8. full notes: Florence

03 March 2018

a hastily drawn picture of florence.

time passes, people... change?

Florence is a game by Mountains, where you play/guide florence, a mild mannered Asian woman with the relatable struggle of keeping her adult life together while falling in love.

If you don’t have time to read, very coherent touch control tuning. Story is told visually and through the actions you do. The actions don’t feel as much like chores because they’re part of the story.

There are actually really good game flow design gems. You wouldn't have been able to tell from a playthrough video, since they're mostly based on having a definite answer for every moment the player might try to touch the screen.

The notes were these...

  • Assembling the conversation bubbles is actually incredibly fun!!! Partially since it allows multitouch. I'd almost like there to be a post-game arcade mode where you try to assemble 10 speech bubbles as fast as possible, but that's unnecessary. The conversation bubble's snap distance and feeling of drag are all tuned well.
  • Multitouch incidentally is not available when revealing pictures or mirror images.
  • Sound effects are used very sparingly. Its a good choice since alot of the mood comes from the music.
  • The one moment you pull up the music academy book from under the bed is such a good choice to segue into the next scene.
  • Game goes to chapter select not at the end of each numbered chapter, but after an estimated amount of time has been played. I can only guess this has been calibrated to "enough for the player to remember where the story is up to, if they wish to now take a break".
  • Hovering the toothbrush over the cup while moving in creates a green rectangle over the cup to indicate something actually happens if you let go. Fantastic since I can imagine many players either not finding the cup or not realising they could drop the toothbrush there.
  • The soundeffects indicated the first time you eat breakfast you have multitouch. But later when eating pizza, you can't do simultaneous pizza slice consumption.
  • The pacing of the story is superb.
  • This game has lots of flow. Unsurprisingly, Jenova Chen is in the special thanks.
  • The story resolves well. Super important since the story IS the game.
  • The getting over it section is a good use of the don't-do-anything gameplay situation. It's not frustrating even if you accidentally touch the screen and reset.
  • The music keeps a very consistent style even when changing the mood.
  • The moment where Florence is floating in the air towards the music was unnatural but obviously like "part of your imagination". Keen to see more unreal things occur for storytelling purposes, but fantasy worlds, say like in a Studio Ghibli film, might be hard to make intuitive minigames for.
  • Some parts of the game require you to drag the view of the screen. It's all to do with the current mood: the start of the game autoscrolls (routine life), an incident such as cleaning the room requires you to move about manually. Having to shift the camera back to you just to complete a speech bubble in an argument is some serious gameplay-is-story stuff.
  • Most importantly: the story can be summarised very quickly with few words. But the delivery is about being in the story. The feeling of time progression is good when important events play out, which makes you feel as if you haven't missed much even after a time skip. The routine lifestyle is quickly established to let you understand that's what happens when we skip through time, and the clock winding moment is first established with a younger Florence to make you used to aging her so it doesn't feel jarring when we timeskip past the honeymoon period of her relationship.

in closing

The inconveniences in the game are meaningful. Maybe… this is the secret sauce to this type of game. Of course, the inconveniences aren’t really inconvenient. Its simply gameplay that withholds the progression of the story. How you make the audience feel with a small burst of gameplay needs to line up with the mood.

The moments where the game takes control for you are still meaningful too. It’s very applicable to this story since Florence is trying to take control of her life in a different way. The type of woman we’re introduced to at the beginning was not expected to become who she is at the end of the game.

I liked it. The competitive player within me still wants hardcore speech bubble assembly.

Have fun out there, wont you?