Tag Archives: fantasy

“Return of the Obra Dinn” Sequel Ideas (feat. Mothman)

I wrote recently about my love for the hit indie game “Return of the Obra Dinn” (ROD) but now I want to talk about something else on my mind, sequels.  “ROD” has a huge potential for creating other stories set in the same universe (not just the mystery aspect but all the dark, fantastical creatures that reside in this world) that you can easily make a mini series based on the game.  Now I want to say upfront that Lucas Pope, the creator of “ROD,” doesn’t seem like a fellow who would be willing to make sequels.  His previous game, “Papers, Please” was another indie hit that told a story that could only be done through video games.  He seems like a person who wants to create insightful stories revolved around unique concepts which I can respect.

But it’s fun to create sequel ideas for such a fun concept so rather than dwell on the probably-nots, let’s instead dream about the what-ifs.  What would a sequel to “ROD” look like?

Return of the Obra Dinn on GOG.com

First, the Obra Dinn’s story is told and done.  We don’t need to come back to the ship or its characters.  Instead our sequel will revolve around the key item that makes the game work, i.e. the death watch itself, Memento Mortem.  Our “ROD” sequel’s protagonist, who could be the same one as the first game but is not required, will investigate a mystery using the magical watch.

These sequels can also improve the gameplay and story from ROD.  In an interview on eurogamer.net, creator Lucas Pope said

“…I really like I can only tell story through moments of death, the instant when somebody dies. But to relay a story to the player is kind of tricky, because you can only tell them things when somebody dies. So first off, people have to be dying left and right, and you need a reason for people to be dying constantly. And that’s sort of unusual, people don’t generally die all the time. Getting that working with the story in a way that the player can understand took a long time.”

To ease the burden of creating a story through death we can find other ways to tell this world’s story.  First off, we can have more deaths that aren’t human.  In “ROD,” the watch worked not only on humans but on animals (the cow and the monkey) and beasts (the mermaids and the crab soldiers).  If we lean more heavy on the animal deaths, which are more common, we can find ways to continue the story without running out of bodies quickly.

The other way we can expand the story is through old fashion detective work.  When you’re at the scene of the crime, you can read journals and observe items which can clue you in on the victims’ identities.  After all, we’re still trying to answer the two key questions of “Who is this?” and “What was this soul’s fate?”  Reading pages in a journal can clue us in to past events or a character’s actions.  Observing items can help us trace their path in dead memories and see how they went from point A to point B.  The catch of this is that you can only interact with these items in the present and not in the memories.

This is important because we can space out the deaths if needed.  In ROD’s ten chapters, the last seven very likely took place in the span of hours which is incredible to think about.  In the sequel, we can space events further from each other and allow us some breathing room, maybe have a story that takes place over a few days.

So now we need a story.  A story that involves a lot of deaths.

Keeping some consistency with “ROD,” let’s place our new story in the early 1800’s.  It doesn’t have to be exactly 1807 but as long as we hit the ball park range we should be good.  Two ideas come to my head that would create very interesting stories for our “ROD” sequel: a Ghost Train and a Ghost Town.

(love this song, this would be great to have as a theme)

Let’s start with the Ghost Train idea.  The story synopsis would be that a train has just arrived at its station but everyone on board is found dead or missing and you’re tasked to find out what happened to it.  As you can see, it’s very similar to the Obra Dinn structure so we can find some similarities there.  First, train cars will open up to you as you further your investigation just as the Obra Dinn opens up its lower levels.  I imagine that the caboose might be an important part for the investigation given its cargo-holding function.

Next, we can get a wide collection of individuals, mainly passengers, who are trying to get to a certain destination.  And what’s handy is we can have a passenger list with their names, if they bought a first class ticket or not, if they booked a round trip, and etc.  The passengers can be diverse and come from different countries, states, occupations, social standing, and etc.  This can also be the maiden voyage for this train and to celebrate the occasion everyone on board, both passengers and employees, took a (unlabeled) group photograph.

Admittedly, animal death would be minor in this game but I can see a few ways we can still use it.  An (unfortunate) death of a pet would be one but we can also have a bison death which could’ve stopped the train halfway through it journey and unknowingly pick up some hitchhikers.  These hitchhikers may bring with them a curse or amulet or whatever that starts the fantastical shenanigans.  Beside the hitchhiker, you can also have bandits who may attack the train.  Once you find evidence of the bandit attack, you suddenly gain access to wanted posters of them!  You can then pin the bandit faces to their posters which would be cool.

There would be a good potential for fun reading material such as journals, newspaper articles, and other lettering.  You can have a doctor’s notes about an onboard patient, a lawyer’s case files, or even as something as simple as a person’s recipe which contains an allergenic ingredient that kills a passenger!  I like the idea of the conductor taking careful notes about the train where a small, seemingly innocuous detail unravels the whole case.  A lot of fun can be done here.

As for the fantastical element?  I can imagine a few creatures like gargoyle-like bats, a plague of insects, a terrifying spirit, or hell, even dinosaurs intercepting the ride.  What I like in “ROD” was Lucas Pope’s addition of the spider crab soldiers which is so excellent.  Taking an unused animal and giving it horror-filled qualities would be great such as a mutated pronghorn, giant cicadas, or quill-shooting demon-porcupines.  The problem is you can’t have a large beast, like “ROD”‘s the Kraken, because that may topple the train altogether.  Although you never know, perhaps a beast did stop the train and the passengers have to clear or fix the railroad so they can survive another attack; that would be suspenseful!

File:Rainy Blue Ridge-27527.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

My favorite idea though is the Ghost Town which would definitely expand the setting’s scope but will see a huge rise in complexity and game development.  This would definitely be the bigger budget, more manpower, game but would create some interesting ideas.  Now, we don’t have to get too carried away but I feel maybe 80 people or so would be reasonable enough to have for our village size.  After all, in “ROD,” a real crew for a ship of that size would be much bigger (the original crew was 51 plus the 9 passengers) but we maintained our suspension of disbelief easily.  Also, more people does not mean it would be better.  It would make the game too frustrating and hard to keep track of.  So I think 80 people would be fine.  You can even divide the village up into smaller groups like a scene with just the miners or just the farmers to help with the logic process.

Our Ghost Town would take place in the Appalachian Mountains near a mine.  The story is as follows: after a terrible blizzard cutoff all communications with the mountain village of Hellbender, the town was found completely deserted and what few people remain were dead.  Something happened to the villagers.  You are hired by the state government to investigate the town and find out what happened.

You are given the Memento Mortem (of course) along with the town’s census list which documents their addresses, their family names, and their occupations.  You also find within the town hall a painting/photograph of the town’s village celebrating its official opening.  Armed with these few crucial pieces of evidence, you begin your investigation.

Compared to our Ghost Train story and the original “ROD,” Hellbender can give us a lot of fantastic potential for some great game play moments.  First, we can find lettering scattered throughout the village, with many of the same things found on Ghost Train found here like the journals, letters, and etc.  But we can get some other good stuff as well.  A foreman’s official documentation on mining activities, a constable’s notes on recent arrests, or a store clerk’s inventory on their goods.  A doctor’s notes would be especially great given how he would regularly visit most if not everyone in town and have keen knowledge on the town’s overall health and well being.

Obviously, Hellbender’s setting is going to be its best selling point.  The memories in the weird “deadception” pocket dimension of the Memento Mortem will open houses and stores up which may otherwise be inaccessible.  You may even reach the mine to see what exactly happened inside of it.  I also imagine the local graveyard would be a fantastic source for memories since the bodies are just sitting there waiting to be buried.  So the game will have a nice steady progression as more and more of the town opens up to you.

The deaths will be awesome; so many great ways to die!  Besides freezing to death, which will probably happen in the last chapter when the blizzard kills off the last few remaining survivors, we can get other interesting fates as well.  First, although the town is isolated, that doesn’t mean its impassable; unlike the train or ship, it would be easier for people to leave, and try their luck in the wilderness.  How many of these deserters will survive or not is up to the story…

But we can get a huge variety of deaths, too many to list here but include the usual gunshot, explosion (there’s a mine after all…), and the standard disease.  I imagine whatever curse fell upon this town (along with spicy human greed) will give us some great variety like strangulation, stabbing, and bludgeoning.

The creatures and animals though are the real selling point.  Wolves and other feral animals may harass the town but we can get some good, crazy-ass monsters here.  Giant crocodile-like salamanders can prowl the river and man-size naked mole rats can be freed in the mine and wreck havoc!  I also like the idea of seeing bigfoot just randomly showing up and ripping a guy in half (which would be morbidly hilarious).

Mothman - Wikipedia

Obviously, a horror-themed Mothman should be our antagonist (?) that catalyzes the series of misfortunes that fall upon the town.  Imagine this for our first memory.  You find a body at the bottom of a cliff next to the remains of a bridge.  This is the only bridge that connects Hellbender to the rest of the world and its collapse causes the town’s isolation.  In the memory, you see the individual as he makes ground contact but in the background you see the Mothman…eyes glowing brightly.  In fact, his eyes glow just like the shells do in “ROD,” in the memory world where everything seems still, the Mothman’s eyes are ablaze.   And in the rest of the memories, you can find his eyes in the distance, still watching as the town falls prey to whatever supernatural fate fell upon them…

Obviously, these thoughts and ideas are just a fan day dreaming but I nonetheless hope to play another game like “Return of the Obra Dinn.”  What about you?  Would you like to see a sequel?  If so, where do you think the sequel should take place?  Love to hear your thoughts on this excellent, mystery game.

Harry Potter and the Parallel Themes, An Analysis

The Harry Potter series is one of the best, most intertwined series I have ever read.  Items briefly seen and characters mentioned could play a key role in a later in the series.  We see Hagrid mention of Sirius in book 1, Voldemort’s horcruxes in book 5, and the Polyjuice Potion in book 2.  However, there’s something else that makes J. K. Rowling’s wonderful series all the more intertwined.  Something that I would like to refer as *cough* Harry Potter and the Parallel Themes!

Okay, imagine the seven books in the series.  Smack dab in the middle is book 4.  Ah yes, the Goblet of Fire, a very important addition in the series.  It stands at a doorway between children goodiness and young adult realism.  Books 1-3 were not as dark or as foreboding as books 5-7 and had more uplifting endings.  Indeed, you can feel this transformation come forth as you read GoF; terror at the World Cup, former Deatheaters make their appearance, the first emotional death, and the rebirth of Voldemort.  It’s no wonder many people, including my sister, like this book the most.

Now imagine this.

Imagine that book 4 is the focal point of the series.  As you step farther and farther away from this mirror, certain themes, plot points, and characters that you were once introduced to now become reintroduced with a stronger focus.

Take for example, books 3 and 5.  These two books share many things in common with each other.  The prominent role of Sirius Black, the return of the Dementors and Lupin, prisoners escaping Azkaban, and Harry’s dad’s past.  Harry’s dad seems especially important in these two books as Harry now learns so much more about him and subsequently realized that he wasn’t that great of a guy.   Harry’s relationship with Cho also plays a role.  He was introduced to her in book 3 and their tumultuous relationship ended in book 5.

Now, let’s take a step further, book 2 and 6.  This is where I began to notice the parallel events in the series.  Indeed, it’s pretty noticeable, most prominently of which were horcruxes.  In book 2, we saw our first horcrux, the diary.  And though its origins were hinted at, we were finally revealed in book 6 what it truly was, a part of Voldemort’s soul.  This was a part of a more important concept mainly Tom Riddle’s past, something that book 2 grazed over.  Of course, there are other smaller things.  Ginny’s infatuation with Harry in book 2 finally blossomed into an actual relationship in book 6 and Aragog’s old age finally bested him at the same time.  I was actually hoping throughout most of the book that we would see the Ford Anglia, but alas, that wasn’t the case.  Finally, Fawkes the phoenix was introduced in book 2 and we last saw him in book 6.

Aragog's_funeral_2

Also, this was one of the best scenes in the book AND the movie, no doubt

But what about book 1 and 7?  Going into it, I thought we would surely see the Mirror of Erised which played a strong and melancholic role in the first book.  It would only be fitting that we would see this magical device again.

Alas, again, this was unfortunately not true and I was sad because of it.  But we got something that I didn’t expect.  Dumbledore’s past.  Indeed, our only window into Dumbledore’s past was through the Chocolate Frog Cards which gave a light description of Dumbledore and his battle with Grindelwald.  Now, in book 7, we see the dark, sad, and lonely past of Albus.  It was almost too much to bear.  Gringotts made its return as well along with Griphook the goblin.  The Gringotts’ boast of being the most secure place in the Wizarding World (second only to Hogwarts) in book 1 was finally tested in book 7 and was subsequently foiled by three teenagers and a blind dragon.  This was very fascinating to me as when we first saw Gringotts, it was a magically mysterious place that seemed more strange than dangerous.  But in book 7, we see its true colors of paranoia, greed, and hate.

But most important out of all of this are the Deathly Hallows (the magical items, not the book).  True, many themes from all the other books come back to book 7 but the Deathly Hallows have their special roots in book 1.   The Invisibility Cloak’s, which was given to Harry during his first year from Dumbledore, origins were finally revealed (and why Harry’s dad had it).  The Resurrection Stone, though first seen in book 6, was hidden in Harry’s very first golden snitch.  Of which, its puzzling lock frustrated Harry through most of book 7 as he tried desperately to open it. It is a relief when he finally figures out how to open it.

I’m still impacted by that passage “I open at the close.”

Deathly Hallows

And finally, rounding it off, the Elder Wand, passed along from powerful wizard to powerful wizard, finally ending with Dumbledore.   And it’s not just the Elder Wand, the connection between a wizard and his wand was never elaborated on, save briefly in book 4, until book 7.  It is because of this importance that we see why the climatic events at Malfoy Manor in book 7 were so important.  Harry had sealed his fate, and Voldemort’s as well, when he disarmed Draco Malfoy and became the rightful ruler of the Elder Wand.

These parallel events really go to show how great of a writer J.K.R. is.  Even before she knew she had a big hit on her hands, she had been dropping themes, ideas, and characters long before their importance was established.  What’s more, she took it a step forward and made a clever series of parallel events that really helps tie the book series together.  It’s very likely that I’m not the first person to notice this, as such, what other parallel events and such have you noticed in the series?

Finally, I just wished that I could have seen the Ford Angila one more time!

The Darkness Series by Harry Turtledove

Long before I knew about Game of Thrones, there was another fantasy series that I was heavily invested in during the course of its publications.  It was known as the Darkness Series, written by Harry Turtledove (also known as “the Master of Alternate History”).  The Darkness Series is, in a sense, very similar to the Song of Ice and Fire series.  Mainly, many viewpoint characters that are from different nations whose individual stories weave a larger, more epic story.  These characters are from a fantastical world in the grip of war and who, even if they are a viewpoint character, can still die.

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There is also another similarity the two have.  If A Song of Ice and Fire is inspired by the War of Roses, then the Darkness Series is not only inspired by, but directly paralleled with, the events of World War 2.  Each country in the Darkness Series, which takes place in the fiction continent of Derlavai, is usually based on one (sometimes a few) country(s) in our world.  For instance, Algarve represents Nazi Germany while Unkerlant represents Soviet Russia.  The similarities don’t stop there as these fictional nations have the same languages, city names, customs, and so forth as our world does.

These similarities though are highly jumbled.  The Algarvian people speak Italian, have red hair, and wear kilts.  Unkerlantians, meanwhile, speak German, wear tunics, and have a darker complexion.  For those of you who are curious, the Jews are a race of people called Kaunians who are fair skinned, tall, have blonde hair, and speak a Slavic-like language.

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But here, the similarities to our world end.  Great rhinos are tanks, dragons are airplanes, fierce leviathans are submarines, rifles and pistols are wands that shoot energy beams, and magical crystals serve as communicating devices similar to our radios and telephones.  Also, like Game of Thrones, the world’s countries are mainly monarchial.  These fantastical elements are amazing and give a great twist to a world at war.

I never had such joy in reading and appreciating a series such as this before.  Figuring out what historical events are happening and guessing how the characters will survive was a real treat.  And though we know that dear Algarve will eventually lose the war, what we don’t know is if our characters will survive the war or not.  Some of my favorite characters did eventually past away and that was a great shame.

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Turtledove has a greater appreciation for characters than George R.R. Martin does.  Though characters may die, their deaths do not seem premature or forced.  We have grown to love and respect the viewpoint character as Turtledove takes time to flesh them out.  We are also not bogged down with tons of characters who may show up for a few chapters and then go away without any further notice on what exactly happened to them.

Some of the best moments in the book are when viewpoint characters meet each other for a brief moment.  They may fight each other in the battlefield, walk by one another in a busy town, or develop an actual relationship of some kind with the other viewpoint character.  I even developed an intricate diagram years ago dedicated to how all of the characters were connected to each other and it was amazing (too bad I can’t find it now).

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Well before I knew about Game of Thrones, I imagined what it would be like for this series to hit the small screen.  At the time, I thought it would never happen but now with Game of Thrones being quite popular nowadays, that idea isn’t too far off.  However, because of their similar concepts, people might think it was just a shameless rip-off which is too bad.  Regardless, seeing the Darkness Series in live action would be amazing.

In short, if you are fan of Game of Thrones, epic fantasies, or World War 2, this is a great series of novels that is fun to read.  I highly recommend it if you have the time.

(for those who are curious the series goes Into the Darkness, Darkness Descending, Through the Darkness, Rulers of the Darkness, Jaws of Darkness, and Out of Darkness)