Jigsaw Puzzle Villa Feed

3 Tips for Writing Genuine Emotions in Mobile Games

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From the intro cutscene for Cash Journey’s seventh chapter.

By Jenna Hume

Writing in the casual game space presents a unique challenge because of the limited word count available for dialogue. It can be difficult to convey even fun, humorous moments in a few lines of speech, but writing serious, emotional moments can be even more difficult. At Brunette Games, we believe in three pillars of game storytelling: conflict, mystery, and connection. While we covered all three in our GDC talk on the subject, here I'd like to take a deeper dive on the third: connection. 

Connection is all about getting players to relate to a game’s story and characters. A great way to get players to connect with your game is by having the game’s characters experience relatable situations and emotions—the tricky part is getting these emotions to come off as authentic instead of manufactured or convenient. Here are some tricks for how to avoid this problem in your writing:

1. Create Emotionally-Complex Characters

When characters experience sudden emotional turmoil after hours of happy, wholesome gameplay, players can feel a bit cheated. What happened to the upbeat character(s) they loved? Are the game designers throwing in conflict just for advertising shock value? To avoid this problem, if you’re going to eventually draft emotional conflict in your game, you need to include emotionally-complex characters from the game’s conception. 

For example, in our new release Cash Journey with Jumbo Technology and Funtopia Ltd., we knew creating emotionally-stunted characters wasn’t an option. The narrative we crafted focused on three adult friends reuniting to search for a missing friend.

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Centering a story around a missing person is no easy feat, because you have to get players to care about a character they either haven’t met at all or haven’t seen much of. To pull off this story in Cash Journey, we had to characterize the missing character Skye through her friends and their memories of her. 

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The above example characterizes Skye as a peacekeeper—someone who keeps a group together. This is a common theme throughout Cash Journey, as the others have to learn to work as a team without Skye. From Cash Journey’s first chapter, we show Alice, Edmund, and Jack trying to find Skye while they cope with their emotions surrounding her disappearance. By including these emotions at the game's beginning, players aren’t surprised later when the characters deal with regret, guilt, and worry. This is just one way to make emotions come across as truly genuine. 

2. Allow the Text to Work in Tandem with the Visuals

While writing scripts, it can be easy to forget that the final game will feature copious amounts of artwork and graphics. Without the art being visible at the script stage, you can rely too heavily on text to explain emotions rather than using the text and eventual art. That’s why it’s so important to collaborate with artists while working on a script to determine needed character expressions as well as possible visuals to support the text. 

In our work on Puzzle Villa with ZiMAD, we had a great level of collaboration between our writing team and their artists and designers. 

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In the above example, we used both the text and character expressions to portray Valentina’s complex emotions over her deceased husband. The text by itself expresses anger, as Valentina suggests Carlos “rest in agony” instead of in peace. But her expression is sad, so it’s clear she’s still upset over his death despite her anger toward him. Character expressions may seem simple, but we at Brunette Games pick each one carefully; they're helpful for displaying complex emotions, such as the example above. 

In Puzzle Villa, we were also able to create flashback scenes with the aid of ZiMAD’s artists and designers. When possible, a change of art can catch players’ attention and help them focus on the scene. 

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In the above example, the setting is abruptly different from the library Justine was just in. The change can help refocus the player for a big moment, like Justine reflecting on her divorce and how it led to her passion for jigsaw puzzles. By letting the art do half the work, there’s less pressure to include a bunch of text to overexplain how Justine felt. Which leads to our next point…

3. Don't Overexplain

When dealing with complex emotions and situations, it can be tempting to explain everything in detail to the player. But this easily falls into “telling” instead of “showing,” which isn’t encouraged—you don’t want to tell players how to feel about an aspect of the story.

It's important to remember to give your players some credit—they can understand complex emotions without us needing to overexplain. Spelling out emotions isn’t necessary because players experience complex emotions themselves. A prime example of this can be found in City Escape, a title we worked on with Sparkling Society.

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In City Escape, the Filburn family moves from the city to the country to start their own homestead. While the parents are excited about this move, things don’t go quite as smoothly as they hoped. In the above examples, we don’t have Melanie specifically state she’s overwhelmed and frustrated. The text subtly implies this instead, often in humorous ways. 

Summary

With so many games in the mobile market, it’s important to provide players with a genuine experience—they can sniff out an inauthentic one a mile away. Beyond our three tips above, the key to writing genuine emotions in mobile games is to be intentional:

  1. Create emotionally-complex characters at your game’s conception.
  2. Work with your art team to allow the text and art to help convey emotion.
  3. Give your players some credit, and don’t overexplain.

If you’re considering how to make emotions in your game a genuine experience for players, you’re already way ahead of the game.


Pawsome! The Power of Pets in Mobile Games

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Official ‘Jigsaw Puzzle Villa’ artwork

By Dexter Woltman

Who doesn’t love snuggling on the couch with their favorite furry (or not-so-furry) friend? Pets play an important role in our lives, and most of the team at Brunette Games find ourselves fortunate enough to own one. Whether our pets are scratching at a toy, napping beside their owner, or—in my case—trying to crawl on my shoulder while I write, pets are a source of comfort and levity. When we’re designing ways to engage audiences with our games, we often translate that familiar sense of animal companionship into the stories we see onscreen.

Across Brunette Games’ 35 released titles and counting, we’ve featured a wide range of lovable pets. Some of our titles include a more traditional choice when it comes to our characters’ animal friends, such as Tiffany’s endearing-yet-sassy cat in Magic Tavern’s Machington Mansion. But whether it’s a cat, dog, or goat, each takes a unique role in their owner’s life.

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When Justine travels to Spain in ZiMAD’s Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, she’s surprised to find the owner of the villa she’s staying in hasn’t given her cat a set name. Much like in Machington Mansion, this allows players the opportunity to name the cat themselves, building a deeper connection between the player and the animal.

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Jigsaw Puzzle Villa also brings pets into the forefront of its gameplay by allowing players to solve animal-themed jigsaw puzzles. These adorable puzzles feature dogs, birds, horses, cats, and more!

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Traveling beyond Spain, Justine isn’t the only woman in our games who meets animal friends abroad. Even acclaimed actor Jane Seymour sets out on a quest to rescue exotic animals with her loyal pet companions in “Into the Islands,” a time-limited event in Playtika’s Solitaire Grand Harvest.

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Sometimes, the roles of pets in our games is even more involved. In Jam City’s Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, the family dog Brian is the (literal) voice of reason. When he’s not busy ranting about politics or his superiority complex, he’s steering the dysfunctional family out of harm’s way.

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Speaking of the “voice of reason,” when handyman Emilio’s feeling down in Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, his goat offers him valuable advice like “Bleat!” and “Bleaty! Bleat! Bleat!” Did we mention the goat is also nameable?

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But the fun doesn’t stop there. While the goat in Jigsaw Puzzle Villa helps Emilio find himself, the dog in Sparkling Society’s City Escape helps the family in the game find… their rival? City Escape follows the Filburns' move to the countryside, where the parents quickly enter into a feud with their neighbor, Owen Timmons. When the Filburn kids—Ben and Chloe—find a lost dog, they’re surprised to discover he belongs to Owen. They return the dog to his home, marking the first step in healing the relationship between the Filburns and their disgruntled neighbor.

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But not every dog who wanders feels lost. In Uken Games’ Ava’s Manor, the lead character is a mystery-seeker whose loyal dog Marlowe joins her on adventures. Marlowe’s larger-than-life presence is felt throughout the game as he points Ava in the direction of clues. Marlowe’s even voiced by our very own Andy Mack, who brings life to the dog’s many yips and barks.

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Pets bring out the best in the characters we write. In a way, they’re humanizing and allow our characters to see themselves through the animals’ eyes. Whether you’re a longtime pet owner or admire animals from a distance, our games have four-legged companions for anyone to fall in love with—and these pets don’t require vacuuming loose hair! Be sure to check our Brunette Games’ expanding catalog of titles, where we continually find new animals to add to our growing roster of beloved pets.


Read About ZiMAD's Jigsaw Puzzle Villa on Pocket Gamer

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In a Pocket Gamer post about ZiMAD's new release, Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, CEO Dmitry Bobrov speaks about tying the puzzle gameplay with the narrative crafted by the team at Brunette Games.

Puzzle Villa is the first project of ours where a simple puzzle-solving mechanic was paired with quite a deep narrative and characters and a large amount of high-quality content accompanying the player during the course of the game. A new take on the genre was warmly welcomed by the players from different countries and of various age categories.

Read the complete post here, and download the game on the Google Play Store!

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