Recently after I played Andromeda Apocalypse for IF Comp 2012, I went back to try Andromeda Dreaming, a game set in the same universe but written by a different author, Joey Jones. Wade Clarke had given it rave reviews, so I was interested to see what it was like. And the answer was that it felt very different from the two Andromeda games by Marco Innocenti: Marco’s two games in the series are puzzly and involve manipulating physical objects, especially technology with which the player character is initially unfamiliar.
Andromeda Dreaming by contrast is fairly linear, and is more about experiencing the protagonist’s story — a story of conspiracy and subconscious manipulation. Though the ending is not, as far as I could tell, fundamentally mutable, the player does get to choose an attitude (through conversation and guided dreams) towards certain key incidents in that tale. And this I thought was a rather cool effect.
Generally speaking when we have multiple games set in the same fictional universe, it’s because they’re written by the same person or people and they preserve some sort of continuity of gameplay style from one to the next: Infocom’s Enchanter and Zork serieses, Earth and Sky, the Frenetic Five, etc. But having a consistent gameplay style often means that games in a series explore just one aspect or type of story in their imagined world — “wacky adventures with spells,” say, or “what it’s like to have unusual superpowers.”
For those who really relish worldbuilding, though, there’s something to be said for approaching the same world from multiple angles, simulating different types of characters, different modalities of existing within that same world. There are an increasing number of projects like this in the commercial world: “transmedia storytelling” has become something of a buzzphrase in GDC talks, and those talks sometimes disappointingly boil down to a discussion of the marketing advantages of selling pieces of the same story in different mediums, or making the most of having a tie-in book or movie. But the non-cynical side of this is that it can be quite powerful to take a story that is already known to the player and re-present it from a new perspective, bringing different details to the fore.
And this is what Andromeda Dreaming does for the Andromeda universe. It takes place simultaneously with the events of Andromeda Awakening and suggests answers to some of the human questions that the other game does not directly address. Because it takes place in a social context, it also sketches in such elements as culture, educational styles, even types of slang, which are not covered in Andromeda Awakening. The cumulative result is that each story feels more meaningful because of the other. Throughout Andromeda Dreaming, if we’ve played Awakening, we may be aware of more about the protagonist’s situation than she herself understands; but adding new shades of humanity to Andromeda’s world also makes Awakening more affecting in retrospect. In a curious way when I finished I had enjoyed the Andromeda world even more than I enjoyed any of the individual games in which it is embodied.
I wanted to try Paul Lee’s Tree and Star, the final entry (so far) in this same story universe, but there doesn’t seem to be a link for it from IFDB.