Writing compelling copy for a strategy game like “Austen Translation” is a daunting enterprise under the best of circumstances, but it’s doubly challenging when you’re writing to capture the essence of a beloved literary canon. It was relatively easy, however, to pick up some of the broad themes from her work, such as the role of women and her criticisms of marriage as an institution, since many of them are baked into the satirical premise of the game.
The conceit of the game is that the player is “writing” their own Jane Austen novel, so it seemed natural to adopt the conventions of classical literature, down to nomenclature and structure. Each action round is presented as a chapter with it’s own headline and subhead, as well as a blurb of “flavor text” to set the scene for the next phase of play.
We looked at the formal aspects of Austen’s work such as sentence structure, vocabulary choices and cadence. It was way too much fun plant contentual easter eggs in the text -- names, word choices and ideas which fans of her work would undoubtedly recognize. This serves the double purpose of grounding our game in the Austen universe and offering players the thrill of discovering the connections as they play.
A hallmark of her work was the seamless transition from the traditional omniscient narrative to text which gives the reader a window into what her characters are thinking and feeling. She is credited with pioneering this objective > internal > objective again formula. And this gives us, as game designers, a terrific opportunity to use this same mechanism to give players an additional level of strategic information they can act on in the next chapter.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks getting a working protoype of “Austen Translation” on its feet and preparing our submission for the 2017 Boston Festival of Independent Games. We’re excited to get the game into the hands of playtesters for feedback so we can begin the real work of making the game fly. Stay tuned.