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January 28, 2022, 04:28:18 AM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsWhere Birds Go to Sleep - an introspective narrative adventure
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The Embraced One
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« on: January 01, 2022, 04:01:08 AM »

Hey TIG,
For the past two years my and my partner's life have revolved around making Where Birds Go to Sleep, a narrative adventure set in a Near-East inspired land, featuring a painterly artstyle, fully voice-acted dialogue and original score. You inhabit a part of the unconscious of Cormo, a churlish sailor-smuggler, only ever influencing his actions, never directly assuming control.



About Where Birds Go to Sleep
An island has appeared in the distant sea...

Sneak your way into a dangerous expedition to explore that island, reserved only for the worst prisoners. Get to know a handful of very special, deeply developed and fully realised characters. Become their friend, get to know their secrets, manipulate or abuse them to your, or Cormo’s will.

One of the first characters you will meet is Dunlin – a noble-born, young man who is steadfast in his moral and religious principles. But what must a purebred like him be guilty of to end up here with you?

♢ Choices Matter. Lives Don't.
There is no “Mission Failed”; saying “No” opens new avenues. There is no golden path. Lie to others, and you’ll be more likely to hide the truth from yourself. Fail to justify your actions and you might find your character not heeding your commands. Every single small choice you make builds up, and shifts the direction of the story. While there are crucial moments and big decisions to be made, it is the small things that – true to life – ultimately decide who we are.

♢ Confront
Reflect on your actions along with Cormo; exchange your thoughts on what happened; regret or rejoice, grieve or laugh together… or independently of each other.

♢ Introspect
The difference between saying “you tried your best” and “you’re horrible” is empathy. The smallest of your choices are remembered by our experimental Insight System, which analyses your character and offers you personalised, interesting viewpoints and alternative outlooks on the things you’ve said and done, recontextualizing your experience both in and out of the game.

♢ Narrative & Dialogue
Sprawling, naturally flowing dialogue: react in intense back-and-forth conversations. Every dialogue is ready for the choices you make, and can potentially branch off into a completely different conversation with game-changing significance.

♢ Explore & Survive
Explore the mysterious island, unravel its secrets and lies. Shrouded in noxious, mind-altering mist, you must prepare for every journey inland, anticipating the challenges ahead. The provisions are scarce… but the others need them less than you.



Our Design Approach
In a lot of "choice games" - usually - you can play a completely schizophrenic character; for example your character might have a mental breakdown after killing someone in a story moment, despite the fact that he has killed hundreds in the gameplay sections, then when the cutscene is over, he's back to his normal killing spree.

Our big gripe with a lot of games is the "numerification" of things, especially in narrative-focused games. We think once you put a number on dialogue options it becomes a numbers game. An option shouldn't need to say it's an INT option - it should read like one. We want people to engage with the story, consider the dialogue options, and most importantly, read the characters, so you figure out what someone in distress might want to hear from what you know about him, the context etc, instead of a symbol or number telling you what to choose.

Lastly, we firmly believe that just like with reading and watching a movie, the story does not happen on the screen or in audio logs, but in your head, because you abstract, conceptualise and interpret everything you hear and see. The game is written with this in mind.

We have written up longer explanations of these, which I will post here later.



Links & More Info









Trailer




Short gameplay preview ( we needed a 10-sec video of our gameplay to submit to an event, we released a longer version of it but it's a stretch to call it a gameplay preview.)




OST track
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBW55aVnRwE



We're now working on a playable demo to apply for one of the next upcoming Steam Next Fest events, and we can't wait what people will say about it!

It's also hard to put a % on how complete the project is. We are pretty much feature complete, we have all the placeholder art and voiceover in which will be pretty much drag-and-drop to replace... Overall the project is in a very good place!

Hope you like what you read so far.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2022, 06:19:50 AM by The Embraced One » Logged

The Embraced One
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2022, 03:51:05 AM »

Characters
In Where Birds Go To Sleep, you inhabit the unconscious mind of Cormo, a churlish sailor-turned-smuggler. To find a cure for your sister’s sickness, you sneak your way into a dangerous expedition to explore the unknown, reserved only for the worst prisoners. There, you will get to know a handful of very special, deeply developed and fully realised characters. Become their friend, get to know their secrets, manipulate or abuse them to your, or Cormo’s will.

One of the first characters you will meet is Dunlin – a “Properly-Born” young man who is steadfast in his moral and religious principles. But what must a purebred like him be guilty of to end up here with you?







“Some people copulate like animals,
bolstering their sub-par breed.

One such child was given up by his mother at an age
older than usual. He treasured the memory of her face.
He dreamt of her, of her soft hands caressing his hair.

But Cormo told no one.”









“Dunlin, like other distinguished,
Properly Born males, have their likeness painted
just before reaching maturity as a reference for
comparison of physical features when children
of lesser breed are selected to join them in
pursuit of that which is noble.”





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oldblood
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2022, 04:18:39 AM »

Love the mood and vibe you're achieving with the visuals and teaser videos. I'm working on a title with some similar goals (narrative-heavy, painted, voice-acted, scored, etc) so I'll be keeping an eye on this devlog. Welcome to TIG.
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The Embraced One
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2022, 05:33:15 AM »

Love the mood and vibe you're achieving with the visuals and teaser videos. I'm working on a title with some similar goals (narrative-heavy, painted, voice-acted, scored, etc) so I'll be keeping an eye on this devlog. Welcome to TIG.

Thank you for the kind words, I'm happy you like it!

I checked out your devlog and read the entire thing, really promising stuff! If you ever want to exchange info on tools in-engine or outside (we're using Unity), or you just want to talk about stuff, feel free to hit me up on Discord: The Embraced One#6059

We also considered calling our game a visual novel but for many reasons we decided not to. One was definitely the list you listed out in your devlog (anime, sexual content, romance etc). Additionally, we looked at the games that most resemble ours such as Telltale's The Walking Dead, Detroit: Become Human and Life is Strange being the closest. Based on their categorization and the Wikipedia article on adventure games, we were confident in calling our game an adventure game.

...though, I'm not that satisfied with that either because I think both terms are useless, they are too broad and non-descriptive, yet many people have very specific expectations of them:

  • a visual novel player might deem a game with a non-anime artstyle or a game that does something else other than the classic visual novel style dialogues (character sprites on a background with text box) not a visual novel: when I posted the game to the visual novels subreddit to see some reactions, one said it sounds "more interactive than regular visual novels", and someone else sarcastically asked for anime girls in the game.
  • an adventure game player might deem a game with no actions (look, examine, take etc) or a lack of pointing-and-clicking or a lack of puzzles not an adventure game. When I posted the game on the adventure games subreddit I poked a hornet's nest, and people told me my game is not an adventure game, but a visual novel, despite featuring exploration, puzzles, survival mechanics, item use, not just dialogues. Someone flat-out told me I dont know what an adventure game is.
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oldblood
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2022, 07:26:34 AM »

We also considered calling our game a visual novel but for many reasons we decided not to.

Thanks for the kind words. I definitely understand a lot of what you're saying regarding genre and market. It's complicated. Neither of our games meet the criteria for a traditional VN, however, it the term I've elected to use for my game. The reasoning for me is just that 'Visual Novel' most closely aligns with how the game will behave. Even if I work in some puzzles or other 'gamey' elements. Yes, I know calling it a VN will turn off some people from buying it, but I'd rather that happen than people buying it expecting something else. i.e. expecting an adventure game and discovering its more visual novel and refunding it (or worse, leaving a negative review).

My hope is that if I package it well enough, people who dont normally play a visual novel will be intrigued enough to purchase--but either way, anyone who plays it will go in expecting it to behave like a visual novel because that's how it will be classified. Just so you know, I'm not suggesting you call your game a VN and not an adventure game, I haven't played it. It might be more adventure game than VN. I'm just saying for myself and my own experiences, gamers can be touchy so I want to categorize it as best I can.
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The Embraced One
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2022, 08:00:32 AM »

We also considered calling our game a visual novel but for many reasons we decided not to.

Thanks for the kind words. I definitely understand a lot of what you're saying regarding genre and market. It's complicated. Neither of our games meet the criteria for a traditional VN, however, it the term I've elected to use for my game. The reasoning for me is just that 'Visual Novel' most closely aligns with how the game will behave. Even if I work in some puzzles or other 'gamey' elements. Yes, I know calling it a VN will turn off some people from buying it, but I'd rather that happen than people buying it expecting something else. i.e. expecting an adventure game and discovering its more visual novel and refunding it (or worse, leaving a negative review).

My hope is that if I package it well enough, people who dont normally play a visual novel will be intrigued enough to purchase--but either way, anyone who plays it will go in expecting it to behave like a visual novel because that's how it will be classified. Just so you know, I'm not suggesting you call your game a VN and not an adventure game, I haven't played it. It might be more adventure game than VN. I'm just saying for myself and my own experiences, gamers can be touchy so I want to categorize it as best I can.

No worries, I didnt take it that way! I think we're in the same boat, our game doesnt neatly fit into a specific classification, so we try our best to categorise it in a way that makes sense for the market. I look forward to seeing more of your game and I wish you a happy new year rich in success!
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2022, 05:52:18 AM »

How We Make Choices Matter
We make choices matter by tracking a lot of choices the player makes:

♦ We have a bunch of hidden stats in the game that track your playstyle, and every single choice affects these, tipping the scales ever so slightly each time
♦ We also track a massive amount of events and decisions specifically
♦ We have skills – these are passive “abilities” that are unlocked by playing a certain way. Sort of like habits.
♦ A lot of choices and actions have “hidden stat”/event/skill requirements. Sometimes you’ll still see them but wont be able to select them, other times you will be able to, but the outcome will be unexpected...

For example, in a hypothetical scenario, a hidden stat could be how much a character you’re talking to, including the protagonist, likes you. If you anger him enough, maybe it’ll erupt into an argument. At this point we would take note of this, so that any future interactions with him will reflect this.

If you do a type of action for it to become habitual, you might get a skill that reflects this, which would make certain future dialogue or action choices available (or others unavailable).

Note that this does not only affect dialogue choices, but also actions you can perform elsewhere in the game.

Every single small choice you make builds up, and shifts the direction of the story. While there are crucial moments and big decisions to be made, they happen within the context of the numerous smaller decisions, even those as trivial as the way you greet someone, that – true to life – ultimately decide who we are.
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2022, 12:21:08 PM »

A Holistic View of Story (in Video Games)

There is something very curious and special happening when we experience a story – or rather, interpret a story. The title of the article, as confused as it is, does imply that we will try to look at “story”, the concept of a “story” without any specific context, only to bring the focus right back on story in video games.

It is also essential I explain what a “story” means for the sake of this article. There is an endless number of definitions for plot and story, specifics for what differentiates the two. I say we get rid of the specifics. For the remainder of this article, please accept that “story” is much more than a summary of events.

A story is the rhythm of life as humans see it – a beginning and an end. Humans have an innate understanding of story from very early childhood, which they acquire from observing life. Despite sounding very lofty and philosophical, this is a very grounded and pragmatic view.

Each day is a new story, which starts with the sun, and ends by night. Every child knows and lives this. Historically, from the adults’ perspective, the night was dangerous, and surviving the night meant a happy ending to that particular story. These motifs are found throughout all cultures across the world and ages. A story which doesn’t follow the beat of the world, a story without an end, or rather, a story which ends prematurely, feels off. However a story which follows the beat of life resonates very deeply with humans as something truthful, no matter how fantastic it may be. This is the wide-angle, holistic view of what constitutes a good story.



I believe that this holistic view of story is the key when discussing video games, as other methods of discourse are too specific and do not offer a wide enough view. I shall demonstrate:

♢ A book has a story and we experience the story by reading.

♢ A movie has a story and we experience the story by seeing and listening.

♢ A video game has a story and we experience the story by seeing, listening as well as interacting with and playing the game.

From this simplified comparison, it is clear that a video-game has more elements at play than a book or a movie. It is afterall a video (we watch) game (an artificial ruleset we interact/play with)! But this doesn’t have to be the case, and we can create the same distinction for the other two mediums: a book that aims to tell a story relies on the user’s ability to read heavily – to interpret the letters as words by knowing the language in which it’s written. Languages have rules as well and require an archive of words and concepts to be memorized. We can call this complex set of skills required to read a book reading.

Watching a movie requires some other skills, and to experience and interpret it, many of the skills used in reading such as abstraction, conceptualization and visualization are required – only this time on a timer, as the images flash before our eyes, there is only so much time to take it all in.

Both the book and a movie have been around for quite a while as a way to tell stories. A lot of poetry deals not only with the contextual structure of the poem (what the poem is about – two lovers for example) but also with – I will be specific with this example – rhythm.

How can this be? Rhythm? A book doesn’t make any sound afterall! The poet however, knows that the book will be read, and he knows that whoever reads it, will verbalize the words on the page in his mind. In the reader’s head, given that he is a fluent speaker, these words will resonate and flow at the speed at which they would be pronounced.

The poet can use this knowledge to speed up the tempo at which the user reads by using many short words. In short sentences. Full stops.

He can then use this technique to enhance whatever the context of the story requires, just like a composer can tell a story and affect your emotions with sound, without using any words.

Songs can tell stories too, stories so engaging they hold halls full of people at the edge of their seats, or send them into fits of sobs and tears.

This is a very good example of a holistic view of a story. It is not only the “plot”, it is also the tempo, the rhythm, the speed and the emotions. You cannot simply retell the events or happenings, or read an abstract of “The Old Man and the Sea” to experience its story – the equivalent of reading about a car crash as opposed to experiencing one yourself.

The consequences of this knowledge are far-reaching. It also means that with anything that was created in a language we do not natively understand, we are put at the mercy of the translators when experiencing a story, at least to some extent.

To say you can’t experience, or are losing a lot unless you speak the original language of the film, book or poem is a phrase some of us have heard. It is a valid argument: simply put, the story is not on the page. It is not on the screen. And to focus back on video games: not in audio logs, story cutscenes, phone-calls or never-ending text dumps of exhaustive codexes. It happens in the player’s head, where he interprets and abstracts all the aforementioned, along with his moment-to-moment decisions and emotions. So many video games have their respective video and game parts undermining each other at every opportunity: a character might have an emotional breakdown after killing a person in a cutscene, even though the player has killed dozens already in their current play session.

The plot of the game might require the player character to prepare for a fight with a tough opponent, a climax of sorts, only to beat him with ease, because the player is overleveled and the writers did not account for such a scenario (this particular example can and HAS been used as a subversion (final boss of Dark Souls), but usually, it is not).

In both of these examples, the game asks us to kindly ignore the game part, which is the only part separating the game from a movie, and to focus on the video part, while the “story” takes place.

The gameplay part of a game is also the story. The same story, interpreted the same way as the story in the cutscenes or audio logs. Similar to how you might re-tell a close game of chess. Is that not a riveting story, despite no predefined plot?

The video part of a video game can have an excellent story with great dialogues, graphics and camerawork. The gameplay might make the player enraged, stressed, exhausted, horrified or satisfied. But unless these elements work in tandem, conjoined in the player’s brain, video games cannot tell a story unique to its medium.

We wouldn’t call a video which would consist of scrolling text a good movie to watch, no matter how good a story the text would tell.

We wouldn’t call a book filled with musical notes a good book to read, even though the music it describes might sound heavenly when played.

The story in the video part of a game might be great, rivaling those of the best movies, and the game’s gameplay might be fantastic, but that’s simply a good video and a good game – not a good video game.
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2022, 02:08:16 PM »

Wow, the art style is just <<chef's kiss>>. Truly amazing.

Coincidentally, I'm in the same camp regarding the "visual novel" thing: Technically, the term most closely describes how my game works and what the player should expect, but at the same time it doesn't conform to any of the common genre tropes. It's tricky categorizing this kind of game and finding the right audience for it.

Will definitely be following your development.
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2022, 02:54:21 PM »

Wow, the art style is just <<chef's kiss>>. Truly amazing.

Coincidentally, I'm in the same camp regarding the "visual novel" thing: Technically, the term most closely describes how my game works and what the player should expect, but at the same time it doesn't conform to any of the common genre tropes. It's tricky categorizing this kind of game and finding the right audience for it.

Will definitely be following your development.

Thank you for the compliments and thank you for checking our work out, and for the Twitter follow. I've checked out your work, it looks great. I haven't seen a game like yours before, looks really unique and high production value. I like that you used your film anim background/skills in such a way. I'm not that into horror, but it immediately stands out to me, and will be on my radar, and I look forward to reading the rest of your devlog.

Yeah... about the whole visual novel/adventure game thing - I feel like both descriptors are more or less useless because they're outdated (I think I said that earlier, or maybe it was in another thread). It's a good start that from the feedback and first impressions, people react positively to the artstyle, so hopefully that'll help us bridge that gap... but perhaps in the future this is something we can talk about to players, developers, media/press, the industry as a whole, and bring about the changes we wish to see!
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2022, 12:33:55 PM »



The game title is very intriguing and leaves a lot of room for mystery and imagination and made me very curious to click and see what is the game about, after seeing the trailer I can attest that the content is having a similar vibe. Great job!
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2022, 02:28:53 PM »

That 20 second video gives a great impression - count me in.  Followed on Twitter.
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The Embraced One
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2022, 08:57:10 AM »

We are at The Big Adventure Event, and developer updates!

The Big Adventure Event
We are very excited to say that we're partaking in the THE BIG ADVENTURE EVENT, a Steam Festival that focuses some great on adventure games (naturally, none as great as ours), January 20-24th! Check out the event page here, it just went live an hour ago!

Website Update
We've updated our websites and steam store and hid some secrets in plain sight on them! Some are even in our Steam announcements. The mystery will reveal itself only to the most sensitive observers.

Demo Soon!
There's a playable demo in the works! A short part of the game featuring all the core features, condensed into a self-contained little story. More details to come later.

A Sneak Peek
Last but not least, below is new artwork from the game, an early repressed memory, hidden in a corner. Can you see it?

"The scent of myrrh is writ into your mind from early childhood. The many books, the mischief and the following punishment smells of scented incense, a rather bittersweet memory. It awakens old questions you forgot the answers to."

« Last Edit: January 20, 2022, 11:18:10 AM by The Embraced One » Logged

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