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Echo Bazaar Narrative Structures, part three

Hurrah, it's the final chapter of our esoteric trilogy of brain splurges. This one is frankly unlikely to make any sense unless you've already checked out parts one and two. Onwards! Next up, we have Faust’s Tea Party, a social narrative concept which I have illustrated by cackhandedly photoshopping a teapot into a picture of Faust and Mephistopheles.

Voila. And now over to AK, who understands this one much better than I do:

AK: Faust's Tea Party is a particular flavour of social action. A simple Faust is something where you take a hit to get a benefit: like the Laudanum storylet, where you reduce your Nightmares but your health suffers. Faust's Tea Party is a social action where both parties gain something or lose something (unless the person invited refuses, in which case nothing happens). A 'Let's Get Drunk And Get Tattoos' storylet would be a Faust's Tea Party: goodbye Connected: Society, hello Connected: Docks, perhaps. A Faust's Ham And Eggs Party, by the way, is one where if the person invited refuses, the inviter still loses something, but gains nothing. Props to anyone who can explain why 'Ham and Eggs'.

And so we move on to the Midnight Staircase. This is a relatively recent one, which messes around with the idea of grind. It’s a bit like a Questicle that you can complete any time you want. Say for instance that you are planning a daring burglary. You complete a series of preparation storylets – casing the joint, assembling your equipment and so on. Every one of these increases your 'Planning a Daring Burglary' quality. However, at this stage, you haven’t decided where the burglary will take place. As your 'Planning a Daring Burglary' quality increases, more potential locations will appear. Maybe the Brass Embassy, maybe the Watchmaker’s Hill Observatory, maybe even the Bazaar itself. The player can cash in their preparing quality at any time to actually perform one of these burglaries, or they can continue preparing, waiting for juicier targets...

We’re nearly done. Two more cool sounding names, that mean roughly the same thing:

This is a little harder to explain. I alluded way back in part one to the problems of building a multi-branching narrative tree: it causes your content to expand exponentially and you get the Encyclopedia Britannica. EB’s solution to this is simply to disconnect our various bits of story from each other. All the funky structures above give the player a sense of a complex and fairly coherent narrative, but when it comes right down to it, the way they actually approach that story is up to them.

Metaphor time: imagine a desert, seen from above. There are many branching paths leading to many villages. When travellers cross the desert, you can clearly see the route they take, where they stop off, and so on. But what if night has fallen? Then, all you can see are the little fires in the villages. Occasionally, travellers emerge from the darkness and sit by the fires for a while, and then move on. But the routes they take between those fires belong to them alone.

All of which is a fancy way of saying that, while we control the actual chunks of the story, the paths between them belong to the player alone, and that’s a big deal. Just as in a film the story is told through the edit, in Echo Bazaar, the story is told through the darkened paths between the fires. In cinematic terms, it’s a montage: we provide the shots, the player does the arrangement.

AK: Paul suggested referencing Lynch and Eisenstein in the talk. I chickened out because I thought I'd get laughed off stage. I'm mentioning them now though.

Several players have told us that they have dreams about Echo Bazaar. This is very flattering, obviously, but we suspect it has as much to do with the structure as the content. Dreams are disconnected things that flip through time and place, heavy with symbolism. So what we're saying is that EB, with its quasi-Tarotic cards, unnamed characters and disconnected storylets, loosely strung with controlling Qualities, is structured a bit like a dream.

And that's the end of a talk. You can throw things now.