This is the second post in my Adventure Game Theory series, if you haven’t already please read the first – What is an Adventure Game?
In stories, foreshadowing is a fantastic device that allows the reader – or in our case, the player – to get little nudges every now and then as to the outcome of various plot points.
Used correctly these nudges can subtly point to any twists and surprises you have in store for the player without them realising it until after the surprise happens. Without foreshadowing there is a strong chance the player will feel cheated, or at least a little disappointed, that the twist came seemingly out of nowhere as if you added it on a whim.
The problem with foreshadowing is that to do it well you really need to know exactly where your story is going from the beginning as this allows you to sprinkle the foreshadowing points across the story.
This isn’t a massive problem in itself, it just requires you to fully plan everything out from the beginning and then stick to this plan religiously. This, however, can be a problem.
For some people, ourselves included, making a thorough plan from the beginning is hard. Now don’t get me wrong, we did have a pretty good plan for Forever Lost however in the paraphrased words of Captain Barbossa, this was more like a guideline really. To continue the piracy metaphor, it was like a treasure map with just the locations listed and not the instructions for getting between them. I’m fully aware that this is not really how maps work, but I started writing the sentence and by the time I got halfway I figured it was too late to stop.
We knew the major story points we wanted for the beginning, middle, and end, but in between that we just had lots of ideas that we wanted to get in.
The other issue with this is that even if you do spend however long it would take to come up with an absolutely perfect plan of your entire story, sticking to it can be a problem in and of itself.
Stories are fluid and should evolve as you go, don’t decide what your characters will do for them, instead just put them in a situation and let them tell you themselves. If you decide every event and every action ahead of time there is a very strong chance you will miss out on amazing things simply because you weren’t letting yourself see them.
Now I’ll let you into a little secret, a number of the foreshadowed parts of the Forever Lost story, set out in the first 2 episodes and coming to a head in the forthcoming episode 3, were all just luck. Now hopefully by the clever use of foreshadowing in this very post this hasn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Now to be fair, it wasn’t completely lucky, it was actually what we call beforeshadowing. What we mean by this is, when you come up with an idea that you think might be cool or interesting, put it in the story. Then, later on in the story there is a very strong chance you’ll be able to use that for something and thus create the illusion of actual foreshadowing.
As a word of warning though, just adding in bizarre things for every story might not work. This has worked very well for us in Forever Lost due to the nature of the story being quite a weird one however in your story you’ll have to decide what would work best for your beforeshadowing points.
As way of an example, in the hallways of episode 1 we had a notice board just outside the first room and on it we put some “hilarious” signs. One of these simply read ‘No Swimming’, for basically no reason whatsoever. Later on as the story progressed an important part of it is that some water gets contaminated and so we were able to use the ‘No Swimming’ sign again, this time near a source of water.
This point may seem small, and in comparison to some other beforeshadowing that’s in the game that I won’t mention for fear of spoiling things, but actually it’s pretty important. in the Forever Lost story, memory is central. Jason is seeing things that are jogging his memory and bringing back the past, so having a seemingly unimportant sign right at the beginning of the first game point to an important part of the story that only gets revealed towards the end of the 3rd game, developed over 3 years later, makes the story look well thought out and complete.
As for the name of this post, that points to one of the other beforeshadoing elements in the series. Back in development of episode 1 we added a door to the end of the corridor by the reception desk and had fully intended to add a room behind it. However due to our self-imposed deadline and requirement to release the game so that we would be able to eat that month, we had to cut the room.
Rather than remove the door itself we decided to simply lock it as where it was would look weird if there was no door there. The problem with a locked door in an adventure game is that it’s begging to be unlocked by the player, so we needed to find a way to lock it that would tell the player they would never be able to unlock it. In the end we decided on something very simple, changing the doors description from “It’s locked” to “It’s locked from the other side”. We then left it at that and didn’t think much of it.
Now in episode 3, that door couldn’t be more vital and we only have it because we decided to go with the flow and allow things to just happen.
Any good blog post, much like any good story, needs a really good satisfying ending. However, as this probably isn’t actually a good blog post, I’ll just end it with this final thought.
If you could read my mind you would know how awesome that thought was.