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Civ w/ story, $50


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#1 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 12:31 PM

This is a spinoff the the endless argument Shinkage and I have been having about narrative in games. So I have a group exercise for ya''ll worth a free game: How could you impose narrative on the game Civilization using today''s technology and still keep the fundamental essence of the game? How would you put a story in Civ? For those that don''t know, btw, Civilization is a strategy game that spans some 6000 years of history. In it, you start as the ruler of one city and acquire other cities through expansion and conquest. You manage resources like population, happiness, production, and money. You also build military and construction units to develop your empire and fight off or conquer rivals. You can research technology ranging from the wheel and sail all the way up to space age inventions like the jet engine and laser. You also have to manage relations between yourself and other civilizations. The game is essentially a balance between growth and defense. Games typically are played on randomly generated continents. Enemy behavior varies based on how you build, and this, combined with the terrain and your personal growth and defense decisions make no two games exactly alike. Any takers? I say it can''t be done with significant impact (I''m not just talking interrupted cut scenes that have little relation to gameplay). Requirements: Game is still as replayable as the non-narrative version. Story significantly impacts gameplay. $50 US dollars to the soul that can solve this unsolvable problem. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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#2 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 02:15 PM

Maybe I am not understanding your qeustion properly. But what would be the problem in having reports of events in a narrative manner. "and so we fought bravely to defend the city of Kiev, but the hordes of Mongols overwhelmed us with their tanks. You see, we only had horses ..."
Same for changes in regime "So this is how king Wavinator died, and the People took the power!"
yada yada... The way I see it, you could add a lot more narrative content without really modifying the game itself. Because the narrative could be totally "flavor text" (like in Magic the CCG).

But maybe I twist your question in the way you *didn''t* want me to go ?

#3 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 04:01 PM

No $50 for you, ahw!

You can explain game elements with no problem, but that's not what I'm talking about. You can also put ancillary story, like Alpha Centauri does with it's intermissions about Planet and it's consciousness. But that's not what I mean.

Some folks have cited games like Panzer Dragoon or Final Fantasy 7 as excellent examples of story. My contention has been that when a game has story, the requirements of narrative must diminish gameplay in some way. It's a tradeoff, and the amount you do it varies with the genre. (Highly for adventure games, a bit less for RPGs, very little for arcade games...)

My belief is that the more you make a game like a story, the less you make it a game. Now, to me Civ is the epitome of game: Tons of significant choices, almost every decision meaningful to the game, lots and lots of replay value.

So, if that's the case, and my contention is correct, then as soon as you put a deep, engaging story using today's technology, you destroy the experience of Civ.

--

BTW, ahw, I took the thespark.com test and it said I was an Artist: "Although you are an introvert, your dominant ideas lead you to assert yourself often--especially through your work"
Haha! Totally true, and hence the offer to buy somebody a game if they can show me where my viewpoint's wrong.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

Edited by - Wavinator on October 5, 2000 11:01:46 PM

#4 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 04:15 PM

i never could get into civ, it just took to damn long to play. After about 2 hours i would just turn on cheats and speed through. But even then it took hours to finish, gawd i hate that. There needs ot be a happy medium, not as slow as turn based strategy games, but not as fast paced as star-craft type games either.

#5 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 06:02 PM

Wav,
I''m not sure if I''m following you that well. Are you saying that if you have a game with great gameplay and try to add narrative to it, the narrative story will hurt the quality of the game? Is that to say that games should not contain narrative? I have not played Civ though.

"'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree

#6 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 06:28 PM

@##$#@ @$$@%@$ @$R@$@ @$%$@%$@R @$%@%@^^%$@ @$)%()(@ #$%(*#!!!!!!!!!!

I just spent like 20 minutes typing a decent reply, and then accidentally pressed the clear button.

@%$%%#^^%#$!!!!

There goes my chances for $50 this week.

#7 INVERSED   Members   -  Reputation: 172

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 06:28 PM

@##$#@ @$$@%@$ @$R@$@ @$%$@%$@R @$%@%@^^%$@ @$)%()(@ #$%(*#!!!!!!!!!!

I just spent like 20 minutes typing a decent reply, and then accidentally pressed the clear button.

@%$%%#^^%#$!!!!

There goes my chances for $50 this week.

Dare To Think Outside The Box
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#8 INVERSED   Members   -  Reputation: 172

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 06:44 PM

One more time, in the abridged format...

The gist of my last post is that the first thing you would need is a character. For instance, the player could be playing an immortal who takes control of all these empire across this 6000 year period (he can do that, he''s immortal). If you have character, than you have a perspective through which to tell a story. Now, an important thing to point out is even the games with the best stories, have only moments of story and moments of gameplay, FF7, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Fear Effect (my personal game of the month) are all like that. Think about it, most games have an opening setup sequence, then some gameplay, then more story, then more gameplay. FF7 for instance, the first part is them on the train (story), Then go through the mako reactor (gameplay), then they escape and regroup (story). When you think about it, there isn''t much gameplay during the story, and isn''t much gameplay during the story. So how do you get the two to merge, mainly by properly balancing gp and story. In civ, perhaps the first section of story would come before gameplay, and the story would be built dynamicly as the game progressed. As you defeat enemies and defend cities, you gain allies and enemies. Perhaps the story could be told at the same time as gameplay (with vouice over) as to not disrupt the flow of gameplay. With a game like Civ, the key would be to have a whole lot of scenarios. Most of the things the player does should have a potential effect on the gameplay, and gameplay should probabkly on stop when the player would be asked to make a really vital descision (or maybe not, no one said making decisions as an immortal emperor was easy). What might also be coolis if the different events of the story where transcribed into a chronicle of some type, so when the player was finished they''d have an actual story to read over, it would be kinda neat. At any rate, that''s about the general gist of what I wrote, story could be involved, but it would have to be as dynamic as the gameplay, and couldn''t be obtrusive to the game play. Sounds to me like it would be one cool game.

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#9 Shinkage   Members   -  Reputation: 595

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 10:03 AM

I have a very simple answer for you. Civ already tells a story. Not only does it tell *A* story, but the most epic and sweeping of stories. What story is this you ask? It tells the story of the technological and social development of mankind throughout an alternate history. In a way, Civ is actually very linear. You have to get X technology in order to get Y technology. This technological tree always develops in the same broad fashion. Just because the game does not use TRADITIONAL narrative devices (i.e. characters, dialogue, etc...) does not mean it isn''t telling a good story.

#10 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 11:15 AM

quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Some folks have cited games like Panzer Dragoon




No no no, Wav. Panzer Dragoon SAGA. The first two were *okay*, the last one was freaking great!

Anyway, my best guess would be to place some emphasis on the lineage of rulership. Kindof a Romance of the 3 Kingdoms thing. A lot of society-wide politics come down to groups of two or three people and their personal motivations. Viola, it doesn''t cut back on gameplay because it has a direct bearing at all times on your society.

This kind of intrigue could last for generations, and certain personality traits might be passed on to offspring, or even the reverse! The lack of this kind of personality is really the only thing that prevents me from playing these games... You add a tiny bit of roleplaying (no, like REAL rolplaying, not FF) at pretty much expected intervals, give guidelines for performance (i.e. make it game-like) and then let the player experience the consequences of his diplomatic screwups, and reap it''s potential rewards... Sounds like fun (and story) to me.

BONUS, there are only like a dozen archetypal political intrigues, so you could just wire it in to certain personality types and scoioeconomic situations...


#11 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 12:12 PM

It''s a good challenge. I started to reply to this one this morning about three times but each time required more thinking. So after a few hours of stewing, I can only conclude that Civ is not adaptable to a narrative.

Assumptions: We are not allowed to remove any of the game elements, although some modification is ok. If you let me remove the multiplayer aspect, for example, I think you could do it.

A narrative has a beginning, one or more endings, characters that interact with each other in a meaningful way, and (usually) plot points that are more or less fixed.

Civ has a beginning, and endings.

The sides translate into characters however you want.

Civ has a tech tree that would be a good substitute for the plot points - they are linked and have a clear order to them - just replace ''iron working'' with a story element (take a ship to Monkey Island).

The first problem is the meaningful interaction. You simply don;t interact with the other sides in a way that is meaningful to advancement of the plot (the tech tree). Ok, you can trade tech some, but mostly you don''t really interact with the other players except to conduct war. If some of the items required two or more sides to work together to ''discover'' then this could be satisfied.

Then there''s the big problem. The bulk of the Civ gameplay is continuous micro-management of resources. You make the same decision over and over again, dividing your resources between research, military, expansion, and infrastructure. This repetition is sort of the opposite of narratives.

Example: I start city X, you take over city X, then I take city X back over. This requires significant quantity of decisions on both of our parts, careful allocations of troops, etc. At the end of it, the game state is much the same it was at the beginning. The small conflict becomes irrelevant to the course of a larger narrative, especially when the same pieces will play out many many times over the course of a game.

You could add a narrative as a larger story in which the game is set, but that doesn''t matter to the bulk of the Civ gameplay, the resource management.

So I say it can''t be done unless you give me leave to make some hefty modifications to the core focus of the game.

#12 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 07 October 2000 - 05:32 AM

I think that you would need to give the events more "motivation", make it so that the kings have reasons for doing things and make this more obvious in play. (Character by Gameplay thread - game design forum), so that the King Arunhotep''s messenger comes to you with a demand that "by his Majesty..." you give the city over to him or face the wrath of the God King himself. So that each thing is done in character to the people intitiating the action. (And that the events initiated are in character with the initiators). This would probably work better on a smaller scale.

What you do when faced with this confronation would also be part of the story/ gameplay ie. if you start to amass troops near the border, and King A. has some Spies in your court, then you might get another threat ...

So there would be a lot of pre-specified ways of responding to events.

(of course one of the main Traps here is how you define Narrative, wouldn''t the interaction between you and these characters with your involvement be enough to make it a kick-ass tale- which belongs to you.)

Ie. My kingdom was attacked by the bloodthirsty barbarian tribes, but with our advanced weaponry we beat them off. Interested by our strategic weakness, the wise Ankka offered that we become better acquainted, over the following years both our kingdoms flourished as we traded technology. But when the barbarian hordes regrouped, Ankkara was in the grip of a terrible famine which limited the supply of soldiers from their army. We supplied them with food & soldiers to help fight the Barbarian induced uprising in the border village of Teh-katla. When the good king eventually died in an assassination by someone we suspect was working for the viceroy, the Mayor took power and started making advances into our lands.

#13 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 10:22 AM

quote:
Original post by Nazrix

Wav,
I''m not sure if I''m following you that well. Are you saying that if you have a game with great gameplay and try to add narrative to it, the narrative story will hurt the quality of the game? Is that to say that games should not contain narrative? I have not played Civ though.




My belief is that the linear nature of narrative has dire consequences for gameplay, and that the more narrative you add the less gameplay you get, typically. For maximum impact, narrative needs to be told a certain way. In fact, it''s good because events turn out the way they do, and only the way they do.

But, in my view, this kind of linearity, when directly tied to gameplay (and not, say, running in the background), can poison the flexibility of gameplay. The tighter your narrative, the more player decisions and impact have to be thrown out the the window to support the story. In short, you lose freedom. For those that disagree with this philosophy, I chose Civilization as the ultimate game: one where players make highly impactful decisions that affect a replayable system.

That''s not to say, btw, that you shouldn''t have narrative, but that narrative has a limiting impact on gameplay. As game makers, it''s just another tradeoff that I think we need to be aware of.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#14 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 10:24 AM

quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

i never could get into civ, it just took to damn long to play. After about 2 hours i would just turn on cheats and speed through. But even then it took hours to finish, gawd i hate that. There needs ot be a happy medium, not as slow as turn based strategy games, but not as fast paced as star-craft type games either.


Some Civ games can drag, but if you go into complete conquerer mode you can finish a game in about 3-9 hours. You just build nothing but barracks at each captured city and become a Mongol plague on the planet. You''ve got to do it early, though, and hope you don''t run into oceans.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#15 Buster   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 10:34 AM

A game like Civ doesn''t need narrative. It would, in fact, ruin the idea of the game. The player is making their own narrative just by playing.

You can send that $50 now if you''d like.

#16 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 10:38 AM

quote:
Original post by INVERSED

One more time, in the abridged format...

The gist of my last post is that the first thing you would need is a character. For instance, the player could be playing an immortal who takes control of all these empire across this 6000 year period (he can do that, he''s immortal).




Okay, character is a good start. Technicallly you already have it in the Civ games, as you choose a ruler name for your civ.

quote:

Now, an important thing to point out is even the games with the best stories, have only moments of story and moments of gameplay, FF7, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Fear Effect (my personal game of the month) are all like that. Think about it, most games have an opening setup sequence, then some gameplay, then more story, then more gameplay. FF7 for instance, the first part is them on the train (story), Then go through the mako reactor (gameplay), then they escape and regroup (story). When you think about it, there isn''t much gameplay during the story, and isn''t much gameplay during the story.



Here''s a big problem: Who told you to go to the Mako reactor? Who chose to regroup? Did the player choose, or did the designer choose? In Civ, it''s almost all about player choice.

quote:

So how do you get the two to merge, mainly by properly balancing gp and story. In civ, perhaps the first section of story would come before gameplay, and the story would be built dynamicly as the game progressed.



Good in theory, but we don''t have any technology to do this dynamic building right now (at least not well... although I think Chris Crawford is making strides in this area).

quote:

With a game like Civ, the key would be to have a whole lot of scenarios.



The problem with senarios is that they fundamentally change the nature of the 4x empire game that Civ is. Senarios change the game state (meaning things like units, and cities, and political relations) and are made up of stuff that doesn''t involve player decision. In Civ, __EVERYTHING__ you have is because of what you''ve done: How you''ve interacted with the world, your empire, and the competing Civs.

quote:

What might also be coolis if the different events of the story where transcribed into a chronicle of some type, so when the player was finished they''d have an actual story to read over, it would be kinda neat.


They had this in the form of a replayable history. Unfortunately for story, it went a lot like this: You founded Athens. The Mongols conquered Athens. The Mongols discovered Bronze. You stole bronze from the Mongols... etc., etc. Very repetitive as story, but awesome as gameplay (another reason I see the two as so seperate).

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#17 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 10:48 AM

quote:
Original post by Shinkage

I have a very simple answer for you. Civ already tells a story. Not only does it tell *A* story, but the most epic and sweeping of stories. What story is this you ask? It tells the story of the technological and social development of mankind throughout an alternate history. In a way, Civ is actually very linear. You have to get X technology in order to get Y technology. This technological tree always develops in the same broad fashion. Just because the game does not use TRADITIONAL narrative devices (i.e. characters, dialogue, etc...) does not mean it isn''t telling a good story.


I think your definition here bends the notion of what story is into an unrecognizable form. __IF__ your criteria for story is nothing more than a recounting of events, then yes. But I challenge you to find __ANY__ fiction market that would support a "story" like the one you get from a game of Civ. Civ story reads like a timeline. To me (and I think most people) this can be interesting, but is not a story.

And regarding the technology tree, no. That argument doesn''t hold because 1) You can jump through the tech tree (via spying, and random discoveries) and, more importantly 2) the tech tree is only a part of the greater whole that is the game, and how you progress through it depends vastly on the decisions you''re faced with, the choices you''ve made, and the state of the game as it is.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#18 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 11:01 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish


Anyway, my best guess would be to place some emphasis on the lineage of rulership. Kindof a Romance of the 3 Kingdoms thing. A lot of society-wide politics come down to groups of two or three people and their personal motivations. Viola, it doesn't cut back on gameplay because it has a direct bearing at all times on your society.



How is this different from the interactions between nations that you get in Civ? Leaders have personal motivations (build, explore, conquer, etc.). In Alpha Centauri (the grandson of Civ) they even have detailed personalities, motives and history. The expression of their motivations is played out on the game map

But a story this does not make. (A recitation of events, yes, but you don't get the measured drama, precise and perfect turn of events, empathy and emotion, etc. that you get with a fantastic story).

quote:

You add a tiny bit of roleplaying (no, like REAL rolplaying, not FF) at pretty much expected intervals, give guidelines for performance (i.e. make it game-like) and then let the player experience the consequences of his diplomatic screwups, and reap it's potential rewards... Sounds like fun (and story) to me.



The game has this now. When you interact with leaders you get to play a role, as either the imperious conquerer, the even handed negotiator, the cowed appeaser, or the scheming Machiavelian planner. But the result of all of this isn't story.

In a good story, you'd do what you do in Civilization once, or maybe twice. But in Civ you may trade, backstab, forge alliances, and plot and scheme __HUNDREDS__ of times. Where do you get this sort of repetition in traditional narrative? Wouldn't story summarize all of this? Wouldn't story be compelled to make it all different, each time?

Yet Civ gameplay does not.




--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

Edited by - Wavinator on October 10, 2000 6:02:24 PM

#19 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 11:09 AM

quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

It''s a good challenge.




Thx! That''s why I chose it.

quote:

Assumptions: We are not allowed to remove any of the game elements, although some modification is ok. If you let me remove the multiplayer aspect, for example, I think you could do it.



Correct. I can see a way of getting close w/o multi, and by having the enemy players follow scripted events, but then, this would not be Civ.


quote:

Civ has a tech tree that would be a good substitute for the plot points - they are linked and have a clear order to them - just replace ''iron working'' with a story element (take a ship to Monkey Island).



As I noted to Shinkage, though, you can skip around in the tech tree via theft and random discovery. Except in the case of hypertext fiction, if you did that to really good narrative it would destroy it. (And have you noticed that choose your own adventures and hypertext fiction haven''t-- except in a few cases-- made very good stories)

BTW, the rest of your thoughts on resource management and strategic decision making, I agree... they''re incompatible as narrative, and if you have a story in the background it can be nice but is fundamentally secondary.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#20 Ratheous   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 10 October 2000 - 11:14 AM

Let''s think of this in terms of P&P RPGs. A DM (or GM or... __ ) creates an environment with an incredible level of available interaction. These games usually have a general plot (the better ones do) which the creator had in mind when designing the campaign. As the game progresses RARELY does anything happen exactly the way the creator intended. What happens I think is that a story is written in the playing of the game, not in the creation of it. It begins with a setting, NPCs, friends/enemies and events. The players write the final narrative, the creator just provides the overall setting, and the NPC''s dialog. Depending on the players, the resulting story is often better than the original concept, and is more rewarding to the players than being forced to do certain theing certain ways to progress in the game. The story becomes the payers'' story.

To apply this to a game like Civ you could change the ''world'' setting to include events and interaction with NPCs. These could be scripted and still randomized in an acceptable manner to provide a diferent experience in separate games. Add social interacion that is intelligent and makes a significant diference in the world around you. As the game is played a story will emerge, consisting of a beginning, plot twists, and an ending, be it world domination or utter failure.

In short, the gameplay drives the story.

quote:

A game like Civ doesn''t need narrative. It would, in fact, ruin the idea of the game. The player is making their own narrative just by playing.



True, part of what I''m saying, but it''s still missing something. Maybe it''s missing a reason. With just gameplay you don''t need complex motivations. You play to win, or possibly just because you like the interface . It''s the challenge you''re looking for, not an experience. If you don''t really care about the events within the game then it''s missing something in my opinion.

Like in chess, you don''t care if you lose most of your pieces so long as you get that checkmate! Still good fun at times, but too dry for my tastes.

Just my take.
-Rath



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