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Member Since 11 Apr 2012
Offline Last Active Apr 27 2013 11:26 PM

#4957326 An RPG without levels/experience

Posted by on 09 July 2012 - 10:58 AM

It could work. RPGs, at the end of the day, are roleplaying games, not "level up and point spending games." The hard part, however, would be to have that sense of progression. If you have the sense of progression only within the story, then those not as interested in the story will not have much reason to play, and you've just essentially done a disservice to them.

So there would have to be some mechanical milestones for progression that the player could cling to. What you would do in that case instead of xp/levels isn't really something I've thought long and hard about, so it's not really something I could brainstorm right now.

#4945619 What kind of game to create if you want "decent" money out of it?

Posted by on 02 June 2012 - 11:54 AM

Firstly, if this is the first question you ask when making a game, don't get into game design. Game Design, like writing, film, or any art, is not a field you should get into if you're looking to make money. There are many fields that are far easier to get into and pay far more money. Do game design because when you think of what you want to do, you can think of nothing else you would rather do than make this kind of art.

With that said, the answer to "What kind of game will make money" Is fairly straight forward: There are two types of games that make "decent," money. Those that are good, and those that are marketed well. "Good," is relative, however. There are just as many that will say that CoD is the best game ever as there are people who will tell you that it is nothing more than graduated DLC being sold a new game, and thus bringing down the entire industry as a whole. So what type of game should you make if you want to make money off of your art? Make the game you would want to play with the resources you have.

#4940754 The role of story in games

Posted by on 16 May 2012 - 02:25 PM

Firstly, story is not what drives a game's budget. In most cases (outside of very select studios like Valve, Obsidian, Bioware, etc) story is done last. They make the assets, levels, etc for the game, and then a narrative designer is contracted to basically explain how everything fits together. This is the reason why so many game stories are either incredibly cliche, or feel tacked on.

Secondly, I have to disagree with you on how story should work. In Story-driven games, such as Dragon Age, The Witcher, Baldur's Gate, etc, the player knows exactly what they are getting into. They know that this is a story driven game. To say that this is unfair to the player, is similar to saying that a shooter is unfair to the player because it isn't a turn-based strategy game.

Games like Serious Sam where the story is just there to explain why you need to shoot stuff are not magically better games than story-driven games, yet you present the argument that the only games that should have story at the forefront are interactive narrative. I'm sorry, but this idea is nothing short of ludicrous. Can story be done better in many games? Yes, and one of the ways it can be done is by writing the story first and structuring everything around it, rather than the opposite way. Most games, as I said earlier, construct nearly everything about the base game before bringing in a writer. This, and not simply the presence of an important story, is what causes the break between game play and story in most cases.

Additionally, even in open world games or games without story, you still only have a set amount of ways you can deal with a situation. I cannot, for example, run up in Serious Sam and attempt to talk a Gnaar out of trying to kill me. My options are: A. shoot it; B. Run away while shooting it; C. run away. I have no other options than that. So to say removing story will add more choices allowable by the imagination is, sorry to say, quite ridiculous.

A video game is designed by a group of people who each have their own imaginations and ideas. Any game, regardless of the presence of story, will only have a set amount of ways you can deal with issues. Games that push story to the back can easier give an illusion of larger choice, but in many cases actually have fewer choices than in-depth story driven games. For example, let's take Elder Scrolls. When I get a quest I have two initial options: Run off and don't do the quest and just run around, killing things and looting things, or take the quest. That is a binary choice. Now when I take the quest, let's say I am told that I need to clear a cave of goblins. My choices are: Clear the cave of Goblins and Don't Clear the Cave of Goblins. Once again, I have a binary choice. Sure, in a game like Elder Scrolls, the combat system allows me to choose how I clear the game of goblins, but this has everything to do with mechanics and nothing to do with the presence of story or lack thereof.

Do some games work better without story? Yes, but to say that only interactive drama type games should have an in-depth story is nothing short of ridiculous to me.

#4937717 Organizing for non-linear storyline

Posted by on 05 May 2012 - 11:40 PM

There are a few options you can pursue. First is to create an ordered spreadsheet in which the cells are grouped by datapoint. This will result in a very large spreadsheet if you have a large branching storyline, however.

My personal recommendation? Make a flowchart.

Lastly, have you ever written a storyline for a game start to finish? If not, start with a linear storyline and familiarize yourself with writing interactive fiction. THEN move on to the confusing, obnoxiously complex behemoth that is branching storylines and non-linear narrative.

Now onto writing the story itself. Start with an outline. Starting by writing the story itself is the equivalent of trying to build a house without any architectural designs. The outline at first should incorporate only the MAJOR branching story trees. Include NO side quests or anything of the sort. Stay broad and high concept. once that is done, rewrite it. Then rewrite it again. Finally when that outline is GREAT, add in additional branching storylines, quests, etc, working your way down and repeating the process. What I mean is first you write major secondary quests into the outline, rewrite, and then make sure that is all working well. Then you add tertiary quests, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Once all that is done you can finally write the story itself. This organization is required for a project such as nonlinear narrative, otherwise you have no road map. While you can get away with writing a linear (or mostly liner) story without an outline, trying to write a non-linear story without one is akin to hiking the entirety of the North American continent with no plan and no road map. While it's not impossible, it's incredibly hard and incredibly unwise.

Both when outlining and writing the rough edition of your story, I recommend using a flow chart or a mind map. If you go the mind map route (my preferred method for outlining non-linear narratives), Freemind is a great open-source program for creating mind maps. You can find it here: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

For flowcharts, there are numerous websites where you can easily create flowcharts by dragging and dropping. Flowcharts are also easily created in a spreadsheet if you know what you're doing, but it takes far more time. Flowchart.com, lucidchart.com are both good sites. Creately.com is definitely the best, but costs money if you wish to use it to its full potential.

I would highly advise against doing a non-linear story in word. Trying to write a non-linear story in word, even with headers and document links, is about as user-friendly as a nail gun to the head.

#4933042 Why don't Game Designers get respected in indy teams?

Posted by on 19 April 2012 - 08:50 PM

The "idea guy," and Game Designer are not the same thing. That's like calling a screenwriter or a film director the "idea guy." Game design has a lot more to do than just coming up with neat ideas. It's putting those ideas into a formulated plan as well as creating the base mechanics to push those ideas into a practical setting.

however, I agree with you that it's a tad silly to demand that a game designer do something else besides design. In fact, outside of teams where multi-tasking is required, game designers rarely do more than design, with the exception of the odd bit of script here and there. For example, on most of your teams in YE OLDEN DAYS, designers would often wear many hats out of necessity. They would also be a level designer, or an artist, or one of the programmers (as was the case with ID and its humble beginnings back when they published under apogee). This has led to a belief by some that in order to be a good designer you need to do more than design.

Now, KNOWING more than design is another thing. A good designer knows design very well. A great designer knows at least the fundamentals of all the other fields so that he is better equipped to work with artists and programmers, level designers, etc.

#4931911 How to create conflict

Posted by on 16 April 2012 - 04:43 PM

Since we're on the subject, I will go to my grave citing that writing conventions do not change with medium. The only major change with games is you are writing interactive fiction. The article you posted (and possibly wrote, given your sig?) is sadly lacking in a lot of areas. Conflict is a lot more than the simple three one-dimensional situations you cited.

In terms of following the train of thought (choo choo!), game writing is, at the end of the day, writing. It follows the same conventions, the same plot curve, etc. For any writer, regardless of the medium they are working in, they should read the following books:

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
Every heard of The Hero's Journey/Monomyth? This guy coined it in this very book. If this book hadn't been written, Star Wars wouldn't exist right now, as Lucas based a massive part of his work on Campbell's work, and even consulted with Campbell while writing the basic overarching plot. Required reading for anybody who wants to get into writing in any fiction medium.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder.
This is a screenwriting book, and one of the best out there. If you were to choose only ONE book to read on my list, choose this one. Despite the format differentials, the overall message of this book translates to any medium in which creative writing is involved. Snyder breaks down the conventions of film stories into very distinct premise-based titular ideas, such as Monster in the House, Buddy Love, Whydunit, etc.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers.
A transcript of Bill Moyers's famous interview with Campbell before his death in 1987. Campbell explains, often in-depth, all of his ideas and theories throughout his decades-long and impressive career. A great resource if you can't buy/find Hero with a Thousand Faces or if you want more explanation of Campbell's theories without buying every book he ever wrote (and there's a lot of them, so you'd be spending a lot of money).

They Say, I say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
Yes, this is a book on academic writing. No, I'm not joking when I say you need to read this if you want to be a writer. This tiny little important book (it's a minuscule 245 pages. Pretty damn small for a "college," book) will teach you everything you need to know about academic writing, that is everything you need to know about "proper," writing. Even if you never write an academic paper in your life, knowing how to do it will make you a better writer. In order to be a good writer in any medium, you need to know the rules of the art you are working within.

There are a ton of other books out there that will help anyone who wants to write in any medium. Additionally, there are many books and articles out there on how to apply the knowledge within these books to interactive fiction like video games.