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Speaking of nonlinearity in stories.

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There was a post on the game design forum about MMORPG grief players, and along the way came a suggestion about having the NPC/AIs run the game, but the players getting to possess NPCs and change the story how they like it. Lets see we changed this model a bit where stories play out like the theater, where after it's done, the story starts over, and our game had some dozens of these stories going on, ranging from the simple 30 minute "Luccas buys a fish." to the several week long "Luccas and The Oddysey." Using this, what kind of linear stories could we have going that were presented in a non-linear sense (pick the story you want and follow it through), and still retain some kind of fun about it so the players didn't leave? -> Will Bubel -> Machine wash cold, tumble dry. s&s- I just edited this to fix the spelling of the thread title, nothing important. [edited by - sunandshadow on December 3, 2002 4:44:36 PM]

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Inmate 2993 - The following are quotes from several of my posts to wavinator, nazrix, and bishop_pass about 2 years ago.

I was thinking of what the absolutely minimal plot would be, and I came up with this:
1 agent + the agent's goal which may be an object, an action, or a state, + the barrier to the goal, which may be an agent with a conflicting goal or an object.

a person wants an apple but it's at the top of a tall tree
a person wants a treasure but another person owns it
a person wants to talk but a gag is in zir mouth
a person wants to dance but another person doesn't want to be their partner
a person wants peace but another person wants to be violent

Filling this out slightly we get a minimal modular plot:
1. An equlibrium state exists
2. Something (an accident, a crime, the passage of time) destabalizes the situation and creates a desire for change in at least one character
3. The character attempts to achieve the desire and is frustrated
4. Something changes - the desire may be achieved or rendered impossible, or the character's desire may change
5. The logical consequences of this change happen
6. Characters react mentally and emotionally to change and consequences
7. A new equilibrium state is created and the next plot module starts from here at step 1.

A few plot types:

Romance: escalating unfortunately/fortunately cycle. Must end with the ultimate fortunately of a relationship getting established as successful and fairly permanent. An unfortunately/fortunately cycle may be an adventure-game type puzzle framed by dialog, a social-interaction puzzle, or a battle with a dialog overlay.

Standard Fairy Tale: Character is forbidden to do something, so naturally the character goes ahead and does that thing. This allows some form of harm, e.g kidnapping, to be carried out by some evil being against a person of the character's preferred sex or a person who the character was responsible for or a person who could benefit the character, or allows the character to find out about such harm that has independantly happened. Character is tested by circumstances and fantasy/sfnal beings and rewarded with a magical/sfnal accessory or ability. Character wades through even greater difficulties and defeats the evil being, enabling his/her original mistake to be fixed, and some greater evil/problem to be repaired. Character is now rewarded with/by the person who has been rescued.

Political Destiny: A 'golden' (idyllic or otherwise romanticized) setting is shown. Some evil action or natural catastrophe upsets the 'golden' order and there is chaos until a new, not as good, 'bronze' order is established (Initial incident, place where the exposition stops and the player gains control of the character. Political tension, corruption, poverty, polution, or another evil harming the 'peasants' builds up. The character must restore the golden order by battling this evil at first hand , gaining the support of the peasants, and simultaneously finding someone of the true blood, placating a supernatural force, or whatever is needed to reverse the original evil action so that the 'golden' order can be restored.

Hero Monomyth: An exceptional/unusual person finds that he/she or his/her world is deficient in some profound way. He/she ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man and act as a sage/mentor/trainer of new heroes.

All of these plot types can be generated from one ur-plot with lots of variations, IF you can figure out how to mathematically emulate transformational generative grammar.

All of these plots may be told in a short story the equivalent of ten or more book pages - I was thinking of them being the sub-plots and having an episodic overall structure rather than an overall plot, so that the player would get one climax per up to 20 hours of gameplay and keep playing the game indefinitely with the same character going through an infinite number of these generated plots. Possibly the player should be able to choose which type of plot they play next.

If you really want to strain your brain you might try reading through these chat-scripts about what a plot is.

[edited by - sunandshadow on December 5, 2002 4:04:49 PM]

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Original post by BB-Pest
hm... very interesting... are there any exceptions//other mechanisms to this?

Exceptions to which part? The minimal modular plot? Well, the flowchart is slightly more complicated than this list shows - 3 may repeat a few times, or 4 may loopback to three before continuing on. Some stories begin In Medias Res at 2 or 3, but the other parts still exist as flashback or backstory exposition. Some stories omit part 6, leaving it as an exercise for the reader. And naturally everything is more complicated when there is more than 1 dynamic character who is motivated to change things. But basically these seven states are the standard stages of a Freytag''s pyramid, the most basic and widely-used plot analysis tool, and all stories are built out of them.

Correspondance between my 7 steps and Freytag''s pyramid:
1 - exposition
2 - initial incident
3 - rising action
4 - climax
5 - falling action
6 - denouement
7 - back to exposition again

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If your refering to the mechanics of the MMORPG, I was just using it as a theoretical situation... You could probably imagine it as a DW7/Animal Crossing thing where the story goes along and the players are given some means of interfering. How many branches to the story would be neccessary, or would a story even be needed? Some players could just work on a standard complex AI, or even no AI, and move things around like dolls. Of course we don''t have as much of a game as a toy now

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