Brief Candle – Research Blog 02: The Three Act Structure

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)


Part two of development and the research project is taking shape. The end goal I envision for this project is a practical application of my research in the form of a very basic narrative game, which I suppose is more akin to an interactive essay. Something along the lines of a walking simulator only with minimal walking. The reason for this is to, for one, apply my research in a practical manner, two, provide a platform for my research that would otherwise be an essay, three, I hope that the information is more clearly understood by players of the game. This means that I can have practical examples of the theories I am discussing, present while people are playing the game.

To help my development of this project I have decided to employ a strategy which will to ease the work load, as well as be thematically connected. The game and the research will be broken into a three act structure. This will help me to keep on track and be clear and concise with the points I am making. The three acts will be as follows:

 – Act One: The Audience

 – Act Two: The Actor

 – Act Three: The Director

This will also be sandwiched in between an introduction and a conclusion. As far as research content goes I have found useful information pertaining to some key case studies. The case studies being the games I outlined in the previous development log. There are two fantastic GDC talks from the developers of Kentucky Route Zero, Cardboard Computer. One talk in particular goes into detail about the use of scenography within the game. A bonus to this is that I now have some sources with which Cardboard Computer used which I can follow up on for my own research.

Another case study I found which I didn’t consider when beginning this project is Portal. I hadn’t considered how Portal relates to this subject primarily because it is not something I would analyse for scenography. However, Portal does offer is a strong use of meta narrative, GLaDOS frequently addresses the player. Despite the game featuring its own character, the character is silent and isn’t really present when it comes to the narrative. I also find the setting of a testing facility to be very interesting when it comes to the meta narrative of this game, because as much as GLaDOS is testing the player character and learning about them, the player themselves are testing the mechanics offered by the portal gun and learning about how the game is to be played.

Going beyond just the player GLaDOS as a character takes on the role of a director/developer who orchestrates behind the scenes and builds the levels for testing. Reading more into this GLaDOS is representational of the developers of Portal, and the process with which they made the game. She builds this world for the character to perform in, holding their hand and guiding their way, but then the character escapes and performs without the aid of the director. The gameplay of Portal unfolds in the exact same way, the player is introduced to the game and they are shown in a series of stages all of the mechanics of the game. Slowly the players safety net is taken away and are free to utilise everything the game has taught them as an arsenal of skills to beat puzzles.

Case studies are going to be extremely important to this research topic, and I may have rambled about Portal a bit too long there. But it is interesting to draw these connections between the back end of development and how they make themselves present in the finished game. For now I will move on to a deeper analysis of the three act structure and how I can utilise this alongside the principles of scenography.

 – Battz

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