1. The Return of noklu

      written by noklu
      Ray's Note: Welcome to one of the several new members of the Aggro Tactics team. We call ourselves, Irrelephant Games. Riki is mostly our creative lead, but does other things as well. I'm too technical and mechanical for that sort of work. ;) Glad to see some activity on this damn blog again.

      I originally wrote an insipid opening paragraph to this post. It was bloated with its egotism. Which implies I am bloated with my own ego. Thankfully, though, I puncture it with absolutely lucid sincerity. And I guess that’s what writing is: a series of bloated paragraphs followed by the clarity of the delete key till you’re left with a few good words. Or maybe it's like sculpting: the mason removes bad stone to reveal the art within. But I don’t know. I don’t really know that much, anyway. I can sometimes do things and, even rarer, I can sometimes think I can do those things. And that’s the first reason why I am back here in the blogging seat of RP.

      If you haven’t heard, GodlyPerfection was seeking volunteers to join the development team for Aggro Tactics. I am one of them. Some of you may remember me from my old jigs about this blog: I’ve posted about flow (three times!), reworked noted American architect Olmsted’s design principles, and written about “adjacent possibles”. Some of you might recognise me from my time posting on and administrating the RP forums or from Halo: Reach custom games, playtests, and communal forge sessions back in the day. Some of you may be friends I’ve spruiked this blog post to, hoping to build attention (hello there, read these links for background). Some of you may have no clue who I am. That’s okay. Online, I go by noklu. Offline, I go by Riki.

      I’m an Aussie. I think that makes Irrelephant Games an international development team. I study at an undisclosed university in an undisclosed city and have undisclosed levels of privacy awareness. I play jazz, I listen to ridiculously varied songs (Janacek followed by Genesis). I consume films, televisions, novels, and poetry. I play video games, but I’ve found myself playing less as I seek out those games with the most pizazz. I like to make things. Which is the second reason I’m here: GodlyPerfection hasn’t got the foggiest idea how to do narrative (I’m exaggerating, but you get my drift) while I do know how. I’m the creative lead, writer, community manager, and general go-getter for the team. If that sounds like a lot of roles, then don’t be surprised: that’s the reality of small indie game development: everyone is a go-getter, everyone is a community manager. But only writers get to use two colons in a sentence and get away with it. I think they call that Breaking the Rules™. Apparently only the best of the best are allowed to break the rules. That’s unfortunate, since I’m nowhere near the best of the best. I barely make the best of the middling worst average grade.

      Or maybe my self-criticism is a version of perfectionism and my tendency to self-deprecate just masks my brilliant talent. Hm. Let’s take that optimistic route, shall we? Especially since I’ll be responsible for organising a team of artists, writers, and other creative types to build a world, mythos, history, and narrative for the game: the pretty flesh that’ll hang on the skeletal game mechanics. The stuff that distracts your brainspace while the gruntwork gets done by all the fiddly code. I’m of the opinion that the human experience is one characterised by making sense out of nonsense. We interpret the raw sense data of the world and make meaning out of it. That’s why narratives and worlds are important in games: they allow us to attach meaning to the manipulation of an avatar as it hacks ‘n’ slashes, runs ‘n’ guns, or lasers ‘n’ blazes.

      One vastly different thing between video game storytelling and traditional stories is that creating video game narratives is a dynamic process between the game designers, programmers, artists, and writers. A game designer might suggest a mechanic, so the writer has to invent a role to fit it; a writer might suggest a role that fits in the world, so the designer has to develop the mechanics for it. That process might loop back on itself—games evolve. And in the same way as mechanics and narrative interweaves in game development, the gaming experience is an interaction between action and storytelling. Players do while their world shows and tells. In other words: players are involved in video game stories.

      Now, Aggro Tactics is a game that is built around multiplayer match-ups: a roster of classes enter a field of battle and duke it out till only one player is left standing. It is unlike the linear progress of games like Halo or Alan Wake or even the nonlinear progress of Skyrim or GTA. While it is possible to build a (single-player) story out of individual matches—think Age of Empires or many other tactical or strategy games—I’m more interested in generating a world which players navigate, where multiplayer games feel a part of the existing narrative struggles, where tensions emerge between classes and factions: what happens when you match archenemies against each other? what happens when your setup contains those archenemies?

      Those brief sketches of ideas are only a few amongst many. I’ve adored lore in books, films, and video game for as long as I can remember—but I’ve also detested inert lore. So many stories have immensely detailed backgrounds and lore, but the backstory never interacts with the major plots, let alone the game. I want to Aggro Tactics to have a “living, breathing world”—to use a tired cliché—in the sense that I want it to involve you in its politics, its histories, and its stories. The narrative won't operate in the way World of Warcraft defines players into two opposed factions. But I want there to be a rich lore to navigate—I want its stories to be meaningful to our world—but I also just want darnedly fun kinds of narratives.


      GodlyPerfection said...

      RIKI IS TEH AWESOME!!! What a great post man.

      Marc Hughley said...

      Glad to have someone this capable with writing doing backstory, lord knows that if it were left to just me or Ray we'd end up with a page of bullet points.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      *Spoiler alert*

      Would you like to:

      1. Save the world
      2. End the world