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“No Music in the Nightingale”

November 20, 2008

noir_argent_face1The NDA has been lifted and I can finally get this off my chest. No Music in the Nightingale is a “game noir” concept I helped develop for Brenda’s “Applied Game Design” class. Its development turned from horror story to absolute excitement in just ten weeks. You play as Thomas Argent, a private eye in 1930’s Chicago. You take cases, walk around town, and live the Chicago lifestyle all whie playing a part in a Dynamic In-Game Social Network which affects how NPCs feel towards you based on how you act in conversations and if you’ve happened to have killed anyone they know. The game is a sandbox mystery, so while players are free to do whatever they want, they still partake in an overarching, multilinear storyline.

There is a lot to do in this game. NPCs have connections with each other and with you, and their opinion of everyone differs. So how you treat them will determine your relationship with them and whether or not they will help you out. You can take NPCs on dates to restaurants and clubs, or go gambling at the Greyhound track. You can travel around the city on foot or via taxi.

The one concept we wanted to get across in this game was the finality of the gun. Inspired by an article at The Escapist that claimed, “The gun has become an inert symbol: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” We decided that the use of a gun in game would not only be powerful in terms of taking off hit points, but would also be powerful in terms of how it affected the social network. If every NPC is on the network, when one dies, it sends shockwaves across it. All of a sudden there is a gap, nothing but a DECEASED stamp where once there was a person. Depending on who this was, this can have serious, in-game repurcussions. For example, kill a Mafioso and the whole mob is after you. So the player must figure out how to get out of these situations and how to use their connections to their advantage.

The website for the game is now online, as well as our 40 page design document.


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  1. Mark Silverstein - law designer permalink

    Art imitates weltpolitik.

    America is the Thomas Argent of nations in a world that lives and behaves like 1930s Chicago (or at least early 21st century Mumbai). It moves about the world in the Game Noir of international relations. Kill one bad actor–say, that Stalin copycat in Baghdad–or leave a gap where once there was a lot of terrorist noise, and the whole world is out to get you. You move on, using your connections, collar upturned, watching your back, hoping that dentist fellow at the last safe house remembered to re-tune your fillings to pick up the unused frequencies somewhere between AM and FM–or whatever the equivalent behavior is for a nation.

  2. This sounds just like I had imagined it when I read the original blurb.

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