The Doors Are Frozen Shut: An Introduction

So, as promised, I would like to introduce you all to my replacement project for my game design class this semester.  The project is titled “The Doors Are Frozen Shut” and it is about being trapped in a building during a snow storm with neighbors you barely know.  Here is a title screen mockup that I made in class while the instructor was droning on about something:

A few days ago, I actually made some strong headway into the design of this game, and I’ve started writing a game design document to reflect this.  This isn’t implemented design, though I did start working on the location and character models to make sure that it wouldn’t be too arduous for me to make (so far it isn’t).  Instead I have been working on the concepts and the underlying systems (on paper) so that when I go to implement things everything should fall into place nicely.

As for the design, I have been reading Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling (which I will talk about later, in its own post).  As a result of reading this, I find myself desirous to attempt some version of what Crawford calls a storyworld, a space where stories can happen, driven by what the player wants out of the game.  This is a gross oversimplification, but then again, so is “The Doors Are Frozen Shut”.  Here is the premise: You (the player) live in a seven-floor walkup, where you mostly keep to yourself.  One day, you get up, get ready to go off to work, and you find that the doors to the building won’t open. They are frozen shut from the snow storm that has been threatening just this for days.  You call ahead to work and let them know and suddenly you find that you have the day to yourself, as well as your neighbors. You don’t know these people very well, if at all, you just know that they live here and keep to themselves.

The game lasts for one day, in which the player is free to do whatever is wished, although most of the actions are socially charged.  The player’s character and the other characters all have a personality, which is laid out in traits like taste and mirth.  There are also six skills. These skills are all skills that would be important when trapped in a building with people, such as repairing and entertaining. Each character has an aptitude for each skill. The player’s character is able to choose which skills are more important, as well as set up a personality, but the non-player characters are randomized.

The basic goal of the game is to find out as much about the other characters, but this is not a game with a win-state as such.  Instead, the game simply ends and the results of play are reported to the player.  This is a game for players to make their own goals.

Next week, I will try to show some of the play space. I am doing myself a kindness and keeping all the graphics fairly simple and uniform. Forgive me when the game looks fairly abstract.

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