Game Studio: Nonlinear Narratives: A Short History of Goblins

Elliot Nye

May 15th, 2019

A Short History of Everything that is Goblins is a non-linear adventure game I made about goblins. It is a pretty silly game, based on lore I invented about a nation of goblins cursed by wizards into eternal torment, which the most enduring of the goblins devised to withstand by unifying their memories, and thus their core sense of self; they have individual sensory experiences, all of which are processed and implemented into goblins memories, the more popularly experienced are more prominently remembered. The slave away at work, smoke cigarettes, sit, look at the sky, and repeat over and over, ignoring the wizards cruel curses. Like I said, it is pretty silly. I wanted the player to experience this world from within it, as if it were the norm. The game is designed to be a bit monotonous, drab, and regular, as is the gameplay. Little is explained, for you as the character are familiar with this world. You play as a single goblin, which is consequently all goblins, that can choose to break free from collective experience, or to resign, depending on how persistent the player is. The game is thus designed to be, in a way, unpleasant, or unsettled on the player, triggering a sort of determination to discover what is beyond the fixed loop of experience. The reward lives somewhere within either the triggering of this frustration, or maybe in the discovery of subsequent parts of the world beyond your workplace, which hopefully indicate at some underlying sense of story or fantastical experience.

The gameplay includes a long, horizontal map which your character walks along from left to right, where the player will see the mundane life of goblins unfold. As the player walks along, they will encounter buttons which will trigger goblin activity, and other small interactive things. They will also encounter random nightmare, or wizard’s curse sequences, wherein the player will have to navigate to a door through a mass of clones of themselves, sometimes as if walking through a crowd, sometimes as if swimming, or sometimes as if climbing a mountain. Upon entering the door, the player returns to the town again, as at the beginning. Their actions in the previous loop will have transformed the world, more goblins performing more actions as the player chooses, the actions becoming more normalized and frequent. This effect will build as the player continues to navigate across the map, encounter nightmares, then reset. They game is designed so that they character is less likely to encounter nightmares with each previous nightmare encounter, allowing the player to potentially travel further with each reset. Eventually, if the player has the determination or luck, the player will reach the end of the map, and thus the game, stuck forever in a nightmare zone with no escape.

The game operates non-linearly insofar as the world exists in a static frame of time. The characters actions modify this static state, but they do not move anything forward. The goblin is still stuck. If the goblin breaks free, it is also stuck.

The game also has a funny sort of additional non-linearity based on the player’s choice to continue with the game or not. The reception of the game was vastly mixed. Some played for up to 30-40 minutes, desperate to break through to a promised end state, something a little different, while others only played through a single loop, experiencing the goblins static day as an experience in and of itself.

I do think the game did suffer from a lack of clarity of purpose, and in future developments, I would be interested to redevelop the design as to better motivate the player forward, or at least to strike their curiosity. I think this could best be accomplished by simply expanding the world, and the paths you can take through it. I do think I will continue work on this game, with a larger, more expansive map, more interactivity, and more of a sense of progress and place in the world.