Visual Introduction of Characters

First Frames are Special

I've bumped into one phenomena about meaning in visual languages that had concrete gameplay consequences:

Adam started poor, THEN he became rich...
... but here it feels Adam was ALWAYS rich (if you ignore the caption).
Adam and Eve BECOME lovers, as Adam started alone...
... but here it feels like they were lovers before (again, if you ignore the first caption).

So it seems that whenever a new character is introduced, whatever state he is in that frame is projected into his past: if he shows up rich, he was always rich. If he shows up dead, he was dead long before the story started. If he is with someone, he has been with that person for a while, and so on... So to support this interpretation phenomena, I don't caption these "introductions" as actions anymore:

Old version.
No action: Adam was always rich.
Old version.
No action: they were always lovers.

First Appearance, not First Frame

For a long time, I assumed that these were special cases for the first frame of a strip, but later on I discovered that this "projection into the past" also triggers in later frames!

Second Frame: did Adam become rich or was always rich?

In this case, it also seems Adam was always rich because it's the first time he shows up in the story, so this frames becomes a sort of introductory situation. Therefore, whatever state a character is the first time he appears in the story, will be projected into his past.

First Appearance Stealing

Did Tim steal from Adam or not?
This setup makes it seem like Tim is *stealing* from Adam right in the first frame! This is because Adam and the chest and Tim are introduced at the same time and it reads like "Tim is a villain and he is with a treasure and Adam is there and so he was probably rich and Tim stole from him".

If I did that, I would need to support this case as well, because it's the first appearance of Adam together with the chest that allows this interpretation!

Here Tim should have stolen from Adam as well.

I implemented support for this "first appearance stealing" and some levels made use of it, but it turned out it is hard to remember these storytelling exceptions while you are playing the game so I disconnected the feature for the time being. But as with everything in Storyteller, it might come back in a different form!


  1. Out of curiosity, what were the first appearance stealing cases?

  2. Also looks like frame dynamics affects interpretation too.

    If you put a frame with no caption of Adam and his chest, and then the frame "Tim envies Adam's riches" (where Adam is next to the chest, and Tim looks from behind Adam), is a quite self explanatory situation too, and the caption only adds silly literality.

    1. I agree that the game is overcaptioning right now. However, you'd be surprised at how much it helps when the stories are bigger and more complicated, and there's multiple feelings between characters...

  3. The "Time envies Adam's riches" with no chest in the second picture, has several different interpretations in my mind. An object missing needs to be explained.

    Does Adam try to appear poor? (If there was a middle frame with Adam in a dungeon with the chest it would be obvious).
    Are the riches still there?

    And by adding Tim, his appearance somehow must be related to the missing chest.

    Did Adam hide his riches to not get robbed by Tim?
    Is Adam telling Tim of his riches?

    Stuff like that. Imagine two frames: First frame has Adam and a chest, second frame just Adam. Here Adam clearly lost his riches somehow. Of course here the addition of a bad-guy has significance, but how do you measure the importance between several events? (I think it is a really good idea to only have one event actually matter per frame).

    1. Yeah, this interpretations you are making would be completely valid given the strip with no context. Storyteller does force some "rules of behavior" that restrict how things work and thus the "conforming" interpretations.

      In the case of the chest, the game assumes that the first person to get it became rich, and it will only be transferred to another if stolen or given.

      > (I think it is a really good idea to only have one event actually matter per frame)

      This is a very intersesting point, because deciding how and which things can happen at the same time is one of Storyteller's hard design problems. I should probably write about it...