Thursday, November 14, 2013

Game Translation: Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond Two Souls is a quick-time-event driven narrative that follows a girl called Jodie during various stages of her life and the mysterious entity "Aiden" who has been linked to her since she was a baby.

Unfortunately this is the kind of gameplay that most Storytellers use and which just doesn't work in a roleplaying medium so please take a look at it as a crash course in what not to do in terms of gameplay. This game heavily railroads the player to the point where simply moving the characters around the room feels like a tank. It's relatively easy to use when you're heading in the right direction but if you choose to stop and peek inside corridor dead ends or walk around to the wrong side of the desk you'll find a lot of odd clipping and other awkward mannerisms - likely because they didn't bother testing for the various random movements players will do.

Some Game Masters unfortunately do ape this sort of thing through descriptive limitations. Technically there is nothing to stop the Game Master from generating new locations depending on where the players go but some will make a point to give dead end descriptions if the players take any tangential actions. "The pub is boring. You leave." An understandable reaction when the players take thirty tangents in the same session and refuse to do anything of interest, though it does beg the question: What is so wrong with the game that they don't want to move forward? So yes, that's something you shouldn't translate.

The other thing you shouldn't translate is the obsession with successive quick time events. What I mean by this is a heavily scripted sequence of events where the players must make dice roll after dice roll without making any meaningful decision. They don't get to choose whether they wrap themselves in a blanket before running through the fire. They just get to make the rolls as you call them and listen to your descriptions. Don't do that. The dice should be called for *after* the players have made their decisions or at the same time as an instinctive response (Duck!) or intellectual realisation (You realise something). When you chain actions together you start to make presumptions on the player's choices and since that's their main involvement in the game you should avoid doing that.

So that's the negatives out of the way. What if you want to play this kind of narrative, rather than play this kind of game?

Well if you have one or two players you could do the Jodie - "Aiden" connection. I wouldn't do it with more than two players as it'll make it too difficult to give the "Aiden" player enough to do. Basically as an otherworldly entity "Aiden" can telekinetically manipulate situations, blast open doors, and peek behind walls while Jodie can't. Unfortunately "Aiden" also can't speak. It doesn't appear that it can even speak to Jodie and must rely on making sounds or changing its position around her in order to alert her to its discomfort or objects in the local environment.
As you can see, this is a game of emotion and drama.

This is actually quite doable but only if your players are very enthusiastic. There are problems with such a strict division of labor. If both players love chatting to NPCs, it could be a problem and a Blackwell Series approach might be better so that the "Aiden" type may also speak to ghosts. It might help if in your roleplaying game, "Aiden" is allowed to speak to Jodie. It could communicate to others through lipstick marks on mirrors and other such situations but the fact it is so much more powerful than the Jodie player character means that certain limitations must stay in force to stay balanced.

This game's strengthes lie in the rich emotional reactions and expressions given by these characters. Jodie, in particular, is very expressive and it's hard not to emphasise with her as the story progresses. Now while you can't force your players to emote through their characters, you can at least role model it by having emotionally expressive characters. This does require a bit of acting skill which is a little beyond this article so if you need to brush up on your emotional acting you may need to google yourself some acting tips.

Speaking of rich emotions, you'll also need to include a lot of character definining moments that would help draw out those emotions. Put them in between a rock and a hard place occasionally. See what they do. Threaten them with something nasty. Have something good happen instead so that they can feel relieved. Keep the tension up, relaxing it only to introduce something new, something different.

Encourage relationships. Romantic, platonic, familial. Throw in some loyalty and some betrayal. People feel through the connections they hold to one another.

Teamwork is also a big consideration here. Whether it's the Aiden - Jodie connection where the two literally must rely on each other to be able to access the next section or perform actions that are impossible for the other or whether it's a more standard group dynamic, it is vital that the situation be set up on occasion so that everyone must work together to get a situation resolved. A tech might need to wait at the console to maintain power while a soldier holds off some approaching goons while the hacker and thief duck through the door and attempt to quickly deal with the security defences on the other side to grab what is needed so that they can go.

Things like that.

Anyway, a campaign based around Beyond: Two Souls or including elements of it, should appeal to Tacticians and Communicators the most.

Tacticians will be alternately overjoyed and frustrated by the need to rely on someone else to get the job done. On the one hand, thinking in terms of group members' individual skills really floats their boat. However having sections of the game effectively out of their hands by a Jodie-Aiden situation will cause as much pain as it causes pleasure as they try to manipulate the other player into accomplishing goals through more efficient methods.

Action Heroes will be frustrated by all of the group tactics required. They want freedom of movement and adrenaline-thumping combat. They would hate to be largely insubstantial and unable to do much (Aiden) but would equally loathe being the less efficient killing machine (Jodie). Really they could only be Aiden but be cautious because when bored they will cause all kinds of mischief.

Explorers will enjoy the thrill of being something different (Aiden) but this particular game will be as good as any other to them. It doesn't particularly lend itself to their strengths nor does it cause them any issues.

Investigators will enjoy the mysteries that weave their way through the course of the game but will find the Jodie-Aiden situations and emotional intensity as good as their individual proclivities allow.

Communicators will love the reliance on emotional connection and depth and will rejoice to see their characters take center stage. While they might get a little too bogged down in the talking, at least they will enjoy themselves. Just don't make them Aiden. They're no good with silent protagonists.

If you want to check out the trailer, you can find it here. If you want to read up on the TV Tropes you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Blood Dragon, Gears of War, Dracula: Origins, Realms of the Haunting, The Cat Lady, Outlast or Dishonoured. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be either Blood Dragon or Left for Dead.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

1 comment:

  1. This is really great and full of interesting because everyone love to play game and i have played the game nice one so i will suggest it to do many languages.

    Marathi Translation | Bengali Translation