|★ CODING ★ 15. WITCH HUNT PLOT DESIGN ★|
|Writing Adventure Games on the Amstrad - 00 - Contents||Writing Adventure Games on the Amstrad - 15 - Witch hunt plot design|
The example plot and adventure game we will be considering is Witch Hunt. This is a relatively simple and fairly short scenario which has been implemented using AKS. As such, we are able to break down the whole scenario into sections, and show just how each of these sections connects with each other and the overall plot. If you have not yet played through Witch Hunt, and would like to puzzle out the game by yourself, we suggest that you do so before reading this chapter. The following pages discuss Witch Hunt in detail, and thus give away most of the solutions to the scenario.
BASIC PLOT IDEAS
The basic idea behind Witch Hunt was to develop a short scenario which offered a chance to interact with some characters, and which had an overall goal. We also wanted to get away from the very overworked theme of magicians, knights and dragons — in fact the whole fantasy milieu has been done to death.
Thus, we settled on an approximation of Middle Ages England, with the player's task requiring him to find the identity of a witch in a small village. With both of us being firm fans of Monty Python's Holy Grail film this was a fairly natural choice! Once we had decided on the theme of the adventure, we had to decide on some of the basic elements of the plot.
In order to keep the adventure within a reasonable size, and thus keep down the number of locations, we decided to base the adventure in and around a small country village. Once this had been fixed, it was immediately possible for us to work on the map of the adventure game. As the game was relatively small, we needed only show the major buildings and sites of interest during the game, thus people's houses could be left out, along with miles of road, fields, etc. This enabled us to produce the map shown in Figure 15.1, which is a rough sketch map of the area the adventure takes place in. Note, that at this stage we are not bothered about how each location is connected, or what each location contains, just with what locations we have; all the connection, etc information comes later, when we start to produce the actual scenario data.
The Purpose of the Game
While we have already said that the player's mission is to find out which person in the village is the witch; just how does he do that? We came up with, and discarded, several ideas before hitting on the concept used in the Witch Hunt scenario. The player finds a hat which belongs to the witch in question, and thus, he must find the person this hat fits (shades of Cinderella!).
If the player is looking for a witch in his village, then there must be some inhabitants for him to try the hat on! Thus, we will need some non-player characters for the player to interact with. Well, we have already drawn up the map, and this shows a number of important locations within the village. Obviously, the owners of the various premises within the village can be used as characters, as this has the advantage of tying them down to a logical, fixed location. This gives us a woodcutter, innkeeper, blacksmith, priest, goatherd and miller.
The Objects and Puzzles
The player has to try the witch's hat he finds on everyone in the village, without them realising what he is doing, that is the major puzzle, but there has to be more than this in the game. We have to introduce some puzzles (and objects associated with them) that will hinder him in his task, and prevent the player just breezing through the game.
One limitation is to set a time limit on the game — either he solves the mystery and finds the witch by midday, or he is burnt! This gives the game a sense of desperation, but doesn't really stop the player completing the quest simply and easily. What else is there associated with a witch? Black cats, of course, and thus the black cat in the church yard enters the game. This sets another time limit on the player, but requires him to solve this puzzle (how to lose the cat, before he is burned as a witch), rather quickly; it also adds extra puzzles which must be solved to achieve this aim. All these puzzles use the locations we have already put on the map, and objects which would naturally be there.
Having developed a few rough ideas for our adventure, we can connect these into a complete plot, for the whole adventure. The best approach to plotting the adventure is to consider the actions the player must take to solve the game as a short narrative — thus we write them out as a short story. This enables us to spot inconsistencies in actions, and helps us check that it is possible to perform the actions in the order we require. The plot line for Witch Hunt, our example game is written out below:
WITCH HUNT: THE PLOT
You are a simple village lad, who works for the local miller, fetching and carrying grain for him. Your life was reasonably happy and settled, very little disturbs the tranquil lifestyle of your small country village. That is, nothing disturbed it until recently; there have been some strange goings on! The crops have been turning bad, the corn at the mill has been plagued with rats (previously unseen locally) and the goatherd has vanished. These occurrences would be worrying by themselves, even if they didn't relate to you; unfortunately, the villagers have decided that your working at the mill has something to do with the corn, and the fact you found a secret crypt near the church (and were discovered there by the priest) has led them to accuse you of being the witch! You have protested your innocence, of course, to no avail, and they have given you until noon today to prove your innocence by finding the "real" witch — if there is one!
The game starts on the village green, at the centre of the village. Where can you go to find the witch, or even to find out if there is one? The first clue comes from the village pond, here you find a small toad, which seems strangely afraid of water! So, you pick up the toad and drop it into the pond, and to your surprise there stands the missing goatherd. He is wet and confused, but manages to tell you that he was attacked and turned into a toad in the woods. You also discover that the ducks on the pond are guarding something, and they appear to be hungry enough to object to you reaching it.
Once you are in the woods, your surroundings all look very similar, and you find yourself lost. Whilst wandering through the maze of trees, you hear someone running away from you, and there on the ground is a witch's hat! This must belong to the witch — and you quickly realise that whoever it fits will be shown to be the witch! You now have a way of identifying your quarry. You slip the hat onto your own head — it doesn't fit!
In the centre of the woods is a small clearing, and here you see the woodcutter, he is breathing heavily and looks hot and bothered. He shades his eyes from the sun and then notices the hat you are wearing, Commenting that it will shade him from the sun, he tries it on for size — it doesn't fit him. That is one suspect you can strike off your list. Coming out of the woods, you pass through the churchyard, and as you do so, a black cat steps out in front of you. You almost trip over it, but manage to keep your feet, only to find that it follows you. You quickly realise that if the villagers find you with the witch's hat and the black cat, they are not going to believe in your innocence for very long!
You have to find some way of getting rid of the cat — food seems a good idea, and then you remember the rats at the mill. You will need to catch them, and that will require cheese, so you head for the inn.
Unfortunately, the innkeeper is in the inn kitchen, and he prevents you from taking his cheese, or his last loaf of bread. Luckily, however, you are able to steal the cheese when his back is turned. So, armed with some bait you (and the cat!) head for the mill. Once inside, you can see some movements on the rafters, and dropping the cheese brings a mouse scurrying down. This you catch and give to the cat, hastily leaving while its attention is diverted! While you are up at the mill, you wonder if the miller is the witch — he might have spoilt his own corn as a cover! When you find the miller he is busy carrying sacks of flour, and he looks thirsty and tired. An idea strikes you, and you fill your witch's hat from the stream, offering it to the miller. He thanks you, grudgingly, and drinks some of the water, before pouring the rest over his head. You can see that the hat will not fit him. as he does this. Another suspect can be, crossed off the list.
As the miller takes the hat, he drops a sack of flour, and you remember that the inn-keeper wanted one, which would enable you to get the bread to feed the ducks. You head back to the inn, where the innkeeper accepts the sack and lets you have the loaf of bread. As you leave the kitchen, you notice that the innkeeper is continually running backwards and forwards between the main part of the inn and the kitchen. This gives you an idea for testing the hat against the innkeeper's head. You carefully balance the hat on the door between the two rooms, and then call in the inkeeper — the hat falls from the door onto his head! It doesn't fit, but he is so furious with you that he throws you and the hat out of the inn! Ah well, you can't go there again but at least you know the innkeeper isn't the witch, as the hat didn't fit him.
The next place to try is the church, where the priest will be. He isn't in sight when you enter, so you climb the belfry to look for him. Once by the bell, you cannot resist the urge to strike it, and so you ring the bell. There is a shout below you, and you see the priest run into the nave of the church, and stand looking up directly below you! This is too good an opportunity to miss, and so you drop the hat, which sails gently down and over the priest's head. And over his shoulders as well! You hurry down to the nave and pull the hat from his head, he seems annoyed and hurries back to the crypt. You follow him, and find the strange carvings on the floor of the crypt that you saw earlier, as well as torches lining the walls. Strangely, the brackets holding the torches onto the wall are made of iron — an expensive method! That reminds you — you haven't been to see the blacksmith yet!
The blacksmith is very unhelpful and very unfriendly, when you try and approach him. Perhaps he is trying to hide something? Like the blacksmith's ducks are? It is time to find out just what the ducks are hiding, and so you feed them the bread. They scatter and reveal the gold which they have been guarding. The woodcutter appears and claims the gold as the money which was stolen from him — obviously by the blacksmith! This is a fairly serious offence, and so the blacksmith is put into the stocks on the green.
This gives you the opportunity to try the hat on the blacksmith, now that he is immobile, and ... it fits! The blacksmith is the witch, and you have proved your innocence! You celebrate that evening with the burning of the blacksmith, glad that it isn't you who is being burnt!
Obviously, when you are constructing your own plot lines, you do not need to write them out in such a detailed and structured way as the one above. That is written out like this, to make it interesting to read and follow for other people — you are the only one who has to understand your plot notes.
The next stage in preparing your adventure is to go from the plot notes to the actual data statements required for coding the adventure using AKS. The next chapter shows how this is done, with a full break down of the Witch Hunt plot described above. If you study both the chapters together, you will see how a plot idea can be translated in a straight forward way into AKS statements.