Can you spot the mistake? pic.twitter.com/nba8dAqpwy
— Daniel Benmergui (@danielben) December 21, 2013
My intended answer to the challenge is visual and I won't spoil it here, but then unexpected things happened:
@danielben There is no pacing, Maria is just suddenly dead. The pictures don't make clear that she killed herself due to depresssion.
— API-Beast (@API_Beast) December 21, 2013
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:
@danielben Why is there blood on the tombstone? That makes no sense.
— Mattia Traverso (@theMaTX) December 21, 2013
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.
@danielben Last panel is in past tense, rest are in present tense.
— Peter Silk (@KestrelPi) December 21, 2013
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.
@danielben http://t.co/fDYsHJFiYP, bascially, the flipping of the character's positions even though they never moved.
— Paul Dillon (@Mr_Dillon) December 21, 2013
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...
@danielben yes, never insult a witch.
— ron carmel (@roncarmel) December 21, 2013