09 Jan 13


Games with solid, narrative-driven progress are always a treat, but sometimes story elements need to take a back seat and be a little more subtle — educating the player with hints and whispers instead of hitting them over the head with a thick cardboard sign reading “EXPOSITION”.

Spoonfeeding an entire game history to your audience is the narrative equivalent of forcing them to play in permanent Tutorial Mode. It’s safe, tepid and unengaging. And if the core of any good gaming experience is the way it challenges you — dextrously, mentally, perhaps even emotionally — then does it not follow that a full plot exposition should challenge players in a similar way? Forcing them to think and theorise and fill in the blanks and come to their own conclusions? Implicit storytelling like this is already used well in games like Dark Souls, The Binding of Isaac and even seemingly story-void titles like Dungeon Crawl.

The way that Desktop Dungeons is narratively structured right now encourages two streams of storytelling. One is the explicit, shallow version: outlining stuff like the main plot, which bad guys need to be killed and what you’ll have to do next to keep your fledgling Kingdom from falling into doom and iniquity. Text pop-ups about important events will be visible to players throughout the game, hopefully without being too obtrusive (DD is, after all, supposed to be a romp first and foremost).

But we’ve been working on the “deeper” storytelling layer from time to time, as well. A lot of information exists in special dialogue, semi-rare subdungeons and unconventional item descriptions to help shape and unify the seemingly disparate events, locations and civilisations found in Desktop Dungeons. Ideally, none of this gets in the way of the gamers who just want to go and kick warlocks in the face. The players who are inclined to investigate, however, can go on entirely new emotional journeys as they get closer to the truth of how our crazy, monster-chopping world really works.

Or something like that. In theory. Storytelling is a skill, after all, and narrative prowess isn’t really what made DD popular in the first place. But there’s no harm in trying!

The image above is a random dev shot of the upcoming Codex — a place to store all of your accumulated knowledge about the Desktop Dungeons world, whether practical or flavorful. The system is really not safe for general consumption yet (as you may have guessed), but after cleaning out the rest of the stray LOREM IPSUM paragraphs and finalising the layout for each type of panel, it should be a pretty sweet addition to the game.

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