Face Time

One of the strengths of the interactive fiction genre is its ability to tackle subject matter that’s normally very difficult for other genres. The range of interactive fiction is staggering, but one area the genre shines, but in which the rest of video gaming struggles, is with relationships.

Face Time is a game about a masquerade party. The character has just been dumped after a long-term relationship and he’s invited to a formal dress masquerade party by his friend in order to help him get over his lingering feelings.

While not stereotypically interactive fiction, Face Time is a cross between interactive fiction and adventure games that’s called a “visual novel.” You still interact with the world entirely through text, however there are images in the background that lay out the scene. When responding, you are limited in your responses to multiple choices. It’s very similar to a giant game-long dialogue tree.

Which works well here because dialogue trees are best at allowing the player to discover information by exhausting all the options in the conversation. The story here is entirely about discovering information—information about the player’s character, about the other characters (who is behind that mask, anyway?), etc. It’s about the player’s efforts to get laid and get over his ex. I think the dialogue tree serves the story well, here.

Talking Points: Does the visual-novel format work for trying to unravel the story? Is the standard dialogue tree good at conveying the back and forth between the player and the women he’s interested in? Do the masks add tension to the conversation, where you don’t know who you’re talking to most of the time?

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Comments

Spoiler:
Supposedly the main character has prosopagnosia, though I haven't found evidence of this in the game itself

Geez, you're going to make me install Linux to play this, aren't you?

Citizen86 wrote:
Geez, you're going to make me install Linux to play this, aren't you?

The "Download Now" link points to a Windows version.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Citizen86 wrote:
Geez, you're going to make me install Linux to play this, aren't you?

The "Download Now" link points to a Windows version.

Yes Windows is the default version whenever there's multiple platforms.

I stand corrected. Thanks for the clarification

PyromanFO wrote:
Spoiler:
Supposedly the main character has prosopagnosia, though I haven't found evidence of this in the game itself
Spoiler:
Definitely, and it explains a lot about the game. The first line of dialog from each person is under a ?? character name, until he identifies them by their actions (calls me buddy, violent friend punches, etc). He can recognize the masks at the party, so that works until anybody takes the mask off. It also explains his nickname of 'player', because he would have trouble recognizing girls again after something happened, and would tend to seem like he's ignoring people (like the girl with the notes).

Not knowing the prosopagnosia thing, it's just a quirky little game about a guy with annoying friends and a broken heart. Knowing about that changes my entire perception of the game, and the problems the main character has.

So I just got blue-balled by this Mariana chick.

Despite the fact that I was able to correctly guess her name out of a list of eight or nine girls.

I'm pissed.

Edit: +1 for Jolly's interpretation above. Lot of hints in the dialog.

Spoiler:
"Tonight everyone is on my terms," or something like that, in reference to the mask party (where identities will be unclear for everyone, not just prosopagnosia guy).

I'm having trouble getting more than a few endings. Does it say somewhere how many there actually are?

Edit: Ok here's what I can get

Spoiler:
Rosa is the easiest, for obvious reasons
I got Libby and got punched
Mariana is not too difficult

Who else is there?

Citizen86 wrote:
I'm having trouble getting more than a few endings. Does it say somewhere how many there actually are?

Edit: Ok here's what I can get

Spoiler:
Rosa is the easiest, for obvious reasons
I got Libby and got punched
Mariana is not too difficult

Who else is there?



Spoiler:
I'm assuming there's a Helen ending (I think she's in the cat mask in the parlor), and one where you get with note girl from the backyard. I'm curious if there's any way to have a no one ending, Rosa really seems to take care of that, though.

Jolly Bill wrote:
Spoiler:
I'm assuming there's a Helen ending (I think she's in the cat mask in the parlor), and one where you get with note girl from the backyard. I'm curious if there's any way to have a no one ending, Rosa really seems to take care of that, though.

Spoiler:
That's what I'm trying to figure out. I think Julia is the name of note girl. I can't pin either of those two down though. Whoops, I did it again

Spoiler:
I'm going to disagree about the game just being a "quirkly little game" without the prosopagnosia thing. I didn't know that playing through the first time and I thought the approach with the masks and not knowing who you're talking to really got me into the game. So many dialogue trees suffer from the constraint problem, where you're sitting there and you just know what you'd say but you can't say it. With this, you don't know who you're talking to or even who the main character is, so I never felt constrained. If anything, it got me into the conversations even more.

"Why would my character say that?"
"Why does she say that about him?"
etc.

Obviously the prosopagnosia angle gives it an entirely different meaning, which I think is great too.

Only one play-through, but as usual with any game that tries relationships, I find that a male protagonist never:

- has any options that are intentionally charming
- acts selflessly
- is more than 20 years old.

Yes, it's clear that this particular example has other problems, too, but even when I was 18 I didn't think it was cool to act as though I was 18. I find it hard to believe that any 18-year-old ever got laid by acting 18.

But then, I'm the kind of guy who gets happier every year.

Nathaniel wrote:
Only one play-through, but as usual with any game that tries relationships, I find that a male protagonist never:

- has any options that are intentionally charming
- acts selflessly
- is more than 20 years old.

Yes, it's clear that this particular example has other problems, too, but even when I was 18 I didn't think it was cool to act as though I was 18. I find it hard to believe that any 18-year-old ever got laid by acting 18.

But then, I'm the kind of guy who gets happier every year.

I'm not entirely sure this character is meant as a "this is how you should act" type of character.

In fact, I'd say the endings I've seen so far show that the character is very clearly not what the author thinks you should act like to be successful in relationships.

PyromanFO wrote:
I'm not entirely sure this character is meant as a "this is how you should act" type of character.

In fact, I'd say the endings I've seen so far show that the character is very clearly not what the author thinks you should act like to be successful in relationships.

This is where I start having a problem with some sorts of game design. If the point is to put ME in the game, then I want to be me, or at least a person I can identify with. To quote from my dungeon master of old: "I don't want to play with players that choose evil characters. If you want to fantasize about doing evil, there is something wrong with you."

That's not to say I can't identify with someone who is doing evil (as opposed to being evil) but I have to understand motivations. Dungeon Keeper was an excellent game because it made clear that the "good guys" were namby-pamby silly little beings, and at the same time had a tongue-in-cheek funniness that suggested that your choices were entirely fictional, even whimsical.

Similarly, I could identify with ME2's "evil" Shepherd quite easily. S/he was clearly at the core moral, if somewhat greedy or self-centered at times, and might be prone to a self-serving moral calculus. But that's in a gray zone I could accept.

On the other hand, I would never go to a party and just try to sleep with any chick I could - and if you want me to identify with that character, you'd better give me a reason why HE wants to, other than thoughtless teenage hormonalism.

But that's just me.

On the other hand, I would never go to a party and just try to sleep with any chick I could - and if you want me to identify with that character, you'd better give me a reason why HE wants to, other than thoughtless teenage hormonalism.
Why is thoughtless teenage hormonalism not sufficient reason? Do teenagers not act this way?

I have no problem with someone saying "I dislike games where I play teenagers trying to sleep with girls". But it's not really the game's fault. I think it's done a very good job portraying the subject matter.

PyromanFO wrote:
I have no problem with someone saying "I dislike games where I play teenagers trying to sleep with girls". But it's not really the game's fault. I think it's done a very good job portraying the subject matter.

Perhaps it's advertising then. If the game were about "simulating a slightly flawed but stereotypically stupid teenage boy" then OK. But in that case I think you have to relinquish the idea of the game exploring relationships in an interesting fashion.

I'm going to have to get back to this when I'm home.

Nathaniel wrote:
This is where I start having a problem with some sorts of game design. If the point is to put ME in the game, then I want to be me, or at least a person I can identify with. To quote from my dungeon master of old: "I don't want to play with players that choose evil characters. If you want to fantasize about doing evil, there is something wrong with you."

I'd argue that immaturity lies more in the inability to assume another perspective, even understanding that the other perspective may be in many ways inferior to your own.

Jolly Bill wrote:
Spoiler:
I'm assuming there's a Helen ending (I think she's in the cat mask in the parlor), and one where you get with note girl from the backyard. I'm curious if there's any way to have a no one ending, Rosa really seems to take care of that, though.


I just got it. I'm...a little confused. Going back through it again to play it again and really drill into the dialogue to see if I can make more sense of it. IF what I think I read actually happened, this game just got a lot deeper.

EDIT:

Spoiler:
Okay, I went through it again, it wasn't quite what I thought earlier. By far the most interesting ending, though. I don't want to say much until someone else has seen it too. Anyway, so far I've seen four: Mariana, Libby, Rosa, and Helen. Are there any others? Has anyone been able to get any actual interaction with the peacock girl who randomly accosts you sometime during the night?

Great find Pyro. I passed this onto a close friend who relates a lot to the protagonist. It will be interesting to hear his take on the story.

Spoiler:
I went with the Rosa ending and got blue-balled.

EDIT:

He compared it to his first year of college. I played through it a few more times and realized how hard things can be for him.

I can't figure out how to get the fourth ending, I just keep going in circles.

Spoiler:
The Rosa ending is what you get even if you exhaust all your other options. The Libby ending seems really evil and you rightfully get punched, even if you discourage Tim from showing up at the parlor. The Mariana ending is the one where you learn the most about your own character and it's kind of sad.

I know that the Jeweled Mask in the backyard is Julia because Rosa says her name if you pissed her off earlier, but if you don't piss her off it doesn't seem like she responds to any conversation options. I have no idea who the Cat Mask or the Feathered Mask are but they both seem to hate the player, not sure if one of them is Helen. Mariana mentions that Helen threw up on her mask so they both seem too sober.

Also, does the rewind function work for anyone? The documentation says you can reverse time with page up or mouse wheel up, but it doesn't seem to work. It'd be a lot easier to explore the possibility tree if it did work.

Latrine wrote:
I can't figure out how to get the fourth ending, I just keep going in circles.

Spoiler:
The only other ending I think is possible is Helen herself, who is "cat mask" girl. Here's how I triggered it:

1. Go to the kitchen first; refuse to follow eagle mask girl
2. When superhero mask girl (Libby) comes in, tell her that you saw Tom checking out other girls and that he's here somewhere. This seems to be important!
3. Head to parlor. Converse with Cat Mask girl. Big fight happens (hence point 2).
4. Choose a couple of correct dialogue options (they're pretty obvious)
5. Enjoy Helen ending! By far the most interesting, if you ask me. Changed my opinion of the game.

Wow, that one made me more depressed than the others. Almost makes me feel like he's validated in acting like a dick, because no one even remotely understands why he has trouble, or gives him enough credit to wonder if there might be something behind how he acts.

Also, it makes me realize that it definitely was NOT Helen who puked on Mariana's mask, but Libby, and Mariana was just mistaking who it was... something that happens to the protagonist all the time.

Ah, starting a fight between Libby and Tom was what I was missing. And yeah, that ending is even weirder.

I'm not surprised that the other characters don't recognize the player's difficulty since it's not a common condition and his other male friends act similarly anyway. I think the protagonist is not mature enough to accept his disability and allow others to know about it.

Latrine wrote:
Ah, starting a fight between Libby and Tom was what I was missing. And yeah, that ending is even weirder.

I'm not surprised that the other characters don't recognize the player's difficulty since it's not a common condition and his other male friends act similarly anyway. I think the protagonist is not mature enough to accept his disability and allow others to know about it.

I disagree. My friend chooses to work around it for his own specific reasons. His methods are somewhat unorthodox and interesting, but if anything else he became impervious to walking up to someone and saying, "Hi." without being awkward about it. I think you can accept a disability without broadcasting it to the world. I only found out by hanging out with him and asking about any observations I made.

He doesn't have to let everyone he knows about it, but surely if you're in a relationship with someone it's a good idea to let them know. The reason the protagonist has relationship problems is because he doesn't let anyone close enough to share.

Also this is only tangentially related to the game but there was a good episode of Radiolab where they interviewed two guys with face blindness. http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiol...