - NPC Side Story Beat Chart - Climax Level:Time

Unlike the main story, the narrative of each NPC is composed of only one act, having its climax only at the end. The NPC reacts to the catastrophe at the end of each main act; however - if she has no direct connection with it - it does not interfere with the NPC's narrative arc.

For instance, if a player consistently chooses news that criticizes the government and interacts negatively with a particular NPC, that NPC might attempt an attack on the government, leading to a narrative climax. Conversely, if the player makes opposite choices, a different but equally impactful event could occur, such as the NPC proposing marriage to the player.

The Value of Game Analysis

This deep dive into Headliner: NoviNews has been an enlightening experience, providing us with valuable insights and inspiration for our project, Under Choices. As we continue our development journey, we look forward to sharing more behind-the-scenes insights and updates with you. Your feedback and engagement are invaluable to us, and we can't wait to explore the world of Under Choices together.

Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, we're always open to feedback and questions from you, our community. After all, this journey is as much yours as it is ours.

Until next time,

Zizo Mass


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