SOCIAL ODDITY

Narrative Designer

The game revolves around the introverted Jamie who gets dragged to a nightclub by their well meaning friend Buddy in an attempt to get them to open up a little. Buddy runs off after telling Jamie to meet him in the VIP area later. The problem is, he forgot to tell them the password to get in! Thus, Jamie must overcome their fears and talk to people in a quest for VIP access.

Social Oddity is a point and click adventure game about overcoming social awkwardness.

Genre Point and Click Adventure

Platform  PC

Engine/Tools Unity

Production Time Five Weeks

Team Size 10

Role Narrative Design

CONTRIBUTION

  • Formulated design pillars and core loop
  • Wrote the quest line
  • Designed three characters from the ground up
  • Wrote dialogue for three characters
  • Laid out the level design and the placement of the characters

DESIGN OBJECTIVES

Mechanical Storytelling: The main mechanic had to be part of the narrative and we wanted it to convey something to the player. That is why the player character walks around and picks up sentences from NPC’s and writes them down in their notebook, showing how awkward they are in this situation, talking with random strangers at a nightclub; they don’t know what to say or do really. The expectation was for the actual player to feel a little awkward as well, thus sympathising more with the main character.

DESIGN PILLARS

The theme we wanted to explore was social awkwardness; the main character doesn’t feel comfortable in this environment, talking with strangers and not knowing what to say, so to coup with that, Jamie simply mimics what others are saying. We were hoping that this would translate to the actual player as well, so that they could experience some of what Jaime were going through, but as the game progresses Jamie, and the player, get more adapt and used to the situation, learning more sentences and understanding the rules.

Conversation Puzzle The game revolves around character interactions, where the player needs to talk with NPC’s in a “social/conversation puzzle” to unlock more phrases to progress.

Light hearted We wanted the game to be light hearted, even though it was about a rather difficult subject (that of almost feeling like a social outcast), in part to balance the actual subject and theme.

Quirky characters We wanted to enhance the awkwardness of the game with quirky characters that the player character meet in the club. This would allow us to come up with some pretty outlandish scenarios and characters for the night club, and would lend itself rather well to the other two design pillars.

MECHANICS

The entire game revolves around talking to NPC’s and thereby learning new phrases, which you use on other characters to learn even more phrases, and so on and so forth, until the player has beaten the last puzzle and thereby the game.

To learn new phrases the player character must strike up a conversation with random strangers, with only a single word to begin with. By talking with different characters Jamie learns new phrases that can be used to unlock more conversations with other characters and learning new phrases. Every character needs a specific phrase to initiate the full conversation and start a new mission, which will end with Jamie learning a new phrase. To talk with club goers the player has to choose the right phrase from Jamie’s notebook, where they save all phrases that Jamie learns.

CHARACTERS

I wanted to emphasizes the lightheartedness and quirkiness of the game with the characters I was responsible for, setting them apart from the other NPC’s by making them appear and talk a bit differently.

Scott. Scott might very well be the second character the player talks with after entering the club. They won’t get much out of him straight away though. Scott is placed as the second character the player runs into at the club so that they might strike up a conversation with him, to have a short interaction with him so that they will keep him in the back of their mind. The entire bar is placed in such a matter that it’s a self contained scene where the player only need to interact with the people standing around it; Richy, the bartender and Scott. Scott will feature heavily in the first part of the quest.

I knew that Buster would be towards the end of the game, and thought that this would be an opportune moment to challenge the player by twisting the formula we had established so far. The player wouldn’t need to run back and forth during this interaction, as had been the case prior. To fully beat Buster the player also had to pick up every phrase there was to learn in the game, so I was confident that the player knew how to play the game when they went up against him, or would at the very least have to learn the main mechanics to fully beat him.

SCOTT

A manly man with a distinct feminine side. Scott was always part of a love triangle between himself, Richie and the player, but started out as a woman. We always wanted the game to be inclusive and diverse, so we decided that the love story part of the quest would feature two men. I decided to make the character I was responsible for to a Scotsman, because that would give me the opportunity to write all his dialogue with a scottish accent, which would support and enhance the light hearted och quirky aspects of the game.

I wanted him to have two opposite sides to further drive home the oddness of him, so I made him quite visually manly; broad, but short, with a full beard, but bald, but also gave him a distinct feminine side; his stance is overly feminine so it would stand in stark contrast with his manly appearance, and his dialogue also hints to his feminine side. All of this enhances a contradicting image of a stereotypical Scotsman, making him quirky and light hearted.

BUSTER RHYME

An age old rapper. Buster (Rhyme) is an old man, busting out rhymes in Shakespearean English, testing the player on their understanding of the game and its mechanics. Here you don’t learn any new phrases, but need to use all of the ones you’ve picked up so far. In a sense, he acts as a boss. The player will need to rhyme on everything Buster says to be able to move on with the quest, and that means choosing what phrase to respond with consideration.

Buster’s name is derived from the famous rapper Busta Rhymes, and started out as an white, old man, dressed up as a young rapper. The idea was always to have a showdown between him and the player. But I changed him from a rapper to a stiff, eccentric old man whom rhymed in Shakespearean English, adding to his quirkiness. I wanted a combination between Charlie Chaplin and Flavor Flav, where two quirky (and eccentric) characters from different eras met, but still told a story from where they came. Charlie Chaplin being an odd character still wore rather stiff and proper clothing, which I wanted to signal that Buster was really old and was further enhanced by his odd speech. Flavor Flav being eccentric and flashy with his jewelry represented the idea that the player had to go through with a rap battle of sorts to advance beyond Buster. The choice of having him speak in Shakespearean English further enhances the age of Buster, and adds to the quirkiness (and the challenge).