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what is a good story?


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#21 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8655

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 03:46 PM

Darn I was afraid linking to a search might not work. I used the two terms showing and telling and chose the settings to display threads with those words in the title only.

So in the search box I would type "showing telling"?
I have registered for that forum.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

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#22 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4578

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 04:22 PM


Darn I was afraid linking to a search might not work. I used the two terms showing and telling and chose the settings to display threads with those words in the title only.

So in the search box I would type "showing telling"?
I have registered for that forum.

Right, no quotes or anything just those two words. And there's a drop down menu just below the search box (in the advanced search interface) where you can limit the search to thread titles instead of whole posts. Alternately you could just go to the Basic Writing Questions subforum if you want to see lots of common questions and good answers about all sorts of basic writing topics.
I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#23 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8655

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 05:42 PM

Thanks, Sun.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#24 allen_idaho   Members   -  Reputation: 98

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 08:20 PM

The whole idea of "show, don't tell" is the very basis for writing a script for films or games. The reason is that it's mostly a waste of paper every time you write something that the player / viewer cannot see or hear.

Explaining backstory outside of dialogue is wrong. Explaining useless facts about an object is wrong. Explaining the inner thoughts and emotions of your characters is wrong.

When you are describing a character, the description should be short and to the point. You do not explain the character's childhood or motivations. You explain what they look like and who they are. Their actions and dialogue will do the rest.

When describing a location, your description should again be short and to the point. No indepth explainations. Just tell us how it looks.

Now your main storyline should always follow a solid 3-Act story arc with a definitive beginning, middle and end. As long as you follow that basic principle, you will do just fine.

#25 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4578

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 09:31 PM

That's a bit extreme. I personally think there are times when it is appropriate to tell instead of show. One case is things that the reader needs to know to understand the story but aren't in themselves important or entertaining. You can also tell and show at the same time for maximum clarity of an important point.
I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#26 allen_idaho   Members   -  Reputation: 98

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 01:28 AM

Yes you can. But you have to remember that you aren't writing a novel here. You are writing a blueprint for the design team to follow.

#27 Liosse de Velishaf   Members   -  Reputation: 114

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 01:54 AM

That's a bit extreme. I personally think there are times when it is appropriate to tell instead of show. One case is things that the reader needs to know to understand the story but aren't in themselves important or entertaining. You can also tell and show at the same time for maximum clarity of an important point.



I agree. "Show, don't tell" is an over-quoted mantra, and nothing like some sort of secret to awesome writing. Some situations require telling, and some showing, and a good writer learns to identify which is required.


Also, the assertion that telling passing plot information in dialogue is good writing practice is completely false. There are all sorts of satirical and derogatory terms for such. From a script perspective, it makes sense in many cases because a script-writer has mostly dialogue with which to convey their story. But scripts don't address every aspect of a movie, as a lot is left to the director and cast. In reality, there is an enormous amont of showing in movies that is not present in the script.


Many aspects of the background will not show up in the game in the same format due to the tools available in games as a medium, and if you are strictly writing a design document, you can leave a lot of stuff you would put into a novel out. But not every game is developed in the same way. An indie game and an AAA game with a design team and a huge staff are going to be done differently. Also, original writing and final presentation are different. A great deal may be delivered in dialogue in-game, and text may be translated entirely into visuals in many cases, but that doesn't mean that creating the source text is "wrong".


There are also different levels of immersion in different games. A massive rpg like Mass Effect or Morrowind, and a platformer like Mario or a puzzle game like Zelda are all going to be handled differently, and players will ave different expectations from each.

#28 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4578

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 02:40 AM

Yes you can. But you have to remember that you aren't writing a novel here. You are writing a blueprint for the design team to follow.

Depends on the game, really. Something like the Myst series with all those journal pages is a bit like a novel. I've seen several games that take a slide-show approach, pairing a paragraph of narrative with a still image, using several of these in a series to tell a story. More cinematic games may have a voice-over spoken by a narrator. A game writer writes the exact wording of all those sorts of things, not just guidelines for others to work from.
I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#29 JoeCooper   Members   -  Reputation: 338

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 03:53 AM

I agree with a lot of the above; "show, don't tell" is is not a creative constant.

It is a strategy to avoid unengaging flat assertions. It's about engagement, and basically all sorts of things from backstory to exposition to computer manuals can be engaging if you're smart.

If you're new, adopting the "show, don't tell" mantra will likely improve your writing by forcing you to avoid certain unengaging flat assertions, however if you go a bit deeper into it, you can do a lot of things that could be described as "telling" and it will, in fact, work perfectly well no matter what your format is.

#30 allen_idaho   Members   -  Reputation: 98

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 12:47 PM

Depends on the game, really. Something like the Myst series with all those journal pages is a bit like a novel. I've seen several games that take a slide-show approach, pairing a paragraph of narrative with a still image, using several of these in a series to tell a story. More cinematic games may have a voice-over spoken by a narrator. A game writer writes the exact wording of all those sorts of things, not just guidelines for others to work from.


Yes. But the player can still see or hear these things. So it does follow the "show, don't tell" format.

#31 mvsc   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:18 AM

I would like to develop a game, in which the story goes something like this.

The main character is exceptionally gifted, and is a child prodigy who is recruited heavily by leading high tech firms, and by the government for top secret research into some kind of awesome mind blowing impossible technological developments. Little does the character know, the reason he is so talented to begin with, is that a third party had been planning to use him all along to one day infiltrate this research as a spy. When he was very young, he was somehow modified, implanted with some special mental device, in which skills, and mental abilities could be downloaded, updated, and developed by an outside party throughout the characters life. Also, the direction he would take in life, the choices he would make, and where he would end up would be no accident. At some point, the people who he had been created to unknowingly spy on discover this mystery, but they go on pretending. They are now attempting to discover who is behind this. Meanwhile the character has no clue what is going on, but everything is fishy. Eventually, the big shocker comes at the end when the character dies, but is not dead, instead he wakes up in a glass tank full of fluid and connected to life support systems. And what is most shocking is that he is not human. Turns out, he was an alien living as a human via avatar since birth. The story then goes into a period, in which the character is being prepped by the aliens for re-entry into a new child avatar, in which his memory will be wiped clean. He learns that this cycle has been going on for thousands of years. He had lived hundreds of lives as a human without even knowing and so have hundreds of other subjects also aboard the ship floating in liquid.

#32 Jack Mariani   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 04:28 AM

Show don't tell is a basic rule for a written story, it's very old and accepted by the experts.

But I think we should talk about: game don't show (a new rule I heard about gaming, I think on penny arcade - extra credits, don't remember which episode).

In a game we should express the story using the game challenges.

Ex. in assassin creed you KILL.
Yes, the killing is also showed. But it's not simply a cut scene or a line of dialogue (that are ok for other media such movie or books), the challenge of the game is the main issue to communicate the story.

@ msvc
The story, with some little adjustment I think, is ok.
The question is: how do you plan to implement it in the videogame? In which genre does it fit? Why it is good for a videogame?
Perfection is only a limit to improvement - Fantasy Eydor

#33 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 04:36 AM

Show don't tell is a basic rule for a written story, it's very old and accepted by the experts.

But I think we should talk about: game don't show (a new rule I heard about gaming, I think on penny arcade - extra credits, don't remember which episode).

In a game we should express the story using the game challenges.


It may be something that should be mentioned but is it really a problem caused by the writer skill or lack of understanding of the engines limitations? I can only think of the time such a rule would come into play is when there's an excessive number of cut-scenes and that tends to be because the game/engine is limited in what it can allow the player to do. For instance if the writer or designer wants to have the player's character conduct a hugely elaborate scene right now, then they either have to use a cut scene or have some form of quick-time event. I'm sure as time progresses and technology becomes more advances this "problem" will become even rarer. At the moment the majority of writers can't fall into this trap anyway, the budget constraints on the majority of projects would stop them overusing things like cinematic sequences.

The "show, don't tell" principle is much more topical for game writers currently and is an issue found to frequently in games.



#34 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 168

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 08:40 AM

Ok i'm slowly making another game so here another story of mine.

"In a far of forest of a distant land lies a castle that wields a mantel.
To those who have courage, intelligence and curiosity will receive a treasure worth of power.
But what is this power? what is this mantel? where is the castle? I as a Treasure hunter have explored
through the woods, surrounded by the danger that lies within the forest. I sunk down deep after getting Exhausted.
I wake up and found the castle I was determined. Now to hunt for the treasure I seek, to explore the passages, to avoid fatalities for I'm about to discover the castle of De Chuck A'la Cha.

Still no detail?

#35 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 09:44 AM

Ok i'm slowly making another game so here another story of mine.

"In a far of forest of a distant land lies a castle that wields a mantel.
To those who have courage, intelligence and curiosity will receive a treasure worth of power.
But what is this power? what is this mantel? where is the castle? I as a Treasure hunter have explored
through the woods, surrounded by the danger that lies within the forest. I sunk down deep after getting Exhausted.
I wake up and found the castle I was determined. Now to hunt for the treasure I seek, to explore the passages, to avoid fatalities for I'm about to discover the castle of De Chuck A'la Cha.

Still no detail?

No that reads like a summery and as a summery it gives very little information. That may be acceptable for a blurb on the back cover of a book but for a summary of a games story it is not. Read it through as ask what it actually tells us about the story. From reading it all I gather is there's something in a castle some treasure hunter wants. Here's some questions I would ask after reading this:

Does the castle actually wield a mantel?

What is the castle?

What is the mantel?

Is there any motivation for the hunter to go into the castle other than power?

Who is the treasure hunter?

How did he find the castle?

How does it tie into the game?
Why should I care?

The last question, for me anyway, is the most important. Above all the summery, if that was what you were aiming for, should make me care about the story to some extent. As it stands I may buy the game on the game play elements but currently the story wouldn't grab my attention at all, in-fact it would may affect my desire to buy it negatively.




#36 mvsc   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 03:21 PM

Show don't tell is a basic rule for a written story, it's very old and accepted by the experts.

But I think we should talk about: game don't show (a new rule I heard about gaming, I think on penny arcade - extra credits, don't remember which episode).

In a game we should express the story using the game challenges.

Ex. in assassin creed you KILL.
Yes, the killing is also showed. But it's not simply a cut scene or a line of dialogue (that are ok for other media such movie or books), the challenge of the game is the main issue to communicate the story.

@ msvc
The story, with some little adjustment I think, is ok.
The question is: how do you plan to implement it in the video game? In which genre does it fit? Why it is good for a video game?


Maybe as a fps. One faction is out to capture you, and the other is trying to protect you, but it's chaos. I imagine something sort of like half life 2. Your working on some research, your walking around in research facility checking all kinds of wild experiments and technology. Then there is a breach of security, and mercenaries start rushing in. You and another secondary character manage to use some tech to escape. This will be a tool which can be used throughout the game which is unique. It could be a cloaking device, maybe something which lets you walk through walls, maybe it slows time down.

I was thinking, it's kind of crazy, but what if it made you keep your mass for the sake of gravity, but allowed you to pass through objects completely unaffected. So, you activate it, and guess what happens? You start to fall into the center of the earth, and you pass all the way through, popping up on the other side of the world. Now your in China, or something. The tools and weapons you use throughout the game have to be very futuristic. You could have a device which when aimed at a persons head, causes them to go crazy, and you could have dial on it to switch modes. One mode makes them fall asleep, one of them makes them hungry or thirsty causing them to stop what they're doing and get some food, another mode makes them very irritable and start fights with the people around them causing a distraction.

Like in hitman, how you have to break into places and be stealthy, and if you get caught, hell breaks loose, you have to break into cool places, to see people, get resources, or obtain items, and you have these type of tools at your disposal, walk through walls etc.

#37 Cap'n VG   Members   -  Reputation: 168

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 10:51 AM

At this rate I'll never be good in story writing at all.

#38 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 05:36 PM

At this rate I'll never be good in story writing at all.

That's not true, you just need to gain experience (practice makes perfect) and above all take on board what people have said about your previous work. You can't in writing, or anything else for that matter, expect to be AAA from the word go.


The fact is you, and anyone else at this point in time, wishing to enter games design/writing for games has entered into an industry that is very much in its infancy, although not so young that it is a hindrance. This puts you/anyone in a position people in the past and future would or will kill for; to be a pioneer in the games industry, moulding what games and their stories evolve into, but only if you put in the effort to do so. A defeatist attitude will, surprisingly, only lead to defeat.



#39 Jack Mariani   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 05:59 AM

Let's make an example of game don't show and show don't tell.
The game is about assassination.

Story element
There's an antagonist who you need to kill.
You can:
- tell the player with a dialogue "mister x has been killed".
- Show with a cutscene deciding how and when mister x will be killed
- Let the player play the killing.

Too easy?
Let's add some subplot.
Story elements
The enemies had a informer in your team.
You think he's Mister M, and you send an ally to kill mister M.
While on mission you will understand that you were wrong. Mister M is not an enemy.
Now, you can:
- use dialogue to tell the player: "ok, you saved him".
- Show a cut scene where you see him saved.
- Give a player a chase challenge to run and save him.

Ok, also dialogue and cutscene are useful, and I'm not saying that we've to put away show don't tell.
I want to say that the best part of the stories should be playable, and this should be our priority as game writers.
Part of the story who aren't playable can be freely cut.

A possible application:
Long lines of dialogue can be boring and many players start to avoid them.
So we should:
a) let the player play more and listen to dialogue less.
b) make the dialogue a gameplay element (such in Alpha protocol)
Perfection is only a limit to improvement - Fantasy Eydor

#40 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 10:07 AM

Long lines of dialogue are awful, couldn't agree more. The thing I notice from your posts is that you equate showing to cut scene. Showing does not necessarily mean sitting the player down and making them watch a scripted sequence of events. Showing can mean anything that the player can see, the most prominent example is that of the environment the game takes place in but it can mean anything visual.

For example the player enters the office of Mister M. They are lead to believe he is there but he is in fact not, instead you find a picture of him and his family on the desk - it's the correct face but the name on the desk doesn't match. You then find a cup made by a child on the desk. The player starts to suspect something is wrong; this doesn't seem to be the right person. Looking at the computer will find a heated email chain between him and your employer; the player starts to suspect they have been set up. At this point Mister X enters the room, upon seeing the player he runs out the door and it is then down to the player to catch up with him.

What am I doing here? I'm showing the player that he isn't the right person while still letting them play the game. Showing the player the story and letting them play the game aren't mutually exclusive when done correctly. The only reason to believe this is true is by looking solely at examples of developer using techniques that don't fit with games or overusing techniques that otherwise would e.g. cut scenes.

The more I think about it the more "game don't show" seems to be more of a "buzz" phrase that has more to do with the story vs. game-play argument than how to create a good story within a game.




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