Stiev Stigma, 2/02/10

Isaac Archimedes Alabaster was considered a crackpot by many, eccentric by most, and a genius by nobody but himself. As a full-time inventor, Isaac spent his waking hours building and tinkering with all manner of modern contraptions; most of which, never function as planned. As time passed and fewer and fewer of his inventions ever saw the light of day, Isaac began a spiral down into the depths of depression. What scant commissions he was able to earn usually found their way into the pockets of the local opium den proprietor. Eventually, Isaac could no longer pay his landlord and eminent eviction loomed over his head like a gathering thunderhead.

One late evening, in an opium haze, Isaac sat in his workshop making adjustments to his clockwork automaton. The wooden cherub-like head lay on the table before him eyes shut in perpetual slumber when all of a sudden, there was a loud rummaging sound in the dark corner of the workshop. Isaac lazily turned his attention but saw nothing and easily attributed the phenomena to auditory hallucination. He returned his mind to the task at hand, tightening the sprockets in the doll’s neck, oiling the hinges on the jaw. He sat the automaton upright and lifted the arms to work on the joints. He fumbled and clumsily dropped the tiny metal tool into the pitch black of the workshop floor. After a few moments of running his hand blindly across the cold stones he retrieved the wrench and went to resume work; but as he did, Isaac’s mind reeled in shock and horror and he stumbled backwards over his stool, the little metal wrench clanging onto the floor and off into the darkness. The doll’s eyes had opened and beheld their maker! The jaw had opened as if to mutter its first words.

Isaac clamored up, grabbed his stool and smashed his creation into a pile of shredded wood and broken metal. As he heaved and sighed from exertion, a voice came from the darkness behind him.

“My my, Mr. Alabaster, such aggression! I can see why you fail to earn a living inventing if you treat your creations with such avarice.”
The familiar breakfast plate shaped face of Mr. Johnston, the landlord, moved into the light; one eyebrow like a greasy sausage perched quizzically atop its beady little egg yolk eye. Mr. Johnston was a balding portly man whose likeness to unsavory fried foods extended beyond his appearance, simmering and congealing forth from his guttural slurred voice and bitter disposition.
“This place does not appear properly prepared for tomorrow’s eviction, Mr. Alabaster.”

Isaac stammered nervously, never finishing anything resembling a word or coherent thought. “Really, Mr. Alabaster,” continued the landlord, “my property is in a terrible mess. If I were you, I would be spending less time, um…“he looked at the smashed puppet bits then at the stool in Isaac’s hands, “…exercising, and more time packing. Otherwise, I am likely to have all of this junk chopped into firewood.”

Mr. Johnston turned and grabbed a beautiful timepiece from a nearby shelf and chucked it into an open trunk on the floor. The clock chimes clanged inharmoniously before the thing ceased ticking altogether. He stood up with a little chuckle and flashed Isaac a sadistic grin. In that moment, Mr. Johnston lost all semblance of humanity. His fat head swelled like a balloon and his grisly, yellow teeth became like piano keys flapping from his maw. His eyes spun around like a hypnotist’s disc and steam shot from his ears like an angry teapot. His hands, now menacing metal clamps, shot forth towards Isaac.

Isaac screamed in terror, lifted the stool high into the air, and bashed Mr. Johnston on top of the skull with all of his might…again and again. The twisted clockwork figure fell to the floor, springs flying from the wound like droplets of blood. Just like the broken clock in the trunk, Mr. Johnston stopped ticking.


Isaac leaves the workshop post-haste only to find that the local constables are already en route to investigate the disturbance. Realizing that he will most likely be charged with murder, Isaac decides to head straight for the train station.

Armed with little else than his unmodified walking cane*, Isaac takes to the shadows to avoid detection. While there is little foot traffic late at night, Isaac still may encounter some NPCs. Women will generally avoid him or shriek (alerting any nearby Constables), late-night theatre goers will bore him with small talk, and various riff-raff will attempt to connive money out of him (if not outright try and kill him). Constables will immediately rush at him on sight and attack him with batons.

Note: The player’s fear/insanity meter does not fill all the way until the end of the first level, at which point the machine world appears just in time for the first boss fight.

Boss: The boss of this level should be some typically innocuous part of the environment that is transformed to become something menacing. Perhaps a tom-cat or horse & carriage would make a suitable monster.

*as an inventor, perhaps Isaac has the ability to mechanically upgrade his cane to perform a variety of other tasks such as firing a bullet, grappling hook, or jet of flame etc…


Isaac reaches the train station after sunrise. He must buy a ticket to be able to board. He has a choice to give his proper name or provide a fake. If he provides his real name, the Constables will be on alert. Otherwise, he will have one less obstacle to contend with.

The station is crowded with all manner of travelers. Most make small talk about their destinations. Some traveling merchants have healing tonics and/or mechanical parts that Isaac can use to his advantage*. Some will gossip about strange disappearances in the country. Isaac may or may not notice the wanted posters with his likeness posted about. A small percentage of NPCs will recognize him and trigger the Constables to attack. This will also increase Isaac’s fear/insanity meter. Due to Isaac’s poor interpersonal skills and recent stress of escape, his fear/insanity meter fills a little with each conversation. The place is crowded and NPCs randomly engage him. If Isaac’s meter fills in the station, random NPCs start transforming and attacking.

Once Isaac reaches his gate and boards the train, the loud noise of the engine, close proximity of passengers, and sudden lurching of the locomotive cause him to lose his grip. Concerned passengers and attentive security personnel mutate into hideous clockwork forms and chase him to rooftop where he must fight and flee in a high speed scenario.

Boss: Isaac reaches the front of the train and is confronted by a coal-powered, steam billowing, twisted version of the conductor. Upon defeating him, Isaac realizes that there is no one controlling the speed of the train.
Note: Here, the player may be faced with a simple mini-game in which Isaac attempts to slow the train without it derailing. A fail = a death/restart to checkpoint.

*Isaac may also find parts to build greater machines to his advantage such as spring boards (to jump higher), diving suits (to move underwater), or remote explosives (to destroy walls/obstacles), etc…


After killing the machine conductor and fleeing the scene, Isaac finds himself in pastures, farmlands, and a small community. It appears that he has lost the Constables on his tail, for now.

Many of the NPCs are shy and have little to say to Isaac. However, a few merchants abound as well as some concerned citizens who claim that people have disappearing. They may describe subtle clues like gears or sprockets left at the scene or more outlandish tails of wooden men outright kidnapping people.

Note: While ultimately, it may be best not to change the working dynamic for fear/insanity, for the sake of this story I will propose what I think works well for pacing.

At this point, Isaac is constantly nervous and his fear/insanity meter is constantly climbing. He encounters an Apocathery whom prescribes some herbal remedies for his anxiety. These remedies can be found scattered throughout subsequent levels.

In a scripted encounter, Isaac is met with a fearful midwife who begs him to search for her husband who went into the woods for kindling two days before but has yet to return. If Isaac/the player refuses, she procures a wanted poster with Isaac’s likeness and, while reticent about her new tact, again urges Isaac to accept her quest. He has no choice.

The stress of the midwife’s quest/blackmail sends Isaac over the edge as soon as he exits and he is confronted with some other form of machinated monstrosity.

Boss: Since he’s in the country, it would make sense that he’s fighting some organic form made machine. Maybe it’s as simple as a tree or maybe it could be some weird golem assembled from surrounding houses and woodland.


In the forest primeval, Isaac’s stress is high. There is a single medical merchant and many thieving highwaymen. However, his prescribed anti-anxiety herbs are in fair abundance. This level is labyrinthine but without being insane, the physical trials are surmountable with relative ease. If the player misses the (often hidden) remedies, the machinated horrors of the forest become persistent and often deadly.

Note: The puzzle element of this level lies in the twists and turns. Maybe, there is a map somewhere that must be found before the player can progress out of the forest.

Boss: Isaac finds the midwife’s husband outside of a boarded-up, abandoned mineshaft. He is spouting insane proclamations of the industrial revolution and the apocalypse that will coincide. He talks of the great machine uprising and their forced human labor camps underground. He babbles incoherently and transforms into a hideous clockwork monster.

Upon defeat, the monster returns to his human form and begs Isaac to end the madness. Isaac is left with the realization that there is something greater than his own madness tacking place but has little evidence to support this idea.


With few places to turn, Isaac pursues the one chance he has of proving his innocence. He enters the mines to find hundreds of human laborers working in the supposedly abandoned tunnels. At first, they ignore him, but as he delves deeper, they begin to question his presence and call out for local security. A few ask him to kill them.

Despite the fact that his insanity meter is not full, Isaac is confronted with clockwork guards that cease lashing human workers long enough to attack him. If his stress maxes, the workers themselves transform and begin attacking as well.

At the heart of the mine, Isaac discovers a smelting operation of epic proportion. There is a massive cauldron full of molten metal with tubes extruding from the sides and extending to large molds that resemble human figures.

Boss: The Boilerman…see concept art. Of course, there are a lot of options here and I’m not married to my design. Upon defeating this boss, Isaac uncovers the plot to replace humanity with clockwork counterparts. There is a secret passage with level-driven mine cart on a rail that leads away from the smelting room.

Note: This can trigger another mini-game where the player must use timed key inputs to drive the cart forward while maybe jumping over obstacles. A fail = start at beginning of mine cart mini game.


In this level, Isaac’s fear/insanity is perpetually ramped up. Taking medicine only provides a temporary reprieve. Clockwork people are busy manufacturing other clockwork people. Security is varied and abundant. Stealth helps but there’s no complete escape from the budding machine army.

Note: While I think there should be a variety of puzzles throughout the game, this level can provide some inspiration by way of levers, pipe valves, and other obvious machinery that can be manipulated.
There are some stray NPCs that appear unaffected by the machine plague. They are mostly engineers and inventors who are apparently enslaved by the machine yet seem immune to the process of assimilation. They beg Isaac to rescue them from their forced labor.
At the heart of the operation, Isaac discovers that indeed humans are being abducted by a sinister force and being re-tooled as obedient clockwork citizens.

Mini-boss: Shybot (see concept art)
Boss: Open to ideas…

Note: The ending needs some work.

Preliminary Discussions

View profile
More options Dec 8, 1:50 pm
As it stands, we don't have a fully fleshed out story - just an
overview. When I brought this up in the meeting, most people commented
that either the story wasn't important to them right now (mostly
programmers?), or that the story wasn't important at all. I disagree
with both of those opinions for the following reasons:
- I think that story is *vital* to any good game of this type, even if
it is a vague story (see: Metroid, Castlevania, Braid, Blackthorne,
Ninja Gaiden, and even Mario)
- The story guides the design of: the levels, the puzzles and the
characters, and to some extent the gameplay.
- A good story can turn a good or averge game into a great one - there
are thousands of indie games that prove this, but the two that
immediately spring to mind for me are Cave Story and Don't look back.
DLB is also freaking fantastic, have a go here:
I'm not saying I want long, plodding cutscenes or swathes of dialogue
- there are more subtle ways of doing things, and revealing things
through the art and design of the game itself.
One suggestion brought up during the meeting was a "twist" - when you
reach the final boss or similar, the pills you have been taking to
bring you back to normality simply cease to have any effect - the
player is trapped in the "machine" world. I think that this is a
fantastic idea and is one that we should run with, as long as we can
pull it off without damaging the gameplay. If we do decide to go with
this, there are then unanswered questions in the player's mind, like:
Is the machine world just inside the head of a psychotic, or does it
actually exist?
We've more or less agreed on the flow of the first level - a clockwork
man attacks you and you kill him, and you are then chased by the
police. Are we going to have any more backstory than this? Is this
going to be the first encounter anyone has had with a clockwork man,
or is this: the latest happening in a series of bizarre
disappearances, where men with clockwork parts were seen in the same
area and around the same time as each disappearance (or something like
that)? If so, where did these people go? To the machine world? What do
the machines want with them? Maybe that's what you're trying to find
I think that something like this will add a little spice as you then
have to question whether or not the main character is in fact insane.
Any suggestions? Hopefully some interested people will reply and we
can flesh out the story in this thread - e.g. What are your level
ideas? Puzzle ideas? How do they advance the plot? Antagonists? Who
are the bosses? Why are humans being kidnapped? What happens in the
middle of the game? At the end? Does the player receive bacon-wrapped
chocolate from a Narwhal? (That last one was a joke.)
After that, we can start thinking about levels (number and purpose of
each), and then based on that: boss and puzzle locations and so on.
Perhaps there could be optional puzzles that "free" trapped humans and
give the player ammo / pills / weapons or something?
Anyway, I'd just like to have a little more motivation for the player
to be pushing the right arrow key than "GO KILL ROBOTS!!!!".
- jozzas

Reply Reply to author Forward Report spam Rate this post:

View profile
More options Dec 8, 1:58 pm
While you're thinking about this, I think it would be great if you
guys keep in mind which level you'd like to use for our prototype.
This is the level we'll be iterating on while we figure out our
pipelines and it should cover our core gameplay. I recommend you
choose a level that will be in the middle of the game, as this will
probably not be one of the best levels in our game. As we figure this
out more we'll figure out what's fun and what isn't; we'll be making
things better, so the first thing we make won't be up to the great
quality of everything else. Obviously we want the beginning and end of
our game to the best parts so we should do those later in production.
On Dec 8, 10:50 am, jozzas <joz…> wrote:

- Show quoted text -

Reply Reply to author Forward Report spam Rate this post:

View profile
More options Dec 8, 5:57 pm
I think the first thing to do is decide the narrative structure to
follow. Is each level going to be it's own course of the narrative or
are we going to work within sections. We could have a part 1 part 2
and part 3 with each of their own mitigating circumstances.
Each part could then have 3 subparts for a total of a 9 level game
with a level 10 finale. This has a couple of advantages and
Drawbacks: If we create parts then it would be best if those parts are
distinct in some way but have a cohesion that brings them back. We
could treat each part kind of like a gradient that brings us closer to
the next level. Like part 1 is pure white. Part 2 is Grey and Part 3
is black with each level slowly working in that way. A popular video
game (I don't remember the name) started in black and white and slowly
added color over time. That is a subtle design choice that if bound
to story could naturally move story along without much need for cut
scences or explanation.
I'd also like to add that with story we can make level progression
more intuitive. We could do the Mark Twainy Huck Finn thing and have
it kind of episodic where you have a character that is experiences
different aspects of a world in motion. While the catalyst could be a
seemingly random event - it could thrust our hero into a world where
he has no choice but to "follow the river".
The advantage of this is that it doesn't put as many constraints on
art since each level could be independent of one another (in some
respect). It makes the story a bit more difficult but the linearity
of the game itself could be overshadowed by the kickass level design.
I'm for part 1 part 2 and part 3. Part 1 could be the introduction
and getting to boss land. Part 2 - going through boss land to get to
boss castle and part 3 is boss castle/domain.
The machines could start out more basic for part 1 and as we progress
towards the boss everyhting becomes more and more technical until
you're looking at an army of androids of the person/pet? who was
kidnapped. It could be a sort of Being John Malkovich moment where
the only thing the player sees is what was taken.
I know it sounds crazy but I think it should be cats. I think
clockword men are stealing the cats. We could have hazzards that
occur as a result of this like birds and rats. Puzzles could be
involved with finding cats and freeing them thereby opening up hiddens
sections of the game normally blocked by lots of birds and rays and
Well that's all I've got for now. - I'll submit these ideas to reddit
Feel free to use abuse or ignore whatever parts you like or don't
On Dec 8, 12:50 pm, jozzas <joz…> wrote:

- Show quoted text -

Reply Reply to author Forward Report spam Rate this post:

Andrea Merkx
View profile
More options Dec 9, 7:29 am

So, there are a bunch of different approaches to writing screenplays
which I think could be helpful for everyone on the way to pulling the
story together. When I originally started thinking about trying to
cram 'machine' into something with a plot I started by making outlines
for plot structures… I figure it's at least a good way to think
about what we're missing.
First, Here's the Monomyth:
1. A call to Adventure - herd must accept or decline
2. Road of Trials
3. Achieving the Goal (usually a "boon" is gifted upon the hero here
- like when Luke learns the force) / Self Knowledge
4. Return to ordinary world (either succeed or fail)
5. Application of the boon in what the hero has gained can be used to
improve the world.
I've listed that structure first because its seems like the one most
apt to fit into our very open-ended story outline. More standard plot
forms really need a central conflict to continue. Here's your
standard 3 act structure.
1. "The Hook"/Setup - establish Location/Characters
A. Mini Crisis arises..
B. The Dilemma - reaction to the dilemma
C. The Reversal - characters are pushed deeper into the situation
2. Confrontation of the obstacle - Deeper into the action
A. Tent Pole - passive characters become active - or vice versa
B. Low Point - lead must rise up from the bottom against the
3. Showdown/Resolution
Here's an expansion of that 3 part structure into 9 bits (as suggested):
Fry -
1. Opening image (summarize film)
2. Inciting incident - AKA; catalyst: protagonist encounters problem
that changes their life.
3. Plot point 1: surprising development forces him to confront
opponent (e.g. death of Skywalker's parents)
4. Pinch 1 - This brings up central conflict
5. Midpoint - Reversal of fortune or a major change in the direction
of story
6. Pinch 2 - a kind of "remember" ..drama in scene reminder of
underlying drama
7. Plot point 2 - About confrontation/resolution - the protagonist
faces opponent or bounces back from a low-point
8. Showdown
9. Resolution
My sense is that what we're missing is a central conflict, or an
antagonist aside from an anonymously evil machine world… is there a
central computer that controls them, etc etc etc. I'm pretty much game
for "machines are taking over the world" but, okay, why, and how do I
stop it? Are the pills integrated into this conflict somehow? Well,
anyway, the idea for including cats being kidnapped came into my
inbox, so this is machine on cats:
Our game opens and you're leaving the therapists office. Your first
mission is to go to the pharmacy and pick up some pills. When you get
back home, you find that your cat is gone! Oh no! When you run into
the street to find your kitty a mechanical man attacks you. After
you've killed him the cops come, they're like: "you killed him!"
you're like: "oh no" and from this point on you're on the run. You
run away, (yay). During some down-time while hiding in an alley you
decide maybe it's a good idea to pop one of those pills. Woah! It
turns out that if you take enough pills you can control the cats.
Everything is cool and you feel all powerful for a while, but then the
machines start speaking to you and throwing red hot coals out the
windows - oh, and the machines have your cat and you really miss the
little guy. You really need to get him back! The machines figure out
your special cat/pill control powers, and they start kidnapping all
the cats! oh no! By this time you're in the belly of the beast, and
you discover that your cat is really the evil mastermind …on the
upside there are cats and pills everywhere… oh shit, some pills turn
you into a cat!
I guess I feel like the story goes a little bit like this:
Our game opens with our main character walking down the street and
some weird dude who is really a mechanical horror starts attacking
him. The mechanical horror dies and the police arrive. They accuse
you of murder, and you go on the lam. More and more evil machines
attack you until you realize that the machines are evil and need to be
stopped. Though the central evil behind their very wicked and scary
mechanical nature is unclear, you continue to fight and you save the
worlds from all the bad machines. Oh shit! Those pills are
antipsychotics! …
In short, cats or no cats, I'm in! Let's add some meat to this bone.
On Dec 8, 2009, at 2:57 PM, CarbonCopyMusic wrote:

- Show quoted text -

read more »

Reply Reply to author Forward Report spam Rate this post:

View profile
More options Dec 9, 5:00 am
I think the 3 part structure is best for this purpose.
The cat was just a throw in before I actually read the tiny ploy
synopsis (link didn't work the first time). I like the idea of a
talking cat delusion but I think it is goofy and maybe we'd like to
tackle some serious themes. If we want to go the cat route (LOL) it
doesn't have to be cat control - how about talking cats?
Anyhow, I guess we need to figure out if we want antagonistic
ambiguity. Do we want the player/protagonist to know who the
antagonistic is or could this be a story of momentum and escalation
that will continue until the realization occurs that the pills are
anti-psychotics? Because were kind of going a mental health blurred
reality route - do we have someone on the team that has direct first/
secondhand experiences with psychotic delusions. If I have time this
week I'll look into some common delusions and create a list - then we
could work with the gameplay/design theme to work out some gameplay
elements that hint at the delusions we've chosen. We can stick with
just one but a little subtlety could give the whole thing a very
creepy vibe.
A couple of things. I think it would be best if the word "murder"
wasn't used. The "cops" being after him could simply be a case of
vandalism and that he is a known mental health case. The more
ambiguity we create there - I think the better as it really could add
to the impact of the ending. I also think that we could use "street
people/homeless" as helpers with his cause. They could have pills and
also could offer safe haven. They could also be a source of great
information since they're hiding from the machines on the streets.
This could work as a big "oh yeah" since a number of US homeless are
failures of our mental care system.
Here's what I have in mind.
The protagonist has been having headaches. The sound from all the
machines is too loud and the buzz of his computer and fridge and
toaster adn whatever is keeping him up at night. He goes to the
doctor to help him with his headaches. He gets a prescription.
Level 1A: Intro to moves - introduce movement and different character
capabilities. This is the trip to the pharmacy. Use real world
events to facilitate learning character movement.
1B Leave pharmacy. get chased (skills test to show mastery of what
was learned in previous section - maybe he runs back the way he came
going through the very same 1a except obstacles backwards and
faster). Chase ends and he fight mechanical horror.
Whaddaya think so far?

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License