Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab spacer
spacer New Entries Archives Links subheader placeholder
left edge
More Dream Logic at the Supermarket

Continuing the recent theme of blog posts about dream logic, I thought I'd discuss the prototype that I came up with for this game.

This prototype was another attempt to explore the strange ways that meanings or properties that are assigned to various objects in dreams, and the way that those meanings affect the dreamworld. For example, if a slug, which is associated with the property of sliminess or slipperiness (as mentioned in a previous blog entry), is put in a grocery cart, it might cause the cart to lose traction and become difficult to control, not because of any physical effect like slug slime ending up on the cart's wheels, but simply because putting a slug in a receptacle extends the property of slipperiness to that receptacle.

In this prototype, the player takes on the role of a stocker in a supermarket where the aisles of the store are unhappy. Each aisle has its own problem or set of problems (for example, one aisle might be feeling lonely, while another aisle might be on fire) which are related to the items found in that aisle or, in some cases, items that should be in an aisle but aren't. The player must figure out how to re-arrange the objects in the aisles so that the problems are resolved. To do this, it is necessary to understand the "logic" that governs how each item affects the aisles. Unfortunately, since this is a dream, the logic is rarely straightforward.

For example, in one iteration, Aisle 3 was crazy because almonds were stored there (why would almonds make an aisle crazy? Because they're nuts! Ha!), and removing the almonds restored the aisle's sanity. In some cases, the aisle's problem was more reasonable (after all, what sense does it make for something like a supermarket aisle to be crazy?) and it was the solution that was dream-logic based: for example, it's conceivable that there could be a fire in a grocery store aisle, but only in a dream would it make sense to put out the fire by opening an umbrella in that aisle and thus causing it to rain.

Originally, this prototype was a little unfocused. In addition to solving the aisles' problems, the first version required the player to be able to push a grocery cart to the end of the aisles to collect some sort of prize there. However, the objects in the aisles also served as obstacles to the cart's progress, so to get to the end of each aisle required a complicated shuffling of objects between aisles that would allow the cart enough room to move around while still keeping the aisles happy. It didn't really work; I think I was trying to add in too many systems at once on the first attempt. It might have had the potential to be an interesting spatial reasoning game, or a more complicated version of that puzzle where a guy has a fox, a goose and a bag of corn on one side of a river but a boat that can only hold one of them besides himself, but in the end, neither of those were actually what the prototype was meant to explore. So, the idea of objects as obstacles was pretty much abandoned after that.

The second version retained the idea of having to push a grocery cart to the end of the aisles, but now the only requirement was that the aisles be happy (I guess an unhappy aisle would refuse to let a grocery cart through? The reasoning behind this was never really fleshed out, which in retrospect probably should have tipped me off to the brokenness of this aspect of the prototype). However, during the play through, it came out that there was really no good reason to have this cart-pushing requirement: there was nothing to explain why exactly the player character wants to push a cart to the end of the aisles. Sure, there's a bar of gold or some other prize there, but that is itself a problem: what are bars of gold doing floating around a grocery store? They were just there to provide the player with a reason to push the cart to the end of the aisle, and that brings us back to the question of why it's necessary to make the character push a cart down the aisle. Maybe in later prototypes, or in the actual dream logic game, some story might be added that explains why pushing a cart down aisles is a good thing to do, but at this point in the process it made more sense just to tell the player that their goal is to make the aisles happy. Happy aisles = happy customers, or something.

So, in the final version of this prototype, there was no mention of carts or obstacles or anything like that, just some unhappy aisles with a handful of items in each. Also, by this point, the aisles' woes, the objects, and their interaction with each other had gotten a little more focused and often more intricate. There wasn't any wordplay in this version, for example, since it had been pointed out that puns don't play a part in many people's dreams, so although the idea of almonds making an aisle "nuts" had a sort of silly logic to it, it wasn't exactly dream logic. One of the more complicated puzzles in this iteration involved an aisle containing, I believe, a top hat, a cactus, and a clock, and that aisle was on fire. To put out the fire, the player not only had to bring over an umbrella from a different aisle to make it start to rain, he/she also had to remove the cactus from the aisle, because cacti are associated with deserts and while the cactus was in that aisle the air would be too dry for sufficient rain to fall.

This was the last version of this prototype that was created, because the semester was ending, but an idea that would be good to explore in the future (suggested by the game's owner) would be to have the objects in the aisles relate somehow to who the character is, and what kind of life he leads outside the dream. For example, one of the objects in the last version was a top hat that could produce rabbits---maybe that item was included because the character is actually an amateur magician. If so, there could also be items like giant playing cards, and puzzles revolving around the suits (maybe one of the puzzles requires a DIAMOND ring?) or conflict among the face cards (is there strife in the Court? Are the king and queen mad at each other?).

right edge
bottom curves