The Back Alley

The back route was a fairly major experiment in variables and if gates, primarily to do with the floodlight that you have the option to break at the beginning. Breaking it severely affects how things go with your choices further down the line, as the darkness will prevent you from bypassing the locked door stealthily, but will delay the bouncers when they’re alerted as they have to carefully pick their way down the alley, giving you the opportunity to escape once inside.

Conversely, leaving the light on will allow you to see clearly enough to bypass the lock and leave the bouncers completely unaware, but if you do alert them they can get to you quickly and it’s harder to escape without a fight.

This experimentation allowed me to do far more complex things later on, but what I loved about it was it was able to set up the idea that changing your environment can massively affect the results of the game. This was, in many ways, a build up towards D-Kline’s finale fight, where what you destroy changes his capabilities.

This section also taught me a few things about narrative design and compromise. Technically, getting into the club was designed as a bottleneck, a point where all the various variables of routes could converge and funnel players back into a singular set of choices. Without that the game would become a sprawling spiders web of possibilities that take people off on completely separate adventures. Sounds great, you say? This game took the best part of a year to make, and that’s with the bottleneck sections! I understand now why games have whole teams of writers…

I digress. These bottlenecks weren’t the compromise! I had to further compromise within them. You see, creating these variables is great for giving the players more options, but how those options end spawns a whole different entrance into that bottleneck. So taking this section (rather than the front way which has like twelve different variants) we have bypassing stealthily, we have lights on door smash and fight bouncers, same again but attempted flee, lights off door smash and fight bouncers, and same again but attempted flee.

That’s five different variants, which is a lot to write. But I managed to narrow it down to two with a little work. Rather that writing five different descriptions, I simply worked out the similarities between the end result and used variables to adjust those too descriptions. So, what it comes down to is, do the funkers calmly walk inside (having either defeated the bouncers or bypassed the lock) or do they run inside (due to fleeing the bouncers). The lights being on or off, the door being intact or not, the alarm ringing or not, all adjusted in the description of both endings dependant on the choices the player made. Thus the endings of scenes stopped being written as a progression of actions, and as a result, to which those actions became tailor written into. As someone who normally writes single narrative fiction, this was pretty new to me!

After all that work, I figured a good idea would be to let you save your progress, so let’s talk about the entrance to the club!

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