Welcome, welcome! Come on in, have a seat, have a read! There’s some coffee in the pot over there if you want. There’s a couple of beers in the old fridge too, if you’d rather have that.

That got your mind going, didn’t it? It projected an image, a setting and situation into your mind based on the details I relayed.

Besides the obvious details that I mentioned by name, such as the coffee pot or the beer in the old fridge, your mind does lot a of work filling in the voids left between the words and events of a story. The beauty of this is that, if you are subtle with some details, it may lead to people drawing a lot of different conclusions. For instance, I imagined the coffee pot looking like the typical reference 3D model of the “Utah teapot.” I imagined the beer being canned beer, with a green color, a Carlsberg or Tuborg, perhaps. Nothing luxurious, but it goes well with a burger!

This is how written fiction, if well written enough, tap into our imagination to let us shape the world described. We associate these words with different things. Where I imagined a Utah teapot, you might’ve thought of a pot of another shape or form, perhaps one that looks like the one you’ve got at home.

With video games, this textual description of the world and its inhabiting objects and/or life forms is most often replaced by a visual presentation on your screen. There’s the advantage, to artists, that they can render their world exactly as they imagine it. There’s the disadvantage that the audience may no longer imagine how the pot looks. It’s shape and color are there in the game world, not in your mind so much anymore.

However, that’s not to say that there’s no room to interpret the details given to a player in a game world. With subtle details and hints of what has happened or might happen in the scene, the player is again given room to let their imaginations go wild. There’s the coffee table, but why is it turned over, who left the balcony door open?

These might be recognizable objects that are just positioned in an unusual way, such as the coffee table I just mentioned. If we would just place it right-side up in the world, it wouldn’t tell us much. “Here’s a nice coffee table.” If we instead let it tumble over on its side or turn it upside-down, it catches our attention. “What happened here and why?”

This is the type of storytelling that I aim to incorporate into Mortal Spire. I’ve already decorated the first level with a few elements that I feel are well recognized and related enough to the details I want to relay, that it may be interpreted differently depending on who plays it. I’ve always admired a subtlety in story telling, letting the player puzzle the pieces together instead of popping a message up saying “Hey dude, so this parking lot looks kinda grim, you know. Better get those guns loaded and ready!” Let the player know that something is going on. If it’s a threat, leave traces of a threatening nature in the environment. Let an ominous tune fade in from the dark corners of the space.

I could discuss this for days, the emotion, the aesthetics and how one should let it fill the spaces of the audience’s imagination. That’s all for another time though!

What’s important is what’s going on right now, with Mortal Spire. Well, as I mentioned, I’ve got the first Chamber/level decorated with the things that I had sketched down and described on paper, so that feels great. There’s loads more I could do, but I should try to focus on detailing and implementing the elements necessary for the second Chamber. That way, I’ll have a consistent implementation of new storytelling elements in both of the levels, which I can later expand upon when I’ve received feedback from the testing sessions.

Instead of telling you all exactly what I’ve done and why I’ve placed a certain object at a certain place in the level, I’d like to keep the element of surprise. After all, what’s the point of trying to integrate subtle and interpretative storytelling if you just reveal and detail all your thoughts? Instead, I’ll leave you with these screenshots. Enjoy the visual treat, after all these mounds of letters!

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Room 2

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Room 3

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Room 4

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That’s all for now. Until next time!

Marcus out.