Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

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Westeford
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Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#1 Post by Westeford » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:36 am

Right now, I'm working on a story about a college student preventing murders.
The game is like a detective mystery game, but instead of investigating crimes that have already taken place, the player works to prevent crimes that WILL take place.
During certain times, the player will get premonitions of the future. It's up to the player and a few of his fellow classmates to prevent these future crimeOne of the big problems I've had is that the cases were either impossible to win or impossible to lose, no in-between.
I don't want to use time travel, the player is a seer.

I appreciate ideas and ways to approach this idea. I have many situations in mind, but the execution is what I'm having troubles with. Thanks in advance.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#2 Post by ArcialIntegra » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:33 am

I assume you're trying to do the writing and not have someone do it for you. In that case, let me show you my process... So, you need ideas, huh?
Well, first you need to know the root of your core idea: college student has premonitions of crimes and is trying to prevent them from happening.
Cool, so let's break this down...
-What can you do with the idea of the MC being a college student?
-What can you do with the premonitions of crimes?
-What can you do with the crime prevention aspect?

To start, let me address the second point, as it's the easiest. There are multiple things you can do, but the simplest for a beginner is this: Make it so that the premonitions are jumbled and uncertain. With this, you can play with the idea of the premonitions being crimes and you can also play with the idea of who is the victim and who is the culprit. It's very easy to see an alleyway, a man, a woman, and a knife (all as separate images) and presume that the man is holding the woman at knife-point in the alley. What if it's the other way around? You're not being shown a clear image, just a set of images that imply a chain of events. Additionally, you can always leave parts out making it more of a challenge for the MC to figure out what is going on. Next, you can put a twist on this... Don't make it so every premonition is a crime. Make some of the premonitions be of innocuous things that simply look bad. This forces the MC to need to think more about his actions because he could do something bad himself if he is wrong.

With him being a college student, you can tackle various campus issues including date rape, drug abuse, and academic cheating (just as examples). You can play around with the settings and potential crime scenes based on where a college student would go. You can also set it so that a premonition will only occur if, and only if, you've been to the scene before, allowing there to be some rhyme and reason to the premonitions.

As for crime prevention, you can have the MC prevent the crime through the victim or through the culprit and have a different script for each. You can use choice menus or you can use minigames and quicktime events to stop a crime before it begins. You can even use point-and-click elements for evidence-gathering.

Each part of your base idea opens up whole new avenues that you can take your story. I recommend seeing what you can come up with by looking at each part as its own thing. If you want, use my suggestions, but I recommend coming up with some other ideas on your own so you can better decide for yourself what you like.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#3 Post by Katy133 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:29 pm

Also study other works that explore this idea (a MC who tries to prevent a crime that they know is going to happen). Look at how they approached it and ask yourself questions like, "What do I like about this?" "What aspects do I NOT like?" "How could I make this idea better or different?"

Here is a list of works I know:
  • The Sexy Brutale (Video game: A priest--the player character--indirectly prevents several murders from happening in a casino, using a magic pocket watch that resets the day, infinitely.)
  • Minority Report (Book/Film/Series: A police force division that uses a machine to predict when a crime is about to happen. The main character finds out that the machine has predicted that they will commit a crime.)
  • Ghost Trick (Video game: A ghost is able to manipulate objects to prevent people from being murdered. If the ghost fails, time goes backwards to a point where they can prevent the murder.)
  • Watch_Dogs (Video game: The player has a magic phone that allows them to predict where and when a crime is going to happen. The player has to go to that location, wait until the crime starts to happen, and then intervene before someone gets hurt.)
  • There's many more examples of this premise listed in TV Tropes: Precrime Arrest.
Hope this helps!
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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#4 Post by Kinjo » Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:41 am

Sounds interesting.

Having not played or seen any of the things Katy mentioned, I'm still pretty familiar with the crime genre, so here's my suggestion: use the premonitions to show a certain clue, and then the detective follows that clue to find the culprit. Pretty simple, but allow me to elaborate.

Take for instance the premonition of a murder, and the detective sees that it was a stabbing, and the murder weapon was a knife. Maybe the knife has a very specific emblem on it. So the detective is able to track down whoever owns this special knife, through talking to various people and following trails of evidence. Then once the culprit-to-be is found, the detective either takes away the knife (thus preventing the murder), talks the culprit out of doing it, or catches them in the act.

You can replace the knife with any other murder weapon, or any other identifiable piece of clothing, unique landmarks, names, specific times, weather patterns, and so on. The point is that there is a solid chain of people who know about the thing, one who is close to the detective and one who is close to the culprit. The premonition always depicts what the detective should be looking for, but it's up to the detective to actually figure out where to find it.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#5 Post by Westeford » Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:56 pm

I appreciate everyone for their suggestions. I've been able to straighten out the plot. Most of the issues I ran into have been resolved.
I am still trying to figure out how the player figures out WHEN the crimes happen. (As in day and time.)
Each premonition could show a clock in the background or show the sun's glare, but that feels a bit forced.
Thanks.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#6 Post by Katy133 » Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:52 pm

Westeford wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:56 pm
I appreciate everyone for their suggestions. I've been able to straighten out the plot. Most of the issues I ran into have been resolved.
I am still trying to figure out how the player figures out WHEN the crimes happen. (As in day and time.)
Each premonition could show a clock in the background or show the sun's glare, but that feels a bit forced.
Thanks.
For when the crimes happen, you could use some sort of "landmark event" (an event that everyone knows about, which would explain why the main character knows about it), like a festival, public speech, or a predicted storm. For example, the MC could have a vision of someone getting murdered. In the vision, the MC sees clues in the background, and sees that the murder is taking place on a stage with a podium and a crowd of people (a public speech).

If you want a movie example, the MC in Back to the Future knows that
he has to travel back in time during a thunder storm (because he needs the power of a bolt of lightning to power his time machine and knows that the town's clock tower is going to get struck by lightning at a certain time).
In the video game Life is Strange, the MC is trying to
prevent several of her friends from being killed by various freak accidents/incidents, while also trying to prevent a giant storm that is approaching her town. She has time-travel powers that allow her choices to invoke "the butterfly effect."
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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#7 Post by Kinjo » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:04 am

Westeford wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:56 pm
I appreciate everyone for their suggestions. I've been able to straighten out the plot. Most of the issues I ran into have been resolved.
I am still trying to figure out how the player figures out WHEN the crimes happen. (As in day and time.)
Each premonition could show a clock in the background or show the sun's glare, but that feels a bit forced.
Thanks.
Well, in the first place I'd think it would be more suspenseful if the player doesn't know when the crime is going to happen. So it's a race against the clock!

That said, I can think of a few ways of conveying the time:
  • Maybe from the premonition, the detective determines that it takes place at a theater, or some sports stadium, but the specific event hasn't happened yet. So then the detective knows that when that event occurs, the crime will also take place. Basically anything that can be planned ahead of time, like the renovation of a building ,construction site, press conference, bake sale, etc.
  • Or let's say we know where it's going to happen, but there isn't a particular event going on. For some reason, the place looks different from the premonition (maybe some stuff has been redecorated, or hasn't been placed in the room yet) so the detective has to pay attention to what gets moved and to where.
  • Or maybe in the premonition there's a snowstorm, and the town hasn't had a snowstorm in a really long time, so the detective has to watch weather reports to see when the next one will occur.
  • Or something as simple as seeing if the ground is wet, therefore it must have happened just after a rainstorm.
  • Last but not least, indirectly determine the time by interrogating suspects and gathering evidence to deduce when the culprit will most likely strike.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#8 Post by ArcialIntegra » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:08 pm

Westeford wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:56 pm
I appreciate everyone for their suggestions. I've been able to straighten out the plot. Most of the issues I ran into have been resolved.
I am still trying to figure out how the player figures out WHEN the crimes happen. (As in day and time.)
Each premonition could show a clock in the background or show the sun's glare, but that feels a bit forced.
Thanks.
If you want to show when a crime is happening, you can make it so that whenever the MC goes to an outdoor place, they look up and see the sun/moon, the clouds, and any trees. This way, it gives your MC a general idea of when a crime will occur. For instance, if it's after a heavy rain, the clouds may have dispersed, but water may still be dripping from the leaves. If it's day, it helps to know how cloudy it is. If it's night, it's good to note the specific phase of the moon. If there is snow on the trees, you know the crime takes place at some time after a snowfall. If the leaves are changing color, you know it's late summer/early fall. If there are decorations up or fireworks going off, you know it's a holiday. These give you details to work with. As a result, you can also set these details into the visions. If the MC checks these conditions regularly already, it won't be forced for them to know these details when it comes to the crime. Additionally, you can occasionally make use of other details. For instance, clocks/watches are classics, but they are rare when most people have phones with clocks on them. As a result, the clock could more be an indicator of location and watches could indicate social class if the victim/suspect is still an unknown person. This helps narrow down possibilities, making it like a game of preemptive clue. Additionally, you have a smart phone's lock screen that you can use. If you know who a victim/culprit is but can't determine the time of the crime, you can use their lock screen itself as a clue. When their lock screen image changes to a certain image (based on the premonition), the MC will know that the countdown timer for the crime has already begun, even when the exact time is yet to be determined. You should use everything you can to help determine the time of the crime. New scars/tattoos, weather, day/night/dusk/dawn, arguments, even lessons at school. Everything can be used to indicate a crime will be occurring soon.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#9 Post by BarabiSama » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:02 pm

ArcialIntegra wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:08 pm
If you want to show when a crime is happening, you can make it so that whenever the MC goes to an outdoor place, they look up and see the sun/moon, the clouds, and any trees.
As an extension of this, you could make it so the MC has slight control during all (or just longer) premonitions. These would be out-of-body actions that don't affect what's happening in the premonition but offer additional clues. But because they take time, the player can only choose one action to take of all available.

For example, they could choose between looking in the criminal's bag (giving a clue to their identity / intention), looking closer at the victim's watch (giving a clue to the time it happens), or observing the wall behind them (giving a clue to the location).

Whether or not this is feasible depends on how linear you want the cases to be.

If every playthrough just needs to end with the same clues being discovered, you could have the ones they skipped accessible later on, thanks to their choice. (ex: maybe they notice a similar bag abandoned on a bench nearby, and because it's a lighter color, realize it was wet in the vision... they later hear a rainstorm is coming & know to act fast.)
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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#10 Post by Westeford » Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:42 am

I did some thinking (that can't be good.) and one thing that kept coming up whenever I write the cases. The MC has premonitions, he sees a key moment of a crime and then goes to prevent the crime that happens in a few in game days (Usually less than a week.). The argument that kept popping up is 'why would he bother looking into the future crime beyond when it will happen and where it will happen?'
The MC and co's main goal is to prevent crimes. Then either catch the culprit in the act or convince the culprit to not do it.
I'm rambling again...

I guess what I'm looking for are some arguments for why the MC should care about learning all the details beyond when and where.
I also love reading everyone's input.

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Re: Looking for ideas: Precrime Story Critique

#11 Post by Katy133 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:52 pm

Westeford wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:42 am
I guess what I'm looking for are some arguments for why the MC should care about learning all the details beyond when and where.
I also love reading everyone's input.
If I could go back to my example of using The Sexy Brutale, I'd like to explain what it does in the tutorial level (since that's the least spoiler-y puzzle in it).

In the tutorial, you're shown the first murder, and have the ability to reset the day and repeat the murder over and over until you prevent it from happening.
A watchmaker is shot by the murderer in a chapel, always at a certain time. The chapel is connected to a set of rooms, one of which is a hunter's trophy room, which is where the murderer gets the murder weapon: A loaded gun. The player cannot remove the gun from the case, and removing the bullet doesn't prevent the murder, as the killer will use a candleholder as a weapon if he finds no bullets in the gun. Another room is a study that contains a safe. The watchmaker enters this room, opens the safe, and searches it (spilling a lot of items on the floor, including a blank cartridge). Not finding what he's looking for, he goes to the chapel to continue searching.
Got all that? Can you guess what happens? The solution to prevent the murder is this:
Sneak into the study and hide there until the watchmaker opens the safe and leaves. Pick up the blank cartridge. Go quickly to the trophy room before the killer gets there. Replace the real bullet with the blank. Leave the room and--from a safe distance--observe the what now happens in the chapel.
From all that, we can see why it's important for the MC to know all the details. They not only had to know the killer, the victim, the location, and the time; they also had to learn
1) Where the murder weapon was. 2) Where they could find a blank cartridge. 3) The timing of when the killer gets the gun. 4) The timing of when the victim opens the safe. And 5) The various places the MC can hide without being spotted by anyone.
That's five different factors the player has to keep in mind.
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