Story & Pacing
For today’s update, we focus on something near and dear to our heart—the story of Pixel Noir. For us “story” is not simply the plot of the game. It’s bigger than that. It’s lore; it’s dynamic interactions; it’s design.
The Tale of Pixel Noir
You had it all, once: a job, respect, a chance to make a difference in the world. And as an up-and-coming detective in the Pinnacle City Police Department, you were well on your way to doing just that. But you got cocky – following a lead on a cold case that you were convinced you alone could solve. Instead, the only thing it led to was your undoing; taking the lives of innocent people, including your partner, Det. Cold, in the process.
Ten years later, with detours in the nuthouse and a bottle of scotch, you’ve hung your hat in Pinnacle City. It’s no garden spot anymore, but it’s still home to a colorful population of washouts, dirtbags and big time crooks. Lucky for you, these sad sacks provide your private eye business with plenty of cases: mostly snapping pictures of cheating spouses and telling poor saps what they already know. Every now and again, a Mr. ‘Deuce’ pops up like a bad habit, paying too much for jobs that are too much trouble than they’re worth. No friends to speak of, unless you count the bartender at the local watering hole. And maybe the local wild man Woof, though he’s not so much of a friend as he is a cocker spaniel with fists.
It’s not a great life, but it’s uncomplicated and it’s yours.
And then someone has to ruin it all by bringing up the past. You thought that cold case was dead and buried, but a new lead’s crossed your desk that may unearth everything. But as new evidence is brought to light, your sanity starts sinking into darkness. Without warning, people contort into gruesome monsters; alleyways melt into visceral mazes. How can you hope to uncover the truth, when your own senses betray you?
Story as Design
We’ve worked hard to test and optimize things like pacing of dialogue, pacing of story, and how conversations look and feel.
From the get-go we knew that Pixel Noir needed to be told at the right pace, not only from a story perspective, but from a dialogue perspective as well. Everybody at one point or other has experienced a game that has had either too much or not enough dialogue—and we wanted to ensure this is paced right especially for mobile players who may not have the time to sit through 10 minutes of conversation.
When we started building our pre-alpha demo for publishers, we thought about how to visually display conversations in Pixel Noir. We wanted to ensure that they were intuitive and easy to understand. At first, we thought about having conversation boxes appear near the character with differently colored boxes depicting who is talking. It worked, but didn’t really look great.
Our latest and greatest version of the conversation system has come a long way and features stylized portraits of the characters along with dedicated text space at the top and bottom of the screens. The font and text size has also been revamped to ensure that it reads great.
Developing the right graphical user interface for smartphone platforms was also challenging. As you can see from our pre-alpha screenshot, we, like so many other games, decided to have a big, friendly action button on the bottom right of the screen.
Once we found that users on smartphone and tablet devices had trouble intuitively figuring out how the action button was used, we reconfigured our Graphical User Interface (GUI). There is currently no action button when exploring the world--and nothing to hamper player immersion. Pixel Noir's GUI also now includes intuitive mechanics to scroll through text faster for quick readers as well as to skip to the end of a block of text.
Of course we’ll continue to test and optimize every design mechanic—including GUI and conversations. There is always room to test and learn!
Kickstarters We Love
There’s always something new and cool to discover on Kickstarter! Check out these other Kickstarter projects and you’ll see why we love them!
Beyond Mode 7. How these guys didn’t reach their $3000 goal within 24 hours is beyond me. Check out the comics at the bottom of their Kickstarter—they’re awesome. And they all hearken back to classic SNES games.
Hextraction. I don’t know about you, but I love finding games that started as game jam entries and gained enough momentum to turn into a fully-fledged game. I especially love the narration by voice actor superhero Scott McNeil!
So what do you think of the tale and story design of Pixel Noir? Does the plot sound interesting? Are you excited about these design decisions? Let us know—we love reading your comments and feedback!
And as always, remember to like and share! Every share or recommendation from you about Pixel Noir is invaluable and helps us out tremendously!
Kunal, Business & Audio Lead