It all started when I playfully dropped this challenge on Twitter...

My intended answer to the challenge is visual and I won't spoil it here, but then unexpected things happened:

Ummm... yes, the last frame's caption is not very informative about Maria's death. Since now I am working on a new captioning system, I added more detail to the suicide caption:

Fair enough. There is no indication that Maria went through a violent enough suicide to actually involve blood. However, having a visual cue that someone died in a non-natural way is required. It used to be that suicide tombstones looked like this:

This is a "letter to the judge" pattern, which is used sometimes in comics. But even though it is visually distinct from a murder tombstone (which includes blood) and thematically more adequate, I suspect the pattern is highly cultural-dependent. Many people that playtested the game wondered what the letter was, so for the time being I think the bloody tombstone option is better.

I am in the fence with tenses in the captions. The way Storyteller works, most actions in stories happen inbetween frames: you see a murderer hating the victim and then the murdered victim, not the murder itself. So half the time the captions are describing something that just happened but it's done already: Maria committed suicide. But there are also actions that seem to be happening now, like Maria insulting the witch or the witch cursing her for that. My policy so far is to use past tense for actions that happen off-frame and present tense for the rest. It does create a feeling of inconsistency, though, because we are used to have a single narrator and narrative, so the tense switches are a bit disorienting.

This is a neat observation. From the viewpoint of the story solver, the orientation of characters is unimportant, but as human readers, this flipping of characters (Maria & Witch on frame 1, Witch & Maria on 2) is disorienting and makes us wonder if something happened that produced the switch, making the story less readable. There is a mechanism in Storyteller that involves the issue of readability but I ignored it in this case because... it was necessary for "the mistake" to happen (and now I've gave it away).

The really interesting part is why all these interpretations of "mistakes" happened. Storyteller's mechanics have a "soft" component that relies heavily on our innate ability to make fairly sophisticated interpretations out of a sequence of still frames. This is where Storyteller draws its magic from, but at the same time it is a fragile and delicated substance: it's very easy for different people with different experiences, environment, languages and culture to come to wildly different conclusions of what's going on. Most of the "fixes" I make to the game after playtests are about helping players adjust their interpretation machinery to see Stortyeller in a way that it agrees with the gameplay!

Bonus: here's Ron Carmel's funny response to the challenge...


  1. What was the mistake :p
    I'm too dumb, you gave it away but I still didn't get it.

    And please release this game, just visited today (on my list of bookmarks TO_BUY_2014) to check up on it and still on hold :p

  2. The mistake is that the picture was flipped without changing which eye is closed right?

  3. the mistake is the first textbox, which is different than the other 2

  4. The mistake is in the second textbox, as there are 2 sentences, 2 verbs of action and only one picture with the result : "Maria is ugly".

  5. A very epic game to play after a soo long time. Also Have a look Have a look

  6. I'm too dumb, you gave it away but I still didn't get it.
    الفلل من اكثر الاماكن التى تحتاج الى العنايه دائما لاظهار جمالها فاذا كنت تفكر فى اقناء الفيلا وتبحث عن كيفيه القيام باعمال التنظيف والحصول على افضل النتائج المميزة فاعلم ان شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض تهتم باعمال التنظيف لفيلتك من الالف الى الياء ولا تكتفى فقط باعمال التنظيف من الداخل فهى تقوم بكل ما تحتاجه الفلل فى التنظيف والتلميع والتعطير والحصول الى افضل النتائج المميزة فى مقابل اقل الاسعار المتواجده فى الاسواق شركة نظافة فلل بالرياض اصبحت تحتل المركز الرائد بين الشركات التى تساعد على تحقيق افضل النتائج المميزه فى التنظيف للفلل ونظرا لان الفلل تحتوى على العديد من الامكانيات التى تحتاج الى القيام باعمال التنظيف وتحتوى على الكثير من الاشياء التى تحتاج الى التلميع والتعطير فعليك ان تتصل شركة بسمة الرياض افضل شركة تنظيف فلل فى اقل الاسعار المتواجده والحصول على افضل النتائج التقليدية التى تصل اليها
    تعتبر شركة اليسر من اهم وارقى الشركات التى تتعامل مع كافه خدمات الفلل من اجل ان نصل الى افضل النتائج والخدمات التى تساعد فى الحصول على كل ما يتمناه عملاءنا الكرام فلا داعى للقلق من شان التنظيف لفيلتك والسعى الى تحقيق افضل النتائج من خلال شركة نظافة فلل الان .

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