In my opinion, if there's an exception to every rule, then there are no rules, really. If I sat here and listed every single exception to every one of my guidlines, I doubt if people would remain interested for very long.
I think that copy-cat is kind of a form of inspiration, a very weak form, but a form nonetheless.
I do think that the author should think about why they're writing the story, and what they hope to achieve with it. IT brings you to your events, helps you dictate how your events should unfold to bring you to the logical conclusion that you want to end up at, and the writer needs to be thinking about this during the entire design process. However, it must not overtake their thoughts because the author may twist the fabric of reality to fit their plotline. A writer has to be understanding of the fact that the rules of reality don't bend for them unless they wish to set the story in a science-fiction or fantasy setting, in which you also lose an audience.
What is an example of timeline that you shouldn't make?
Don't make a timeline on a piece of paper like you did for a book report in 1st Grade.
What is an example of an outline that you should make?
The first thing you have to do is look at the very big picture. When you created your plotline, you made a general outline (hopefully).
I think timeline is an important asset in the design process. A timeline is a reference. The more you can document a concept, the more likely that another person can add to the content. Imagine the Gundam universe has no timeline. It wouldn't be able to expand as well as it is. (I am not a Gundam fan.)
Re The Role of Story
The story gives a reason for the player's actions in-game. The experience lends strength to the story.
I agree that this is a reason. It follows the progression: tell, show, experience. The gaming medium allows the player to experience your world by being a character in the world.
I want to point out an alternate expression that is closer to stimarco's perspective.
"The scenario gives a context for the player's to interact in-game. The interpreted experience gives rise to the story."
The subtle difference in this statement is that you as the designer dictate the environment, but not the story. The story depends on the player's decisions. The player does not perform action according to decisions made during the 'story'. The player instantiates the story by making decisions. I don't think that this is a necessarily a better design goal, although it could be, since MMORPG follows this design goal.
Do you think that it is necessarily better?
Very good questions. I'll do my best to answer them.
In reference to the timeline, I don't mean this in the way of canon, I mean going to a piece of paper and going 'A happened, then b happened, then c happened.' To me, this just obstructs the entire thought process and forces you to leave out things that you wouldn't leave out when you're drawing it out on a piece of paper with arrows. I've never made a physical timeline using a straight line and the perpendicular event lines. I may work for some, but no one that I've ever met does this. I may just delete that remark, however, so that you for brining it up.
In reference to the player dictating the story: I think I know what you're saying. You're saying that the player should feel that what they're doing in the game is influencing what's going to happen next, and not like they're being led down a straight pathway. This, I agree with, and I'll add this in there. I'm glad I'm getting some feedback that I can use here.
In reference to the outline, what I'm referring to is sort of the way the timeline works, only this is something that doesn't take up 19 MB as an image on your computer. It's kind of like a book report, or when you outlined a chapter in a history book back in High School. While still fairly vague in terms of event number and depth, the outline should include important events, pivotal moments in the story, and some character-defining moments. Small side-quests and small-battle missions shouldn't really be included. This is especially useful if you're going to make more than one playable character. It's easier to first write about the main event that the characters engage in, then write the event for each character separately. This is to avoid random ideas finding their way into one character's plotline and be excluded from another, which may kind of throw off the story.
Thank you for the questions. I will add those when I get the chance.
I'm curious as to whether you were arguing my points or supporting them, because you were all over the place with your opinions.
Everything you are about to read is my profound opinion. I do not view it as hard fact:
The writer's job is to write.
I already stated your whole bit about having to cut characters, evens, cutscenes, and the like. Not only that, I never said that one cutscene would dump every possible personality trait on the character.
Keep in mind that I did not say this is a rulebook. This is a guildine to creating a strong story.
Do not say that experience overtakes writing, because the two work hand-in-hand. If one is lax, the chances are that the game will recieve poor ratings on all review websites and in magazines (people visit and read these, respectively) and players will not be interested in completing a single-player mode and will be therefore unmotivated to continue the game because nothing interesting is happening.
The story gives a reason for the player's actions in-game. The experience lends strength to the story. The two must co-exist equally.
Take a game like Mass Effect. Where would the game be without the story? No where. especially given that it's and RPG. But if it didn't have it's unique gameplay to coexist with the story the way it does, I doubt that the game would have sold as much as it did.
Drew Karpshyn wrote the story before BioWare took hold of it. The story began before the game design did. They built a whole new engine around his storyline. And an RPG storyline as massive as Drew's is staggeringly difficult to plot. It's the kind of plot that you cannot conform to a game design concept.
A story these days isn't told to educate, at least not in the sense that many people view the word 'story'. We think something fictional, not real. These stories are told to stimulate the mind into thinking in different ways. RPG games achieve a decision making ability that no other genre can, and that is the only genre in which the player can form his own story, especially in the case of Mass Effect, where you almost never finish the game with the same characters, plot, or abilities unless you try extremely hard.
A writer is supposed to either enlighten, persuade, describe, educate, inform, or entertain. That is the main goal of the writer these days. In game writing, it is almost always the latter.
Granted, you do have some word-game examples, or very well-worked mystery games that teach the user critical thinking skills, but these are not, in reality "stories". They're a series of puzzles, mazes, and guess-work based missions. So while your post has noble intent, I must strongly disagree with a lot of your opinions, though I will not say you are wrong.