Team Size: 5
Role: Narrative Designer/Story Writer
Two friends chasing after the secret of life, an unexpected journey full of adventure, mystery and friendship.
Bubble Raiders was the biggest challenge I have encountered so far. As my first commercial Narrative adventure it was immediately completely outside of my comfort zone. The target audience of the game was females 30+. As someone who had written mostly drama and fantasy stories for an audience like myself this was immediately an amazing challenge. The game's story is conveyed to the player in a comic like manner. This meant the sentences had to be short and meaningful. Fortunately I was also in charge of directing the images meaning I had full creative freedom in what and how to show the story. Although the challenge was great, working on the project was refreshing and amazing. Having created a meaningful story around a bubble shooter is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life.
At the start of any story I always brainstorm about the characters. The characters make the story and since some limitations were already given due to an existing story within the original version I had an easy start. Known limitations were:
Friends of one another.
The most important thing to me and the target audience was that it should be relatable. Any female playing the game should be able to identify with one of the two characters. The image shows some of my early thinking in the form of a brainstorm. Clicking on it will enlarge the image. Unfortunately it is in Dutch but it mostly boils down to this:
Energetic and Athletic.
Says what she thinks.
Works well under pressure.
A free spirit not afraid of change.
Insecure/afraid of what others might think of her.
stay-at-home type of woman.
Caring and Smart.
Think before you act.
Calm and structural.
Has performance anxiety.
The very stereotypical nature of the characters was a good way to get started. The names were chosen so that they would be easy to pronounce in most languages. The characters evolved further over the course of the project.
Art credit goes to Iskander Abspoel
Evolving the story
The first version of the project had only 2 story points. At the starts stating that the two woman found a map and wanted to search for the secret of life. At the end where they didn't find the secret of life and had to search further walking off into the sunset. The goal of the next version of the project was to make the story more meaningful and in a way an extrinsic motivator.
This was done by creating more story points and a more in depth story. This was done by creating a reason for the two to go on this adventure and make the adventure more relatable. When playing through the story, the player should have the idea that they could be having this adventure with their best friend if they were brave enough. This is why we kept the story as close to reality as we could. This was hard as it was a game about shooting bubbles at other totem like bubbles.
Art credit goes to Jacqueline Teley
The research for this project was a little different than other ones. Besides the obvious research of Mayan culture, environments etc. I also had to do some personal research regarding the target audience. As stated before I had never written anything for someone even close to this audience. So I started to listen to audio books. Why audio books? Mostly because I could do this during other work, and because my research was completely fixated on dialogue it worked very well to hear someone speak out the words instead of just reading them.
The most obvious and inspiring book was probably Eat Pray Love. It was amongst most of the top 10's of the target audience and had a lot of dialogue even if it was inner monologue a lot of the time. A lot of the ways that both characters speak are based on how Elizabeth talks in a funny almost sarcastic ways a lot of the times. It was a good way to keep myself from making it to "childish" but keeping the dialogue light.
Implementing the story was done through HTML-5 in what we called a "story engine." Inside this engine I was able to animate pictures and assign children to pictures. For example; I could have a background image and assign 5 children to it which were text bubbles with text assigned to them. I could animate all of these in terms of position, size and angle. The engine used a tweening engine which gave me the opportunity to create some fancy and solid looking animations that emphasized the story.
To keep it as clear and easy as possible for the player to understand the story I determined a specific ruleset. For example; Anna is always on the right side so all the text balloons that came from the right were always Anna's. A few other rules were:
A maximum of 3 text bubbles per picture.
A text bubble can't have more then 3 short or 2 long sentences.
Every image starts at a 0.5 size and expands to 0.9.
These were some of the rules to create a smooth and clear experience for the player. When I was comfortable with the animations within HTML-5 I started creating animations within the pictures themselves. Moving png's along a background or creating different poses for a character to give the story a more dynamic feel.
Copyright 2016 Jan van Lamoen