Script Surgery

25 Mar
March 25, 2015

This post will contain a minor spoiler about the game’s plot. Don’t read if you want to be completely fresh.

In the last dev update I talked about how I was updating the narrative to have a bit more punch, a bit more personal conflict right out of the gates.

An important problem to tackle, that, but not the only plot issue I’d identified. The other, trickier problem, is moving the inciting incident to an earlier point in the narrative.

For those who aren’t familiar with script writing terminology, the inciting incident is the plot event that kicks the protagonist out of their everyday routine and forces them to grapple with the core conflict of the narrative, whether that’s saving the world or winning the heart of their love.

It’s Luke Skywalker finding Princess Leia’s message, Trinity contacting Neo, Ned Stark being called to King’s Landing. It’s Gorian’s murder and Imoen’s kidnapping in Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2.

And it’s best if you get to it fairly quickly, so as to give the story direction and movement. Wait too long to kick things off and your story feels limp and uninteresting, your audience gets restless and starts to lose focus. Like a crowd forced to wait too long for the band to come on stage.

And this, unfortunately, is what I did with System Crash. I kind of outsmarted myself (The KISS principle is something I wholeheartedly endorse but often forget to practice myself 😛 ). I had this “neat” idea that I’d write a number of smaller story arcs that seemed isolated from each other, but would eventually be revealed to be tied to the main plot arc. So that later in the game the player would go “Aha! X and Y were actually about Z!”

Which sounds, like I said, neat, but my execution was a bit flawed. I held off on starting Z, the main plot arc, until the X and Y mini-arcs were finished. Which is a lot of stuff to get through before the story really gets its main surge of energy and motivation. The smaller arcs aren’t compelling enough, by themselves, to hold attention.

The answer, of course, is to start Z, the main arc, earlier. I’ll run it concurrently with X and Y, but make sure that X and Y are completed before getting to the part where it’s revealed that they’re linked to Z.

So that’s why I’m moving the inciting incident forward. It’s really the kick-off point for the main arc, for Z.

What that has entailed is figuring out how to rearrange the pieces of story that I have into a new, more compelling configuration. I really don’t want to rewrite a lot of narrative, I just want to shuffle what I have. Luckily, since there were already a number of smaller arcs, they can be rearranged without breaking the entire structure. The change looks something like this :

Old

System Crash Sections Sml

New

System Crash Sections 2 Sml

Notice how much more overlap there is in the starting bit, and how much earlier that yellow blob starts. 😉

I think this will be better. I hope so, I’m not rewriting the entire bloody thing.

20 replies
  1. Maximillion Miles says:

    Wow, those plans… Sounds like System Crash is gonna be decently big.
    Writing for games is a whole lot harder than most people give it credit for. I am sure you are on the right track, Gareth. Good luck!

    Reply
  2. gareth says:

    Thanks Max!

    Reply
  3. Daniel says:

    I’m sorry Gareth but the comments section on the pillars of eternity article you wrote gives me a 404, so ill put this here: http://www.themarysue.com/pillars-of-eternity-joke-removal/

    Warning I’m going to rant a bit here.

    I maybe be insensitive or just stupid But from this…GRRR! The above linked article, I never got a transphobic tone from it AT All.

    And what really really REALLY pisses me off! The backer who put the poem in game, PAID A LOT of MONEY to get it in game and he’s censored by some SJW Ninny on twitter, I paid 300$ into Pillars and I know what it feels like to help this game and someone shit on it. FUCK.

    Reply
  4. Daniel says:

    oh and by the way, the fuckwits on marysue cant even get the right backer poem screenshot this is the the one i mean: “Here lies Firedorn, a hero in bed.

    “He once was alive, but now he’s dead.

    “The last woman he bedded, turned out a man

    “And crying in shame, off a cliff he ran.”

    CITATION:
    http://blogjob.com/oneangrygamer/2015/04/pillars-of-eternity-limerick-was-changed-by-backer-not-obsidian/

    Reply
  5. Daniel says:

    I really don’t understand, obsidian especially said Pillars would be a mature game touching on things people normally don’t touch.

    And now we have SJWs marching all over this. It’s like a new kind of fascism, gotta be PC or your a bad evil person who’s opinnion must be destroyed and you burned at tthe stake.

    Reply
  6. gareth says:

    Hmm, that is weird, it does give a 404. I have no idea why. But it’s cool, we can discuss it here. 🙂

    “I maybe be insensitive or just stupid But from this…GRRR! The above linked article, I never got a transphobic tone from it AT All.”

    Well, the main form that transphobia takes is that it’s shameful to be trans, and it’s doubly shameful to interact with trans people in ways other than disgust.

    It often manifests as “trap” jokes about men horrified to discover that they were attracted to a trans person instead of a woman, and feeling physically ill/disgusted/violated.

    The poem relates a tale of a man who, discovering that he’d slept with a man who he’d thought was a woman, was so overcome by disgust that he killed himself rather than living with the shame of it.

    So yes, I can see how it’s transphobic.

    As to PoE being a mature game, yes, but maturity isn’t just in saying taboo things or being “edgy”. Maturity is in how you approach difficult topics.

    Two games may depict a gruesome act, the killing of innocents, but frame them in a different manner. The murder of innocents in PoE is probably not played for entertainment or humor. But consider the game Hatred, whose schtick is giving players a murderous, taboo thrill, reveling in being the guy who holds a gun to the head of helpless people tearfully pleading for their lives.

    You can depict murder in mature games, but the maturity part of it is all in your approach.

    Jokey limericks about being so disgusted at sleeping with a man who you thought was a woman that you kill yourself aren’t in the mature category at all, I’m afraid. It perpetuates the idea that cross dressers and trans people are abhorrent to have physical relations with, an attitude that leads to both suicide and murder of trans people.

    You may not agree, but I hope you DO agree that critique of sensitive topics isn’t fascism, and Obsidian can exercise editorial control over content if they want to. 🙂

    This was made clear to backers BEFORE they pledged their money and was part of the conditions backers agreed to abide by in order to contribute content to the game.

    Reply
  7. Daniel says:

    Ok this may take awhile to convey, I’m writing slow so I can gather my thoughts. First I’ll answer the last bit directed at me.

    UPDATE: I spent several long minutes rewriting this. so please bear with me.

    “but I hope you DO agree that critique of sensitive topics isn’t fascism, and Obsidian can exercise editorial control over content if they want to.”

    I admit, I was reactionary, things like piss me off. do you kinda know what i mean?

    Also, no I am NOT against critiquing work, I fully agree that anybody is allowed their opinion and shouldn’t be censored. And I’m not blaming Obsidian either.

    The gist of what I have to say is this: Critique, but don’t demand, if something offends you to be taken down, and scrubbed from public view.

    I personally am not impressed by the limerick I frankly don’t feel anyway about it.

    This is how I personally interpreted it: Guy-A finds out he slept with another guy, Guy-A is a hypermasculine character, commits suicide, the jokes on guy-a because he comes across like a wussy. just because Guy-B is a guy.

    I was recently reading and article about Social justice and how it pretends to act for the good of minorities yet is only about their agenda to use them as props to push their: ideals.

    I don’t have any citations, but the article i mentioned. Said stuff on it, and related SJWs to fascism.

    like speaking up for a minority and then proceeding to bash whites and then when said minority spoke up to say #NotAllMinority, they were bashed and told they weren’t “true” representatives of their ethnicity. Things like that.

    So basically white people acting super-sensitive-PC and then when a minority person comes on and says “come on guys this is overboard and not constructive.” they get shit on and often with racial slurs, by the same people who claim to support them.

    I may have repeated myself, I don’t know It’s like 3am in the morning. Wasn’t expecting a reply to my post so soon and I had to respond with my view on the situation.

    Anyway I never expected to be caught up in this limerick rubbish anyway, completely took me by surprise. (Not your reply, just the situation in general.)

    Reply
  8. Daniel says:

    Another Example of censorship I don’t like. Is people been jumpy about certain issues and trying to castrate the exploration of mature topics which the limerick is not.

    It’s sensationalist tripe, but obsidian didn’t have a problem with it until someone online got upset about it. And someone who gave 500$ had to have to change their limerick, not because Obsidian wanted it changed but because some nobody online pressured them into it.

    Heck, Obsidian even gave the author the choice(Arbitrary or not) of changing it and the author took the path of least resistance and caved into outside demand(to help obsidian save face, which was the kind thing to do.)

    Reply
  9. Daniel says:

    “It perpetuates the idea that cross dressers and trans people are abhorrent to have physical relations with, an attitude that leads to both suicide and murder of trans people.”

    I’m sorry Gareth, but I disagree, perpetuate sounds very strong a word, it’s reminds me of that other word. “Precedent”, I personally don’t think it perpetuates anything.

    I don’t hate or feel disgusted by trans people just because I read the poem, and people who actually read and hate transgender people, probably already hate them.

    What I’m getting at it’s like the video game teaches children to murder fallacy.

    I been surrounded my whole life by, gay-bashing, trans-bashing, I heard it at school, I’ve heard it at work, but it’s never changed my mind.

    If you say it doesn’t help the situation either, your right. It doesn’t. But the problem is a fundamental one. Parents….Parents need to get off their asses and teach their kids not to hate gays/trans or anyone else.

    Reply
  10. Daniel says:

    Sorry I’m not used to debates, I generally don’t like arguing or anything like that, I like getting on with people. I hope you don’t take what I said as offensive as I like our conversations. But I always will be a passionate person when it comes to art and video games. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Reply
  11. Daniel says:

    Gareth This is what the person who was offened had to say:

    https://twitter.com/icequeenerika/status/582161950202863616

    Do you really think this is constructive critique? Some of her tweets just cut short, must be a twitter thing. Have encapsulated the words i take exception to with a *.

    And here is an excerpt from twitter:

    Erika Victorious ‏@icequeenerika Mar 29
    Please retweet this everyone. I’d like to *get some pressure going*, because this is unacceptable. @Quinnae_Moon do you have any idea who to

    Erika Victorious ‏@icequeenerika Mar 29
    @Quinnae_Moon talk to to get this some more visibility?

    @antimytheme @actuallyalice @Obsidian Like it’s incredibly shitty and needs to be *removed* but it doesn’t actually say anything about the

    I agree that they can feel offended, as it’s their right but those word I highlighted annoy me.

    Reply
  12. Daniel says:

    Sorry about the spam Gareth.

    interesting commentary by Liana K

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlVyNY9XIzw

    Reply
  13. gareth says:

    “Sorry I’m not used to debates, I generally don’t like arguing or anything like that, I like getting on with people. I hope you don’t take what I said as offensive as I like our conversations. But I always will be a passionate person when it comes to art and video games”

    No problem at all, Daniel. 🙂 I think you’re a nice guy, from what I know of you from our chats, and I’m happy to discuss it.

    “I don’t have any citations, but the article i mentioned. Said stuff on it, and related SJWs to fascism.”

    Well, I’m an SJW. A lot of lovely, thoughtful people are. I hope you don’t think I’m a fascist?

    There’s a lot of propaganda that gets thrown around, don’t believe everything you read. 😉

    You may not see the limerick that way, but can you understand how others might? You don’t have to agree with them, but I hope you respect their right to disagree with *you*? Without thinking that they’re fascists unless they see it the same way you do?

    “It’s sensationalist tripe, but obsidian didn’t have a problem with it until someone online got upset about it.”

    When I release System Crash betas, players will sometimes point out to me where I have made spelling or grammar errors, and I will go and correct them. Just because I released the beta with those errors, that doesn’t mean I intended them to be there. Mistakes are made. I’m not perfect.

    There are errors in Pillars of Eternity, editorial errors in their own work, never mind the backer texts. A few of the lore books I have read (some of the history of the Dyrwood books) have had grammar errors, tense errors, or poor writing that doesn’t match the quality of the rest of the game.

    I don’t think that is intentional. Obsidian is a large company and Pillars of Eternity is a massively complicated software project. Things slip through the cracks, mistakes get made, that doesn’t mean they MUST have been ok with everything in the game until someone pointed it out.

    They may also not have realized until someone pointed out to them that it was a problem. Lots of people grew up saying “that’s gay” as a synonym for for saying something is lame or stupid or inferior. It was common in my school, and I’ve said it in the past a few time. And can just absorb that type of speech without thinking about it, because that’s what everyone says and no one *seems* to be trying to be hurtful or cruel.

    But then a one of your friends might reveal that they’re gay, and that it’s actually pretty hurtful to use “gay” as a synonym for lame or stupid. And that can be mortifying, right? Hopefully, if you’re a good person and someone tells you that, you think hard about it. And maybe you change your behavior, maybe you stop saying that. That’s not censorship, that’s persuasion and consideration.

    Obsidian may have ok’ed it, but they may not have realized it was a problem until it was pointed out to them by someone who has that issue close to their heart. I don’t know what it’s like to be trans, so I would probably listen carefully to trans people telling me that I’ve misstepped.

    “I’m sorry Gareth, but I disagree, perpetuate sounds very strong a word, it’s reminds me of that other word. “Precedent”, I personally don’t think it perpetuates anything.

    I don’t hate or feel disgusted by trans people just because I read the poem, and people who actually read and hate transgender people, probably already hate them.

    What I’m getting at it’s like the video game teaches children to murder fallacy.

    I been surrounded my whole life by, gay-bashing, trans-bashing, I heard it at school, I’ve heard it at work, but it’s never changed my mind.”

    Sure, but you can read “kill the Jews” without wanting to kill Jews, right? That doesn’t mean that saying “kill the Jews” isn’t hateful and gross, or that Obsidian should accept someone submitting that as a backer comment.

    How do you think people get those views in the first place? People aren’t born transphobic, or sexist, or racist, or homophobes. They learn to be.

    We absorb these ideas from the culture around us. From things we see and hear, from watching how others behave.

    You say that you are surrounded by it but it hasn’t made you a bigot. That’s good, but when I say it “perpetuates” it, I don’t mean it’s a 100% guaranteed brainwashing tool.

    Think of it like the flu. If someone is coughing near you, spluttering out germs into the air, that doesn’t guarantee you will get sick. Maybe you don’t breathe in the germs, or maybe your immune system is strong enough that the virus doesn’t take hold.

    But some people, those who are unfortunate or more susceptible to it, they WILL get sick. Young children in particular have weaker immune systems, these viruses take hold in the young more easily.

    That’s what I mean by “perpetuates”. Gay slurs, jokes about women making sandwiches, limericks about how gross trans people are, these are infection vectors. They’re bigots coughing the virus into the cultural atmosphere, to float around and be absorbed by other people.

    And yes, I agree that parents need to be the first line of defense. Good parents teaching good values are like a vaccine, they protect a kid from a lot of the bad ideas floating around. But not all people have that, and there are some people who will get infected despite having had their “shots”.

    I don’t mind the original complainant being angry and saying they want to put pressure on Obsidian. I’m not the butt of a joke about how gross people like me are. The people who wanted the limerick to stay had just as much opportunity to “pressure” (read: post comments at) Obsidian, so…shrug.

    Reply
  14. Daniel says:

    Interesting points, no I don’t think your a fascist. What I see in the “internets” is a lot of tired people. Their hobbies being bombarded by people who practice what I call the tone argument.

    What you hear when someone complains, even if it’s a valid concern is a bunch of “fuck-yous and your evil people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” you feel so ear-bashed that you feel like flipping them the bird and walking away.

    And that doesn’t help anyone. I used to be *way* more patient, but year-after-year of controversy from different situations in the gaming industry has made me wary.

    Also lots of people did speak up(AKA Pressure) about this situation and were ignored.

    No discussion with the backer community happened, just lot’s of noise and swift action, then capitulation. The author was contacted. But apart from that; all I know is the rest of us were left in the waiting-room.

    Reply
  15. gareth says:

    I’m glad you don’t think I’m a fascist. 🙂

    Well, those comments may have been ignored because Obsidian didn’t agree with their arguments and didn’t want to get bogged down in the fighting. I saw some of those threads.

    It’s worth pointing out that Pillars is a pretty progressive game. There are a characters that go against gender norms and sequences that very specifically put females in prominent positions. The ranger companion comes from a culture where women are the hunters and men stay home with the kids, and in the sequence with the Old Warden and his ghostly memories, the leader of the band of invading Reavers was an ambitious warrior woman who strong-armed the clan elders and who the male warriors looked up to, etc. There are also lore books and spirit histories with lesbians and suchlike.

    It’s pretty clear, to me at least, that Obsidian were trying to build an inclusive experience. If they agreed with the critique of the limerick, if they felt it implied that trans people were gross, they may have been fairly quick to make their decision to change it, despite all the angry hubbub on the forums.

    And that’s their prerogative. That’s not “capitulation”. That’s just listening to and evaluating feedback.

    Reply
  16. Daniel says:

    Sure, but you can read “kill the Jews” without wanting to kill Jews, right? That doesn’t mean that saying “kill the Jews” isn’t hateful and gross, or that Obsidian should accept someone submitting that as a backer comment.

    The poem can be interpreted many ways, and stating that the poem, which is a lot more subtle then “Kill the Jews” is automatically hateful and grose? It is a valid point. However using “Kill the Jews” is bit of a strawman as it implies the poem said something equally heinous: like Kill the Trans.

    When it could of been interpreted/misinterpreted, I don’t know what the author mean’t by the poem, it could’ve been transphobic it may not have? Heck it could’ve been homophobic I don’t know.

    saying that it is outright transphobic/Homophobic/SuicideEncouraging kind of defeats the purpose of discussion.

    The Original Complainant(OC) started off fine, voicing her opinion, however, what should of happened, (In my Opinion) Is after Obsidian said they would look into, she should of waited for them to review it and then discuss it with them.

    But she wasn’t interested in discussion she wanted her wishes to be obeyed, no differing opinions allowed. Anyway that’s what I gleaned from her twitter account.

    Once again it’s getting late, I look forward to your next reply. 🙂

    Reply
  17. Daniel says:

    And that’s their prerogative. That’s not “capitulation”. That’s just listening to and evaluating feedback.

    Once again I disagree, I don’t believe in watering down for the masses(and by masses I mean everybody). If a bigoted character says something stupid like said poem. I would not censored it just to please people.

    Maybe it would have been a better idea to have a character saying said poem and being able to punch him? instead of an inanimate object.

    And I don’t know if your implying I’m somehow now saying that it’s not their prerogative: I agree it’s their prerogative to remove said poem, but I don’t agree with it.

    Reply
  18. gareth says:

    I’m not implying that, no.

    I’m also not saying that the poem was as bad as saying “kill the Jews”. I was using that as an example demonstrating a principle, namely that, just because reading or hearing something doesn’t automatically and immediately turn you into a bigot, that doesn’t mean that thing is “ok”.

    “But she wasn’t interested in discussion she wanted her wishes to be obeyed, no differing opinions allowed. Anyway that’s what I gleaned from her twitter account.”

    She was angry and not particularly willing to indulge people jumping into her timeline and saying “what’s the problem, you humorless SJW?”, but saying she wanted to be “obeyed” is a bit much.

    “If a bigoted character says something stupid like said poem. I would not censored it just to please people.

    Bigoted NPCs in games generally give you a chance to react to them, though, usually to give them a comeuppance.

    Characters in a fiction are a different thing to these messages. The backer tombstones are meta content, supporter graffiti, like writing “Hey mom!” As such, different standards apply.

    Reply
  19. Daniel says:

    “Bigoted NPCs in games generally give you a chance to react to them, though, usually to give them a comeuppance.”

    That’s what I thought.

    The backer tombstone idea should have been thought of a bit better I think, like having a goldplated npc deliver the lines, then atleast the offended party could get virtual revenge.

    Did you watch the video i posted of Liana K? She kind of gave a refreshed point of view, please watch it.

    The reason a lot of people do the humorless sjw thing is like I said before: Some person comes out of left field. And rags on their hobby, people are in a tired state they react strongly to everything.

    Which is a bad thing, but you have to ask yourself how the comunnity got to that point.

    Thats why I think it’s important to “stop butting-heads” as it were and talk to eachother.

    Reply
  20. gareth says:

    I did watch the video. 🙂 But I think most of what she said we already covered here. Unless you think there’s something we missed?

    About “people rag on their hobby and they get upset” – yeah, but a lot of the people getting worked up on behalf of their hobby also really need to take a chill pill. Too many people lose their bloody minds just because someone else doesn’t like something about a thing they like. Geek fandoms are filled with never-ending flame wars and crusades on behalf of this or that piece of media.

    Reply

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