With the creation of this new forum, there has been a good deal of discussion concerning not only Computer Games as an artistic media apart from movies, books, and physical games, but also concerning the role of story in design. Questions that need to be answered at this point are What does this entail? How is this different from already-existing story oriented games (such as the FF series). More importantly, why is game that exalts story above any other element better than a game that raises action or puzzles over other elements. Is it better, is it simply that an unfilled niche in computer games has been recognized?
I would argue the latter, that there is a place for the games that are being described in this forum, but that these are not necessarily better than any other, and further that not all games should have to have the story element at all, let alone to the extent discussed here. So what would such a hyper-story oriented game look like? I see it much like this:
After an opening story where we''ve applied all that good stuff we learned in World Building and have given our player a taste of how our world is set up, we drop the player into our world. The player sees the world through the eyes of his player, and has complete freedom in movement, thought, and deed, being restricted only the other inhabitants of this world. The game necessarily needs to have a sophisticated AI which controls these other inhabitants, things should happen to the character and to the world dependant not only on the character''s actions, but also dependent on the actions of the world''s computer inhabitants. I won''t bore you with my views on the proper implementation of AI, that belongs elsewhere. I will say, however, that all the other inhabitants do not need to be incredibly complex, merely complex enough to give the illusion that they are living, thinking, seperate entities. This goes back to good writing. How can we possibly expect anyone to become immersed in a world with hokey dialog?
If such things are even kept track of (and they probably should be), at no time will a player every have access to his numerical statistics. Instead he should be able to simply know what he is capable of, and should be capable of the things the game implies that he is. That is, if his mission is one of cloak-and-dagger spying, the character should be capable of scaling the wall -- there should be no "You need to Practice this Skill More". The player should know when his character is hurt not by consulting the health meter, but by visual cues and cues from companions/others he meet who react appropriately to his condition. If the character is drunk, he should be stumbling, and unable to form the coherent sentences his player wants him to form. We can maintain these statistics in secret if needed, but we should give the player a good deal of freedom in his abilities (With the thought: if you chose (insert character''s occupation here) as your occupation, would you be able to do it?)
These are just my thoughts on how a game that is oriented around the game world and the story might be set up. I must admit that I am probably still limited by thinking in terms of the current standard. How would the rest of you Implement such a game?
I really like your thinking on this. In the interests of drama, you remove artificial limits and simply let the player do what is dramatic.
Since I have been something of a fly in the ointment when it comes to game design and story here, I just want to note for the record that I think there''s a *HUGE* and very significant place for rich, detailed story in electronic form. But I think what has to happen is that you have to get rid of a lot of the mechanisms that make up *game.* Low level winning and losing (like failing to climb a wall as the spy), fedex quests (bring me X and I''ll give you Y), leveling up, stats... I think a lot of this pulls a person out of the story and makes them think about sterile, numeric systems. This kills drama!
If you get rid of this stuff, you have room for something else: sheer immersion and exploration of narrative. Instead of focusing on tasks, I think you can really get into exploring and maybe changing what''s happening.
I think something like this should have a title other than game, btw, to clear up misunderstands and sharpen a creator''s focus. I don''t know what to call it, but game makes me think more of managing inventory, killing monsters, and victory or defeat. While you can certainly have these things in a "story experience," over-emphasis on them (to me) seems to shift focus from the away from story and thus cheapen the experience as a whole.
-------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...