We’ve been working hard on HRO even if we haven’t been talking about it much. So here’s a few things we’ve been thinking about and implementing over the last six months or so:
The main way players affect the HRO universe is by doing bureaucratic stuff — we call them “actions” — including things like requisitioning exotic equipment, assigning crewmembers to specific roles and tweaking the meeting snack budget. A lot of time recently went into creating all the permutations. The game has about 215 distinct administrative actions a player can take across the sweep of the game. Getting them all to work mechanically and getting them all to work narratively within the framework of their stories was kind of a bear.
When we started this project we were committed to the idea that a player’s choices should have consequences. Because of actions a player takes, characters in HRO can die, careers can be made or ruined, and Kirmulak secret agents can be exposed. There are also six mini-episodes unlocked by specific player choices. In order to manage all this potential variation, Eric put together a nifty “flag” system to keep track of and trigger variations. Which gives us the opportunity to do big things like swap in alternate cinematics or conversations if a featured character is no longer available — and small detailed things like swap in alternate email messages in the player’s inbox to reflect the particular path they’re taking through the game.
And, of course, getting the full playable version on its feet has been a huge help — finally we were able to evaluate the flow of the game and examine the story connections in real time. A lot of mechanical questions got answered, and a few new ones got posed. We’ll be talking amore about this issue in the next post where we tackle the playtesting and the process of evaluating and acting on feedback. Stay tuned.
Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.