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. 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.