Storytelling in Exploit: Zero Day

We just put up a blog post talking about how we handle storytelling in Exploit: Zero Day. For those of you who want a peek behind the scenes at how we think about storytelling and narrative structure, check it out!

there might also be a sneak preview of an upcoming job there

As a big part of the game, players pursue jobs, which
are bits of single-player story assigned by characters. Jobs can be
played whenever the player qualifies for them, which can have the odd
result of two players helping the same person escape from prison months
apart. While we trust our players to suspend their disbelief and accept
this as a necessary part of the game’s structure, it does make it a bit
weird to, for example, have the character KernelPop respond to a
question about a storyline that’s ongoing for one player even though the
public storyline assumes the events in question concluded months ago.

I think you might have mentioned this in an earlier post, but players choosing different paths makes the storyline diverge a bit. For example, I chose the “Publish the Data Worldwide” path in this latest job, and I’d like to hear what the other option does (as well as what initially refusing the job does). I’m making an assumption about what happens in the other path, but it also is “a bit weird” if the data is both published and not published.

I wrote most of “Fearsome Aspect.” It is totally a bit weird that some players can expose the Monroes’ identity and others can choose not to. Early on we considered doing some generative text for situations like that: characters might have different names or details might be changed enough to provide plausible deniability.

In the end, though, it didn’t seem necessary. We think players will be comfortable with the idea that some things are (for lack of a better term) “instanced,” some things are personal (like what a character thinks of you), and some things are decisions that affect the living story in a way that is consistent with everyone participating in a story.

In situations like “Fearsome Aspect,” the low-level decisions of what happened with the blackmail material can be abstracted away for future jobs. We track what you did, but that’s more for knowing what Chamunda thinks of you rather than making the job-specific characters show up in later plot. Some story decisions, however, do have a broader impact. Our next job will be the start of a longer plotline that’s the meat of Zero Day’s initial free story content.

As for refusing? We let you refuse to help in a previous job and proceed without a problem, but for this one refusing isn’t an option. Chamunda isn’t the sort to take no for an answer. Also, we need you to understand her character for when she appears later.

I’ll let other folks share what they think of the other options. You get somewhat different paths through “Fearsome Aspect” depending on what choices you make in the job as well as what you did earlier with regard to Mahodara’s offer of collaboration.

I would totally pay for a branching understanding of the story. :smile:

It’d probably be a pain to implement, but it’d be super cool to be able to set my state and progress from there. I’m imagining a git network graph right now.

Sounds like a “No one has to die” idea which sounds cool, but may be a little difficult to put in for each person’s own account. Maybe have it as a sort of New Game+ feature and allow the player to go back to certain choice points to see another way for the story to unfold.

Related: Has the story already been written or still being completed? (Just curious)

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The outline for what we call the “Laurie Wu” story has already been written, but the details (individual jobs, messages, and clusters) are still being made.

For future story, some of it has been outlined, but we want players en masse to be able to affect how some things develop. We’re still figuring out how that will actually work, but we definitely want players to be able to enact large-scale and permanent change on the ongoing story.

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