Kishōtenketsu Released

Seeing as Kishōtenketsu is basically complete it seems like a good idea to write up an announcement and post-production update.

I stated the game last summer while I was on vacation. Thought it would be nice to take a break from my main project and work on something small and fun. At the time I had an interest in the kishōtenketsu narrative structure thanks to Mark Brown’s Gamemaker’s Toolkit on Mario 3D world’s level design which used the structure as inspiration. This interest inspired me to design an entire game based around this, where the core of the game itself is build around it. I then got to work figuring out how I could do this.

A story written using kishōtenketsu consists of 4 parts: the introduction, development, a twist, then a conclusion. To elaborate, a concept is introduced to the audience and is then is elaborated or expanded upon. After the concept is developed, a twist is added; some sort of unexpected element. The conclusion brings the original concept and the twist together showing the audience how they relate. The key of a kishōtenketsu narrative is in that twist. It adds uncertainty to the narrative, peaking the audience’s curiosity.

Theme now in mind, I had to figure out how to apply this to a game. I decided the best way to do this is to split the game into three parts, two of which would have vastly different gameplay and the third combining those in some way. It was not lost on me that I decided on a complex and tricky concept for my “simple game.” I decided early on to make the game in Pico-8 due to it’s simplicity. Pico-8’s limited inputs lead to my first revelation, that the first two games would each use a different half of the inputs with the third would use all the inputs with each input preforming the same action as before. I came up with each action then got to work on the first two parts. As neither of them were particularly difficult I was able to finish them with little issue. The final part, however, proved tricky. I couldn’t figure out how to combine the first two parts into a game. I worked on it for a while, but my vacation ended so I went back to work on my larger project.

Moving forward a few months, I dropped that large project I was working on and wanted to get back on my feet quickly and this half-finished game was just the way to do that. I still wasn’t sure how it should play, so to help me think I started programming. I knew what each input had to do so I programmed that in and played around with it hoping the rest would come to me. And it did! Now with the final pieces in mind I got to work. After a straight week of programming I now had a completed game!

It’s rough, it’s basic, and maybe not great. But I do think it’s a pretty solid game and an interesting experiment in game design. Only thing I’m working on adding is some sound effects and music. This game is meant to be a simple test of an experimental game design philosophy so I’m not going to try and polish it too much. I think the experiment was successful and might use this idea in future game I create. It feels amazing to actually finish a game!