Sasha

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No Save, No load. The Story Continues When You Die.

Design Statement


     "Sasha" is an RPG game that tells the story of a mysterious girl called Sasha and an
adventurous villager named Gary. Through text-based conversations and player controlled
interactions, "Sasha" integrates storytelling with gameplay. The player has choices regarding
what to say during a conversation popup, and different choices will yield different results. For
example, correctly answering a riddle asked by an NPC may grant the player useful potions or
gears.
     The goal of my game is communicated to the players using popup texts. For example, at
the beginning of the game, the player will be told through a conversation to collect firewood
from the forest nearby. My playtesters confirmed that even though there is an exploration
element in the game, they never felt lost because of the clear instructions. Just like most RPG
games, "Sasha" offers a level progression system and a generic combat system. I did not put
much emphasis on it because the narrative is the main focus of my game. Nonetheless, combat
and the progression system always have discernable outcomes. Whenever the player wins or
loses a battle, a corresponding animation will play along with some texts.
While the gameplay system remains similar to most games created via RPG Maker, the
way the narrative system drives the outcome of the story is fresh and unique. A familiar setting
of RPG games is that when the player controlled character dies, the game will start over from the
last saved checkpoint. However, "Sasha" introduces a novel mechanics--
when the protagonist
Gary dies, the game only continues. Gary will be mysteriously teleported to the very beginning
of the game, knowing that he had died. The plot therefore unfolds. The centerpiece of this
mystery, a mute girl named Sasha, only appears if the player had died at least once.
As Jesper
Juul puts it "I dislike failing in games, but I dislike not failing even more." Failing is rarely an
enjoyable experience, and few players can pass a game without ever failing once, "Sasha"
exploits this fact by integrating the narrative and the mechanics of failing, making failing more
interesting and meaningful. Ian Bogost claimed that video games are better without narratives
because books and movies simply do a better job telling stories. "Sasha" offers a counterexample
to his argument. The player would only discover a major part of the plot after they have
inevitably failed because of their mistakes. If they manage to never fail in this game, then the
plot would be entirely different. This interactive mode of storytelling is unachievable through
reading books or watching movies. While he does have a point that "even the best stories in
video games did not top middling books," I believe that the fault lies with the writers in the game
industry. If the writers were to be on the same level, then video games can offer a unique
narrative experience through interactive story branching, a feat books and movies cannot
accomplish.
    

©2020 by Edward Zhang.