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#1 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 04:27 AM

You may have heard me use this before: "Amnesiac monster-hunter on a quest to save the world through recovering the four magical doo-dads..." There''s more to this heinous cliché, but we''re just going to address this one for today. What''s with the 4 or 12 or however many doo-dads? They are an inherent weakness in game writing/design, since you are essentially asking the player to do the same thing multiple times. This reflects a problem taht writiers in other media have struggled with for centuries, but "interactivity" has severely magnified it: How do you make the player go where you want? I won''t bore you with a summary of current technique, because current technique sucks. "Railroad your player", they say. Or worse yet, "Give them a choice but have the story be the same regardless of that choice." Can anyone provide me with a plan to put all of these writer-designers in a shack and burn it down? So here''s the problem at it''s core: Cause and Effect. It''s easy to write, isn''t it? If there''s only one thing that furthers the plot, the plot won''t further until that thing happens. So the player goes off on an easter-egg hunt, trying to find the one signpost/NPC hybrid that will tell her what to do next so she can further the story and find a place to kill more powerful monsters, hence speeding the religious experience of leveling. And of course, the designers make this signpost-NPC impossible to find, so they can brag of more gameplay time. Dorks. This is not how things should be. The reverse end of these games are the ones that let you affect everything. As fun as these might be, they inevitably have large plot-holes, or no real plot to speak of. It just doesn''t suit what I want to do: tell a story whilst using interactivity (I hate that word) to enhance, not hinder. So, I come to you guys for some input. Any ideas about how we can break the cause/effect chain?

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#2 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 05:57 AM

There are (at least) three types of campaign.

1. Linear, where the DM railroads the players, but their freedom of action slightly compensates for this as does the predetermined stuff.

2. Non-Linear where the players can go wherever they want and do whatever they want at the expense of the plot.

3. something inbetween. Where the players can go anywhere they want to, but they are likely to run into recurring Non Player Characters elsewhere (because the NPCs are nomads, travelling folk, doing jobs). This could probably be implemented relatively well into current games (with a bit of who+where randomisation so that it doesn''t force it down your throat).



#3 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 08:04 AM

In one of his two Level design articles at www.gamasutra.com Tim Ryan discusses the basic form of narrative, the "Ur" narrative where the hero has a series of challenges to overcome. Whether they are rampaging lions, cyclopses, rival clans, the hero''s own feelings of inadequacy, or a nagging mother in law.

Ketchaval says...
Ie. When lazy "game designers" set the tasks as recover the four amulets, they are going with a narrative.. but that they are being really boring and not disguising the tasks by making them more diverse : Arguing with a nagging M.I.L (can''t be done?). Also several classic Nintendo games use this formula, but disguise it well enough (+ the main focus of the game is *Gameplay*). Ie. You don''t know about the MacGuffin that you have to save until an hour into the game, and when you collect the MacGuffins there is a plot twist and something changes...

#4 Shinkage   Members   -  Reputation: 595

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 08:47 AM

I think this feeds more into something else. Game writers up until this point have focused almost exclusively on plot, virtually ignoring other literary elements. What''s funny is that for compelling stories, plot is generally considered one of the least important elements.

The first step toward eliminating current literary woes in the gaming industry is to integrate deep characterization and theme into stories. Writers have been doing it for god knows how long, and a book written without any focus on such things is generally considered to be trash. Game plots that ignore these things should be considered just as much trash.

As long as games focus so much on just plot, it''s always going to be a matter of go to place A, commit act B, obtain object C, etc...

#5 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 09:18 AM

I'm not going to try and come up w/ an all-encompassing solution just yet, 'cause I'll probably just fall on my face.

One important tool that we all know exists is letting the player come up with a solution to a problem based on rules set by the game.

Let's say the player needs to obtain an item from a certain NPC. The player could possibly kill the NPC to obtain that item. Maybe the player could invite the NPC to the local tavern, and try to become friends with the NPC to gain his trust...then steal the item.

There's tons of possiblities. The important part of it is to make the possibilities available to the player throughout the game. It would be stupid if the player is meant to do something and it listed a few possibilties and the player could choose what he wanted to do. The better way to do it is to have the possibilities there throughout and the game will be made to react to those possibilities.

The point is that you don't alter the plot, you alter the possibilities of interaction.

This could go deeper if you're using perhaps a skill-based system. Different possiblities could be possible depending on what skills the character possesses. So, playing the game more than once and selecting different skills would present different possibilities of interactions.

This is one way to do accomplish the task without having to diverge the plot much at all. The plot could be made to fluctuate as little or as much as the designers want.

That's just one of the things I think are an important tool. What do you think?


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



Edited by - Nazrix on October 8, 2000 4:45:43 PM

#6 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 09:37 AM

I think in a story-based game, well-done, controlled narrative is interesting.

Freedom of interaction is interesting.

The thing is to combine the two.



#7 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 10:36 AM

Story based definitely has plusses. Interactive (non-story) also has its plusses. It is all about your choice in sacrificing one to get the other. You can have a branching story that has some Interactivity in it and less strength in the story or you can have totally linear and can have a strong story. Its more about which suits your game better



""" "''Nazrix is cool'' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree"-Nazrix" -- runemaster" -- and now dwarfsoft



#8 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 10:44 AM

Don't you see, dwafsoft? Anyone can say that it's one or the other, and it depends on what suits the designers intents. We are trying to break throught these limitations.


""" "'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree"-Nazrix" -- runemaster --and now dwarfsoft" -- dwarfsoft (<-- this is getting insane, but in a good way )


Edited by - Nazrix on October 8, 2000 5:45:09 PM

#9 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 10:47 AM

The Sig: LOL!

Anyway, I do believe that you can have a self generating story that holds in interactivity and in story based, but I don''t think that it is really that simple to achieve. I do believe that at some point in the future, the amount of code that we can pack into a game to generate an interesting story will be available... That is not so now. I do think that it is a worthy cause but I think that it is a hurldle that cannot be cleared at the moment... Prove me wrong

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IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#10 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 10:54 AM

Well, my previous post is one thought I have to achieve interactivity w/ a well-crafted story.

In short: Have a fairly linear story, but allow the player many diverse ways to achieve the goals along the story. The interactivity and freedom is there because of the many various ways to achieve a goal. The solid story is there because it would be pretty linear. I, personally, would want to diverge the plot a bit, but it wouldn't have to be diverged at all.

I do agree that computers are not to the point where they can intelligently generate stories, and I really think it would kind of suck if they did. It would pretty much negate a potentially interesting part of developing a game.

The thing that I think is misconceived is that interactivity does not have to mean totally manipulating the plot. It can mean that the player can react to situations in the plot in only a set number of ways. The plot can be written to change according to those possible actions of the player. The thing is that you give the player certain things he can do, and then write the story to react to those things. It's up to the writer to make creative use of the player's possible actions.

(BTW, Glad to have you back, dwarfsoft. )




""" "'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree"-Nazrix" -- runemaster --and now dwarfsoft" -- dwarfsoft


Edited by - Nazrix on October 8, 2000 6:40:23 PM

#11 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 01:08 AM

Thanks Nazrix... Nice to be back

Hmm, so what you are saying is that you dicatate a linear story, but allow many paths to acheive exactly the same results? That could work and I think that it is something that hasn''t really been considered much before. It is so simple that I have to say that I overlooked it as a possibility.

Basically though I think that it all comes down to a yes/no choice at certain points that branch the game differently for you. It is not a concept that I haven''t thought of. I am using this concept to maintain a strict story with at least some interactivity. Also, I have other things like time-based quests where the player may or may not complete them and it has little impact on the game.

BTW. It is good to see that LF got his forum, now all that is needed is for the NPC forum to open

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"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#12 Ingenu   Members   -  Reputation: 931

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 04:02 AM

Already designed a game using this solution (and others) :p

Anyway I don''t have the time to put enough energy in it to make it true.

Maybe when I''ll create that famous game firm I want...

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

#13 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 04:45 AM

As much as I appreciate Naz''s plan, I get the sense that it will still feel something like Fallout. Sure, there''s a story there, kindof, but nothing you can get terribly involved in because we throw characterization to the wind by letting the player choose things arbitrarily.

I want to say there''s a "better" way, but it''s not. It''s just different.

You see, a system of various routes to success (as Naz has implied) still implies a possible failure. All games have failure in some form, even MYST (remember when you couldn''t figure out that puzzle, and you broke the cd and never played again? Yeah, that was failure...)

On of the things in the Ten Commandmants on Landfish.com that I really didn''t understand until recently: Games should be deeper than they are long. This really means alternate scenarios, two people will not usually play through the same way twice...

But this divergence should NOT be a concious process for the player. She shouldn''t be able to state the points in the game at which she could have done something different to get a different story. These divergent pathways should arise organically from the story, as simple as pass/fail or location at a certain time...

Thus the actual cause/effect relationship becomes null, it is no longer the only way! Sure the chararacter might be on the way to speak to a specific person, but if she gets there fast enough she overhears that person taking a bribe! It just adds a whole new layer to the gameplay, no more cause and effect.

#14 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 08:48 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

As much as I appreciate Naz''s plan, I get the sense that it will still feel something like Fallout. Sure, there''s a story there, kindof, but nothing you can get terribly involved in because we throw characterization to the wind by letting the player choose things arbitrarily.

I want to say there''s a "better" way, but it''s not. It''s just different.

You see, a system of various routes to success (as Naz has implied) still implies a possible failure. All games have failure in some form, even MYST (remember when you couldn''t figure out that puzzle, and you broke the cd and never played again? Yeah, that was failure...)

On of the things in the Ten Commandmants on Landfish.com that I really didn''t understand until recently: Games should be deeper than they are long. This really means alternate scenarios, two people will not usually play through the same way twice...

But this divergence should NOT be a concious process for the player. She shouldn''t be able to state the points in the game at which she could have done something different to get a different story. These divergent pathways should arise organically from the story, as simple as pass/fail or location at a certain time...

Thus the actual cause/effect relationship becomes null, it is no longer the only way! Sure the chararacter might be on the way to speak to a specific person, but if she gets there fast enough she overhears that person taking a bribe! It just adds a whole new layer to the gameplay, no more cause and effect.



You used to say that the plot shouldn''t diverge whether the player effects it or not. What you''re saying about divergence not being a concious action for the player sounds like a contradiction. Did you change your mind?

I really think that the players effect on the plot being a concious choice is not a bad thing.

What you propose about having the player see that someone''s taking a bribe is really great. Like, if the player had all along trusted the NPC taking the bribe and sees this happen it could change any things about how the player sees that character for the rest of the game.

I think that''s a really good, powerful tool. I think that allowing the player to look at the situation and evaluate a concious choice is also very powerful too. It makes the player actually plan and think. Assuming the player is responsible enough it allows room for role-play. The player can react to situations according to their conception of the character they''re playing.

I think you''re example is more along the passive, story-telling area where letting the player make a decision is more along the interactive, game side of things. They''re both useful in telling a story and creating an immersive environment.


""" "'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree"-Nazrix" -- runemaster --and now dwarfsoft" -- dwarfsoft


#15 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:02 AM

I am with LF on the involvement aspect. I think that with some foresight as to where the story is going, you can place things in the game that are relevant and hint to some finality in the game. This is something that you can''t do (at least not yet) in a fully divergent game. If you had a lot of resources then you could have a branching story to your hearts content, but never get the full immersibility that a totally linear story can render (not saying that all linear games have immersible stories - most don''t ).

What you can do is have shortcuts and long cuts in a linear story. This is just a divergent or branching story. What you do is have some things that the player may or may not consider as shortcuts to their final goals. If they miss asking the NPC (for example) for directions then they may have to take the long way. If they take the long way then they may find out more information. I think that to acheive an immersible story then you need to have at least a minimum of player choice while maintaining a reasonable complete linear story. This is not to say that you cannot do it with a divergent story, just that it would be extremely difficult to contain the content that would be required to create the effect.

About the alternate scenarios, that is a reasonable idea and could hold some merrit, but it still holds that you would need to put a lot more thought in to get the required depth in the same time period in the same era with the same (mostly) people in your game. This only holds if you want the scenarios to be consistent with each other (which is something that hasn''t been considered to be modifyable) and do not contradict one another. Shortening the game length is one of the discussions that we had back in the Game Design corner. I think it is reasonable and would promote the depth in game aspect. If you did shorten it then you would be required to include greater depth and more content than a linear long game. This is definitely the pathway to games as art

About consistency. What I said before was if you were making a divergent game, if you want each of the divergent stories to be consistent with one another or if you want the stories to diverge into their own sub-stories. By this I mean that in one of the sub stories NPC X kills the govenor, but in another the govenor lives and kills the player, or in another NPC Y kills the govenor and player X. This is just a simple example, but it could be on a grander scale with more importance on the game. Say if your game was about ridding the evil that had beseiged a land (a cliched story) in ending 2 the evil was the mad king that had consorted with satan/the devil and in ending 7 it ended up being aliens that were attempting to take over the planet. These drastically change the finish and are completely inconsistent. This way you could have greater depth with difference in story and it would be a completely different experience the next time you play it because you wouldn''t know what to expect.

I think now that I have ranted enough, so comments please

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-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#16 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:04 AM

Naz, I thought we went through this. That''s why mutable is one of the ten commandments.

It''s like I said, deeper than they are long...

The character not seeing the bribe take place doesn''t make the NPC any less evil, and it doesn''t mean the bribe-taking didn''t happen. It just affects the player''s experience of the story in a non cause-effect way. That''s what we all want, right?

Theoretically, the game part of the story might never diverge in the above example... but the player''s experience certainly does.

#17 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:15 AM

The main problem that I see in a consistent-divergent story is that on replay-value the player is going to know too much. You should be able to add random elements and have a non-consistent story at the same time. As I stated above, there are pros for a non-consistent-divergent story being that the player has a new look on the game. A con is that they may not love you as a game designer for being non-consistent. However, a pro for a consistent-divergent game is that the player gets a feel for the world that you make for them, a con is that they are biassed in their outlook on it.

Just a few more thoughts

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-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#18 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:26 AM

LF,

Yes, I definitely agree with this. The thing I have a problem with is why would it be bad that w/ a certain experience the player makes a concious decision that effects the plot. Maybe the effect won't be 100% direct, but I don't see what's wrong w/ the player being able to see the effect of his/her actions. I'm not saying what you're saying is bad but I don't see why a concious decision is bad.

I like non cause & effect. I like it a lot. It's taking advantage of the game medium in a very good way. I just don't see what is wrong with the player taking in the information of the world and making a decision based on that information and having it effect the flow of the plot. I'm not saying that every story-based game should have this, but I don't see what's wrong w/ it.

You said it yourself: The player should do stuff 'cause he wants to based on information gathered about the world. I don't see what's wrong with the player doing something 'cause he/she wants and seeing a result of his/her actions.

quote:
Orginal post by Chicken of the Sea
But this divergence should NOT be a concious process for the player.



Maybe you were saying in your particular example the divergence shouldn't be concious, instead of for all games in general? 'Cause that's the statement that's bothering me most.

One thing I must admit is that if you allow the player to choose concious decisions, you're putting a lot of trust in the player. You're trusting the player to be responsible enough to have a theme for their character at the beginning, so that they make consistant choices according to how the character of their player.

I must tell you though. That kind of player is out there. I check the message boards for the Elder Scroll games (Daggerfall was one of them) often, and there's a lot of people who are that responsible. There's people there who dressed according to the seasons in Daggerfall even though it had no effect. Imagine if it really did effect the game.

My point is that there's people who would be responsible enough to make consistant decisions, (the game's mechanics could help this also obviously through repuation and stuff like that).

If doing things like this is targeting a smaller audience, I wouldn't mind cause I'm just doing games for a hobby. I don't that the audience would be that small anyway.



""" "'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree"-Nazrix" -- runemaster --and now dwarfsoft" -- dwarfsoft



Edited by - Nazrix on October 9, 2000 6:46:12 PM

#19 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:42 AM

cause & effect are good - if you can keep it away from the players knowledge. They just play the game as if it is branching out in front of them but to them it is linear. Unconciously they should be making decisions that affect the game, but throw in some concious decisions for them that don''t have any bearing on the game. This way they will always do something different, even if they follow their concious decisions step by step . Then they will just consider the story randomly generated...

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-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#20 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 11:48 AM

Damn Naz... you''ve edited that post at least 5 times now... Just write a new one for gawds sake.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          





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