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Freakshow

Super-Structural Storytelling

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The Linear Vs. Interactive thread changed my outlook on "interactivity" in games. I suggest you browse through it if you want to get the most out of this. But it is a lot of reading, so I''ll summarize. Post-Structuralism is a movement in art. In a nutshell, post-structuralists believe that the "art" is in the viewer''s interpretation of a piece. Hence a piece of art can mean something different for each viewer, and perhaps none of them are seeing what the artist intended. The artist can only provide material for the interpretation; using the vast pool of subconsious human symbolism and allegory to direct the user''s interpretation (maybe). This material is called the "text." When the viewer interprets something other than what the creator intentionally created the piece for, the viewer is said to be "adding to the text." So essentially, when your english teacher calls on you to "Explain what the author means by this...", the post-structuralist response is "What does it mean to you?" Before I go any furthur I want to let you all know that I consider myself to be post-structuralist in my thinking. Games are different. Games... RPGs in particular (shudder), literally DEMAND that the user CHANGE the text. The text cannot resolve itself unless the user actively selects text from a kind of Supertext. So it''s definition time: --- Passive Text: A text where the viewer interprets a static text. Active Text: A text where the player affects the text directly, as well as interpreting the result. Viewer: A receptor and interpreter of meaning in the text. User: The person selecting text from the supertext. Supertext: The collection of every possible text available to the user. --- It''s important to note that a User is always a Viewer also, and an active text is always Passive in retrospect. Using some real-life logic: The future is a set of infinite branching pathways, the past is a straight line. The benefits of applied interactivity are too good to pass up. However, there are negatives as well. If the player is allowed to wander in a virtual world without limitation, games will become as mundane as real life. But think about this for a moment... wandering in a virtual world? Where will writers and designers fit in a medium dominated by reactive mathematics? I can tell you: we need to figure out the rules. All media throughout history have been governed by rules. Some of these rules transcend media; like three-act structure. No matter where we detect it, the human mind just seems to enjoy three act structure. So our question as the designers of future games will be: "How can we use three act structure in a medium where the player has control?" This question affords a simple answer among many others. But what are the rules that belong to interactivity alone? What examples do we have to learn from? How can we learn more? ===== Are you aware that the people who bring you television actually refer to it openly as "programming?"

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If "reactive mathematics" means what I think, then:

The player may wander, but since the game is "interactive", there will be actions and reactions that will involve the player. The designers will make the world, and the ways the world reacts to the players actions, then the player will react to the world''s reactions, and so forth. The writers will tell the designers how the world interacts with the player, and thus, a story is born.

The only rule I think that games follow is that the player is involved somewhere along the line. Question everything else.

What do you think?



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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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Well, I agree with that rule. By the same token, there are no real "rules" governing other media either. What I really mean to ask is, "What works and what doesn''t?" Those are rules, really.

I think there''s more to it than just a reactive environment. We need to create an underlying structure that guides that envirnment in the form of a coherant plot... otherwise the game would only end when the character failed... and we don''t want that.

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Ok, I''m thinking about this a little differently now (just read the last page on Linear vs. Interactive), and perhaps the world should go on with or without the player, therefore incorporating non-reactive environment. This provides for more immersion* into the world.

* Immersion is always a good thing. While were at it, so is the character/player relationship. Even in nonRPGs, the playing piece needs to be something the player doesn''t mind being for a little while.

-------------------------------------------
"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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Feeling stupid, that''s exactly what you said Freak. I think what I was trying to say was that the way the world goes on w/o the player should be controlled by the writer, who would creat a lot of story oppourtunities, and the "story" would unfold to the player by whatever s/he did.

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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Hmmm. A string of "constant" events can only work in a truly non-linear story IF the story is in realtime, or semi-realtime. Time in the game cannot be event based, and time-passage itself would have to have consequences.

Unless you can think of another way?

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Well, time passing would have to have consequences, which is fine IMO. In order to let "quests" be more accessable, certain ones could repeat every few days, such as something needing to be delivered. Maybe a monster would need to be hunted, and it''s location would change as time passes. Certain "quests" that couldn''t be repeated like this could have their "timeline" start once the player hears about it. The band of thieves have been planning for months, and now that the player has heard about it, they plan on striking tommorow.

Is this something that might work?

Just thought of something: if a player has to take care of something in the story, they won''t be able to wander aimlessly, killing goblins and amassing exp and gold (bye bye munchikins).

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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Munchkinning will vanish if you only reward players for contextual achievements. I wonder if we should make it easy to get at a subplot if you missed it... maybe missing it should just be missing it?

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but what if they do miss it and then they just say your game was trash because it has no subplots? You might say that he''s not your type of customer but what if the guy just got unlucky? Or maybe he''s a borderline customer so he finds some but not all of the game. If he played a competitor''s product he could have played all the game and had more fun. Even people with no talent should be able to play the entire game and see the ending, otherwise they''ll never bother with the sequel.

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I think there should be a combination of some events that are reactive and only happen in reaction to the player''s actions and other events that happen on their own and involve the player.

One idea I was thinking about was that the one''s that happen on their own and don''t need any preceeding events to occur could be randomly set at the beginning of the program to happen on a certain day.

I am wondering if anyone has a solution to the one obvous problem:

If we''re dealing w/ a totally non-linear (where there''s reactive events), single-player game, how does the game end?

I suppose there could be a main plot that could have some different branches that could eventually lead to the end of the game (with multible ending perhaps)....any other opinions?

This is all assuming that a non-linear game is being created.

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." --William Blake

"The road of excess also just ends up making me tired because I'm too lazy" --Nazrix

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quote:
Original post by Nazrix
I am wondering if anyone has a solution to the one obvous problem:

If we''re dealing w/ a totally non-linear (where there''s reactive events), single-player game, how does the game end?



Did you see the Endless Story ?
I think that should answer that question, if you actually created a game that doesn''t finish, you probably would have found the Grail of story telling, and I suppose the Bane of the marketing guys next door ...

youpla :-P

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You cannot have a story without an ending. You can have an ongoing series of events, but a story is carried by a moral or theme, and in order for that to serve any purpose, you must have a conclusion and resolution.

This is still a game we''re talking about, and the number of ways in which the player can interact with the environment is limited. The only problem with this is the Tree of Death. When the amount of diverging pathways become unmanageable, the whole game suffers.

One variable is time. Whenever something major or minor occurs, it will change the results of different actions initiated by the player. This is so weird. A month ago, I was claiming that this could never be done! Sigh.

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quote:
Original post by Freakshow
A month ago, I was claiming that this could never be done! Sigh.


hehe...I wasn't sure if you were who you were until you mentioned that. I thought this was one subject of which you couldn't see both sides, but I'm glad that's incorrect

We really can't have a never-ending story unless computers can think for themselves, and I think that there would be better applications for that kind of technology than games...and we wouldn't have to create games anymore then.





"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." --William Blake

"The road of excess also just ends up making me tired because I'm too lazy" --Nazrix


Edited by - Nazrix on July 22, 2000 10:23:52 PM

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Pacman,
Hmmm...interesting...but once the "story" is over what happens.... another "story"?



"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." --William Blake

"The road of excess also just ends up making me tired because I'm too lazy" --Nazrix

Edited by - Nazrix on July 25, 2000 3:08:39 PM

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How about this.
The writers create a base for the story. They create the plot, create a bunch of characters, define how they interact with each other, etc. Then the game starts.

The player can just stand there, and watch the story unfold before his eyes. The minute he decides to interact with one of the characters, he starts building his own story. This way any NPC can potentially affect the story as much as the player. This type of game would be very interesting to play, and at the same time very hard to design and even more hard to implement.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Ok, just to get a couple things straight in my own head, and reiterate some from the linear/non-linear discussion: (BTW, I was wondering where everyone from there went to! I''ve been posting there since last night, talking to myself I guess)

Linear v. Non-linear is on a continuum. On the non-linear side is real-life (or so we suppose; what if we are *Fated* to develop non-linear games? urp!) and on the linear side is something like a book. Or, non-linear=oral tradition (taken as a whole), linear=the Christian Bible today. So we are looking to take video games, already more non-linear than any present day medium, and make them more non-linear. For the sake of discussion, we''ve been talking about an "ideal" non-linear game.

Linear art follows a line. (no, really?) Non-linear art branches.
All art/life is linear in retrospect. The only time we enter non-linearity is at the moment of creation? Therefore, the line between the creator and viewer is blurred, even dissolved. . .we enter into participatory, communal art. . .

I know I''m not bringing anything new to the table here, but I think I''ll stop right now anyway, cause it kinda hits you to say it outright. . .

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Yeah, Nazrix, maybe another story. Just continue the "story" past the end with an add-on or something. Or, if the world is dynamic enough, it will react to the story that just ended, and make a new one. People will never look at the hero the same way again, so why not play through that. Course, you could be stuck with an open-ended game like Daggerfall, and that may or may not be a bad thing. I suppose it depends on the game, and what you offer the player besides the story.

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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Pacman: Yeah, I was thinking if there's going to be another story there, then why not let the player choose which one to go through. Then if you're going to go that far, you can add a few extra stories, and then there's a less linear game created.

Unless, of course, one story builds upon a previous one.



"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." --William Blake

"The road of excess also just ends up making me tired because I'm too lazy" --Nazrix

Edited by - Nazrix on July 25, 2000 12:54:34 AM

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The way I see it, in this form of story telling, the "story" ( the REALLY big story, not the adventures ) ends when the character dies, of natural or not so natural causes. This is naturally the conclusion of that particular game.

The "climax" of the game is then reaching the apex of your ability, and you could spend the "resolution" or "unwinding" of the story enjoying your fame, and watching the people talk about you and relating the stories of your adventures in ever less accurate versions.

Give me one more medicated peaceful moment.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
ERROR: Your beta-version of Life1.0 has expired. Please upgrade to the full version. All important social functions will be disabled from now on.

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Yeah Keith, you could make the story the life of the char (starting as a kid, right ), that would definately work.

Nazrix, you could have the story build upon itself and still give choices to the player. EX: the char just killed the evil king, do you take the throne yourself, or let the rightful heir claim it? Two vastly different story lines, but I think they could be brought together in someway if they had to be.

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

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