• Announcements

    • khawk

      Download the Game Design and Indie Game Marketing Freebook   07/19/17

      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.
  • entries
    23
  • comments
    121
  • views
    29668

Writing beyond the game...

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Embassy of Time

1788 views

So I was just over at the story forum. I was a bit sad to see it sorely underused, since I am taking a short break from hard scientific programming to focus on my story. The thing is, my story is not exactly a game story, it's a story story. As in, I'm not writing it to explain the game or to provide a strong narrative to the game. It shares the world and sets the stage, but it is a story seperate from the game. And that puts me in some weird territory, I feel...

The story of a game is, in many ways, a new concept. I was a small child when Pacman and Space Invaders could still be found in game arcades, and I grew up with unexplained shooters/scrollers, racing games, assorted platformers and all that jazz. I think the closest I ever got to a game with a real story behind it was my first Transformers game for the Commodore 64, and that was mainly because the story was, like mine, entirely seperate from the game. I don't remember the game explaining what the Transformers were doing in it, they just transformed and ran around shooting stuff. If a game had a story, it was typically a few lines to excuse the game's weird premise. Plumbers could double in size from eating mushrooms and then stomp on evil turtles. Meaningful narratives were not exactly the backbone of those games.

I would argue that this is very much still the case, at least for the vast majority of games. Cinematic cutscenes and mission objectives seem like story elements, but they are rarely more than dressed up quests of the "fetch, protect, or destroy" variety. Like many others, I cheered and laughed at the first sight of the newest Doom game's protagonist just pushing away the screens that told the game story, in order to get to the killing faster. Even in games like Mass Effect and Deus Ex, much of the story seems to just be setpieces plopped in to justify moving the action forward. "This is the enemy, this is the objective, deal with it". Mass Effect more than anything shows how the story is essentially meaningless, with the much critisized "pick a card" ending (Deus Ex: Human Revolution did something similar, but may have gotten better away with it because of fewer promisses about your aactions mattering). So you have to wonder, is the narrative of games in general just a paper-thin excuse for slapping some stylized graphics together and pointing the player at various targets? Does the story really exist as anything more than in-game factoids and exposition?

My game didn't start as a game at all, to be honest. It started as a story. More precisely, it started as a story concept. My name actually says it pretty outright: Embassy of Time. There is an embassy somewhere (and somewhen) for time travelers. Going through time and not exactly sure how to deal with your new home? Check your local embassy branch! Of course, when time travel conflicts send thousands of refugees on the run through time and space, things get a little more dicey. It also brings a lot of other factions to the table, many of them mysterious and shady.

Does that sound like the story for a game? To me, no, and I was having doubts about the entire game angle for a while. It turns out that my worries were for nothing, though, since the game fits a very nice role of "time travel agent training simulator". Agents of The Embassy have to go through training, after all, and when not on actual time travel missions, what better way to train than an artificial simulation? And once the game is advanced enough, it will become the real missions, including setting up new branches, exploring worlds and times, and much more. But the game and the story are related. They are not one and the same.

Does the name Uwe Boll mean anything to you? It should. He is the creator of a fine line of high quality video game to movie adaptations. And when I write "high quality", I mean some of the laziest, most pathetic turdpiles ever imagined by subhuman minds and put onto actual film, with actual, real-world actors, all to exploit a loophole in German tax law. Mr Boll alone is a large part of why the "games cannot be made into movies" meme continues to exist. And that, in turn, is part of the reason why there is often a strained relationship between interactive media (mainly video games) and passive media (movies, books, comics, etc.). How many fictional universes do we have that make it seem hard to answer the question "is this universe made for games or for movies/books/comics/etc.?" Not many. Either the universe is clearly made for games, or it is clearly made for (possibly one of) the other kinds of media. Other media have started to seriously break these walls down. Are Marvel superheroes designed for comics or movies/TV shows? Well, technically..... comics. But in reality, especially the cinematic movies have become as big a part of the foundation as comics are (some would argue a bigger part. Some, like the investors!). Sure, you don't need one to enjoy the other, but when you want to know some deeper background info for, say, Charles Xavier's situation and condition in the new Logan movie, you don't ask a film buff, you ask a comics buff. Similarly, the Lord of the Rings books were used by many to better understand the LotR movies.

Games, not so much. Games are more likely to either be A) tag-on additions that are entirely unimportant for the story as a whole, or B) something to rip off a storyline and known name from to make a quick buck in the direct-to-DVD market. I loved the original Mortal Kombat movie (only the original one), with its colorful kitsch and over-the-top silly fighting. But it was fluff, with nothing to add to the universe made by and for the games. And most other attempts at a game+movie (or +comicbook etc.) universe seem to be even worse. Super Mario movie, anyone? In fact, the only example of a game story truly trying to grow beyond games seems to be the 2016 movie "Warcraft", taking place in the Warcraft / World of Warcraft universe, and doing its best to do a solid story that can stand on its own but also supplement and enhance the game experience, and be enhanced by it (I am not a hardened warcrafter, but I heard many such people discuss the parallels between the movie and game universes). But despite making its budget back over 2.5 times (160m cost, 433m return) and a favorable reception (a pitiful 28% on RottenTomatoes from critics, but 71% from audiences), the chance of a sequel is, well, let's say "uncertain".

I don't know the answers to any of this. It seems that "games don't make good movies" has its merits as a warning, but not as a hard-and-fast truth. I liked the Warcraft movie, maybe because of its awkward, silly campiness (in the script. The production value overall seemed just fine to me). Is there something that makes games bad at meshing with movie/book/comic/etc. universes? Maybe. Games are a very different medium, because they are interactive. But stories are stories. I, for one, would love to see movies based around game universes like Deus Ex or Starcraft, which are deep, interesting narratives in my opinion. But they would need talented people to flesh them out. And just like superhero movies just two decades ago, it looks like there is no chance in Hell of that becoming reality. But then again, it did look that way for superhero movies back then, too!

I am going to make a universe for my game that goes beyond the game. I have characters I love, plots and conflicts, themes and settings, and even the occasional clever line of dialogue or two. I don't want story or game to be haphazardly stuck on with ducttape and a prayer. Like good comics or great books turned into amazing movies, I want them to be reflections of one another, painted into different media. I want Ida Lund, Misha, the blonde, and all the rest to exist between and behind the stories, and not just belong in a single medium.

Wish me luck?


1
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0


6 Comments


So I was just over at the story forum. I was a bit sad to see it sorely underused

That's something we'd love to change!  Our audience has traditionally been very focused on development -- predominantly programming, so the majority of our content is all about coding or design.  That's something we're working to change though by trying to provide more attention to other areas, expand our user base, source more varied articles, etc.

If you'd like to see more activity in the writing forum it would be great if you could get the ball rolling yourself with some posts in the forum! :)

1

Share this comment


Link to comment

The time travel sounds interesting, no idea how that could be achieved in a game like this.

Time travel normally needs a indicator of time traversing. Considering that as humans we only had one time line, it means that we have only one concept of what time travel would look like on a world scale.

For example if you look at stories where modern people go to a primitive planet, then you will see that the planet is primitive in a clear way we understand. At least with future there is more flexibility. So you will either have a lot of planets looking the same, or you will need a indicator of what time they are set in.

If planets can advance at there own time, then you will already have planets with different time lines even before any time travel.

Consider this: If a person found a alien planet how would they know what time period it is in?

 

As for story, why make a whole universe?

Stories need clear moments of progression, events leading to the following events. To achieve this in a game where a player can do any thing and go anywhere, is giving away control of how the story is told.

For example look at how the Witcher 3 did it, you had two games in one. A progressive story game with dialogue choices, and a open world monster hunting game. Choices in one did not effect the other.

For example the second tavern brawl in the beginning of Witcher 3, you will kill the people involved no matter what you do: Incident at White Orchard. If you un-equip your sword one will be equipped on on entering the story. Discarding all swords will still show the same scene, Geralt will just use a invisible sword to kill everyone.

Stories are driven pieces of a world, making a story for a open world game needs constants to trigger the story.

In your game for example, the embassy of Time is a constant that can be used for the story. Or you could use events like landing on a planet, that you know players will have to do.

Linear games are much better for story telling because they are event driven like stories.

0

Share this comment


Link to comment

 

So I was just over at the story forum. I was a bit sad to see it sorely underused

That's something we'd love to change!  Our audience has traditionally been very focused on development -- predominantly programming, so the majority of our content is all about coding or design.  That's something we're working to change though by trying to provide more attention to other areas, expand our user base, source more varied articles, etc.

If you'd like to see more activity in the writing forum it would be great if you could get the ball rolling yourself with some posts in the forum! :)

 

I'd love to give it a shot! Right now I struggle with a nasty flu (hence the long wait for a reply) and the Tax Service having screwed up a four digit repaid taxes to me, so those take precedent. But I have started writing again, so I will probably put some stress on the story concepts. Are there any suggestions about how to get the ball rolling that you can make, given your knowledge of the forums??

0

Share this comment


Link to comment
[all of it]

The procedural stuff I'm doing now is basically to develop a model for an in-game universe that can develop its own history of planets, which can then be fine-tuned by me and other designers to fit the story timelines. Think of it as having the software hold everything in plaace for you while you fit the pieces together as needed. Yes, I am making a tool to do virtual time manipulation in order to create a game. I am that insane.

The actual crossroad of game and story is actually much simpler. In short, indirect storytelling. The game is an ADIPAX, as previously mentioned, a first-person sort of strategy game. As the player expands The Embassy's reach, they encounter places, items, people and events that let them learn about the grander scheme of things. The books and comics I'm working on on the side will tell the story from a more personal perspective of people involved with The Embassy. Think of it as playing Civ VI and slowly discovering artifacts in conquered cities that indicate there is something big out there, coming for you, and only by hunting down those clues can you do anything about it. Does that make any sense?

0

Share this comment


Link to comment
[quote name="Embassy of Time" timestamp="1492931463"]Are there any suggestions about how to get the ball rolling that you can make, given your knowledge of the forums??[/quote] Really just jump in and give it a go. Asking specific questions rather than more broad requests for general feedback normally gets better results, even if you need to make multiple topics to get all your answers. There's also a delicate balance; you need to provide enough information for people to have context and respond correctly, but if you provide too much information it can stifle the conversation and discourage contributions that deviate from what you wrote. Unfortunately you really just need to develop a feel for this one, and even after over a decade I still get it wrong sometimes. Hope that helps!
0

Share this comment


Link to comment

 

Are there any suggestions about how to get the ball rolling that you can make, given your knowledge of the forums??

Really just jump in and give it a go.

I'm already on it, thx ;)

0

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now