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Only the clinically obsessed will find this interesting, but here are the early emails I sent to Victor as we were developing the setting, plot, and puzzles of the game. You can see some of the early names that got changed (Crispin was "Binsin"; "Scraper Sturnweilerbuilt" was "Alpha Metrobuilt"; Metropol was briefly "MetroPole"), but it's mostly kind of interesting how quickly we got an outline in place (the first plot email was June 24, 2010; the last June 29, 2010). As you can see, after these emails I switched to a design document, which I kept updating and saving over, so it's hard to trace the development. Plus, the quantity of emails exploded, as did the GChats; all said, there must be close to 10,000 pieces of correspondence. It would just be too difficult (and too boring) to try to collate all of those. I've left out the emails where Vic approved, nixed, and helped develop various ideas, since I'm not sure if he wants me sharing his stuff. But this was certainly a two-way process! (And, once James got involved, a three-way process.)

For the curious, here goes:

June 24, 2010

Re: humans, it might be nice if there had been humans, but they're gone now, and the robots worship them as a semi-mythical creator that no one is quite sure really existed

June 24, 2010

So I had a few brainstormy things to throw out. As easy to throw them away as it was to propose them, so don't feel wedded to any; this game is your vision, and I just want to help you make it real. (And, have some fun along the way, of course.) But if you like these, they might be a place to start.

(1) As mentioned before, humans are a long-lost, semi-mythical being with "absolute reason, unbreakable bodies, and memories as vast as the universe itself." This must be so, for they surely created robots in their own image, and must therefore be the perfect form from which robots are derived. Recently, though, the Church of Man has fallen into disrepute and is basically a fringe cult; most robots no longer believe man existed but rather that some extremely primitive robot built a slightly superior robot, and so on and so forth, the same way robots upgrade themselves today. The protagonist is a Humanist, i.e., a believer in man.

(2) Robots can live for a very long time, but they are constantly in need of spare parts and are often upgrading themselves. When there is a significant alteration in their bodies, this is treated as transforming into a new being. The prior model becomes a parent to the new model that supplants it. All versions keep the same name, but add a suffix 1.0, 2.0, 3.4 (partially upgraded from 3), etc. The protagonist is is Horatio 7.1. (I'm not 100% certain on Horatio, but it has some classical allusions to it that I like.)

(3) Parentage also applies to one robot making an entirely new robot. But in this case, the new creation owes a debt of loyalty to the prior one, and takes as its name [parent]built. Horatio has a helper named Binsin Horatiobuilt. Robots who claim to be very old would be Manbuilt, but these are rare. Many robots do not know their builder.

(4) One question I had about the protagonist sprite is that it looked like he could fly [MRY NOTE 6/30/13: This turned out to be a placeholder sprite.]. I'm a little leery of that from a design standpoint (why does he need the cable car?). Is it just a magnetic levitation thing with a limited height? Anyway, I'm picturing Binsin as a little flying guy who lights up and can retrieve out of reach objects. He's your classic irreverent, cowardly but loyal flying sidekick (think Morte from PS:T, Archimedes from The Sword in the Stone or the owl from King's Quest 5, Orko from He-Man, Niddler from Pirates of Dark Water, etc., etc.) (You might be too young to catch some of those references. Sigh, I'm an old man.)

(5) A robot built by a robot built by a robot would, technically, have two surnames. So if Binsin made a helper named Pinky, that would be Pinky Binsinbuilt Horatiobuilt. Pinky would then owe loyalty to both Binsin and Horatio.

(6) Most of the robots in the world live in Metropol, where most are linked together into MetroMind. MetroMind is our totalitarian villain. MetroMind sells parts to robots in Metropol in exchange for "processor cycles" that they dedicate to MetroMind. Over time, they are increasingly in hoc to MetroMind, until they are little more than zombies that MetroMind uses to expand its own consciousness. MetroMind purports to be Selfbuilt, which is obviously dubious, and is a staunch opponent of Humanism. MetroMind's slogan is E Pluribus Unam, and he has the All-Seeing Eye as his logo, in a sort of Planet of the Apes-ish twist.

(7) Horatio was once a war-machine named Horus. Horus deliberately destroyed himself to give birth to Horatio. Specifically, Horus was the AI-controlled warship that Horatio now lives in. He was programmed to destroy Metropol, which had been a thriving human city, during the Great Destruction. His own human builders had been wiped out by the people of the city using biological weapons; realizing the futility of counter-attacking, he crashed himself into the desert, destroyed most of his mind, and put himself in a small robot body: Horatio.

(8) Horatio is fiercely independent and lives in the desert scraping by on scavenged spare parts. He refuses to go to Metropol and become a slave. He also urges Binsin to be free, but Binsin refuses. Horatio's obsession with freedom is a hold-over from Horus's own experience of defying his creators.

(9) The adventure begins with a conversation between Binsin and Horatio being interrupted by an airborne robot from the MetroMind stealing the reactor from the ship, which will leave Binsin and Horatio to die. The robot says that there is no right to anything without the MetroMind's say-so, and flies off. As a consequence, the pair have to get to the city to retrieve it. (There's no plan for revenge.)

(10) Along the way, in lieu of "inventory" items being the major puzzle mechanic, I think it might be nice to have upgrading. That is, you add parts and capabilities to Horatio (and Binsin) in the way that you gained notes and spells in LOOM. There might still be some inventory items, but upgrading (with the resulting name change from 7.1->7.2->7.3->. . . 7.n. The climactic moment maybe is when Horatio becomes 8.0.

(11) In the end, Horatio is tempted to destroy the MetroMind, but realizes he would be committing exactly the crime that Horus refused to do, since to destroying the MetroMind would require killing almost all the robots in Metropol. He returns to the desert, a la the Vault Dweller in Fallout.

(12) Not entirely sure in the middle stages, but presumably the quirky robots in the museum would be the Wise Old Men in our hero story (Yodas, if you will). Maybe they give you the means to uncover your past, though given how early they come in the story, they can't do it then -- the impact would be too low.

June 24, 2010

Hey, had a few thoughts I'm pretty excited about, particularly the early ones:

(1) On the side of the hull of the warship is its name HORUS in big, square-block letters (like a digital clock's numbers). But because it is half-buried in sand, the bottom is cut off, leaving: "UNDIIC." The D is particularly buried, so it reads "UNIIC." (Or maybe UNNIIC.) Horatio pronounces it "Unique," saying it's because the ship is one of a kind. Binsin might called it "Eunuch" to annoy him.

(2) Horatio tells Binsin he doesn't know why they're at the Unique because Horatio 1.0's memories about that are locked out due to system decay. In reality, they're locked by Horus in order to turn himself into Horatio.

(3) At the outset, they don't know anything about MetroPole or MetroMind except what they get in propaganda broadcasts. Thus, Binsin thinks the city is a paradise. Horatio has an aversion to it that is partly his independent streak but also Horus's animosity toward the city of his old enemies.

(4) At some point, Horatio tells Binsin that he (Horatio) always wished he could fly, which is why he built Binsin that way. This, in retrospect, is a clue to Horatio's previously airborne nature.

(5) The weird robots call Horatio Horus, saying that's his real name. He has no idea what they're talking about. They give him a self-diagnostic chip (with a quasi-mystical speech about self-discovery), but he lacks the CPU power to use it.

(6) The weird robots have a speech with Horatio (pre-chip) about Humanism, doing a Catholic-style catechism ("Who is Man?" "Our Creator." "What is Man?" "A being with absolute reason, an unbreakable body, and memories as vast as the universe itself." "How do we know this?" "Because we are made in his image, but we are flawed."). The old wise robots are slightly sneering at this.

(7) When Horatio reaches MetroPole, he has to buy some necessary part, but he gets it seemingly for free: he has to promise "100 cycles," but doesn't know what it means. Later, when he encounters the zombie robots, he discovers and is horrified. At a climactic moment, MetroMind calls his cycles due and incapacitates Horatio. Binsin saves him. Horatio can then use the extra CPU cycles he has as part of the MetroMind to unlock the self-diagnosis chip, at which point he become Horatio 8.0 and knows about Horus.

(8) Propaganda posters in MetroPole: "Join the MetroMind and Never Be Alone." "MetroMind Wants You!" "MetroMind is Watching." Etc. Robots are lured to the city by propaganda broadcasts sent out across the world.

(9) Maybe MetroMind has a human skeleton on display somewhere, but when Horatio first sees it he has no idea what it could possibly be. He later realizes. In an inversion of Hamlet's speech, he could say, "Alas, poor Man. I knew him, Binsin. . . ."

(9) Maybe MetroMind is in an old subway tunnel (which in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, is called a "Metro"). Dunno. Just a twopenny thought.
Post edited June 30, 2013 by WormwoodStudios
Thank you a lot for posting this, this is awesome! I've always enjoyed reading various "work-in-progress" materials, it's very interesting to learn how something was created, how ideas evolved during the development. (It helps improve my own writing skills, too. ^_^;)
Ah, good! Now I can finish it. Absurdly, GOG caps the length of a given post, and I had exceeded it the last time. Glad you enjoyed reading it, and found it helpful.

June 25, 2010

First, I think the generator should be stolen by an identifiable "individual," even if he's a flying airship thing. I'm picturing a floating guy with a big claw -- kind of like your current stand in, but much larger, scarier, more malevolent. Maybe one big glowing eye with a couple of small green glowing eyes stacked vertically next to it on just one side. (Asymmetry being a good indicator of evil and all!) He's MetroMind's main henchman.

Anyway, he smacks Horatio around and takes the generator. It's not even a fight, since Horatio is smaller, weaker, and lacks combat skills at that point. The game's final showdown in physical terms is between Horatio and him, and post-Horus Horatio obviously whups him. I think that has the nice consequence of introducing the ultimate challenge right from the start, and achieving the hero-journey effect of letting you overcome the threat that started things out.

Obviously, the more psychological/intellectual showdown is with MetroMind.

Second, I really like narrative symmetry in short stories (which is how I want to try to think about the story for this game, to check my novelistic urges). So I was thinking a cool ending might be this: as a consequence of learning about Horus, Horatio's worldview is destroyed: the humans he once worshiped turned out to be self-destructive monsters; he has all these battle capabilities he doesn't really want to use; he's defeated the point of Horus's suicide by recovering all this knowledge; etc. Plus, Binsin points out that the generator is so valuable that MetroMind will probably come for it again, and Horatio realizes he'll constantly be on edge waiting for the day.

So, after returning to the Horus, he uses the self-analysis chip to relock all the memories that he's recovered, telling Binsin to bring the chip back to the old wise robots after Horus is done with it, so he cannot unlock the memories again.

Fade to black. Fade back in with Horatio on top of the Horus, staring at the stars. Binsin flies in. Binsin, testing to see if the memory wipe worked, asks, "Horatio, why are we here?" "Because Man created us," Horatio answers. Cue music, roll credits.

The implication being that, perhaps, Horatio and MetroMind have been locked in a struggle over the generator in an endless cycle, though, of course, things aren't totally reset at the end of the story.

June 25, 2010

Totally agree about the big building. That's part of what capitvated me about the map. (That said, I should note that Machinarium culminates atop a big building in a robot city; I would give you my copy, but cursed Steam, etc., etc., I can't send it.)

Multiple endings is a great idea, one that I hadn't considered (I'm not sure why). It seems like the obvious ones would be: destroy the city; usurp the MetroMind; join the MetroMind; return to the desert. To the extent we can do multiple solutions to puzzles, which perhaps guide you toward the different endings, that might be nice, too. Something to consider. But, as you've said, we can't keep swelling the sponge! That said, expanding content in the form of additional dialogue and puzzle solutions that don't require significantly more artwork is way cheaper than expanding content in the way that requires more artwork, so we shouldn't be too scared of that approach. (Re: puzzle design -- I'm not sure that I'm particularly good at it. Are you?)

Re: henchman, he either needs to fly or come on some kind of a flying vehicle. Maybe a flying vehicle -- that could be the vehicle Horatio steals at the end to get back to the Horus? Square quadruped sounds cool. Maybe with sharp-spiked feet? Although I think I'm stealing that idea from something I've seen before. . . .

I'll brainstorm on other locations, but to be honest, 90% of my ideas have sprung out of the artwork you sent -- who knows how good I'll be at coming up with ideas that are independent of the artwork? :)

June 25, 2010

Maybe the giant robot is buried mostly in the sound, with just its head above. The old robots live in its belly. To get in, you have to plug its nose, forcing it to open its mouth to circulate air. Alternatively, you can get in by sending Binsin to fly in through the nose and open it from the inside.

I just kinda dig the image of a huge head in the sand opening up.

June 26, 2010

(1) As a sort of avoid-pixel-hunting assistance, if you sit in a room without "advancing" for some amount of time (45 seconds? 2 minutes? testing will determine), and there are interactable hotspots you have not yet located, Binsin will fly over to a randomly selected hotspot and say, "This looks interesting!" (or some variation, sometimes customized). Maybe you can also talk to Binsin and ask him if anything looks interesting to him to have this trigger immediately, although that seems like it would be too tempting to abuse.

(2) Maybe the way you get to Metropol is through a subway, and paying the subway toll is what causes Horatio to go in hock with Metromind.

June 26, 2010

(1) As a sort of avoid-pixel-hunting assistance, if you sit in a room without "advancing" for some amount of time (45 seconds? 2 minutes? testing will determine), and there are interactable hotspots you have not yet located, Binsin will fly over to a randomly selected hotspot and say, "This looks interesting!" (or some variation, sometimes customized). Maybe you can also talk to Binsin and ask him if anything looks interesting to him to have this trigger immediately, although that seems like it would be too tempting to abuse.

(2) Maybe the way you get to Metropol is through a subway, and paying the subway toll is what causes Horatio to go in hock with Metromind.
Post edited June 30, 2013 by WormwoodStudios
June 26, 2010

(1) The nice thing about the rescue-the-generator story is that the player can impart quite a bit of his own personality to Horatio and still have it "fit" with the quest. Horatio can be a reclusive loner; an adventure-seeker; a vengeful warrior; he can be finally throwing it in to go to the city after all. Whatever his personality, though, he ultimately has to go to Metropol because he can no longer live in the desert without his generator.

On the other hand, in the rescue-the-princess story [MRY NOTE 6/30/2013: This was an idea of having Horatio rescue a female robot friend], Horatio has to be motivated by some heroic/romantic impulse. Some number of players will just wonder why Horatio doesn't just let her go and try to find another girlbot in the junkpile, right? Also, the rescue-the-princess story has the same basic contours as Wall-E: robot in ramshackle home in post-apocalyptic wasteland meets girl; girl is carried away to high-tech place; robot goes to high-tech place and confronts all-controlling AI; girl and robot return to wasteland and live happily ever after. This isn't the most important point, but I do have some concern of the game being too easily pegged as "Wall-E meets Machinarium" or whatever.

(2) The reason for the relatively high number of Horus-related puzzles was both narrative and practical. The practical reasons are that I think we want to maximize puzzles-per-room, both because it minimizes the annoying feeling of tedious wandering and because it reduces our development "cost." The narrative reasons are three fold: (i) the longer the player spends on the Horus, the more familiar he becomes with it, the more he starts to share Horatio's attachment for it; it grounds the rest of the game with a place that feels like home; (ii) while I agree that Metropol should be most of the game, by stretching out the period before you get there a little longer, it significantly increases the impact (dunno if you've played BG2, but think about the relatively long dungeon at the start before you come out to the big city); (iii) having all of these fix-it, junkpile quests drives home exactly what Horatio's life has been out the in the desert; you are dramatizing, in a gameplay way, the character's pre-game history.

Also, by having so many puzzles be arc-welder related, you develop the player's attachment to that item. As much as possible, I like to use gameplay to tie the player to things: Binsin, the Horus, his arc-welder. Then, you can take those things away for greater emotional resonance.

(3) On the map vs. no-map issue, here's the best case I can make. With the map, it is possible to convey that the junkpile is a meaningful distance from the Horus, the giant robot the same, and the city especially so. The alternative is to do a King's Quest V style desert with lots, and lots of blank rooms. I don't see much upside to that. To be clear, I'm not proposing that we have a MI-style map that you walk around. I'm saying that you load up your map in the inventory and click on a location, it fades out, and you fade in to see Horatio and Binsin walking into that scene. This eliminates tedious backtracking and conveys scale. It also cuts down the number of rooms you have to draw.

This may be my own player prejudices coming in, but what I like least about adventure games is puzzles based around the theme: start at A; go to B to get item; return to A to use item; get item2, which can only be used at B; return to B to use item2; unlock door at A; return to A to go through door. Then the game drags out the A->B->A by making the walking speed slow and having the two points as far apart as possible. I think having puzzles and solutions in different rooms is reasonable, I just like to minimize travel time between them (and I like to avoid backtracking as a theme).

Anyway, that's the best case I can make for the story stuff I sent previously. I won't have bruised toes or a hurt ego if you decide you'd rather go with the rescue-the-princess plot! I haven't really worked on many games in the past decade where I wasn't writing someone else's general storyline, so it's something I'm comfortable with. :)

June 27, 2010

I think Binsin probably needs to have appendages (I'm thinking two, small, clawed arms, possibly retractable) so that he can interact more with puzzles (getting distant objects, flipping switches, etc.). I also thinking he might benefit from being a little cuter. I would give him a single eye, so that the eye can be larger (large eyes being a surefire way to make something cute), and maybe make the eye blue rather than yellow (yellow being morally ambiguous, blue being identifiably good). If the eye is large, it can also be animated in an easily-noticeable way for effect and humor (narrowing with skepticism, spinning around with fear, etc.).

June 27, 2010

Oh, also, if you try to go to Metropol, you're either told that would be impossible without a full energy charge (i.e., before you've got the generator up and charged) or that it would be impossible to make it that far on foot (i.e., after being recharged).

If you try to go to the giant robot before being recharged you're told you don't have enough energy to make it there (you have to recharge yourself first).

I realize you're not a huge fan of the Monkey Island map style -- I was picturing this more like how Planescape Torment did its map: different regions appear once you can travel to them, and then you click and get there immediately. Otherwise, I'm not sure how we'd do travel around the desert.

Not sure what the puzzles in the giant robot will be, but I know that at the end, you have your arc-welder surcharged, so you can blast open the metro doors at the junkpile.
Post edited June 30, 2013 by WormwoodStudios
June 27, 2010

So given that you're making so much progress through the Horus/UNNIIC, I figured I should try to plot out what is necessary from a plot / gameplay standpoint there.

Here are some rough thoughts to get us started:

Based on what we've chatted about so far, the rooms the Horus needs to have are:

(1) a control room (possibly "untitled.jpg?");
(2) a "boiler" room with the generator (which gets stolen) (possibly we could have an external generator and use test2c.jpg, with the obstruction the left being the generator);
(3) the deck (done).
(4) an external shot where you can see the base of the ship, buried in the sand, with the half-covered "HORUS" designation.

In addition we have a bedroom, which I gather connects to what I've called the control room?

Here are the items I'd like in the ship in order to make the puzzles I'm thinking of work:

(1) A charging station where Horatio and Binsin "charge up" in order to function. This is their life-source, and losing the generator means that they'll run out of juice in a matter of weeks, leaving them to die. (Possibly the thing up against the back wall in untitled.jpg?)

(2) A radio that broadcasts propaganda from Metropol. (Also possibly the thing up against the wall; in fact, I'd prefer if that were the radio and we have the charging station in the bedroom, but there's nothing currently in there that works well for it.)

(3) A lantern (we've got this up top in test2c.jpg; maybe scale it down slightly, though).

(4) A back-up generator, possibly on the ground level next to the ship.

So here's what I'm envisioning for the first few sets of puzzles:

(1) There's a crash, and you have to go outside, confront the henchman (I'm thinking Alpha Metrobuilt for his name), get beaten up, lose the generator. Before this happens, though, you can interact with various things in the ship; the radio is constantly playing propaganda about Metropol, you can look out the telescope (at the moon?), etc.

(2) Power goes out altogether for the Horus/UNNIIC, and everything inside the ship is now dark. The player is told that you need energy to recharge to even live for a few days, but you also need to find the generator (or another major power source) because the backup generator will not last for very long. Your immediate goal at this point is to get the emergency backup generator going, which requires connecting it up (using parts you don't have) yet. Examining the emergency generator lets you know that you need parts to hook it up, at which point Binsin suggests that you check the "junkpile," adding this as a location you can visit.

(3) You can go back in to the ship and collect items in it, but to reenter you need a light source (namely the lantern). Once inside, you have a little halo of light around you but can search around. Inside, you can collect certain items, including:
- if you disconnect the radio, you find an interface plug
- if you slide back the metal plate next to the bed, you get an arc-welder
- if you search the books in the control room you get a repair manual; the manual shows that you need rigid tubing and a sparkplug to hook up the emergency generator; the manual also describes how to build an "energy sensor." This requires a sodium iodide crystal, flexible tubing, an interface plug, a circuit board, and a microchip. The manual probably also shows how to make some red herring devices you can never actually build.
- if you search the control console itself, you get sparkplugs
Outside the ship, you can also get flexible tubing from near the ladder.

(4) At the junkyard, you can search the junkpiles for interesting items. Note that the junkpile also has a subway tunnel, but it is closed (you'll be able to get into it later). You can find lots of differently shaped pieces of rigid tubing by searching the piles. You also find some other item that will be useful later. Also, possibly, a couple of red herring items There is also a large metal chest, which is locked. If you try to open it manually, Binsin suggests that you get the arc-welder from the tool compartment next to your bed. If you burn the chest open, you find sparkplugs and a crystal. If you try to use the welder to open the subway doors, the game tells you that they're much too thick.

(5) Back at the ship, if you open up the emergency generator you see the panel to connect all of the rigid tubs, a kind of Pipedream style puzzle. But the problem is that the pieces, while seemingly just close enough, never quite fit together the right way. Mind you, every time you search the junkpile you can find some different piece (maybe 10 total varieties), but they never work. After a certain number of tries, Binsin says, "Maybe we aren't going about this the right way." The right way is to use your arcwelder on the pipes after examining the panel. Screen fades to black, various noises, fade back in with the pipes cut and welded into the right shape. "Much easier," says Horatio. (Note that using the flex tubing successfully connects, and gives you a few moments of energy, but then it shuts off. "Too much leakage.")

(6) The immediate danger is passed, since you now have the backup generator and can recharge yourself and Binsin if you need to. But the new objective is to find either your old generator or some other power source. How to locate it?

(7) With the generator on, you can now recharge yourself, examine things more easily, and use the other ship's systems. Specifically, you can:

(a) Use the telescope to focus on distant objects, so long as you know where to look. Initially all you can look at is the junk pile or the moon. By listening the radio, you learn the location of Metropol, and you can then look at it. (That adds the city to your map.) The main thing you need to use it to find, however, is an energy source. Once you have detected one (see below), you can look at it and see the giant robot, which is then added as a map location. You can also detect a big radiation spill, which you never go to.

(b) You can use the ship's systems to get a diagnostic of how much energy is in the back-up generator, to load up old ship logs, maybe something else. If you open the ship control console, you see that there's a circuit board with a large CPU and some free slots. You can then create an energy sensor. Before you can use the flex tube, you have to shorten it with the arc welder, leaving you with quite a length of tube still left over. In your inventory, you combine the short tube with the plug, or the tube with the crystal, and then combine those two parts with whatever the last one is (i.e., either the crystal or the plug, whichever you didn't initially combine with the tube). You then use that on the computer, which adds the option to scan for energy. The scan reports: a large energy source at Metropol (also giving you the coordinates if you didn't get it off the radio); the largest energy source at the radiation spill; and the smallest at the giant robot; obviously the Horus itself gives off a signature as well. You can remove the 3-part item from the computer, which loses you the energy scan option, but restores the item to your inventory (and you can use it later in the game for some optional puzzle solution, maybe).

(c) If try to you plug the arcwelder into the recharge station, Horatio says, "That would supercharge the welder, but I can't waste that much of our energy reserves on it."

(8) Once you've located the giant robot, you can go visit it. I'll come up with some puzzle stuff for there, but wanted to cover the ship first.
June 28, 2010

So I have some ideas on puzzle stuff.

(1) For the terrible pipe dream idea [MRY NOTE 6/30/2013: a puzzle that ultimate got cut, but which I kept re-suggesting, where you’d try to connect the conduits in a UI but wouldn’t be able to]: instead of working the way I described, there are X number of pipe pieces, each of which has two ends. Each of the ends is one of three or four types, and you have to connect them to make a pipe four units long. But the pipes are generated in such a way that there is no possible way to combine all four. You have to realize that you can use the arc welder to merge them without fitting the threads.

(2) Another item you find in the junk is are a ball of tar.

(3) For the giant robot exterior, you have the robot's head and part of one hand sticking out of the sand. The robot is "breathing" (cycling air) through its nose. Its eyes are glass windows and you can send Binsin to look through them; he says that he sees a positronic brain, but it has been badly damaged. You can send Binsin through the nose, but he says it's too dark inside to see anything and comes back out. If you try to break the windows, they turn out to be very reinforced.

To get inside, you have to stick the tar ball up one nostril, then use the arcwelder to saw off the tip of one finger and shove it up the other nostril. (If you try to stick the finger in the nostril you've put the tar up, an appropriate quip about picking the robot's nose ensues.) Once both nostrils are plugged, the robot must breathe through its mouth and you can enter (using the lantern for light).

(4) Inside the giant robot's throat, with the lantern, you can see a hatch on the roof of its mouth. Binsin can open it, but there's no way for you to get up. You have to use the flex tubing on the hole (or maybe on Binsin) and Binsin attaches it as a rope. You can then go up and examine the brain and see that the higher-reason functions are totally scrapped. If you search that half of the brain, you find a circuit board.

(5) The giant robot was a guardian of the human-inhabited Metropol that Horus killed during the war. Its brain was badly damaged in the fight. In order to survive, it downloaded its brain into three servitors (I'm picturing the current Horatio design here) that operated inside its body. Each got part of its brain, leaving each pretty weird.

(6) Unfortunately, one of the three has gone totally batty and has run off to try to reinstall himself in the giant robot. The other two (living farther down the throat) are fairly friendly and claim to have known Horatio 3.0. They identify an insignia on the henchman as something they saw before, but all their old memories are in their third partner. They offer to let you use their generator whenever you want, if you bring the third part of their brain back.

(7) When you go deeper into the robot's belly, you find four diagnostic computers with the collapsed body of a servitor near them. When you approach, one of the computers lights up and the remaining brain-third talks to you (in a generally crazy/prophetic fashion -- he keeps calling you Horus). He says he destroyed his old body and it is no longer usable. He is too vague and crazy to tell you where he saw the insignia on the henchman, and he says he won't go back unless you can catch him three times in a row. A game of "four-card Monty" ensues. The odds of winning are basically abysmal -- 1/64 -- and we just rig it so that you can never win through brute force.

After a certain number of failures, Binsin says there must be a better way to go about this.

(8) If you search the servitor body, you find a microchip. Now, if you were paying attention (!), that means you have all the parts you need for an energy sensor that is not attached to the Horus. If you disconnected the energy sensor parts earlier, you'll have them in your inventory. Otherwise, it's back to the Horus to collect them, and assemble a working portable sensor. With that, you can detect which computer is currently housing the brain, and win the game. The brain surrenders, and you lug the computer he's in back to the other two.

(9) The three then ask you to connect them together with cabling so that they can interface. You can go and recover the flex tubing and give it to them, which does the trick. (The short flex tube in the sensor is too small.) Once interfaced, they identify the symbol as having been in Metropol. They tell you the way to get there is via a subway that they know is nearby, but not exactly where. They offer to let you stay with them -- obscurely saying that they will "let bygones be bygones since you put my brain back together" -- but Horatio declines. They then let you recharge and supercharge the arc-welder. As you're leaving, they call you back and give you the self-diagnosis chip, but you lack the ability to use it yet.

(10) When you leave, the robot blows its nose and dislodges the tar ball. Horatio picks it up, saying it might be useful later.

(11) The subway entrance is the heavy door in the junkpile. (The junkpile has been created by trash discarded by Metropol.) Horatio identifies it as surely being the door when you next see it. If you try to open it with the arc-welder and haven't super-charged it, Binsin will say that you'll need to make the arc-welder have more charge before you can do that. If it is supercharged, you blast open the door -- but the arc-welder fries. Horatio says he'll hold onto it for sentimental value and because it has been a good friend. Maybe it can be fixed later. (The manual says that a burnt-out arc-welder needs a spark plug and a fuse; you have one of the the two already.)

Et voila! Now you can get into the subway, buy a ticket with "cycles," and get on your way to Metropol. You're somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way through the game.


The main things I like about this are the recurring use of the same puzzle pieces (the welder, the flex tubing, the sensor parts), rather than having a bunch of once-off items. Plus the puzzles are all fairly logical, the items all come from places you might expect, etc. I also think the puzzles build Horatio's character as a sort of MacGuyver type, but with a specific bent toward repairing broken down things, which fits with the scavenger persona.

Anyway, as always, not fixated on these, but wanted to throw 'em out while I had 'em.

Total scenes we need:

(1) Horus (we've talked about already)
(2) Junkpile: probably just two scenes, one with the subway door, one with more junk around, but junk is everywhere.
(3) Giant robot: One long exterior scene (with the hand and head); one small interior inside the head; one long interior inside the throat; one small interior in the stomach or wherever you encounter the third brain.

Not too too many.
June 29, 2010

Some thoughts:

(1) Alpha Metrobuilt (or whatever we call the henchman) doesn't really talk much. When he takes the generator, he says, "Enemy. Plunder." This is a reference to the fact that Horus was attacking Metropol way back in the day.

(2) Alpha was a tunneling robot that helped expand the metro / subway system, hence his status as Metromind's chief henchman.

(3) At the end of the Goliath encounter, Goliath warns Horatio about Metromind. He is pretty ambiguous about MM, though -- knowing her only from an encounter many, many years ago when Metromind asked for Goliath's help, but he declined. He can't really say much, but warns Horatio to be careful. Goliath is referring to an effort Metromind made to recruit him to help her take over Metropol. Goliath refused.

Side note on Goliath. One "alternative path" that we can develop if we have time is that rather than using the energy sensor to figure out which computer Goliath's third is in, you can use the arc-welder to destroy computers until there's only one left. This harms Goliath's third, and as a consequence Goliath does not give you the self-diagnosis chip.

(4) Metromind was once one of many intelligent robots who were part of a ruling council. Gradually, however, she took over by incorporating more and more minds into her own.
Side note on Metromind: She denies the existence of humanity, although you can confront her about them at some point and she reveals that she hates them in large part because of what she observed of them while running the subways (including during the period where people hid in the subways for survival). After humanity wiped itself out, she had Alpha dig mass graves and buried them all, keeping just one skeleton as a reminder. She has deleted all records of them from public archives.

(5) Her main rival on the council was Arbiter Manbuilt, a judge robot. (Note: in the last years of human civilization, many, many things were handed over to machines due to their impartiality/incorruptibility. Judging was one of those things.) Arbiter had several clerk/creations, including Charity Arbiterbuilt and Clarity Arbiterbuilt. (The former tempered law with mercy; the second applied it rigidly.) As things between Arbiter and Metromind degenerated, Arbiter transferred Charity and Clarity into Valkyrie-type bodies, which previously had belonged to his bailiffs. He did so in order to protect himself.

(6) He sent Clarity out in the city to keep an eye on things and kept Charity with him as a bodyguard. Metromind orchestrated her coup and, among other things, used her authority over the public thoroughfares (her legitimate authority) to forbid Arbiter or his clerks from using the streets. This cut Clarity off from the other two. Rather than fight Charity, which she was afraid of doing, or Arbiter's supporters, Metromind convinced Charity that a bloody civil war would cause so much suffering that it would be better if Arbiter gave up. Arbiter refused, so Charity killed him (in some non-gory way; probably uploading a virus). Charity then shut herself down.

(7) Clarity is unaware that Arbiter is dead. She believes he's simply trapped. Clarity lives in the sewers, which are outside Metromind's legitimate authority. Metromind has also forbidden anyone to enter the courthouse (which, as a public building) falls within her authority. Note that Metromind now claims so dominion over Metropol, but Clarity views this as usurpation outside of the law. Clarity must obey the law, and cannot punish Metromind for her actions that are legal. Thus, she does not confront Metromind and skulks around.

(8) Under the old Refugee Law, newcomers to Metropol have a 48-hour grace period during which they cannot be held accountable for breaches of custom (i.e., laws that do not involve harming someone), but only for breaches of peace (i.e., laws that do harm someone). Thus, Clarity believes that Horatio can lawfully enter the courthouse and ask for guidance from Arbiter.

(9) Clarity will not directly attack Metromind unless she believes that Metromind has broken the law, which she has not yet observed. When Horatio says that she stole his generator, Clarity asks whether any reason was given. Horatio either willingly tells (or she detects his lie) about the "enemy, plunder" speech from Alpha. Clarity scans the public databases and informs him that Metromind was right: legally, the Horus was subject to plunder as an enemy vessel that attacked the city. Horatio is incensed. The Horus? It's called the Unniic! Attack the city?! She describes the facts, he thinks Metromind has fudged the database.

(10) Meanwhile, Clarity is willing to help Horatio with small things, though, like giving him some useful item. Once Horatio visits the courthouse (which involves a challenge of getting in) and discovers Arbiter's murder, with proof that Metromind caused it (downloaded from Charity's mind), Clarity will help directly.

(11) Horatio first sees Clarity's eyes staring at him out of a sewer. She is also described to him by several people who say that she's the last real holdout vs. Metromind. She also maybe saves him from trouble early on. So she slowly builds to be this good friend for Horatio.

Anyway, that's what I've got. :) Not really concrete puzzle-design, but I thought it was pretty decent background lore.

June 29, 2010

To complement Horatio's name, I think the sidekick's name has to be short and somewhat cute -- but not pet-like. I like a playful name since I'm picturing him with a sort of not-entirely-serious persona.

Some thoughts:

Fillip (playing on the proper noun but also the common noun meaning of a little embellishment or small blow, and finally the false etymology from the French fils, meaning son)
Crispin (patron saint of certain handicrafts)
Waldo (a term for a remote manipulator)
Dexter (since he's "handy")
Cognomen ("Cog" for short, playing off the literal meaning "nickname" and the false etymology "machine-name")
Cam (another machine part)

June 29, 2010

One problem with our puzzles in the first area is that they are fairly linear. (Not entirely, but fairly.) I'd like to make Metropol work where you start out, see your objective -- the tall tower, which you know is where the generator is because you use the portable energy sensor -- and then realize there are three different obstacles you need to clear before you can go in. Those can be done in any order, and each may have several parts that can be done in any order.

I think the reason I was erring toward linearity is that it's just the default way my brain works -- linear stories, linear designs, heck, even most of my programming experience is with linear, not object oriented, code. But I don't want the game to all be that way.

On the one hand, I don't want to make it too unfocused -- for example, my head exploded when I tried to play Day of the Tentacle because there were so many puzzles, so many items, all running in tandem -- but, on the other hand, one of the fun parts of older games was that part where you were running around with tons of different puzzles to chew on until you finally got through one.

Anyway, I'll see what I can come up with, but I'll prioritize getting the design doc.
So the idea of Horatio locking his memory again in the end came before the multiple endings idea? Interesting.

Sure, the stuff in the Horus's log isn't something Horatio would really want to remember, but on the other hand, I thought that not being able to accept your own past is a sign that you're weak.

The Horus chose to lock up the memories, but for the "current" Horatio repeating it seems a little weird. I do realize this was meant to be a loop of sorts, but when you follow a character throughout the story and experience his adventures, you expect him to eventually become stronger (there had to be some character development going on!).

Also, if Horatio's desire to build came from the Horus trying to suppress/replace its original purpose (to destroy) - that would still work with the Horus's memory intact: not as replacement, but as balance, which is potentially more powerful.

Just a thought. ^_^ Of course, you probably went with the multiple endings because, among other things, different players were going to have different interpretation of Horatio's character, so...
Post edited July 03, 2013 by YnK
This is fantastic.
I hope more game makers do this.
@ Mad 3: Thanks!

@ YNK: Initially,my thought was that the player was witnessing one phase of an unbreakable cycle: that Horatio had several times figured out who he was, and locked it back up. Perhaps he had even several times gone to Metropol, confronted MetroMind, gotten his generator back, and then returned home and locked up any memory of it happening. I imagine that idea was just one of my many pilferings from Planescape: Torment.

I think, though, that the memories he's locking here are not necessarily the memories of being the Horus.

In the game-as-made, the ending in which Horatio locks his memories occurs irrespective of whether he found out about the Horus; the trigger is the death of Crispin and Clarity. So what he's locking away is not knowledge of being Horus, but knowledge of his friends' death, knowledge that Man is not a god (gleaned from his interactions with Clarity and MetroMind), and knowledge of his own willingness to threaten (if not carry out) extreme violence. It's those memories that make it impossible for him to go back to the person who could some day become the person he wants to be; in other words, while there was a path from Horatio-at-the-game's-start to Ideal-Horatio, there is no such path (in Horatio's view)once he's seen that the world was created by naive animals, not gods, and is ruled by violence.

In the game-as-outlined, the knowledge of Horus isn't actually what he's bent on locking out. Rather, it's the knowledge of humanity's fallibility coupled with the knowledge of his own destructive capability. Horatio doesn't trust himself to live with (1) Horus's destructive capacity and (2) a lack of belief in the transcendent goodness of Man. He's afraid of himself, especially if he is living the shadow of Metropol and MetroMind. You're right, of course, that Horatio could (and perhaps should!) have simply transfered his faith from Man to the Horus: the Horus, which, after all, alone of all the robots in the game defied its core logic and refused to engage in the violence for which it was purpose-built. I guess the answer is: the Horus who was able to do act in that noble manner didn't know anything about mankind. Despite being a marvelous AI, its only knowledge of humanity appears to be inferential: it knows that humans built it, and hence are builders, and therefore shouldn't be destroyed. By the end of the game, however, Horatio knows that it was humanity who ordered the chemical attack on Urbani (and indeed conducted the whole Metropolitan side of the war). Thus, while Horus could forgo violence out of faith in the Man it would otherwise be killing off, Horatio has no such check: his violence would be directed at machines he knows to be flawed and even evil, built by humans he knows to be flawed and even evil.

You're 100% right that the loop ending would be a direct refutation of the normal hero journey where the hero emerges better than he begins. But even in the game-as-made, Horatio's arc is not quite ordinary in that he never really embraces the conflict with MetroMind, and so the ending is never about saving Metropol, as one might expect it to be.
Have you been influenced by the movie "robots"?
As far as I know its the only movie where all actors are robots.
And in some sense its a story about a protagonist who is good in repairing
against somebody with a corrupted idea of progress.
Never saw the movie, and really know nothing about it, so no influence at all. :)
Random thoughts...

Saving Metropol... I think that, in the end, it makes sense for that option to be unavailable, because Primordia just doesn't have the right kind of setting for that. Horatio's journey to Metropol is triggered by him getting the power core stolen; normally this would seem like a mere excuse to get him to leave the desert and do something heroic, but in reality, he just needs energy, which is hard to obtain, so it's not really surprising that survival takes priority over beating up a villain in a city that he intends to leave soon anyway. (And yet he still goes beyond just that in the process, helping other robots.) So, personally, I didn't find the lack of the "save Metropol" plot particularly unfitting...

"Unbrekable cycle": Part of why I thought that the "loop" ending as the intended one was odd was because, for some reason, I specifically saw the entire plot of Primordia as a sort of a "breaking the loop" quest, kind of like "can you change things enough to avoid repeating your fate over and over again". This is interesting, because the characters are technically robots who are controlled by their programming, yet this theme is very visible. (It's pretty clear almost from the start that there is a loop going on: Horatio is recognized by several character he doesn't remember, and he is already version 5.)

So, from that point of view, the possible outcomes available in the game were:

- lose friends / get the power core / lock memory / stay in the loop (failure, but that ending is what confirms outright that there is a loop to begin with - so basically it's a "work harder" warning);
- join Metromind (counts as breaking the loop, but in the "evil" sort of way);
- get killed (in theory still counts as getting out, but is clearly not the right option...);
- commit suicide (same as above, except with a "history repeats" flavor; failure at the "second chance");
- destroy the city (getting out by completing the Horus's mission, which defeats the point of its self-destruction);
- threaten your way out, go back to continue fixing/building things (still leaves a possibility that MetroMind will send somebody after the power core again, which can potentially trigger another loop if things go wrong);
- shut down Scraper, scare MetroMind into letting you go.

The last ending is the most interesting case, because Horatio specifically uses the same virus the Horus had as its weapon, reminds MetroMind that he was built to destroy... then just leaves the city and returns to the desert to fix the ship and build more things. He still choses to build rather than to destroy, despite knowing that he has the powers to do the latter. Had it been like that from the start, the loops probably wouldn't have occured at all - because in this case, overriding his original purpose (to destroy) didn't require blocking the related data. Provided Horatio doesn't lock his memories again, this means that nobody will be after him and his power core again, since he probably still can take his enemies out with the virus (which, considering how the game started, definitely ensures that there won't be another loop in the near future).
This is why I love you guys: you take the muddle of my largely unconscious "I dunno, this feels right" style and come up with an elegant, powerful explanation for it. I think you're right about why that makes the last ending the most interesting (and the best), although perhaps having the virus and not using it (threatening with the torch instead) can be read as a similar "conscious repudiation" of destruction by Horatio.