Owlchemy Labs' most ambitious project to date – it's a survival title for PC, Mac and Linux that tackles groupthink, the futility of earning a degree in art, and branching narrative paths depending on each player's unique choices. Really this time, Owlchemy founder Alex Schwartz tells me.
"Throughout the history of games, the claim has been made multiple times that player choice significantly affects gameplay," he says. I offer Telltale's The Walking Dead as one game that some players think promised too much control over the story. Schwartz says he loves that series but sees how voice acting and a big dev team pushed it to be a more linear story.
Dyscourse doesn't feature voice acting, instead relying on text, and the game takes place in a "narrative playground," the island where main character Rita crash-lands with a ragtag group of tourists. Schwartz says Owlchemy's approach means each player will have a unique experience, tell a different story, and probably kill their companions in different ways. By accident, of course.
"We're using some really interesting in-house tech to manage the writing process, but it's definitely a challenge," he says. "What it boils down to is attempting to write a large, multi-tiered narrative that can be approached from many different angles and a player simply only sees a small fraction when they play through a single time. Using variables to detect whether a player experienced or did not yet experience a certain dramatic moment – such as, 'Did the player find that hidden key yet?' or, 'Has the player uncovered the hidden backstory of one of the survivors?' – we can dynamically adjust the experience for each playthrough."