Story Planning

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Story Planning 

Message par Enthalpy » Ven Nov 08, 2013 12:10 am

This guide is recommended for newer authors. Experienced writers may not and probably will not find this guide useful. Also, note that this guide contains very heavy spoilers for Turnabout Proxy! Those interested may find it here!


If you haven't left after that disclaimer, then you are probably interested in creating a trial in Ace Attorney Online. You may have already made some cases, but none that were received well. Perhaps you are wondering what went wrong in your previous cases. Maybe you have played other trials from new authors, but were not impressed and could not precisely tell where the problem is. Possibly, you are planning to release a trial and want to learn what mistakes are common and how to avoid them. As a reviewer of many trials from new authors, I believe that several of the story-related problems giving inexperienced trial authors the most trouble can be reduced to planning problems. This tutorial will give you a systematic method of planning your case to avoid the most common mistakes.

Why do I need to read this tutorial?

Why is planning important? There is no point in reading this tutorial if there is no point in planning. To those who are skeptical about the point of it, I ask you to read the following excerpts from an Ace Attorney Fanfiction and then answer some questions:

morning Trucy was watching the news on tv about the murder of Mr. Frank Gaebelein who was shot and killed at 4:02am

"Sure, the victim was shot in chest died from excessive loss of blood and time of death was at 4:06am the murder weapon"

"Alright, I was sound asleep when all of a sudden I hear a gunshot around 4:02am and then police showed up on
the scene which I was saw through my curtains a man was laid out on the ground dead in front of that department store"

"From what we found out today Mr. Gaebelein was killed at 4:02am, and shot with a 45 caliber in the chest only thing we"

"With pleasure Herr Judge the victim being Mr. Frank E. Gaebelein was shot and killed with a 45 caliber and died at 4:06am"

""It was around 4:02am I heard a single gunshot and I saw that someone had been shot lying there on the ground dead"

""I arrived there at 3:56am and then at precisely 4:04am the defendant was the one who shot Mr. Gaebelein and after that I"


When did the murder occur? 4:02, 4:04, or 4:06? Can you tell which? I can't. Over the course of the story, the author repeatedly changes old information or includes new information which contradicts old information. This makes the story extremely confusing, and this confusion grabs the reader's attention. The stand-out element of your work being "it's confusing" is bad.

Now, would you compliment the author for writing that? Without knowing you, I can say without fear of honest contradiction that you think this is bad, and would thus not compliment this author. The original writer may have thought this was a good piece of writing, but regardless of what the author thought, the typical reader thinks this is bad. Thus, the author will get very few (if any) positive reviews. Now, could the author have managed to make the writing good without doing damage to their original idea, but perhaps even helping it? Yes, certainly. Getting his facts straight would resolve the problem without hurting the author's idea.

Step back for a moment. If it's possible for some other person to be much worse of a writer than they think they are, leading to poor reception of the work, why can't the same happen to your writing? Even if you don't believe that planning will actually help your case, it will at least improve how your case is perceived, which is good. As planning does not create any other problems, then planning is something desirable for your case.

Concept Design

The first step to writing well is planning. Although this process may seem long, and you may want to get more frames as soon as possible, there is not a single major fancase that skipped the planning stage and was better off for it. In fact, most well-known case writers on Ace Attorney Online would heavily endorse spending a lot of time in the planning phase.

The typical method of case planning is known as "working backwards." The main strength of this method is that it allows you to get in the elements of a case that you want without introducing awkwardness. This method may get in some awkward elements, but be warned that there are some elements that this will not allow. If this is the case, the element is inherently bad. For example, a case where three-fourths of the characters are irrelevant to the story is bad, and nothing can change this. Working backwards cannot get this method in. Then there are things that can be gotten in, but shouldn't. For instance, having a huge amount of custom characters, while possible, isn't good story-telling, and getting that many sprites will be nigh impossible at best. You can do those, but you shouldn't.

How does working backwards work? Simply, you think of things that you want in your case and then further develop them until you get something that can resemble a complete case. An example is extremely helpful here. For the sake of post length, several parts of this section are in spoiler tags.

Spoiler : Criteria 1 :
I'm going to be talking about my own development of Turnabout Proxy as an example. These were my initial conditions:
* Miles Edgeworth is the defense attorney.
* I want a single trial section, then an investigation.
* There needs to be an element of trolling.


And... that was it. All rather simple. Still, these two points raise questions. The obvious one is why Edgeworth is a defense attorney. It's possible that Phoenix needed him to act as a short-notice defense attorney again, but then, why would Phoenix need him? One solution that comes to mind is that this occurs between Phoenix's disbarment and the events of Apollo Justice, so there are no defense attorneys Phoenix trusts. This would also require a defendant Phoenix strongly wants acquitted, but who...? How about Trucy? That sounds good, so I update my criteria.

Spoiler : Criteria 2 :
* Miles Edgeworth is the defense attorney.
* I want a single trial section, then an investigation.
* There needs to be an element of trolling.
* Phoenix requested Edgeworth to defend Trucy.
* This is set after Phoenix's disbarment, but before Apollo Justice.


So far, so good, but let's keep working this out. Next question: what is Trucy accused of? A murder seems a bit much, so perhaps something else. At the same time, the crime needs to be "big" enough for the player to care... Nothing really comes to mind, so I'll stick this in the back of my mind and move on. Next point: how is Edgeworth able to pretend to be a defense attorney? We'll have to bring back the Canadian judge. And the prosecutor? Klavier wouldn't stand for it, and Franziska seems vaguely off for how I want this case to feel. That leaves Payne or an original character. I decide that I like the idea of having Payne and move on again. I know this case is going to end on an investigation, so how will this one come to an end...? Well, the best way seems to be a Psyche-lock sequence with the real criminal leading to a confession. This implies the culprit was suspected during trial, but not convicted. I like the idea, and make a note of it. This itself creates the problem of how Edgeworth gets the magatama. I make a mental note of this and move on. I also realize that I should probably have Phoenix as co-counsel. All this noted, it's time to look at my criteria again.

Spoiler : Criteria 3 :
* Miles Edgeworth is the defense attorney.
* I want a single trial section, then an investigation.
* There needs to be an element of trolling.
* Phoenix requested Edgeworth to defend Trucy. To help, Phoenix is also Edgeworth's co-council.
* This is set after Phoenix's disbarment, but before Apollo Justice.
* The judge's brother is judging, and Payne is the prosecutor.
* The trial ends with Edgeworth suspecting the real criminal, but not being able to prove their guilt.
* The investigation ends with Edgeworth breaking the suspect's psyche-lock and getting a confession.
? What is Trucy accused of?
? Why can't Edgeworth prove the suspect's guilt in trial?
? How does Edgeworth get the magatama?


So far, so good. Next, why is Trucy accused? This is hard to figure out before the crime is settled, but she is a magician, and that means she would probably be using prop guns. I can use fingerprints on one of those guns to incriminate her. That would imply a gun is involved, but what crime besides murder would have a gun involved...? Armed bank robbery. Alright, so the culprit steals one of Trucy's prop guns, robs a bank with it, then drops the gun behind... And probably testifies to Trucy's guilt. So far, so good. There is another problem in that Trucy would probably realize the gun was stolen, yet Edgeworth can't make the connection until a fair while into the trial. This could be a problem, so I'll make another note.

Spoiler : Criteria 4 :
* Miles Edgeworth is the defense attorney.
* I want a single trial section, then an investigation.
* There needs to be an element of trolling.
* Phoenix requested Edgeworth to defend Trucy from charges of bank robbery. To help, Phoenix is also Edgeworth's co-council.
* This is set after Phoenix's disbarment, but before Apollo Justice.
* The judge's brother is judging, and Payne is the prosecutor.
* The trial ends with Edgeworth suspecting the real criminal, but not being able to prove their guilt.
* The investigation ends with Edgeworth breaking the suspect's psyche-lock and getting a confession.
* The culprit steals a prop gun of Trucy's, performs the bank robbery, drops the gun, and then testifies to Trucy's guilt.
? Why can't Edgeworth prove the suspect's guilt in trial?
? How does Edgeworth get the magatama?
? Wouldn't Trucy know the prop gun was stolen and realize something, making the evidence clearly meaningless?


A lot of the unanswered questions are wrapped up, but why the effort to frame Trucy? Well... perhaps the culprit's motive was to frame Trucy? That could work. How did the culprit get the gun? The culprit is a co-worker at the Wonder Bar. Also, shouldn't there be more evidence against Trucy? Now that I think about it, little evidence explains well why guilt can't be proven, why a confession is elicited, and why we go to an investigation. The last issue now is Trucy realizing the gun was stolen. Well, what if she did know? It would be easy to figure out who the killer was... But what if that didn't help her at all? You'd need proof to make a conviction, and if there wasn't much proof, then they'd have to resort to unorthodox tactics. Combining this with the trolling theme, an idea forms: Phoenix knows who the culprit is, but is trying to lure Edgeworth into finding the evidence. I like the idea! Looking over things one last time, I see that more trolling would be nice. So, the witness is going to be a bit of a troll, which works well with her personality. Looking over the criteria one more time...

Spoiler : Criteria 5 :
* Miles Edgeworth is the defense attorney.
* I want a single trial section, then an investigation.
* The witness is a troll of sorts.
* Phoenix requested Edgeworth to defend Trucy from charges of bank robbery. To help, Phoenix is also Edgeworth's co-council.
* This is set after Phoenix's disbarment, but before Apollo Justice.
* The judge's brother is judging, and Payne is the prosecutor.
* The trial ends with Edgeworth suspecting the real criminal, but not being able to prove their guilt.
* The investigation ends with Edgeworth breaking the suspect's psyche-lock and getting a confession.
* The culprit steals a prop gun of Trucy's, performs the bank robbery, drops the gun, and then testifies to Trucy's guilt.
* The motive of the crime was framing Trucy.
* Phoenix knows everything about the crime, but is baiting Edgeworth into getting more evidence against the culprit because of the little evidence there is.
* The culprit works at the Wonder Bar.


All the questions are answered, and I have a workable general overview of the case. I find this satisfying, so it's time to move on to the next step.

Double Outlining

Before describing the next step, it is important to note that taking time to think about the aspects of your case is a good thing to do! A more specific idea of how you want your case to go will help you tremendously in the next step. Note that while thinking, you may freely change the ideas you came up with previously.

The final stage in the planning phase is composing proper outlines. While the "working backwards method" is used to develop ideas, the double outline is used to organize ideas. No matter how good of an idea you've developed, it won't do very well if it's a mess and you trip up on the details or wind up with several problems you didn't expect. This is why I recommend constructing two outlines. One outline gives information about the truth of the crime, while the other gives information about what the player is supposed to do and think. Sound complicated? It isn't as complicated as you might think. For now, and for your first case, it would be good to avoid focusing overly much on the mystery design elements. (If this tutorial is successful, a mystery design tutorial may also be posted.)

The truth of the crime is exactly what you would think. What happened? In this, you'll be writing in prose format. For examples, see the "Villain POV" links on the site I am about to link to. Before clicking, be wary that this website does have very brief case descriptions for Ace Attorney Investigations 2 and Dual Destinies at the bottom! Use caution when going to this site!

Here is an example "truth of the crime" for Turnabout Proxy. Note that this includes details I came up with after reflection, beyond those found in the outline:

Spoiler : Truth of the Crime :
Dee Jordur is the wealthy niece of Frank Sahwit from 1-1. She harbors a grudge against Phoenix Wright for his involvement in incarcerating Sahwit, so she conspires to make Phoenix feel her pain by staging Trucy's arrest. As a Wonder Bar employee, she has the ability to steal Trucy's prop gun, which she does. Trucy has a performance afterwards, notices the disappearance, and informs Phoenix.

That night, Dee Jordur dons black and bursts into the crime scene with a black gun, and Trucy's silver fake gun. She performs the hold-up and drops the silver gun. The next morning, Dee Jordur phones the police, saying she saw Trucy Wright perform the robbery. This, combined with the fingerprints, is enough for an arrest. When Trucy is arrested, the arresting officer leaks enough information for Phoenix to realize Dee Jordur is the culprit. Since he lacks the evidence to prove it, however, he instead recruits Edgeworth to take the case and manipulates Edgeworth into getting the evidence to find the truth.


And, there you have it. This "truth of the crime" is fairly simple. More complicated cases can span even more paragraphs, although this length is about right for a first-time case.

The other part of the outline is the what the player is supposed to do and think, which is a bit trickier. This will be a hybrid of a walkthrough, and the case from the protagonist's point of view. Again, an example is extremely helpful here. What follows is a segment of the document for Proxy:

Spoiler : Protagonist's Perspective :
* We begin in the defense lobby. Edgeworth and Phoenix have a brief conversation on Phoenix's past with losing his badge. There are also signs of Phoenix having a lack of interest in the case. Edgeworth explains why he's taking the case, and we meet with Trucy before going into court.
* Payne gives his opening statement.

01: Dick Gumshoe ~ Facts of the Case

01 : The Bank of the People was robbed on the twelfth of June.
02 : A masked woman entered the bank, pointed a gun at the clerk and gave him a note demanding $200,000.
03 : The clerk gave the woman the money and the suspect fled.
04 : On the way out, the woman dropped her gun. We think she didn't want to stand out as she made her get-away.
05 : She also threw her mask off and was identified by a witness as Trucy Wright.
06 : We later arrested Trucy, but we didn't find the money. The defendant didn't tell us where she hid it.

## 01: Press
## 02: Press
## 03: Press
## 04: Press
## 05: Press
## 06: Press

* First testimony is press-all-to continue. Have Payne be especially annoying here. Humorously, Edgeworth will presume Payne is a janitor.

02: Mike Meekins ~ I was Robbed, Sir!

01 : I was working at the bank that day as a security guard.
02 : Then, I observed an individual that I had to label suspicious!
03 : It was a young woman wearing all black, with a ski mask and a gun!
03a: She was wearing black shoes, sir! Even the laces were black!
03b: If I had to label the ski mask as wool or not wool, I would label it as wool, sir!
03c: The gun was a simple black pistol, sir!
04 : I decided to stay close to the entrance walls, to stop her when she was least expecting it.
05 : By the time she had passed that note to the cashier, I had my foot out to trip her!
06 : But she just jumped over it! I did nothing to impede her escape, sir...

## 03: Press "The gun"
## 03c: Present "Gun"
## 05: Present "Floor Plans"

* Lengthy series of presents goes here. I've omitted them from the guide for brevity.
* Payne continues being annoying. It becomes clear that the next witness is going to be extremely important. When the next witness takes the stand, her anger dominates the courtroom, intimidating everybody but Edgeworth and Phoenix.

03: Dee Jordur ~ Witnessing the Escape

01 : Night of the robbery, I’m walking home after a Wonder Bar show.
02 : I hear something and turn around to see what jerk disrupted the tranquility of my walk!
03 : I clearly see magic-girl, overbearing as ever in those clothes of hers...
04 : She was carrying some sack of something behind her. Oh yeah, and she had a gun.
05 : I ask what she’s doing when she falls, since she wasn't scheduled at the bar, but she just runs past me.
06 : She mutters to herself stuff like "mask", "police," "bank," and "run." I couldn’t hear it all.
07 : I couldn’t hear it all. I thought nothing of it ‘til I heard about the robbery. Then I called the cops.

## 03: Present "Crime Report" OR "Camera Data" OR "Mike Meekins"
# A: "Your Honor, the defense..." select "Requests no further testimony"

* The defense finds a contradiction and has another witness testimony.

04: Dee Jordur ~ Identifying the Defendant

01 : Trucy ran under a streetlight, so I could see her easily.
02 : Before you say anything, she tripped, so I had plenty of time to look.
03 : I talked to her when she fell. The running and muttering came after she got up.
04 : On top of that, your contradiction does not exist. She was wearing her full magician's outfit.
05 : My best guess is she changed at some old building, where she had hid her clothes earlier.
06 : Regardless of how she did it, it couldn't have been easier to identify her.

# The witness will explain that the running and muttering occurred after she got up again.
## 02: Present "Crime Report"
# Four problems. One, Trucy didn't have so much as a skinned knee. Two, Trucy's hat would have fallen off, but there are no signs of damage. Three, it would have gotten more of a reaction out of Dee, as opposed to 'thinking nothing of it.' Most important, Trucy would have dropped her grip on the sack, causing some of the money to fall out.
# A: "There is only one explanation for this massive contradiction!" select "Jordur saw nothing"
# B: "There is one clear reason why she would accuse Trucy before those tests in the evidence were done." select "She was the real robber"

* Edgeworth's discomfort with the bluffing he's doing begins to show, and he starts trying to doubt Trucy. Signs earlier that Phoenix just doesn't care intensify, which make Edgeworth even more irritated.


As you can see, at this last point in the planning stage, you should know the general direction the case goes, from all the mysteries and cross-examinations, to the story as a whole. Note the sections on the player's irritation with Payne, and Edgeworth's conflicts with the bluffing, Phoenix, and trusting Trucy. This gives a solid story and a solid mystery, whereas a lot of the "why should the player care" elements were missing in the beginning. As one final note for this, do not be afraid to make changes to your documents unless it creates a specific problem! Several things on the walkthrough/protagonist's perspective were added or amended during the beta-testing process.

Conclusion

Let's review what we've covered here.

First, planning is important. This keeps us from making distracting mistakes. Additionally, we can plan so that the elements of our cases work together, which is even better. Secondly, we can use the method of working backwards to go from a few stray ideas to basic case elements that work together. Start with what you want and think about how to answer the questions it poses. Third, once you have the details, firmly decide and write out what the truth of the crime is and how the player is going to go through the game. Fourth, make sure you have a reason for the player to care about your story, and make sure that reason is in the design. Lastly, don't be afraid to go back and make changes to previously established things if you're sure they don't create new problems or ask for more unanswered questions.

Hopefully with this method, your next case will be significantly improved for having read this!
[D]isordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed. ~ Ben Jonson

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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Naminé » Ven Nov 08, 2013 10:13 am

I like this, thank you for making this! I haven't exactly read everything yet but I will soon - I'll look into it and use what I can and apply it to my first trial. :)
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Re: Story Planning 

Message par E.D.Revolution » Lun Juin 09, 2014 9:46 pm

May I suggest a tip for those who might have trouble imagining the crime for their story? Don't think like a detective. Think like a criminal. Think like a criminal so you can work backwards. It's almost impossible to work backwards without a good crime setup.

You need to answer all the basic questions:
  • What crime is being committed?
  • Who is committing the crime?
  • Why is the criminal/culprit committing the crime? For teh lulz is not a reason. What could the criminal gain from the crime? Money? Getting rid of a problem person?
  • Who is the victim? If this is a targeted crime (most murders are crimes that target victims, be it stores or personnel), why is that victim targeted? If the crime is manslaughter, a crime by definition wasn't planned, it might be a little harder to justify why he/she was the victim other than wrong place/wrong time.
  • How does the perpetrator prepare for the crime? Does the perp have accomplices or accessories (people who facilitate the crime but do not commit it)? What are their roles?
  • How does the perpetrator commit the crime? Did he start walking into a store in broad daylight and start shooting the place? Did he sneak into a room and then covertly stabbed the victim? Does he secretly meet with an "agent" and then slips a mickey?
  • How does the criminal want the crime to appear? How does he/she cover her tracks? What kind of false leads could the criminal throw?

It'll be much easier to work backwards when you have the crime clearly laid down in stone.

I think you might have this down, but I think "think like a criminal" should be the first step after getting the characters, places, evidence down AND before working backwards.
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Re: Story Planning 

Message par TheDoctor » Mar Juin 10, 2014 11:30 pm

I would say it is technically possible to have a crime committed for the evulz, but it is extremely difficult to pull off compellingly. More often than not, the criminal has to have some kind of Freudian excuse for this to work at all. But the key thing that a "for the evulz" crime is missing is motive. Without a motive, it makes it exponentially more difficult for the defense to pin the crime on the criminal.

So yes, it's possible, it's just very difficult to do correctly.
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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Gosicrystal » Lun Mai 08, 2017 1:24 am

I understand the "working backwards" method, but not the other one ("a hybrid of a walkthrough and the case from the protagonist's point of view"). The tricky part I see here is designing cross-examinations and evidence-presenting arguments against the prosecution that slowly uncover the truth of the crime and get the player from the start of the trial to the final cross-examination.

In my case, I have a clear idea of the truth of the crime and the first cross-examination, and have a rough idea of the final cross-examination, but don't know how to tie those two distant CEs.
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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Enthalpy » Lun Mai 08, 2017 2:03 am

I've wanted to revamp this tutorial for quite some time now, and the question you mentioned is one of the big reasons why. This tutorial is designed to give you a rough sketch of how to build a coherent crime, but not how to set up the CEs so it can be solved. In reality, these two problems are best tackled at the same time. If you want to do that, this tutorial is not helpful. (Kudos to you for recognizing the problem, by the way! This is something that many authors don't realize even after writing a full case.)

While there's much more that could be said on this topic, I recommend that you first decide how long you want your case to be and what your trial "flow" is. Flow deserves a tutorial of its own, one I plan to write either this month or next, so I can only talk briefly about it here. What do you think should happen after a cross-examination? Different authors have different answers to this question.

Shu Takumi, who wrote the first four games, thinks that most cross-examinations should lead to further cross-examinations that set the player up for concentrated "bursts" of insight into the crime, with heavy tension along the way. 3-3 is a good example of this. After the first day of trial, our understanding of the case has not changed that much, but we have successfully overcome the main reason why Maggey got her guilty verdict. It's only in the next day's investigation and trial that we start unraveling the crime. Once we start, though, we can clearly see why all those other pieces helped us get to the solution. If we didn't take the time to establish that Victor Kudo's testimony was impossible, we wouldn't be able to use that to prove the crime was reenacted. I generally prefer this style.

Takeshi Yamazaki, who wrote the Ace Attorney Investigations series as well as the latest two games in the main series, thinks that most cross-examinations should change our understanding of the case directly. Using 6-1 as an example, although the first cross-examination simply makes Ahlbi look much worse, after the Divination Seance, we know the crime scene was different from what we thought. It takes us only one more cross-examination after that to name the killer, one more cross-examination to find the identity of the real thief, and one more for a complete acquittal. Personally, I think this style works well in Investigations, but is bad in the main series.

Then, some authors here on AAO, Bad Player and Blackrune, pioneered a new style where the goal of each cross-examination is to give the player a clue to the trick without giving the character much progress. This style is difficult to explain unless you've played Two Sides of the Same Turnabout or Turnabout Pairs. This style is good if you want a "locked room/impossible crime," but not so good otherwise.

The advice I'd give depends completely on the style of flow you want for your case.
[D]isordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed. ~ Ben Jonson

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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Enthalpy » Lun Mai 15, 2017 12:41 am

Any updates on this? I can't say much more without a flow style.
[D]isordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed. ~ Ben Jonson

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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Gosicrystal » Lun Mai 15, 2017 6:27 pm

I definitely wouldn't go for the third flow style you mentioned for my case, because it's not a locked room. And between the other two... I can't really tell. I don't know if the following is a spoiler, but I'll use that formatting just in case. Here's my rough idea of the trial's flow:

Spoiler : :
Right now, I want my trial to have 6 CEs: 2 with Gumshoe (the former is a trap with evidence, the latter talks about the defendant's motive), 2 with the witness who was closest to the murder (the latter of which allows the lawyer to accuse the perp), one contradiction-free CE with the real killer defending themselves from your sudden accusation, then a "Solve the crime" battery of question-answering and evidence-presenting prompts, and one last CE with the real killer, mocking you for being unable to produce decisive evidence but containing a contradiction.
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Re: Story Planning 

Message par Enthalpy » Lun Mai 15, 2017 7:07 pm

Spoiler : Response :
That sounds more like the first style to me. The second style has constant changes to what the player thinks happened, while the first tends to have less changes to make and concentrates them more.

In a case like this, I recommend first picking some "break points" in the trial and figuring out what you want to have happened by then. You seem to already be at this point, based on the summary you gave me. Once you have that, figure out what break point will be the hardest to get to from the previous break point, and think of a way to get there. In your case, think up the questions and answers for the "Solve the crime" battery. As you go, think of where in the game you can put the information and evidence the player needs to answer it, and integrate that into the game.

For instance, if your solution involves the killer burning some bloody evidence, make a lighter at the crime scene a key piece of evidence.
[D]isordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed. ~ Ben Jonson

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