027: The Quarry

After exploring heroic tropes and struggles, our adventurers receive an urgent distress signal. Tracing the origins of the signal, our heroes travel to a strange and unknown mining planet, where the source of the signal is coming from a summer camp.

Games discussed in this episode about Supermassive’s The Quarry

  • 1:33 The Quarry
  • 9:23 House of Ashes
  • 10:32 Until Dawn
  • 27:34 The Devil in Me
  • 31:23 Detroit: Become Human
  • 32:22 Little Hope
  • 33:56 Pick-a-Path Book Series

Introductory Guy  

Welcome to design thinking games, a gaming and User Experience podcast. Card-carrying UXers Tim Broadwater and Michael Schofield examine the player experience of board games, pen and paper role-playing games, live-action games and video games. Play through the backlog on your podcatcher of choice and on the web at designthinkinggames.com.

We played The Quarry

Tim Broadwater  

In the beginning, there were rocks, and then when those rocks were broken up, they became The Quarry.

Michael Schofield  

Specifically broken up by Septimus Hackett. That might have been his name. I forget he is something stodgy.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, totally Septimus Hackett

Michael Schofield  

We should just preface this entire thing. So those of you who have joined us for this journey on the long haul know that Tim and I really love these as like Superma — I was going to say Supermassive style, but literally made by Supermassive — a choose-your-own-adventure style games. We’ve talked thoroughly about the Dark Pictures Anthology; I think all of them that have come out so far. And a whole bunch of others. The Quarry just released, I think, in the last seven days, like recently in the last —

Tim Broadwater  

— a week or two, June 10 is when it dropped.

Michael Schofield  

Tim and I have beaten it. We’re probably just going to spoil it real soon.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, I don’t care. We can spoiler cast. I cared before, but I don’t care anymore.

Michael Schofield  

We don’t care anymore. Like, it’s like when you lose everything at the end. Like the things you hold dear, I just cast aside. The Quarry is the latest Supermassive game. They made Until Dawn, again, all the Dark Picture Anthologies —

Tim Broadwater  

Man and Medan, Little Hope, and House of Ashes.

What is “The Quarry”?

Michael Schofield  

It is a choose-your-own-adventure style of game. The specific mechanics tend to be choosing dialogue and quick-time events. But it is kind of like a master class in branching scripts and Decision trees, what-if scenarios, and the idea is that you know, you are telling helping tell the story or helping narrate the story of often five-plus different characters, and all the choices you make Have, like truly like thoroughly different endings.

It’s interesting to me that Supermassive – they don’t have a market for this game. Other games are similar; some parts are like interviewee conversation stuff that, you know, I would say that Mass Effect or Horizon Forbidden Dawn have. Similar games like Detroit: Become Human or Wolf Among Us are similar.

It’s The Wolf Among Us. That’s what it is.

Tim Broadwater  

Okay. So then, so that’s, they don’t have the supermarket on its or the market on it or have a stock market on it, or whatever market you want to say. But I will say, when it comes to the feeling that you are in an interactive horror movie, Supermassive has it down, man. 

And how it works, to some degree, is that you control a cast of players or characters, you can make decision tree conversation choices, which kind of reflect like, is your character an asshole, is he nice, is their love interests, you know, things like that. In addition, as you search the world, you can uncover clues that unlock story paths. If you don’t search and power through the game, many paths are locked and blocked off to you.

But then, in addition to that, when you’re in the moments of a scary horror film, there are skill checks or quick action checks. And it’s like the combination of you piloting a cast of characters in a horror movie. You choose how you want them to interact and be portrayed and what their personalities are like, and then how much you want to explore it and how you respond to stressful quick actions all sculpt this very specific web that is subjective to you, the player playing at that time, there are multiple different types of evenings, everyone can die. It is possible to come out the end that it ends prematurely. 

But all of these games have a six to 10-hour cap on them, right? Because it’s like an actual movie that plays out.

Fixed Camera as a Gameplay Mechanic

Michael Schofield  

A miniseries may be right like the ones I forgot about, like when I was going over the mechanics. So what are the game’s mechanics,  make some choices to some dialogue, play some quicktime events? I forgot about wandering around slowly at walking speed. And searching every kind of like nook and cranny. I was thinking about that kind of like a lot as a gameplay mechanic. Because there are like on the surface, there are a couple of reasons. I think that this kind of gameplay can be a little bit obnoxious.

I think it has a stilted control like old-school Resident Evil, where the camera is like sticking; sometimes, it’s behind the character. But sometimes it’s fixed in place, like in the room, right, and you have to navigate around and like wandering around. But what I’ve decided is that what this makes you do, even if there’s not a whole lot to do, you know, you can wander a little bit off the path and find something like a tarot card, what it makes you do is like really pay close attention to the screen. Because you can’t just walk to the next. You’re not just walking to the next cutscene; you are meticulously walking to the next cutscene, which makes the jumpscare or the horror or the cutscene just that much more impactful. 

So it’s scripted very much like, like a series, it makes me think of that. Like, you could map this and probably watch this movie mode over like six to 10 hours, and you would be maybe a similar experience to like how some like, like, what is it like The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix or Hill House or even like a Stranger Things…

A Very “Directed” Game

Tim Broadwater  

Do you know what the camera angle also makes me think of? It makes me think it’s a director’s choice. Like it is. You know, there are some places where you want the camera behind the character for that suspense, but there are other places where like a horror movie, which is, you know, kind of very much we put the camera in the bushes, and you’re watching the people from afar to create, like, am I being watched, am I but then there are places to where you’re going through a haunting, or creepy kind of stairway or maybe like a cellar and the cameras fixed in a corner so you can kind of get an understanding of space.

So it’s that director cinematography shot kind of thing.

Michael Schofield  

It’s not very artful, isn’t like, you know, the art director had their hand on this entire game. It’s very directed gameplay, which is great. Like, I mean, like, you know, there’s a reason that you and I love these games, right? You know, like, the story is good.

It feels your own.

The Narrator puts you at fault

You feel, you know, we were talking about this with like, the House of Ashes where like the core narrator throughout each of them is this antiquarian or librarian style character that you pointed out is potentially literally the character of death. But he this kind of like —

Tim Broadwater  

it’s different, though, from the other two.

Michael Schofield  

Well, and then you are backed out with this narrator. You know —

Tim Broadwater  

I think narrators are good because it’s used differently in different ones. But yes, like the narrator is a good word.

Michael Schofield  

Well, that whole mechanic kind of makes you feel at fault. Like there’s, on the one hand, it’s like, oh, shit, you missed a quicktime event, you broke your leg or something like that. But when you kind of abstract out to the narrator, and you are no longer these other characters, you’re responsible for their fate, which makes your poor choices even more impactful, like, oh, I didn’t break my leg. I broke her leg. Like I’m so sorry.

Tim Broadwater  

One thing I’ll say that it’s interesting that Supermassive is doing here is that they have Until Dawn, which came out in 2014 or 2015. And then you have since then, the Dark Anthologies are Dark Picture Anthologies, which is, you know, kind of Man of Medan on a haunted boat, you have Little Hope (haunted town), and then you have House of Ashes (haunted crypt in the Middle East, right? ), and then there’s a fourth one that’s coming out. And we know from talking about it that that is an encapsulated season. They’re calling that season one. And there are already clues in those first three games and how the games are related.

And so there is a kind of American Horror Story kind of feel where, hey, all of our stories are related. And we all have the same actors portraying the roles. We just have to kind of change it up. However, in those, you’re right, there is the narrator who is kind of like death, and he is the person who is the same as all of Man of Medan.

However, the difference here is between Until Dawn and with the Quarry. This narrator is a part of the story. They’re not outside.

The Therapist

Until Dawn, the entire time between sessions are talking to Dr. Hill. And I know you haven’t played Until Dawn, my but Dr. Hill. This is sorry, spoiler alerts from eight years ago. Essentially, you discover if he is a therapist, and you know that because you’re meeting with him in his office, and he’s talking to you like a therapist does. But you find out, well, maybe not a spoiler, that oh, he is indeed a therapist of one of the people who’s a member of the cast that you’re controlling, and it has not revealed until the very end which he’s talking to and how he’s dealing with all of that right.

The Fortune Teller

And so, like in The Quarry, and I will say this, spoiler alerts cut out whatever I on my first playthrough had uncovered the whole story. I know everything that’s going on, I got all of the clues, I got all of the evidence, so there’s nothing to where like it prematurely ended, and I didn’t figure out what was going on. I got the whole story. So I understand — now I had seven counselors die; one of them and then one of them, you know not SPOILER ALERT as something bad happened to one, and only one survived — but the narrator person in The Quarry Who is this fortune teller woman that you are working with I know how she relates to this story. And I know kind of what her ending is, and I know who kind of I am who was talking to her, and I don’t know if how much of the story you uncovered you might have got the whole story to I don’t know.

What doesn’t kill you ….

Michael Schofield  

Well, we should talk about it, like so the Quarry the whole idea of the Quarry right is summer it’s we opened kind of just at summertime the day before? Like, I think like a whole 24 hours before camp starts. The conceit is that —

Tim Broadwater  

Camp Hackett’s Quarry, right?

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, Hackett’s Quarry. And what is the motto, Tim?

Tim Broadwater  

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Michael Schofield  

Some terrifying like real life like —

Tim Broadwater  

Summer camp, bitch. That is summer camp.

Michael Schofield  

Exactly you know, of course, like the idea is that like either camp counselors who are going to have like you know, a great summer there’ll be like summer flings you know, they’re the counselors like Oh of course, and so there’s like other kids there.

Tim Broadwater  

You control nine camp counselors essentially.

The Counselors

Michael Schofield  

All the kids are absolute dicks, right, because like without like, just like saying okay to authority, like they’ve put everyone in danger including themselves.

Tim Broadwater  

But this is I totally understand Jason Voorhees now and why he just fucking goes sees blood and seeds red and kills camp counselors because they’re all shitty. People make the worst decisions. They’re awkward, and then they’re self-serving, and they’re just like teens who are asshole dicks. So the fact that I came out in the end with seven dead counselors and one surviving, I was just like, ah.

Michael Schofield  

Which counselor did you make? Did you make it?

Tim Broadwater  

Oh, the geeky artist girl is the one who survived.

Michael Schofield  

Abigail? Yeah, the geeky artist girl.

Tim Broadwater  

And then and everyone else died, so what about you? What was the ending like for you?

Michael Schofield  

I came out a little. I want to talk about my journey here so that I can come out with more survivors than you. I found that the way —

Tim Broadwater  

You said Abigail in such a way that made it like why she’s dead.

Michael Schofield  

Why she like she’s the only one like what happened to like Emma the girl as they survived together in my story.

Romance

Tim Broadwater  

Then I must ask you before you get to your death in the ending, did you have any love?

Michael Schofield  

No, not really. (Did you get the gay kiss?). No. I didn’t get the gay kiss.

Tim Broadwater  

It’s possible for two gay kisses as well as there’s possibility for a lesbian kiss and a gay kiss. And I think there’s a possibility for like a hetero kiss too. So you had hetero kisses.

Michael Schofield  

So let’s talk about romance. Because there are definitely like in my game, there were a few romances they were trying to put up. I was shipping, so one was like Abigail and Nick. I didn’t have a that didn’t have a lot of time to mature. But then there’s also Emma, and I think her name was Emma, Emma and Jacob. Jacob is the jock. They had a summer fling, and Jacob was not ready to let it go. And was like, Hey, man, we had a good time. But she doesn’t seem like a bad person, especially as you go. But it’s a summer fling that she has decided is over. Jacob doesn’t like it.

Tim Broadwater  

So you didn’t have the Ryan / Dylan kind of thing I had

Michael Schofield  

I had Ryan / Dylan. I was shipping Ryan and Dylan. I never got a kiss, though. But they were always like. I was playing them like that together. But I never got any romance option. I got Abigail and Nick to kiss.

Tim Broadwater  

What about Abigail and Emma?

Michael Schofield  

No, that wasn’t even an inkling.

Tim Broadwater  

I don’t know. Like when you first come on, Abigail, she has pictures in her book that I believe she’s drawing that are literally of Emma. Yeah. Because Emma, and then there’s like, these places where he was trying to push him to like you should get with Thank you chicken with Nick. And it’s kind of like, No, I want to be with you. You know, so I didn’t know.

Michael Schofield  

No, I didn’t, as I mean, I should have picked up on that bait. But no, I totally like missed that entire thing. So there was no Abigail / Emma. And I was I really wanted like Caitlin who was like this. Like, I think clearly the most competent person —

Tim Broadwater  

She pissed me off so much.

Michael Schofield  

But yeah, I was saying she died for me too. And but she doesn’t have any romantic interests you seem to be into like Ryan, but because I was shipping Ryan and Dylan. That was the thing that was going on.

The Crows

Tim Broadwater  

When I first interacted with the crow, and you know, you’re walking around, and you’re like the crow, and you hear it, and then you start looking for it, and then you see them. But because I could interact with the crow. Every time later in the game, when I heard a crow, I’m like, oh shit, this wanted me to look at something or want me to investigate something. And I did because they were they helped me find the reason that I found all of the clues and all the evidence and all the tarot cards is because I was conscious of the sound of the crow because I found out early in the game that I can interact it and it’s funny because I had to shoo it away.

Michael Schofield  

The crows were helping. Yeah, because the conceit is like, you know, this lady, this narrator you’re talking to? She has crows everywhere, right? And so like all around her. So I wonder if I will pay attention to my next playthrough because I bet those crows.

Mother of Crows

Tim Broadwater  

Here’s the other thing: when you are talking to her, and you pause the game, it shows her face, and she’s just looking weird. Yeah, when you were not, when you were in the menu system. And you are looking; it’s the crow. You see a crow and not someone’s face. You know how it shows on the pause. You awkwardly look at someone’s face. And it just shows them going like this. And they’re looking back and forth. And then you can go with the pause menu and see read clues and do stuff when you are on her or in menus. You see a crow. So she’s like, I was like, oh, she’s the mother of crows, and she sees through the crow’s eyes, or she’s like they’re doing her bidding or she’s She also helping me because every time a crow, I felt like he was helping me. It’s like, wow, she has been with the crows because she has been leaving me all these clues, cards, evidence, and stuff.

Michael Schofield  

That’s fascinating. Yeah, like, my relationship with her was super suspicious. I missed the crows. And so when she’s like, look how much I’ve helped you, I’m like, bitch —

Tim Broadwater  

That’s interesting, then yeah, so we had two very different experiences.

Layers of story

One of the things that I like about Until Dawn and The Quarry versus the Dark Pictures Anthology is the Dark Pictures Anthology as you go, the story keeps morphing. And it’s like layers of an onion that you’re peeling back, and you’re like, Oh, this isn’t? This isn’t booty pirates. You know, this isn’t just a haunted ship. This isn’t just chemical warfare, you know what I mean? or something, or whatever layers you want for any of the other ones. This one, the story’s the same, the story doesn’t ever really change, you’re just getting like, can you get pieces of the story to know what’s going on. And then, depending on — I don’t think there’s any way to get every single card, piece of evidence, and save everyone on a perfect playthrough. 

However, I don’t know if that’s even possible without having to like replay and then explore and check. And I’m telling you, man. I look at everything. And of all the available paths, only three paths were not available to me based on the decisions I made. And, and then when I look at the numbers of how many clues I got, and how many pieces of evidence is how many tarot cards, I’m like, Dude, I have to choose those other three paths to be able to get those other cards. So it’s no way there is no way possible. There is no perfect playthrough to do this on a single playthrough. And I think that the fan that I think you get with Dark Pictures Anthology is that there is a perfect playthrough, but here and Until Dawn and The Quarry, I don’t think there is a perfect playthrough. You’re just going to get different stories and different versions.

Michael Schofield  

There’s a playthrough where you can get where everyone can. All counselors can survive. I believe there’s a playthrough for that for The Quarry.

Replayability

Tim Broadwater  

Because they’re so subjective to like, what you get and what you experience are very different than when I experienced them.

Michael Schofield  

I was going to say it’s like, you know, they have the mechanics that tie you close to the game or suck your attention in like the kind of difficult walking in and kind of like wandering around looking for clues forces you to invest yourself. They have these cool things here. Just in the game itself, but the other like really strong quality here is kind of like a hallway chatter like after you play, during, or when you put when you play the game. The fact that you and I have extremely different experiences here is part of the design of The Quarry, right?

It does like they put something together that spurns conversation, which I think is key to Supermassive’s success in this space. Like the reason that key they keep on coming back isn’t just because it’s all they can make, right? It’s because these are super successful. So you will, when you beat the game, you unlock an ability to kind of like rewind deaths, which I think is going to be kind of interesting. You can do like three per playthrough. Well, the other thing I want to I’m curious about, and I wish I would have fired up The Quarry before you and I talked because I wanted to see was that after you beat House of Ashes, you can play the other characters’ paths. So like, while you go on there, you go on path A as a character as a specific character in the play through the entire other path. Like what were the players doing who stayed back at camp, you know, what was their path or whatever you can play. And I wonder if The Quarry is designed like that, to I don’t think that was true. And like Man of Medan, Little Hope.

Tim Broadwater  

I’m also interested in the movie mode, which is like, yeah, well, movie mode lets you choose to let it run, it’ll be randomly configured and what happens happens. Or you can set up presets like settings, configure it, and let the movie run. And so and then. So all of your, if you think about the gameplay, like okay, take out all the walking, and all the reading, and I’ll be interacting, and you’re just watching the movie. It’s probably a two-hour movie. Like it probably doesn’t take long at all ends, but like the directors already said, like in about the game. It’s like, oh, the movies going to be different every time you play it like there’s no core story that is like, Hey, this is the core movie. We’ll randomly choose stuff every time you watch it, and it’ll be different. Or you can go into settings and say, I want this character to be an asshole or I want this character to be weak or coward and then play them. So I’m interested in like just the movie.

Still, this is an interesting thing that we didn’t talk about before when we’ve talked about all these previous episodes. I’m super excited for The Devil Within are The Devil Inside or whatever the next I can’t even think of the name of the next Dark Pictures Anthologies which comes out this year, there’s a thing about video gaming.

And there’s a completionist gamer who’s like, I want to get all the objects, or I want to unlock all the trophies, or I want to complete all the side quests. This game will never be that this game will never you can’t have a perfect playthrough, you will never have a perfect unlock, you’ll never, you know, there will always be tough decisions. And to get them, you have to make, like bad decisions or crazy decisions or so there’s nothing about this that could bug people potentially, or this type of game is that this is not a completionist game, this is not the perfect playthrough this is going to be truly subjective every single time. And there’s never going to be a similar playthrough. And that may not sit well with some gamers, or that’s maybe not the player experience that some people want.

The Ziegarnik Effect

Michael Schofield  

There’s a sort of like a design pattern that you just made me think of that I remember being just kind of like a cornerstone of how I’ve been making apps and stuff in my short time here on this planet. And it’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. It describes the drive or almost like the gravitational pull you feel when you begin a process. But do not finish it. Like web design, the classic example here is one of those forms that that kind of like, it’s like maybe one or two fields long, and then as you engage them, the form expands reveal revealing that it’s ten questions a lot or something like this. But the kind of like pattern of having, say, like a subscription form where you need your name and an email. A user is much more likely to be able to choose to subscribe to a newsletter because it’s only two steps, right, but in two fields that are not.

But what you can do if you want to capture more, and this is the Ziegarnik Effect in practice, is that you can do it so that once they type in their name, then they type in their email, the next questions to send, and it is unlikely that the user who has already decided to begin the process will abandon the process in the middle of it, they’ll finish it. So one of the things that like as Supermassive does here really well is, I think, was like with this term the Ziegarnik Effect in mind is because it’s deliberately not, you’re not able to there’s no perfect playthrough every and like the ending experience of every single playthrough is one that is going to feel incomplete relies on kind of that, that design pattern to make you want to go back to play it again. Because there is the, there is the promise of completionism over time.

As you know, you can play Mass Effect like three or four times to get all the endings. You know, how many times does it take to play the chord to get all the endings. And then ultimately, you know, like, just to take this one step further, why other than for funsies would like Supermassive to want to create games that really like rely on this? Well, it’s because the more you replay a game, the more you talk about it, but the less likely you are to like trade it back and like dilute the market.

Chapter by Chapter Completionism

Tim Broadwater  

So I’ve seen Supermassive Games, and maybe they do, and I haven’t done it before. I know that Detroit Being Human lets you do this. Because you could go by chapter by chapter and you could fix it, you could find everything yes and fix it, but I mean you could change your decisions you could find things and then your permanent record or how it’s permanently recorded changes I’m assuming I have you gone back and played any of the House of Ashes games.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I went back, and I played Man of Medan and Little Hope, and I have not gone back and played, except for one scene where I’m playing as a different person.

Tim Broadwater  

Does it fill out the capacity to find all the evidence you get all the cards, you found all the things?

Michael Schofield  

You complete the game like when you get all the paths and have all the trophies,, right? But it requires three playthroughs to do, plus.

Tim Broadwater  

Or they are playing through each chapter or three chapters.

Michael Schofield  

Going through a Little Hope, I chose different things and got a different ending. And I got more things. At that time, the promise of the reward for playing again seemed much smaller. I did not get the sense that the game would be drastically different from the first two playthroughs, and I only had a few collector’s items I was missing, but I just didn’t care to go back through. Now, I think House of Ashes tried to one-up this because, as I said, you can go back and play the same characters with different paths, but then you can play the other characters too. That wasn’t even an option for you in the first playthrough. So again, more playthrough potential there. And I wonder if The Quarry just, you know, did that exponentially on its own too.

Tim Broadwater  

Speaking of that Ziegarnik effect you’re talking about, if it does postulate that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed ones, I have no desire to get all the trophies and like this certain game or collect all the things in this game. However, I do in the Supermassive Games, I want to know the story, I want to get a better score, I want to find out more about the story, and I do agree with you that I think they do that very well. That the replay value is are they know what they’re doing.

Michael Schofield  

It’s like reading a book halfway and then just abandoning it.

Tim Broadwater  

Well, it’s like the pick a path book which is kind of like but very complex and different, but it’s to where like when you get a premature ending you want to complete, but you will remember that you did not go open the tree house cellar versus investigating the duffel bag because then you will know not what happened.

Sign off

You know, we will be back here in October, man. In October of this year, we will be back to have this discussion again with the Devil In Me.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I was going to say roll back through our backlog. And listen to our episode about sequels. And while you’re at it, smash that like star heart and favorite this episode on your podcast on your podcatcher of choice that helps us tease the algorithm in the sky to sprinkle its sweet mana all over us. We offer super affordable advertising. You may have heard an excellent ad here earlier in the mid-roll. We compose them ourselves. We make you look good. And it’s super affordable, the costs of like a fancy coffee or a couple of them a week, and you get a custom-made Design Thinking Games advertisement for you. We have a Patreon where we post these things ad-free, and we post them early. You can go to patreon.com/designthinkinggames and run all the social media. Look for us there. You’ll find it; remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Introductory Guy  

Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking Games podcast. You only have so much time, and it means a lot you shared it with us. To connect with your hosts, Michael or Tim, visit Design Thinking Games on TikTok, Twitch, and Twitter. DM’s are open. You can also check out design thinkinggames.com where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.

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