Designer’s notes - 10th September 2004
I have been working on The Zone for a year now. After finishing the first part of this interactive drama series (Force majeure), I was left with a feeling of emptiness. So much work put into a project... and yet one question remained unanswered. What is the Zone?
The Zone starts where Force majeure ends. In Force majeure, thirteen people find themselves trapped in an old air-raid shelter after a mysterious disaster and you get to experience the first two hours of entrapment. Physically. During Force majeure, you hear fragments of several radio messages broadcasted by a lone wanderer in a city struck by disaster. But these messages get more and more surreal and become a major topic for speculation in the shelter. Is it safe to leave? No one knows for sure. And those who do leave find themselves in quite a different city.
During work on Force majeure I got lots of ideas concerning what might have happened out there. But I soon realised that these notions were too surreal to enact physically. A different form of expression was needed.
I opted for a graphical point-and-click adventure. The focus would on telling the story of the Zone and to provide a audiovisual experience strong enough to give the player a sense of having been there. The story is primarily told using text, supported by images and sound. The alternative would have been to let animations bring the story across, but that unfortunately would be out of scope in a one person, non-funded project. There was so much to tell about the Zone, that I preferred being able to tell the whole story rather than making a short, graphically spectacular episode.
So far, the work has moved forward at a fairly steady pace. The basic structure of the game is mapped: you start out by escaping your confinement in the old air-raid shelter, meet other lost souls (or are they?) and get to visit your old work place. After that, the game becomes less linear and you get to explore the Zone freely. This is done by navigating a map, where you reach episodes at different locations. These are interconnected and trigger events and sub-stories in other sub-plots. The climax of the game is the journey into the mythical centre of the Zone, a journey, the outcome of which depends on your previous actions.
The storylines form an ujjjjjjjjh (oops, a cat stepped on the keyboard). What I was about to say was that the storylines together form a mirror image of the life the protagonist has lived previous to the disaster. Many of these stories originate in my own life: wierd thoughts about the nature of reality, strange visions and events that are better left untold. And a substantial amount of philosophy. Cultural studies sure can turn your head outside in.
The problem that the protagonist tries to solve is perhaps not what the Zone is, but what reality is. I’m not quite sure there are answers such questions. Only those who reach the centre of the Zone will ever know, and none of those who travel there ever return. As with all other pursuits of knowledge it is a one-way journey.
Enjoy your trips.