Before we begin this week’s devblog post for Arcade Spirits, a quick reminder:
It’s not too late to join the club and play the demo build! At risk of repeating myself, contribute $5 or more to the monthly Patreon fund and you’ll be able to dig up the link to the demo. Even if you’re reading this after May 1st you haven’t missed the boat on that; you pledge and it’ll charge up front for access. And anybody who accumulates $25 or more in backin’ bucks during the whole development process will get a full copy of the game when finished!
Right. Now, let’s talk protagonists.
Technically speaking, the protagonist of this game is you. You, or some character you’ve devised. I say this because at the start of the game, you can pick your own name, your own hairstyle, your own skin tone, and your own pronoun set (he/she/they). While defaults are provided for folks who just bang the enter key — that being Ari Cader, a nice young woman — really, these details are up to you. (I’ll just refer to this character as “Ari” for simplicity’s sake.)
But Ari isn’t a complete tabula rasa. Ari’s got a history, a long trail of failed attempts to get started with her life, and various family complications to get tangled up in along the way. She’s come to accept that life is just gonna take a dump on her now and then, and has a “go with the flow” attitude about it. So when an opportunity comes along to (zomg spoilarz) work in an arcade, well, Ari has some doubts…
…but YOU are the one who decides why Ari takes the job. You’re the one who decides Ari’s motivation, Ari’s reaction to events around her, and Ari’s decision-making when faced with any crisis.
It’s a curious balance, needing to tell a story about a particular character while needing to leave holes for the player to fill in. I’ve done it to a limited extent before in Neverwinter Nights, but this time around, I’m much more focused on allowing the player to do some real roleplaying. Often, the choices you make have no immediate, splashy impact… but they allow you to subtly express Ari’s reasoning behind what she does, and her feelings about what’s going on around her.
The game will remember many of these decisions and call back to them later. For instance, when you decide why you ultimately step out the door and check out the arcade job, the game remembers your motivation (“It should be funny, at least,” or “I’m looking for hope,” or “I choose to trust in science,” or “What the hell, let’s do this”) and Ari reflects on that motivation later in the story.
Now, before your hopes soar skyward, ground them a wee bit. It’s impossible to offer absolute freedom; there are still sets of options to pick from, and Ari does the talking for herself much of the time. But my hope is to allow you to guide both Ari’s steps and Ari’s thought processes through to a conclusion that resonates with you personally, on some level. This is YOUR version of Ari, and Ari’s journey through interesting times. Make it a good one.