A Dog's Tale (design doc)

Game Design, Writing

"A Dog's Tale" is the working title of a short point & click adventure set in what was, at the time, the near future. It was originally written as an assignment for the game design class at Shenkar. The story is as follows:

It is the year 2015. Israel has been ravaged by nuclear war, but nothing can stop life itself. Among the ruined towns and same-as-they-were highways, bands of survivors do what they must to live another day, as do many former pets now devoid of their owners’ care. Our protagonist is one such dog. Trapped while scouring the wilderness for his former masters, he awakens in a cage in the middle of a camp of scavengers, next to another dog. He initially thinks the scavengers are going to care for him, as this is all he has ever known humans to do. This quickly changes when the other dog is taken from the cage and a gunshot is heard, briefly followed by a yelp. The smell from the kitchen makes things abundantly clear, and our hero resolves to escape the camp, but he is still hungry and weak and does not know to where he should even escape. After breaking out of the cage, he finds a weak spot in the fence, but is too weak to break it. He sees the humans trapping rats, and manages to steal one. He overcomes his initial revulsion and eats the rat in order to survive and regain his strength, and then successfully breaks the fence. However, the road is long, and to survive it he must keep himself fed. He finds a basket to hang on his neck, and fills it with more dead rats to keep him fed on the road.

DESIGN

As it is a point & click adventure game, I will list the steps to complete it in the form of a puzzle dependency chart to account for nonlinearity, and provide a layout of the “rooms” (gameplay screens) and the items they hold.

 

dogstalerooms.png
dogstale.png

The player will be guided indirectly by the character’s unique constraints and abilities as a dog. The world will be drawn in black and white to account for the dog’s monochrome vision, with moving puffs of color representing different smells (e.g. scent of humans, rats, rotting flesh, smoke, wildflowers) to account for his heightened olfactory sense. Humans will speak in gibberish, but their tone of speech will be indicative of their behavioral states (e.g. suspicious, sleepy, alerted) to account for dogs’ heightened sense of hearing but lack of verbal comprehension. Throughout the following puzzles he will also have to avoid being detected by patrolling humans. Being detected initially means being caught and losing the game; however, after completing step 2a-1 (“regain strength”), this will instead trigger an escape animation that may impede the player’s progress, but not end the game - the character will simply appear in an adjacent room (an alternative to checkpoints).

 

The main menu is themed after the dog’s former life as a pet. Pressing the “New Game” button triggers darkness, death and destruction. etc.

 

0-1. Escape from cage

The player will have to wait for the right moment to break free (by ??). If you wait for too long the dog will be knocked out and taken to the kitchen (game over).

 

1-1. Find food

Rats and other edibles (but mostly rats) are found around the camp. The player character may consume one to take care of its hunger. Most of the rats are free-roaming, meaning they have to be detected by their smell and be captured using the rat trap (found near the gate).

 

1-2. Find Basket

The player character may find a small basket in the humans’ sleeping quarters and wear it around its neck.

 

2a-1. Regain strength

Having eaten, the player character may rest and regain its strength in the darkness underneath the kitchen cabin.

 

2a-2. Break fence

Having rested and regained its strength, the player character may break through a weak spot in the camp’s fence.

 

2a-3. Escape from camp

Having broken through the fence, the player character may begin following the nearby highway in the hope of reaching a safe place to rest.

 

2b-1. Gather food

Having found the basket, the player character may use it to gather food for the long journey ahead.

 

3-1. Survive

Following the highway, the player character may consume the food it has gathered in the basket, or pass out of hunger if it hasn’t (and awaken in the cage once again).