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Dream Sequence, Pt. III

Dream logic is a distinct entity from the rational thinking we encounter in everyday life. For our most recent project, the prototyping team explored the prototypical dream experience in order to exploit this unique thinking for a dream-based game.

An important aspect of dream logic is the concept of dualism. Extraordinary tasks are common in the dreamscape and are quite trivial for the dreamer. Trivial tasks, however, can become enormously difficult. When we last left our protagonist, the downtrodden supermarket clerk, his everyday tasks had surged into the realm of impossible. The shopping carts he attempted to herd plagued him with puzzles and the gibberish-speaking customers demanded he sort out their nonsensical purchases.

Now our super(market) hero must restock the abundance of items removed from the shelves. Unfortunately these items don't want to be restocked. To get back at him, they're moving around his back, violating space and time. The goal of the boy (and player) is to determine the method behind the item's madness and to order them according to his manager's instructions.

There were four 'aisles' on which items could appear. Aisles were represented by a card. Items were listed on sticky-notes and posted on the card so that they could be moved easily between aisles. There were four thematic aisles/cards: breakfast, meat, produce, and snacks. These themes were not explicitly explained to the player.
The player was instructed (via writing on the first aisle) that there goal was to arrange items in the first aisle as follows: Cereal, Poptarts, Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat (in that order). The sticky-note items in the aisle did not reflect this order and were as follows: Cereal, Poptarts, Chips, Cream of Wheat.


Players were allowed to 'move' between aisles by requesting to view a different card. They had to first return the current card to the GM before receiving the new aisle. Player's were allowed to 'carry' items between items by removing the sticky note for that item and holding on to it while switching cards. Players were allowed to carry more than one item at a time but were not explicitly told so. Once in a new aisle, players could remove items in exchange for an item they were carrying.

Once players had located the desired item in one of the other aisles, they could return to the first aisle. The desired item could always be located in the aisle of the replacement item. E.g., if Chips replaced Oatmeal, the Oatmeal could be found in the Snack aisle.
Upon returning to the first aisle, players discovered that another item had been replaced (Poptarts -> Rhubarb). To find the target item, the player would need to determine the pattern, i.e., that the target item simply switched places with the distracter item and that these items all belonged to a theme aisle.

One major flaw in this design was the lack of a win-condition. The designer implemented the ideas with the intention of providing a proof-of-concept, rather than a game. While the idea was well represented, the implementation wasn't fun for the player. Two proposed win conditions included the following:

  • The player picks up all of the items from the first aisle and carries them with them as they traverse the other aisles so that they cannot switch places with the distracters.

  • The distracter items switch places with the target items according to some trend/ rule and the player has to figure out this rule.

Furthermore, this prototype did not lend itself well to the idea of including the character's story and motivations into the mechanics. Thus, the idea was placed by the wayside to explore other ideas more characteristic of the true gameplay.

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