Why does a shooter need a storyline?
At a first glance, it might seem like all of the major members of the shooter genre don't have storylines. Shooters are just about running around and fragging, right? So why should I bother?
A storyline is more important than many gamers and game developers may realize. A storyline is typically the byproduct of a vision for a game. When I started Project Skirmish, I could picture in my mind what the end result might look like -- how the gameplay would 'feel'. This is called vision. You know what you want your game to be like in the end, so you just need to start coding. Right?
I disagree. I followed this route for virtually all of my games thus far, and it hasn't served me as well as I had thought. In fact, in all of my completed games my initial vision when I began the project was very different from the game that I ended up with upon completion. In fact, I tended to write the storyline after I finished coding the game. Rather than the storyline defining the game, I was letting the game define the storyline. I'm positive that my end products suffered compared to what could have been produced via vice-versa.
Why is this? As I wrote a game over the period of several days/weeks/months, that vision is not usually what's in the forefront of one's mind. Usually the main train of thought is about, "Oh, I get to implement feature X today", or "Nuts, I have to write/debug that pesky subsystem today". The developer's thoughts become focused on the short-term, while the long-term original vision has become obscured by the daily ongoings.
I believe that using your vision to produce a storyline, and in essence, a more 'tangible' world for your game to exist in is crucial. Once you have your fictional game-world written out on paper (or computer), it suddenly feels that much more 'real'. The notion of "some online shooter game" has metamorphosized into what's beginning to feel like an actual world on its own. I regret not doing this vital step for my previous works, but it's one that I shall not miss again.
So be sure to take that extra step and start defining your world early. It's the glue and big-picture that keeps the project in proportion while you're whittling away at the day-to-day work.
Project Skirmish's Storyline
For convenience sake, I'll offer a link to the RTF document below:
I'm interested in feedback on the storyline, both in terms of grammatical improvements and the general flow and direction of the writing. I expect many more revisions before it's something worthy of being called the manifestation of my vision for the game. :)
For those of you uninterested in looking through a several-paragraph storyline, here are the main factions involved in the game, alongside a brief bio:
- Sigma Technologies Corp.
- The mega-corporation that started the cascading events which all began in Europe. Formerly Sigma Mining Corp., they merged with the United European Army to form a corporation that could benefit from each other - one from the mining of weapons-grade materials, and the other from the power and influence that it held as a government. Sigma became Sigma Technologies, and quickly usurped the European governments' power; effectively seizing control of all of Europe.
- Epsilon Research Corp.
- Following Sigma's success with absorbing the European government, the North America-based corporation, Epsilon Research Corp., quickly rallied forces north and south of the United States by assimilating Canada and Mexico. Using their newfound strength, they cornered the US into receding from the brewing war. Following this, the United States formed the United Militia.
- New Meridian Front
- The New Meridian Front (known at large as the NMF) was formed shortly after the domination of Europe by Sigma Tech. Composed originally of angered former military officers and unsatisfied government officials, the NMF has now become a world-wide secretive rebellion group working against the mega-corporations.
- The United Militia
- The unification of the free countries untouched by Sigma and Epsilon; consolidating their forces into a world-wide militia in an attempt to fend off the ever-extending corporations. More wide-spread and powerful than the New Meridian Front but not as organized, the United Militia is the public face that openly defies the mega-corporations' rise to power.
As mentioned in the Synopsis in the previous entry, the game will revolve around various battles/scenarios between these four factions. Alongside this I hope to have plenty of room for 'non-serious' gameplay, such as CTF, Deathmatches, and the like.
When does the coding begin?
Immediately. Now that I have a solid image in my head about what direction Project Skirmish is heading in, I feel ten times more confident about tackling the code side of the work.
I hope to write up and post the specifications for the first Milestone shortly. For the technically curious, my tools thus far are Eclipse and LWJGL. Given Java's exhaustive existing class library, it's not likely that I'll need any more than these.
Hopefully my talk of game vision and storyline has provided some inspiration to those of you currently/planning on writing a game of your own. I know that I won't begin another game without first starting to carve out the game world around me -- I don't think I could stand developing a game world that wasn't defined past my own initial vision for it anymore. :)
Until then, best of luck!