Entries in devlog (1)

Saturday
Feb122011

Filling in the gaps

Catapult for Hire probably isn’t what you expect. It’s certainly not what I expected when I was first brainstorming the idea a little over a year ago. I had originally envisioned a typical artillery game that consisted of throwing stuff majestically through the air and creating cataclysm at the other end of a parabolic arc. Now, that's my idea of a good time but it doesn't hold my attention for long. Simply throwing stuff and hitting stuff rapidly gets old to me. How could I create unique situations and surprise the player with a simple catapult game? Thus was the exodus of the idea of a freelance catapultist. “That would solve everything!” I thought. The player could go anywhere and do anything.

The game has since taken another twist, at least in my mind. I have always wanted to create a game with substance, something that might make you think or at least view the world differently than you did previously. That is the power of a storyteller, touching people’s lives.

Hang on dear reader, I’m about to go on a personal detour for a moment.

Lately I often get choked up during the climactic moments in music, movies and games and it’s not just for the sake of the emotion being evoked. I am immensely jealous of the people that get to create those moments and that is the emotion that gets me. “I want to do that!” is what I think to myself. Now that I get a chance to tell my own story I experience that emotion exponentially.

I always had this idea of a substantial game in my back pocket, but I realized, there is no reason I can’t attempt something more substantial with Catapult.

Why not?

So now every game mechanic, every typical video game trope that gamers have grown used to I have had to reconsider to tell a story through the lens of an artillery game. Now if it exists in the game it has to make sense with the story. I'm glad that it's working out this way because I think the game is much stronger because of it.


In creating the prototype for indiePub’s independent developer competition I decided to use Old English. My friend Jake and I would send Old English texts back and forth to each other and die laughing. There was something hilarious about trying to talk like we were at a Renaissance Festival. Instead of saying, "I'll head over to your place tonight" we would say something like "Behold, my noble steed shall arrive on the eve."

Originally all that I was using Old English for in the game was comedic value. After resuming work on the rest of the game I reached a point where I was hesitant to continue using Old English as I feared it may exclude the younger generation which of course this game will appeal to. But I realized this morning that, for my purposes, it is probably a better solution than using modern English.

Our brain is an amazing vehicle for telling and interpreting stories. When we experience something we create a story that we can tell so we can relate it to other people and they can in-turn relate to us. Even if we don’t remember all of the details, our minds will fill them in to create a consistent story.

In essence that is what I am relying upon in using Old English as the verbal vehicle to deliver Catapult’s story. When I read Shakespeare, I don’t always understand the context of every word but I get the idea. Perhaps that is some of the genius in his writings, at least for those of us reading it today. There is an inherent layer of obfuscation that forces our minds to interpret it which in essence make it personal. In using Old English I hope to allow the player a little more opportunity to create their own meaning.

When someone plays Catapult I don’t expect them to understand completely what the character is saying, because even I as the author sometimes don’t. I have written lines in which I doubt the verbiage is completely correct, but that’s ok. I am relying on the player to create the story in their mind and what they come up with is better than what I was intending in the first place because they can speak to their own mind much better than I ever could.

Besides, I doubt that I’ve had one conversation in my life where everyone involved said exactly what they wanted to say, exactly as they wanted to say it. Even if a thought is perfectly articulated, it's still up to our minds to comprehend and determine a meaning that makes sense to us. That's why I'm ok with imperfection, in fact, that's why it is beautiful. Our minds will fill in the gaps.