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Gameplay Mechanic a Month: Observation

Month 4 - April 2013

Drawing of Marie

Mechanic Description:

Solve a mystery by using your powers of observation. Read a story one line at a time and decide whether each line is worth remember or forgetting. Edit your memories to find different endings.

This mechanic uses a simple text adventure/interactive story setting to encourage players to notice what they are reading. Normal mystery novels are solved without the player having to do any work at all. Here, players must observe what they are reading and decide which lines are important and which ones are not.

Playable in the following game:

The Tree Mysteries Part One: Marie's Mr Right




Interactive story

Game Description:

You play as a young woman named Marie. You and your housemates had a dinner party last night and you can't seem to remember everything that happened. You have an enigmatic phone message about Mr Right and it seems that Mr Right might not be your boyfriend! Talk to your housemates to find out who Mr Right is and listen to their opinions about your love life. Choose whether or not to listen to your friends, follow your heart, follow your mind or a little of everything.

For this implementation, the story was written in a spreadsheet and can be switched out for another story completely. That is, the code is entirely independent on the story being told. The syntax requires the spreadsheet to specify the conditions for which each passage of text is valid based on what the player has "remembered" and which passages have already been seen by the player. This means that if desired, the code framework can be used to create an entirely different game about different people and different mysteries.


A Line of Text

A line of text

Each line of the story is presented one at a time. Players choose to "remember" or "forget" each line.

Missed a Clue

Missed a Clue

If you miss a clue you need to re-read the last passage to find out what you missed.

Gameplay Instructions:


There is a Unity web player version of the implemented game.

Other Comments and Considerations:

The story behind this game was inspired by the idea called "The Curious Case of the Tree in the Living Room", created for my Idea a Week Project.


An analysis of the gameplay mechanic written by me in March 2015.

This game was an idea that had been running around in my head for almost 2 years. The original vision was a multiplayer point and click adventure game with 6 characters and mini plots for each character all going at once. I wanted to try just one of the character's mini plots and see if I could get it to work. I particularly wanted to have a mystery that wasn't like a passive mystery in a book. That is, I wanted the player to feel like they had contributed to the solution to the mystery, rather than just being a passive observer.

What Went Right:        

What Went Wrong:        

Hug Rating:
3 hugs

The idea might work if it was deciding if an entire paragraph had “important” information or not. But I think ultimately unless the branching options were made more obvious to players (eg by telling the player explicitly, you didn’t notice A so now this is happening), players would feel like there weren’t doing anything.

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