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StoryMage

Scaled down stories

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Know what makes my brain boggle? Game story concepts so complex that just considering implementation is a wasted excercise. When you write a book you just lead the reader along, and even then it is a struggle not to scare him away with too much background detail or too many character introductions. In a game, the last thing the player want to start off with is a massive wall of information to be climbed before he is allowed to grab his weapon. The way I see it, most successful games does NOT have 30+ characters and twice that as many plot twists. Like movies, they rather start off with a situation that can be grasped almost instantly and wind on for a bit until a) something interesting but relevant has happened, b) the main conflict has been resolved, and c) the main 2-3 characters have evolved a bit. You don''t see a well-selling movie spend too much detail on local money system and economical side issues, right? Yet many budding game writers and designers seem to love wasting page after page on this. When a script writer attempts to sell an idea, he usually cooks the story idea down to one byline. "A girlscout troop is trapped in a cabin during a snow storm and the leader snaps." "A Delta Force unit crashes their chopper in Somalia and must make it to the coast." "An elf is captured by sadistic dwarf troopers." "A girl is captured by a gorilla on the loose from zoo and her fiancee must save her." If these bylines work as I intended you should be able to see a whole story in each of them. Conflict, characters, likely outcome, time/place, possibility of spinning out other stories within the same reference frame. Let''s face it, most games that wind up getting published are not designed with much of a story in mind. The lead designer tends to be a grizzled programmer, and he always start out with defining the game in terms of a) platform, b) game type and c) size of game. THEN he start considering the story genre. SF, fantasy, modern shooter, puzzle? Pick a conflict typical of the genre, decide how many main characters the art team can handle, line up some generic world parameters and then half a year of development passes before the game story gets much of a thought again. So by the time the writer gets involved it''s a bit late to start stringing your own little world. What you have is the chance to build a bit of storyline as far as it can intertwine with the existing parameters (the levels are quite possibly already top-level designed) and write the best damn dialog you can get off with considering the usually droll characters. Okay, I will attempt to draw a conclusion. Game writers, don''t bother with the gargantuan world designs unless you have been specifically ask to write them. No team will be slave to the ideas of the one guy in the team who will not be implementing them. - Storymage Bury me deep. Future generations will be hungry.

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Hmm, that seems a bit excessively pessimistic. As I see it, there are three roads you can take as a game writer, and you only mentioned one of them. If you are a writer/designer it''s fairly easy to create the story and game design first, then recruit a team with the power of your vision and recruitment rhetoric. If I can recruit 15 people with no budget, others can do it too. I didn''t have enough free time or enough work done ahead of time and the project collapsed, but I could do it again, and having learned from my mistakes I would hopefully be more successful; the moral of the story is that recruitment''s not the hard part, managing a design team is.

If you are not a designer, however, you have a slightly more difficult task. You can either create your story for a common game type and then try to match up with a non-writer designer who wants to make that kind of game, or you can join an existing team and create your story to match their needs. I don''t recommend that last method; I have discovered I can''t write fast enough to keep up with a design team, so it''s best for everyone if I have the story worked out before trying to join a team.

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