Boring-ass archetypes and cliches turned edible in Panoptes.
Pushing Daisies. Boring-ass archetypes and cliches turned edible in Panoptes.
My name is Evgeni, I’m a lead narrative designer at Suricate Games. Most of my duties involve designing the story in a TCG Panoptes.
Almost every writer I know has faced the horror of being labelled unoriginal. Panoptes is a story about all the myths and urban legends that mankind came up along its long history of storytelling. How do we make the likes of vampires or werewolves original?
First of all, stop thinking of them these way. They are persons. Why people are so hell-bent on working with these huge abstract concepts first freaks me out. Vampires suck blood, werewolves turn into humans, pinky is a finger.
There is a fantastic concept of articles that used to be so alien to my Russian brain. You, native speakers, know it well. An apple is some apple. The apple is this particular apple. We, in general, don’t care about the specifics of an apple, but we’re very curious about the apple we want to eat. Same goes for a vampire and the vampire. And it’s so much easier to work with the vampire. Mainly because it’s so much shorter than the “each individual” vampire.
Have doubts? Watch Doctor Who.
A vampire sucks blood and avoids sunlight. Agreed? Good.
The vampire was a nurse who knows a way to the hospital’s stash that was robbed and now she needs to battle her way to the criminals who have blood or she will have to feed on the living. There is a logical mistake in that why the hell would they ever steal just blood unless they too suck blood and avoid sunlight. Sounds like we have an antagonist, motivation, advantage and a disadvantage of a hero. The rest is about a year worth of pain driven development. Don’t overthink biology while the psychology has to be the one complicated.
Do I still make sense? Cool.
With carefully dosed spoilers.
Bonnie et Clyde. Double cliche here. Double archetype.
They are a delicious lot.
For those of you who don’t know, Bonnie and Clyde were famous bank robbers back in the day. Real people and a general archetype of a romantic couple on a killing spree. That’s cliche one.
They are vampires. That’s cliche two.
Together they make another cliche of new vampires on a killing spree.
The player already has some notion of who our characters are. Let’s review:
They suck blood and avoid sunlight, duh.
They assault and storm stuff, possibly take hostages.
These we can’t avoid. They are there. I don’t see a point of battling that since averting the cliche is more time-consuming than working inside of them.
Let’s look for the hooks to make them stand out.
People are social, and these two were ones some time ago. What’s the deeper archetype in this? The male is dominant. Screw that. One level down and we can change proactively so she becomes dominant. It will produce the question “Why?” For those of us who are, well, like that. And this is okay. We can and have to work with it.
There are many different ways to approach this. For this particular case, I added two more criminal archetypes to the mix.
She is a control freak, and he is a dumb thug.
They have to assault stuff and possibly take hostages. As such they must have an M.O. (Modus Operandi). We have almost everything we need here. Using their psyche profiles and general abilities we can deduce that Bonnie would rather hide behind Clyde while assaulting. Once inside she’ll project control and murderous authority. Master Blaster sort of thing.
Let’s work on it a bit more. We must look at them from the perspective of the World they live in. They are not apex predators as they are usually painted. Moreover, this is just not the case at all in the 21st century. We hunt whales, and we have special ammo and guns to kill elephants. If it is there, we hunt it.
We give Bonnie and Clyde the tools of apex predators. We give them armor and guns. The way they work and act is paramount while crafting stories. As such they will storm Police guns blazing, Bonnie shooting over Clyde’s shoulder. She will command his every move and prepare for the encounter beforehand while he soaks bullets and lays waste. Add usual vampiric stunts to the mix and they are terrifying.
That’s a big one. It dictates targets, it’s the one that makes characters. For Bonnie, it’s all about control and power. It won’t be banks she robs. She will pick the target where she can show her power, project it, enjoy it.
In our game at the time of the events, they storm Police HQ. And they were at large for at least a century.
We get a crew that is very successful at destroying highly protected targets. They are armed, well-prepared and superhuman. They come every ten years or so, destroy, pillage and murder, and then disappear. And that’s just the stuff I can tell you.
In Panoptes, our main narrative theme is how characters and people cope with the arms race of natural and supernatural. We take urban legends and myths, assume that the stories go deeper and that the ones telling them lie or make mistakes. We fill the blanks and show you the part of an iceberg below the water.
We do it by treating these horrors like they’re people, organizations, communities, and species existing in a given period, in our case modern times. Much like we are. After all, humanity has always been afraid of unknown. It was monstrous and deformed animals for a long time until we went nuclear.
And if you don’t like what you read, you have a glorious opportunity to kill both Bonnie and Clyde in a game right now. Mission 29.