What is the Unofficial Case Design Discussion of the Month?
It's a place to discuss specific challenges we face and decisions we make when we design cases.
Currently, to the extent that AAO members discuss design, it's limited to private chats, if it occurs at all. I propose to address one topic each month in a dedicated thread.
How does the discussion work?
Each month, I'll post a problem or challenge in the form of a short post followed by a series of starter questions. I won't give my own thoughts until a few people have replied. You don't have to answer the starter questions directly, though! They're just there to get discussion started!
1: Do not cite fancases as examples of a bad design decision unless 1) the author(s) have given permission to open up their cases to critique in this thread, or you are the author yourself, AND 2) you can make a positive suggestion as to what that case could have done differently. It's easier to criticize than to solve problems, and we don't want this thread to descend into some kind of public shaming ritual.
2: Commercial cases (such as the AA games) don't require permission from the author for constructive criticism here. However, the rule that no problem should be cited without a positive suggestion still applies.
3: However, it is encouraged that you point out fancases that have handled a design problem particularly well, and set an example we can learn from. There is no need to ask permission for this.
4: Avoid gratuitous off-topic content. For my own part, I promise not to spam pigeons.
5: Of course, all of the usual forum rules apply, too!
The canonical Ace Attorney games tend to be highly linear, especially in the courtroom. There are few alternative paths, and while one might rearrange the order of events in an investigation slightly, the trials tend to be tightly restrictive. In a few cases, there are different ways or orders in which evidence can be presented, but this is not usual. Even the most striking player choice of AA, the final decision in 2-4, results in relatively little changed dialogue.
In contrast, some visual novels offer much more extreme branching. Some of the earliest mystery VNs, such as the Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), include relatively free exploration and endings. Kamaitachi no Yoru (1994) (Banshee's Last Cry in the Aksys localization) goes so far as to give the player many different chances to solve the mystery. The longer the player takes, the more convoluted and bloody the mystery grows.
However, nonlinearity necessarily involves a tradeoff. Branching creates a great deal of extra work for the author, and highly branched works are harder to test. The developers of Ace Attorney were quite clear that pressures of time made true nonlinearity in an AA game unlikely.
But that restriction doesn't apply to AAO...
Some Possible Starter Questions:
* Would you like to see more nonlinearity in AAO cases?
** What benefits might nonlinearity bring?
** Are there any major drawbacks to consider?
* What sort of nonlinear structures might be worth considering in AAO cases?
** Example: One extreme nonlinear design would be to branch a game very early into three entirely different plots. A less-extreme one would be to have key decisions at multiple points, and track the player's choices to affect the ending.
* Have any AAO cases used nonlinear design especially effectively?