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Character Growth and Stories


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#1 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 23 October 2000 - 09:52 PM

I was just thinking: It seems that a lot of stories (books/movies) tend to revolve around the protagonist making a change in some way. The character is not the same at the end of the story as he/she is at the beginning. Usually the character grows but maybe not always in a positive way. In a story-based game, the main character is controlled by the unpredictable player. We, as game writers/designers, cannot force the player to grow or change throughout the game. I am usually all for the interactivity side, but this is quite a problem for writing for a game. I'm not sure of a solution right now, but I just thought I'd bring up the situation. ""You see... I'm not crazy... you see?!? Nazrix believes me!" --Wavinator "All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be." -Pink Floyd Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself. Edited by - Nazrix on 10/24/00 3:53:57 AM

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#2 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 23 October 2000 - 10:08 PM

Having just been playing Diablo II, I was thinking about this myself. You cannot just force the player to go out killing everything because eventually that gets boring. I think to remove this kind of problem you need to have more choice of different actions to partake. You may not be able to ensure that they cannot grow, but they may grow bored trying to find such a way...

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#3 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 23 October 2000 - 10:27 PM

Yes, that''s true. It would be fun trying to confront the player w/ moral choices that have major consequences in the game. You could even use your approach, dwarfsoft, and use the sterotypes against the player. That would sort of be like the protagonist growing by realizing that he/she was wrong about a certain sterotype all along.

I am starting to realize why LF used to freak out about the loss of control through interactivity. One of the most powerful tools a writer has in telling a story is through the main character which is the player...which the writer has little control over.

Story-based games just aren''t books, are they?


""You see... I'm not crazy... you see?!? Nazrix believes me!" --Wavinator

"All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be." -Pink Floyd

Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.


#4 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 23 October 2000 - 10:40 PM

Exactly, the whole problem I see is that if you give the player too much freedom and or interactivity, then you lose strength in your story.

The way that I see you can have strength in both is by looking at the story as a glass window that is shattering. The split starts in the middle and branches out like a spider web, it crosses on itself in places and continues to the finish.

If you had such a setup for your story then you don''t necessarily have to have the character grow in any aspect in the game. All they need to do is make decisions that affect the outcome of the story. This way you can also have fortune tellers that can give some reasonable accounting of the future.

It wont solve the problem, but it would make growing less of a problem and choice more available

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#5 Ingenu   Members   -  Reputation: 914

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 02:51 AM

mmhh...
The way I solve this problem was by asking the player to make moral choices

And to make sure everything goes the way I wish, I divide the game into chapter having each an ending that will change the next chapters.
This may look incredible or amazing but in fact is easy, trust my almost 10 years experience writing sotries and being a GM

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

#6 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 03:08 AM

quote:
Original post by Nazrix

I am starting to realize why LF used to freak out about the loss of control through interactivity. One of the most powerful tools a writer has in telling a story is through the main character which is the player...which the writer has little control over.





But don''t be afraid of it, embrace it...
Interactivity is what sets this medium apart. People are still trying to tell stories using this medium, while it is NOT suited to games. You should allow people to CREATE stories. This is different. You will not be there to hold the players hand. You won''t be able to say "Don''t go there, we didn''t really plan for you to go there!".

It takes a shift of thinking, but it can be pulled off. Think of actions/reactions, and how you can weave a story around it...


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4985

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 03:45 AM

quote:
Original post by MadKeithV

[quote]Original post by Nazrix

I am starting to realize why LF used to freak out about the loss of control through interactivity. One of the most powerful tools a writer has in telling a story is through the main character which is the player...which the writer has little control over.


But don't be afraid of it, embrace it...
Interactivity is what sets this medium apart. People are still trying to tell stories using this medium, while it is NOT suited to games. You should allow people to CREATE stories. This is different. You will not be there to hold the players hand. You won't be able to say "Don't go there, we didn't really plan for you to go there!".

It takes a shift of thinking, but it can be pulled off. Think of actions/reactions, and how you can weave a story around it...



Unfortunately it also takes more programmer-hours, and therefore more $, to try for real interactivity. Ways around this? I've been contemplating the idea of putting the interactivity right into a reusable engine, as per the 36 plots thread we had a few months ago. The difficulty would be to do it realistically without using gigs of data. Any ideas?

Edited by - sunandshadow on October 24, 2000 9:35:32 PM

#8 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 03:47 AM

Yes. Goblin.


( Well we''re trying, slowly but surely, to build a framework that will allow this, EVENTUALLY )

Another comment to make:
it may take more programmer hours, but much, MUCH less designer/storyboarder hours, since they will be able to work in parallel doing small interesting tidbits of story.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#9 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 11:14 AM

Well, the reason why I am sticking with a story in mine? I intend to write a book. I am already on the right track and I think that literature is a great medium. I just want to marry Games and Literature together. I am beginning to see that Games are less of a story medium though. With interactivity would there need to be a defined ending? If not then it would not be a game. Does interactivity mean ''Here is what you are to achieve, now figure out how to achieve it!''? I think this concept is rather mind-warping. If it can be done then I don''t think anybody is near it yet

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
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 24 October 2000 - 12:07 PM

A lot of games that we would consider the sort that are win/lose like Quake for instance don't have a real solid ending, do they? It's pretty much that there are just no more levels. The final level usually isn't all that much more different than the first. The ending is really not much of a satisfying resoultion.

quote:
by dwarfsoft
'Here is what you are to achieve, now figure out how to achieve it!'?



I think that is a decent way of using interactivity. I don't really think the game as a whole should be like that. I think that approach could be used in side-quests perhaps.

The way I think it can be done is the player is given a limited way of interacting w/ the world. Then the creativity comes in as to how the player uses these methods of interacting. This is also where the creativity comes in on the part of the writers/designers as to how they allow the player to use diverse ways to reach a goal.

Like if the player must find out info from an NPC...The player could threaten the NPC, befriend the NPC, try to break into his house to go through the NPC's possessions to perhaps find out something. The possibilities are endless, but the catch is that you embrace the limitation of having only so many ways to interact w/ the world...then use those ways as creatively as possible. You can also make some nice twists in the plot. The player may think that he can use a certain method to achieve the goal, but something totally unexpected may result.


""You see... I'm not crazy... you see?!? Nazrix believes me!" --Wavinator

"All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be." -Pink Floyd

Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.



Edited by - Nazrix on October 24, 2000 7:11:08 PM

#11 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 12:59 PM

I think the masking/disguising is getting towards interactivity. That is why I like it so much

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#12 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 02:02 PM

For starters, we''ll need to scale down our stories.

Before I start, let me say that by "interactive story", I mean an engine-driven plotline that is flexible, but not random or freeform.

It is rather mind-boggling to create an interactive story involving dozens of characters and an entire continent. There are simply too many variables. But what about a story involving two people in one room? Well now, that''s pretty easy, but probably not too interesting. Somewhere inbetween, you may find a happy medium. (or a mildly pleased witch. . .ba-da boom)

Now, if you are at all interested in flexible storylines, you should check out www.erasmatazz.com. I physically drooled the first time I saw it.

Another crucial point is: This whole process would be loads simpler if we took the story''s emphasis off of the player. I wouldn''t advocate reducing the player to a bystander, by any means, and the game''s focus would still be the player, but the game and the plot are essentially seperate entities, though one may effect the other. I think an example might help to clarify things (pardon the cliches):

You have a kingdom in disarray. The king''s brother is attempting to assassinate the king and prince and put his own son on the throne; and is backed by many powerful factions. The crux of the plot is the king''s efforts to remain in power v. the brother''s attempts to dethrone him. Now, it would seem obvious that the main protaganist is one of these four characters, (king, prince, evil brother & son) since the action focuses on them. I would say that is correct, since the protaganist (or antagonist) should be the one pulling the strings. Now, we assume from the conventions of film & literature that the protaganist gets the lions share of screen time, therefore the player==the protaganist. However, the brick wall we''ve been running into is the difficulty of balancing player choice w/ the needs of a good plot. So if the player is the protaganist, he/she by definition can tweak and pull our carefully crafted plot any which way, and we are powerless to stop them.

What if the player is instead a kitchen servant, a knight, the king''s cousin, or simply a foreigner coming to town just as these events are unfolding. We could allow the player much more freedom and keep our precious plot in motion. The effects a player has on the plot would naturally be far more limited, but the player could still be just as "involved" w/ the plot. Think Sam instead of Frodo, or even Gollum instead of Frodo .

The player''s actions could still work towards the resolution of the plot, and it need not be any less fun, but we as designers wouldn''t have to worry about the player, say, deciding to run off to Switzerland rather than deal w/ the trouble in Denmark. The player would still be free to do so, but he/she would miss whatever had happened in their absence.

#13 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 02:07 PM

AP, that's so simple yet so briliant

I just sort of took it for granted that the player must be the protagonist, but it does not have to be....very interesting


""You see... I'm not crazy... you see?!? Nazrix believes me!" --Wavinator

"Though the course may change someimes the rivers always reach the sea" --Led Zeppelin

Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.


Edited by - Nazrix on October 24, 2000 9:19:54 PM

#14 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4985

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 02:38 PM

quote:
Original post by MadKeithV

Yes. Goblin.


( Well we''re trying, slowly but surely, to build a framework that will allow this, EVENTUALLY )

Another comment to make:
it may take more programmer hours, but much, MUCH less designer/storyboarder hours, since they will be able to work in parallel doing small interesting tidbits of story.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~


That''s cool. What approach are you using? (unless that''s classified info ) If you have a project info page you can just refer me there.

#15 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 04:32 PM

sunandshadow - go to ezboard and search for ''Goblin Game Developers'' or something of the like. That is where the discussion is

As for AP - That is genius. I, like Nazrix, was always under the impression that the player was the central figure in the scheme of things. It might prove very interesting, and could have quite a plot.

If you look at it as the ''main'' character being the front where the player does all of the dirty work (like finding out the info) then there may be more reason for people to trust the less macho looking servant than the forboding master. It could be a new element that is needed

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#16 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 24 October 2000 - 09:13 PM

Actually, perhaps I''ve always found this too obvious to mention:

Even in Lord of the Rings - how much influence do the characters REALLY have on the story? Take Frodo for instance... All he does that is REALLY significant to the story, is getting the ring to mount doom. He doesn''t even throw it in himself, it''s forced on him by Gollum.

So - I''ve always thought of interactive stories as having a set of things that are going on behind the scenes, in places where the player isn''t, and that the player may witness, and influence. Since the player can''t be everywhere at once, he/she can''t influence everything..

Actually, that leads me to a VERY simple solution to the problem!

Always have TWO places that can lead to a certain outcome/story twist. Then, if the player happens to be in one place, let it happen in the other, and the player will feel as if he/she has influenced the story, while your carefully crafted series of events is not compromised.

( works in single player only of course )


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#17 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 02:41 AM

In the Lord of the Rings, the characters have choices on each of the turn of events, but they have no choice about the outcome. Therefore you could draw the conclusion that you could have many different obstacles with many different paths but which you may choose to go your own way. For this reason, Frodo might choose to give Sam the ring and Sam could have thrown it in the fire mountain (I believe that Sam had the strength of will to do this) or events could have unfolded in the stated way.

There is a difference, though, between literature and games. Before we can think of the better (note that there is no ''best'' or ''perfect'' way) ways in which the game can be made. We already have discussed that linearity suits books more where non-linearity suits games more. I think I like the idea of creating lots of obstacles and letting the player choose their own course.

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#18 MSW   Members   -  Reputation: 151

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Posted 25 October 2000 - 06:16 AM

I think we can still incorporate a strong dramatic story, and place the player at the center of the conflict.

Simply look at the Final Fantasy games...these have strong stories and charactors...true they are pretty linear and near as interactive as say Diablo is...But for many players this is a strength, not a weakness. This is because games like that seem to lack focus, players can feel lost as there is nothing they should clearly be doing next...The story feels tacked on, and unimportant...the king will say "*players name*, you have done well!" no matter if speaking to a elf, half orc, or whatever else the player had chosen for thier charactor...In the FF games, players are more like actors..takeing on the role of the charactor as if in a play or film...the various members of the party are all uniquely different, they have personalites, conflicts of intrest, and seem much more real then the simple charactor class differences found mixed together in parties in other RPGs...

Anyhow, I think to really develop stories with moral delemas, and other such situations, we need to take a hollywood "high-concept" stance...focus the game world and game play directly around such situations...for example, this is the game I''m working on:

basied around a re-definition of magic...what if in the game world, when the player runs out of MP they die...further changeing convention, for every spell they cast, they lose MP as normal, but there is only one way to regain it [by eating the heart of a dragon, perhaps]...further complicateing things, MP is drained every day basied on the number of hearts eaten [1 heart = 1%, 2=2%, etc..]...thus forceing magic users to constantly seek more and more dragons...now then place the player''s charactor in the middle...at game start they are charged to protect the few remaining dragons in existance...along comes a wizard who has enough MP power to easily kill a dragon [and needs the dragon''s heart to help him sustain this level of MP]...as the player, what do you do?...without any MP, you are''t strong enough to take on the wizard...and to become that strong you would have to eat a dragon''s heart...clearly there are two paths here, but once the player eats a heart, they will never be the same...it''s "high-concept" [think of the film "Speed" and the bus going 55 MPH] but deeply woven into the gameplay...and there are thousands of smaller details and events that could be interpolated from this concept...

#19 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1217

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Posted 26 October 2000 - 12:37 AM

That is an interesting concept. Deception is my key to the game. Basically use player prejudice against them. But anyway...

I would really hate for a player to have lost their way in a game, that is why there should always be a BIG NEON SIGN that points them in the right direction. Maybe an NPC could seek the player out to tell them the news, but any way that it happens, it has to happen.

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          


#20 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 26 October 2000 - 01:30 AM

Dwarf, you can use the daggerfall approach: Have a stranger hand the player a note from an NPC then get away before the player can ask the messanger any questions (the player was just informed that he''s handed a note in a little text box then the player can read info from ther NPCs).


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd

"Though the course may change sometimes, the rivers always reach the sea" --Led Zeppelin

Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.





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