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A Room of Your Own

By Failbetter, March 15, 2011 · Tagged with ,

Echo Bazaar tells stories to its players, but it also encourages its players to tell their own. Some of these are tiny and ephemeral, like the explanation you give yourself for how event x and event y stitch together. Some of these stories are shared and implicit, like the narrative that emerges out of social actions (he kept beating me at chess, so I snared him in my web of gossip!) Some of these are barely connected to the game, like the elaborate fan-fiction communities we’ve spawned.

All this creative activity fascinates me – even when it’s creative activity that never leaves the player’s head. I love the idea of leaving gaps in the story for the player to make their own, or providing what Henry Jenkins calls a ‘narrative architecture’ that encourages the telling of stories.[1] Alice talked about something semi-related in this post. Anyway, the challenge is to give everyone enough of a story that they don’t feel they’ve been given a pen and a paper and told to make their own entertainment.

Very soon now, we’re taking a step towards this with the launch of player Profiles: with the Journal, the Mantelpiece and the Scrapbook.

Profiles first. We’ll have a handsome new page you can link to that shows off your qualities and clothing and lodgings and whatnot. We’d like to thank the lovely Liam from http://www.chaoticcreations.co.uk , who did the design work on this for yuks and recognition. Recognise him.

Journals. Right now, when you send an echo through Facebook or Twitter, it’s as much viral as social. People do creative things with them, people like sharing content, but there’s not a lot you can do. From now on, those links will go to the profile, where your journal records all the echoes you’ve ever done (and allows you to delete the ones you didn’t mean). Want to comment on mysteries, tell a story, share theories, suggest themed bundles of content? We expect people to use the journal to do all this stuff.

Mantelpieces and Scrapbooks. These are inspired by a suggestion by Emily Short in a review of Fable 2 years ago:

“But what I really found myself wanting, as a player […] was a way to mark events that I experienced, to tag them for later retelling and give some indication of what they meant to me.

I wanted to be able to remember the catastrophe with my first, doomed lover. I wanted to be able to retell that story […] Over the course of the game, I wanted to develop an inventory of the events that were most important to me and use them to reveal, explain, and persuade.

We’re not doing quite what Em was talking about, but we are beginning to allow you to signal which bits of the game are most important to you. You’ll be able to display any one Item on your Mantelpiece and any one Quality in your Scrapbook, and they’ll appear on your profile.

What effect does this have? Nothing in-game. It’s a choice that defines the stories you want to share. Perhaps you’ll put your biggest weapon on the Mantelpiece. Perhaps you’ll show off your Dubious Scarlet Stockings that you haven’t worn in months, because they remind you of Veilgarden. Perhaps you’ll want to boast about how high you’ve got your Intimate of Devils: perhaps you’ll put Marked by the Eater of Chains in your Scrapbook, and if anyone wants to know why it’s so important, they’ll have to ask you for the story.

(And remember this teaser post ? There’s a reason we’re planning to release both these things close together.)

All this is very much a first pass at the final functionality. As so often, we’re being experimental here, and we’re really looking forward to your feedback.

Coming, as they say, soon.

[1] confusingly, when we say ‘narrative architecture’ we mean something completely different, but Mr Jenkins is always a good read. Props to Josh Diaz for pointing me in this direction.

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About that Room… · Failbetter Games May 15, 1:45pm

[…] Profile, Journal, Scrapbook and Mantelpiece are now live. Click [Profile] from your Me page, visit any tweeted / Facebooked link, or go to […]

OcasionalMadnes Mar 25, 6:14am

I'd really love to echo what Boyd Cantigaster said about the "achievements." I would love to be able to go back and re-read certain storylines from the beginning. There is some amazing storytelling in this game that deserves to be able to be recalled in vivid detail.

Beth Mar 16, 11:06am

Adding to the applause - by now in mid-90s my character has quite a story. I'd also love to be able to add longer snippets, especially since in my case, there's a lot of backstory to fill in!

Boyd Cantigaster Mar 16, 7:14am

I have to saw, the thing that I really want (and I really thought we were about to get it) Is essentially a list of achievements. Things that are hard but don't give you any reward other than [x] amount of [item] But it still meant something. I'm sure a lot of denizens of the neath can relate to how long they worked on seducing the curate and his 'sister' just to say they succeeded. .. and yet they can't. Well they can, I have been echoing and favouriting those echoes for posterity sake, but having somethign like that in the profile would be fantastic. .. then again maybe that is included in the journal ane I simply misread.

Sprite Mar 16, 3:30am

This sounds awesome. I've been using my FB profile as a bit of 'journal', but it doesn't quite work, so this is a very welcome surprise. :D

Duke of Time Mar 15, 10:47pm

It might be Christmas again? Can't wait to see the final revision of these to be implemented *nods* It will surely encourage people to love their characters more and make them interact with their neighbor often to enrich the tapestry of their roles in Fallen London.

Emma Mar 15, 10:27pm

Oh, hooray, hooray! This is something I've been wanting to do for ages. And now I have to go readjust all my votes on the feedback forum :)

Alexis Kennedy Mar 15, 8:05pm

As a first pass, it's a short-short echo, expandable to show the content you're referencing. This may change, but initially we like the idea that if people actually want to write very large chunks of content they can reference it off-site. We'll see how it goes.

Laura Davidson Mar 15, 7:23pm

I agree that a trophy cabinet is lovely. Will we be able to put anything other than those short-short echoes in the journal?

JAWilletts Mar 15, 7:12pm

This all sounds delicious. The Mantelpiece and Scrapbook sounds generally wonderful. A trophy cabinet featuring a memory from certain storylines would be wonderful too - somewhere to store the trinkets and fripperies that mean so much to me!