I’ve killed a pretty big darling today, as I’ve decided to scrap the in medias res opening that’s met the player up until now, and replace it with an introductory prologue sequence – an ab ovo if you will.
In the January build of the game, it turned out that Ord and Sara had a history together (more precisely, Sara dumped Ord two years ago after a brief romantic affair), and that Sara contacted Ord because she knew no one better fitted to solve the riddle presented to her (by her late father). This backdrop was laid out for the player via a wordy dialogue, whose only benefit was that it established their relationship with lots of sarcasms (on Ord’s part), but not much more, and was above all, well, wordy.
The problem with this opening was that the player undoubtedly experienced a feeling of being an errand boy, driven by an unspoken promise of a potential rekindling of their romance, or at least Sara’s gratitude. And some cash.
We now begin in Ord’s home; a worn student flat where our protagonist hides from the world while postponing the deadline of his PhD thesis. We learn that Ord is dissatisfied with his life, and its lack of momentum. He has lately studied the works of writer Jonatan Bergwall. As the game starts, he discovers a message which cryptically refers to a secret book. Realizing that the message was intended for the writer’s daughter, Ord finds and contacts Sara ( instead of the other way around) and Sara agrees to assist him in this quest. Sara still knew about the book, and the game Jonatan wanted her to play, but she has chosen to ignore it – until Ord comes into the picture.
In this version, Sara and Ord are strangers at first, and Ord is nobody’s errand boy. Instead, he is more personally incentivized to play Jonatan’s game, driven by a sincere curiosity and a chance to make a name for himself. Sara’s involvement – and gratitude – is secondary.
I hope these changes will lead to 1) a more intimate player/protagonist relationship from the outset, 2) a simpler plot to follow, and 3) a more direct motivation to go on a quest.
I thank my testers for helping me reach this conclusion.