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Blending gameplay and narrative: Silent Hill 2 as an example

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There has been a lot of discussion about the way games tell stories and how the inherently linear structure of a story sits at odds with the open-ended nature of giving a player choices. However, There may be a way of combining the two in a way that keeps the story intact while still allowing the player to have an influence. Warning - I'm going to use Silent Hill 2 as something of a case study for this and therefore if you are halfway through the game or don't want to know the endings then you should probably stop reading now! In Silent Hill 2, you are on a quest to find your wife Mary, whom you belive is waiting for you in the town of Silent Hill, after recieving a letter from her. The only thing is, she's dead, and has been for three years. Unabashed, off you trot to have a good root around. On your travels around Silent Hill, you meet a woman called Maria, who looks a lot like your Mary, and seems to know some things about Mary and your past. Now - the interesting part is: if you spend lots of time with Maria, particularly the section where she gets hurt and has to recover in the hospital wing, the demon you fight in the end is Mary, manifested from all the times when she was diseased and treated you badly, and the game ends with you leaving with Maria to start a new life. However, if you ignore Maria generally, and get on with the game rather than spending time with her, the demon you fight is actually Maria, and it turns out that all along she was a demon trying to pull you away from finding Mary. Now my point is this: the central story remains the same - that James goes to Silent Hill to find his wife Mary, and ends up having to face up to his past. However, depending on the player's actions, the whole meaning and conclusion of the story, and the identity of Maria, are completely changed. It goes beyond the simple concept of multiple endings because, say you take the 'Mary' route, Maria turns out to have been a demon all along. As well we all know, in the extreme case, to offer the player a two-option choice in a game where the two choices are totally independant of each other, and do not cross over later, means creating a whole load of content of which only half will ever be used in one play through the game. The clever bit with the story in Silent Hill 2 is that the only extra content that needs to be added is a slightly different conversation between James and Mary/Maria before the final battle, and some code which evaluates how much time the player spends with Maria throughout his/her path through the game. The fact that Maria looks very similar to Mary, while meaning that (practically) the same model can be used for both, is not only convenient from a production point of view, but in fact crucial to the story at the same time. So, is this merely sleight-of-hand on the part of Silent Hill's developers? Or does it show that player-affected narrative can be done, to a limited (although satisfying) degree, without the exponential need for extra content? And if so, is this a technique that can be used more generally, or does it depend too much on the story of Silent Hill? EDIT: Formatting [edited by - BiggerStaff on February 6, 2004 5:53:42 AM] [edited by - BiggerStaff on February 6, 2004 5:54:36 AM] [edited by - BiggerStaff on February 6, 2004 7:34:51 AM]

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I don''t think that this sort of thing could be done more often. One of the major limitations on it is that you have to have a reason to have to people looking different.

This is somewhat going off on a tangent and it has probably been discussed before but what if the player wasn''t exactly needed for a story, i.e. a story will run along on it''s own without the player. The player can just be an observer if they wish or they can take a more active role in the story, perhaps choosing a side or just doing something else entirely.

The obvious first problem with something like this is the huge amount of programming that would have to be done and the huge amount of processing power that would be required to run it.

I know some games have tried to do this sort of thing before although i can''t think of any off the top off my head at the mo.

I think it is something that might be possible in a small environment and I would like to try it sometime.

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