We've got an exciting Gaming Report this week, I managed to get behind closed doors with a top-secret new project at E3 that's going to revolutionize the way games tell stories. You may have heard of the DaVinci Code Game, the action/adventure title that is out now on the PC and the various consoles. What isn't common knowledge is that there's a second DaVinci Code Game being worked on in secret. Instead of a more traditional adventure game with a fixed plot, the game promises to have a plot that is entirely dynamic! Never the same story twice! Furthermore, the player completely controls the story through their actions. Not only can you relive the exciting thrill-a-minute story of The DaVinci Code movie, you can generate your own story by playing the game. Want to expose the Priory's secret to the world? Want to join the Opus Dei? It's all in your control, and we got an exclusive backstage session with the game and its designers! Read on for the unbelievable events of our play through a part of the game.
The game itself has several new technologies which allow the real time generation of the story as the player progresses. The most impressive shown to us was the Fully Orthogonal Realtime Multi User Linguistics Assembler. It's a very complicated software mechanism that takes in the various actions of the player and generates the major plot points for the other characters (or "digital actors" as the developers like to call them) to calculate their "digital performance" around, digitally. The results are truly amazing, the play through we witnessed was almost like watching a new Dan Brown novel unfold, and it was written by me! I playfully asked if they might see my little adventure on the best-seller list someday. The developers laughed and said "No, probably not" then made me sign a form saying so.
As I sat down at the controller the developer was narrating the various aspects of the gameplay. If you don't want to have the ending of the DaVinci Code movie spoiled, you might want to stop reading now. Also, you might not want to watch the first 5 minutes of the movie, as there's a good chance you'll have it figured out by then. In fact, if you really don't want the ending spoiled before it happens you should probably just drift in and out every few minutes in between shots of Karkov.
The first puzzle involved the Priory "Keystone", which is a complicated cryptographic device akin to Jesus' Secret Decoder Ring that in the movie contains the location of the Holy Grail. In the game, its contents are determined in real time by the game's dynamic storytelling system. How the player solves the puzzle can affect the story of the game in subtle yet amazing ways. The demo took place in the climactic sequence between Sir Leigh and Robert Langdon, which if I remember correctly is near the end of the movie, somewhere around the 8th hour.
At this point you'd think your character, Robert Langdon, is fully realized and fleshed out in the story. But the developers state that is the genius of the DaVinci Code story as it applies to a video game, the character even at this late point can be anything the player makes of it! In the movie Robert Langdon is played by Tom Hanks, and is a professor of Convenient Exposition at Harvard. Through his love of exposition, he solves several puzzles just in the nick of time, following the twisted but easily managed road to the Holy Grail. In the movie, Robert Langdon is a blank slate, ready with handy information but with almost no other defining personal characteristics whatsoever. Which is perfect for the game, as now the player can give Robert Langdon any personality traits they wish!
Enough chat about the design though, I want to describe my play through with the game and give you a taste of what the gameplay will be like. The Sir Leigh character was forcing me to try and solve the puzzle of the keystone so that he could open it and take the contents for himself. As I was doing this, Sophie Neveu, Sir Leigh and my character Robert Langdon were all discussing the various elements surrounding the mystery of the Holy Grail.
Remember all the details in the story in this playthrough are dynamically generated.
Here's my transcript from the play through.
I attempt to enter the word "Cross" as the passphrase for the keystone, it does not work.
Sophie: Sir Leigh, why do you want the contents of the keystone so badly?
Sir Leigh: I'll tell you why Mademoiselle, it's because it gives the current location to the cross Jesus was crucified upon. Or should I say, the cross Jesus was crucified upon ... upside down.
Sophie: That's both shocking and controversial, how do you know?
I attempt to enter the word "Spear" as the passphrase, it does not work.
Sir Leigh: It's a widely known fact, my dear. How else could the Romans have pierced Jesus side with the spear ... since they were midgets.
Robert Langdon: That's never been proven and I don't believe you, but it's so shocking yet plausable it must be true.
I panic at this latest revelation and enter "helpp" as the passphrase.
Sir Leigh: It is the secret the Priory of Scion has guarded these many years, with the ritual of Noctural Helpp.
Robert Langdon: The existence of the ritual of Noctural Helpp has never been proven as historical fact.
Sir Leigh: Or, maybe it has!
I enter "restart" as the passphrase.
Sir Leigh: For you see, the writings of the French poet Restart show that the Gospel of the Jerry has been found, and brutally hidden by a secret arm of the Vatican.
Unable to concentrate due to these lighting fast revelations, I enter "boots" as the passphrase.
Robert Langdon: The Gospel of the Jerry only states that Jesus had boots, not that they are the Holy Grail.
Sir Leigh: You can clearly see the boots in the symbology of the Knights Templar and the Masonic Order!
Still awestruck, I enter "yarnb". The keystone unlocks!
Robert Langdon: The keystone, it unlocked! And it contains a message!
Sophie: Amazing! That must mean ...
Robert Langdon: Yes. We're off to the Church of Yarnb!
Unfortunately my play session ended at this time and I was escorted from the building. Perhaps I knew too much? My mind was still reeling from all the controversial yet plausible revelations. It's like everything I'd ever suspected about people I've never heard of turned out to be true! How the game systems could research that much information on the fly, I do not know. The plot of my tiny play through session was as intricate and as spellbinding as the DaVinci Code movie, it's truly the next generation of storytelling. I must be going now, for I'm sure I've been spotted by the followers of Yarnb that have been trailing me all these many weeks since my encounter at E3. This has been Pyroman[FO] for the Gaming Report, and remember, seek the truth, seek the codes, seek the Facts.