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zrski

newbie q. format of a story

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First of, English is not my native language. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors. That out of the way, here''s my Q. I''ve been wanting to write the storyline for a game for some time now. I''m not a great writer, I''ve writen some columns (on entrpreneurial subjects and marketing) and I every once in a while write short stories. These short stories never made it past my D:\ drive The thing that intrigeus me when it comes to games is the immersive feeling some of the top titles can give you. It goes way past movie scripts and sometimes it surpases even books. Is there a special format you''ve got to keep in mind when you want to write a storyline for a game? I''m not looking to code anything, I just want to be the one that e.g. scares the shit out of everybody with the storyline Any tips, outlines, resources, coaching or whatever will be very much appreciated. -=A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails...=-

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I find the most compelling game stories to not really be stories at all. What I really like is worldbuilding. Take the Marathon series, for instance. It''s often referenced as a game with a lot of "story". The thing of it is, it isn''t all game story. Most of it is back story, and a little bit is parallel to the game, without being directly involved in it.

So, when you''re writing your story, resist the urge to put the main character/player in every scene. Let things happen that don''t directly involve the player, and let him find out about it either by watching it happen in a cutscene, hearing about it through another in-game source, or figuring it out with observation and detective work.

An interesting world can make a linear, shallow story into an engrossing game with a lot of replay value, especially if you tie the "far away" parts of the story to the "here and now" bits. Overall, a game feels epic when you have the impression that you''re just playing your part in it, rather than being the end-all and be-all of the world.

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Thanks for your reply.

So writing the actual game could be seen as writing a moviescript? Or could/should you wite it in steps?
1. write the story
2. pour it into a script
3. write the storyboards
4. see if it works

something like that?

-=A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails...=-

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That sounds logical, but how do you describe gameplay?

You got the story figured out and now you want to add gameplay, is that mainly added by designing/explaining the interface? Take lara croft for example, could her gameplay be described as jumping, walking, running, shooting, hanging of ledges, showing some ass? ;o)

Do you already describe the gameplay in your storyline? Do you keep it for the storyboards?


Would anyone have an example script for me to read?




-=A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails...=-

[edited by - zrski on May 2, 2003 3:02:23 AM]

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zrski;

May I advise you first work the story out in the simplest format of them all, and btw, the unit of composition herself, the paragraph.

If you just work on getting the story narrative completely fleshed out, trimmed of fat and in digestible chuncks of paragraphs, that alone will suggest to you things you can do to manipulate the standard format.

I advise this exercise in development the very first thing you do, without a care in the world for how it is formatted. Your job at this point frankly is not to format correctly, but to tell a story.

That task is daunting enough for you to consider making it as easy as possible during this inspirational phase of work, and will reflect in the quality and quantity of creativity you scribe.

Once you have the story well worked out, you may be surprised to find that you have actually rewritten the original paragraphed composition maybe four or five times. After all, in the story phase of work, no stone can be left unturned avoiding things like triteness, sounding like your favorite author and a whole list of things you can't see yet because you haven't got the *whole* story behind you.

Or more realistically, if you're really doing some work, you'll have a handle on the process, and that's about it.

Once you've really got it there in the narrative exposition technique, you're going to have to start keeping a separte note book on graph paper, for you may begin to visualize and sketch aspects of the story you just wrote about. I find all the time people who draw and write at the same time, and for some silly reason, they act like they are being torn apart by evils muses of their own devise when actually in a complimentary creative activity.

Maybe I'm going too far with this suffer for your art thing, but hey, I just demonstrated a technique. Exaggeration.

One thing they don't tell you in the writing books, is that if you sit down to write *and* draw, but not hold each activity to a timeclock, you get more of both done. You have to be focused on the same material, but express it in two ways simultaneously.

I think if you give it a try, both processes will be more relaxed, enjoyable and more productive. You'll need to be more relaxed, enjoyable and productive if you're going to really build excitement and action, complication and other elements into your basic plot structure so it doesn't sound like verything else that's ever been written.

I'm not asking you to go out and win the Pulitzer Prize first time at bat, but swing the biggest bat you can bring to this game tends to favor, like fortune, the bold.

Here, in the original narrative, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to blow your audience's perceptions. In game development, I don't think this is something you can compensate for later on with great graphics.

Once you have that paragraph narrative though, you're on base in the big league, and you have to get to the next one by breaking out your action into physical time and distance. This is a reference to the Aristotelian 'consistency' knows as time and place. I see the opportunities in these two of the three consistencies so undercapitalized so often.

These segments of action will give you insights into using the format to it's maximum advantage. It's the difference between someone reading your original paragraph composition and the properly formatted composition. In the first case they say things like, "That's good" whereas in the latter case they say "I didn't see [or figure] that one coming"

Next, each segment of action is going to have a location, naturally, so you are going to want to provide format ruling for calling the location and time of day.

In screenwriting, this is called the "Slug Line" and it looks like this:

EXT - SPACEFIELD (2241 A.D.) - AFTERNOON

I offer up that little sample from my screenplay "Monkeys on The Moom" a story about three deep space explorers who stumble upon a deep space battlefield to find the grave yard next to the field hospital bears a warning the battlefield is a snare laid by androids who are obsessed with the destruction of biological life because it is creative.

Clearly, it can be seen that this was a student film. But you get the point. The whole point of the story can be written in one sentence, called the pitch line, yet itself comprises twenty one minutes of screentime. And, when you format for a medium for visuals like films or games, grab all the terse expressions you can for powerful focusing without directing on paper.

This is tough, but the better you know every nook and cranny of your plot, characters and action, the tighter your focus on the action can become, and as everyone knows, this simply drags the reader/audience/player along struggling for control.

They love that. They will pay for that.

There is an example or two of some formatting approaches in John Scott Lewinski's "Developers Guide to Computer Game Design" ISBN #: 1-55622-667-5

Allthough I've read tons about game design over the past four years, no one book has covered it all, and perhaps that was a wise attempt by the authors because they wanted to get it done in a reasonable amout of time.

You will find that when you are writing a game as opposed to a script or narrative, interactivity will change your format, so you will probably be designing some aspects of the standards formats into your own custom formats to suit the actual machinations and interactivity of the uniqueness of your individual design.

This is the great parallel between screenwriting and game design; in both cases you build a world, and the consitencies within them do not impede the transformation of linear action into interaction.

Anyway, that's my advice, you can also find some templates for game design documents (of which a section of can be reserved for game story, though I prefer a separate document) here:

Click this

And another reference I suggest can be found at "The Best of the Mentor's FAQ's 1,2, and 3" at the Writer's Guild of America:

And Click me too!

With the two top books on formats, you'll be set with some kewl tools. Good luck with the story.

Addy

[edited by - adventuredesign on May 2, 2003 7:07:05 AM]

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Now that''s a reply that actually made me happy :D Thnx dude!

I''ll be raoming these boards for some time to come and I''ll keep you guys up to date.

-=A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails...=-

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After my first post here a couple of days ago I''ve been doing some digging (got a whole bunch of concepts going with some online friends) and I figured out that the chances of selling a game concept are close to zip.

OK, so I''m a newbie... I guess I made that point blatantly clear

Everywhere I hear that you can''t sell your ideas because of the business facts. After I read the first sentence it made complete sense to me, I continued reading anyways, just to torture myself.

Now I had been looking for a new business to start, so why not let it be the gaming industry? I''ve had companies before and I''m not afraid of a challange.

So that''s what I''ll do. I''ll keep you posted of changes (and will probably bother you with questions)

cu

Dennis

-=A reluctance to try something new is worse than trying something new that fails...=-

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quote:
Original post by adventuredesign
Once you''ve really got it there in the narrative exposition technique, you''re going to have to start keeping a separte note book on graph paper, for you may begin to visualize and sketch aspects of the story you just wrote about. I find all the time people who draw and write at the same time, and for some silly reason, they act like they are being torn apart by evils muses of their own devise when actually in a complimentary creative activity.



*Giggle*. I used to think that too, until I realised that they are kind of opposite : my drawing is for my chaotic nature, whereas my writing is quite the opposite, very organised and orderly. It''s amazing the number of similarities there are between the two media, in fact. You gotta love graph paper


Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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