Archive for January 19th, 2007

Four Nations: Dead and Dreaming

2007 Jan 19

Shreyas let me “think at him” about the mini-game project that erupted out of Red Star White Sun and, unlike the other games described here recently, will actually be finished. Soon. I promise.

me: i’m still uncertain about this mini game i’m hoping to draft out this weekend
Shreyas: yeah
me: even whether i should try to make it about the 4N or just have it be about the Chinese civil war or the Lake Associations I just posted about
Shreyas: tell me about it
me: let me get some thoughts together
Shreyas: sure
me: so i have several problems
Shreyas: mhm
me: the first one is that i don’t know how ambitious to be with this mini-game; i think the answer is “not very” but i’m not sure what that means; for example, if you’ve looked at my Lake Association post, the premise includes the fact that one landscape (map) can look very differently to two different factions
Shreyas: yeah
me: which is something that 4N should be ALL OVER;,but I don’t know if I want to approach that yet; since my main task is showing this Key-map structure of narrative; so that’s problem #1
Shreyas: i want to say, like, waiting/tea has a good scale, in that it recaps two episodes and you play out a third
me: right, sure
Shreyas: i think if you can get the minigame to play out as about two episodes; then that would work
me: right; i was thinking about the other challanges of 4N too; one of the big ones is having a big cast with a limited number of players; and have a limited number of cast members in any given “story”; if we are going with the “batch of related tales” thing that Thomas proposed; so i was thinking that this mini-game would tell 3 related tales; telling the entire story of one character and bits and pieces of other characters stories
Shreyas: that would be interesting to see
me: which, if we wanted to, could be expanded to tell all of the other characters’ stories too, but that would be a later development; and i was thinking that the tales could be told in any order; both in the sense that some parts could be flashbacks, like in the Odyssey; or any epic fiction, really; but also that the events within them did not happen in any fixed moment in time
Shreyas: i’m not like a hundred percent behind the no fixed time thing, but i think it has some cool possibilities; it really opens up a lot of opportunities for cool structure things
me: okay, so actual 4N premise… I think it’s called “The Dead and Dreaming” after a line from the Counting Crows; and because those are the two peoples I know the most about
Shreyas: okay
me: the characters include a pair of unrequited lovers and a ghost-hunting dead monk; i think one of the lovers dies in a tragic accident, so they can never be together; but sticks around as a ghost, because he’s in denial
Shreyas: and this lover is like clinging on to love
me: and the monk must try to convince him to leave this world and return to the land of the dead
Shreyas: even though the dead are not allowed
me: right
Shreyas: cool
me: so there are neat possibilities here; 1) will the girl committ suicide to be with her love? 2) will the ghost kill her? 3) maybe someone arranged his death, which might not have been an accident?
Shreyas: and what will the monk do with all this
me: right
Shreyas: right
me: i also think those alive are dreamers
Shreyas: sounds cool
me: so their death removes things from the world; maybe important things; and they can’t see dreams anymore when they’re dead; i also think one of the stories takes place in the past of the dead monk, when he was alive or right after he died, talking about someone he had to leave behind; so that story comments on the other two
Shreyas: that’s a sweet detail
me: so we have like 1) Lovers Alive and Happy Together with Hints of Tragedy All Around, 2) One Lover is Dead and WHAT HAPPENS with the Monk, 3) Monk’s Past; and you can tell those three in any order you like
Shreyas: nod; and they’ll make sense in basically any order and each can comment on the others
me: sure, which is what i think we should strive for
Shreyas: agreed; that effect is the best part of 1001 nights
me: i think i need to fill in the landscape a bit; with the dreams of the lovers; but i think those need to be at least partially player-determined; so we’ll see; it would be easy to be like “the male lover’s dream is a location”…

Lake Associations

2007 Jan 19

History is cooler than fiction because there’s no way people could make this shit up. This is a mini-game waiting to happen:

“Massive flooding of the Yellow River in 1851 caused two lakes on the Jiangsu-Shandong border to overflow, submerging all the surrounding land on the western shores of the two lakes. The inhabitants of the area (Pei and Tongshan counties in northwest Jiangsu) fled en masse to escape the calamity.

“Four years later the Yellow River again burst its dikes, this time inflicting its greatest damage a few miles north of the previous flood. Inhabitants of the southern Shandong area were hardest hit, and disaster victims rushed down across the border by the hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in neighboring Jiangsu. There they found the abandoned lands that had been inundated in 1851, but which by now had partially dried into fertile silted terrain. The newcomers from Shandong erected shacks and industriously set about cultivated the unoccupied lands. Their hard work paid off and soon the immigrants were enjoying bountiful harvests. This prosperity was reflected in the organization of twelve defense leagues, called lake associations [hutuan], to protect their newfound wealth. With official approval, the settlers constructed forts and stockpiled weapons to safeguard their livelihood against outside intrusion. The immigrants successfully fought off waves of rebel incursions and remained happily settled in their new homes for nearly a decade.

“At this point, however, former inhabitants of the region who had fled the 1851 floods began to reappear on the scene. Seeing that their now fertile lands had been claimed by others, the returned natives filed indignant complaints with the local authorities. When no official help was forthcoming, fighting erupted between the original occupants and the immigrant lake associations. The conflict escalated in late 1865 with an incursion of Nian rebels from Anhui, who found supporters among unruly elements in the hutuan. The area was on the verge of revolt, and order was restored only when government troops marched in to arrest and execute more than one thousand lake association members. Two hutuan found guilty of having harbored rebels were disbanded and their lands confiscated by the government and redistributed to the original owners.”

— Elizabeth J. Perry, “Predators and Protectors: Strategies of Peasant Survival” in Challanging the Mandate of Heaven: Social Protest and State Power in China (2002)