Reflections is a narrative-based experience where you shape the life of the protagonist through interactions with the environment, friends, family and decisions on how to spend your day which will impact the rest of your character’s life with unforeseen results.
You probably think you’ve heard this intro applied to games before…
However, co-founder of Broken Window Studios Tristan Parrish Moore believes that this is the “walking simulator” for people who don’t like walking simulators.
Moore was fed up with the illusion of choice in games, which only resulted in a different colored ending or the binary options to kill an NPC now for more power or save their lives for a reward later which games shackled players with.
Moore wants to create Reflections where the game will be reactive to your decisions rather than force you down a specific path with the illusion of options along the way.
Reflections offers a three act structure where choices in act one will lead players to potentially 5 different second acts. From here the player will finish the game with 13 different ending scenarios – each with their own Easter eggs and callbacks from earlier decisions.
“About 90% of the game won’t be seen in a single playthrough,” Moore states of Reflection’s variances in player outcomes.
The different playthroughs are shaped by how the player interacts with the world. The starting environment is black and white but when the player moves to open a drawer, interact with a note or throw a football the objects and environment are filled in with color. These splashes of color showcase the butterfly effect of how your actions determine your future.
“All the items you interact with have a chance to shape your outcome. The Storyteller system is like a personality quiz. Everything is part of your tapestry and what ending you see isn’t determined by one action – it’s the aggregate of actions and trends that will choose your path. Opening one door won’t change your outcome.”
“Reflections is foremost a narrative experience,” Moore explains there is no traditional win condition in each section of the game. You can do whatever you want in the days of story segments - run out of time or choose to end the day early the world is decided by the player.
“The process of replaying the game is woven into the narrative.” Players will have the opportunity to try a different playthrough and see the various endings that they didn’t reach on their initial run. It is an interesting take on the question, what would my life have been like if I did X instead of Y. Reflections wants you to take this feeling from the game world into your own life and evaluate the choices you’ve made along the way.
Reflections is currently in Early Access on Steam (available at a discount) and does offer a true beginning, middle and conclusion. The story elements discussed previously will be fully fleshed out when the game releases later this year.
The Early Access model helped shape the development of Reflections. Moore notes that players would pick up the football and throw it at their girlfriend, not to be malicious but to see if she would catch the ball. The Storyteller engine is evolving to incorporate these real-world scenarios into the player’s experience. However, if you try and do something unrealistic, like throw a dart at an NPC they won’t be able to catch it.
“There is not an unlimited set of options. Certain things are predetermined for you - like what type of life you start out in and what ranges are available. People have asked if there is a mass murder ending. [There isn’t] What we are trying to do is build a core set of experiences that can be expressed through gameplay.”
One of the central gameplay mechanics when I demoed Reflections at MomoCon was the color splash as you explored the world. Moore confirms that this feature will not impede color-blind players from experiencing Reflections and they are working on deploying 2 or 3 colorblind options which will update the palate of the world to the immersion experience.
Reflections is available on Steam Early Access today with a future release on PC, Mac and Linux with a PS4 and Xbox One date to follow. To learn more about the development process check out Broken Window Studios and attend MomoCon next year for up and coming indie developers.