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dynamic storylines? uh... i think not

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I''m getting moderately sick of people in this part of the forum complain all the time about how linear their video game stories are. I can understand where this is coming from, and sympathize with perhaps the lack of creativity that goes into many linear stories, which makes them unentertaining... but to those of you who demand a dynamic and entirely non-linear story, I say "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP!" Okay, that was harsh, and you''re all entitled to your opinion, but there is WAY too much ambition involved in this. Here are my humble (yet lengthy) opinions: a) A high quality entertaining and decent length story is hard to come by. This is not because writers all suck, or because the game world is dominated by eggheads who have no artsy bone in their body, but because it is HARD!!! Ask anybody who''s ever written a published work before and I''m sure they''ll tell you how much time and effort went into writing an epic tale, or a heartbreaking love story, or an in depth personal biography. Do you know how long a novel takes to write? A good novel? Now add this to the time it takes to integrate it with a video game properly and maintain the feel you want without cutting content. Give a little more time for editing, adaptation, and over the course of your creation you have lapsed a huge amount of time. b) More than this fact though, what bothers me is you seem to want an enormous possible number of storylines to be possible. So not only do you have to write a decent story, you have to write like 500 decent stories!! How many publications do you think an accredited author makes in his or her lifetime? Even Stephen King (sp?) or Michael Chrighton (agian, sp?) have their limits people. Imagine creating a body of work that contained multiple stories; now all of these stories have to build from one point, right? And now enter choice number one. We now have 2 stories to be written. If each of these stories has another choice to make, we now have to continue writing 4 stories. Keep going down the line and you''ve got 8, 16, 32, 64... well you all know how this works! after a meager 7 choices made in a game you''re left with 128 stories that have to be written to accomodate all of your independence. Obvioulsy you want them to be different enough and well written, creative... that''s SO hard. c) You want a COMPUTER to randomly generate events? It''s hard enough for people to come up with creative and logical and well put together storylines, but you want a computer to do it? We are a long way from that my friends. Remember that computers are incredibly stupid, but what makes them decieving is that they are incredibly fast. They can''t come up with things like people can. I could go on, and probably will in replies to this topic, so don''t think this is all I have to say. I don''t want to discourage people from branching storylines, or attempting this kind of game at all, in fact I encourage it. Just dont DEMAND it all the time, look for the good in video game stories, linear or not. As ever, **Cosmic** (hooboy am I expecting some flames for this one! hehehe)

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quote:
c) You want a COMPUTER to randomly generate events? It''s hard enough for people to come up with creative and logical and well put together storylines, but you want a computer to do it? We are a long way from that my friends. Remember that computers are incredibly stupid, but what makes them decieving is that they are incredibly fast. They can''t come up with things like people can.


I manage to do this very easily in my NWN Persistant world, and my users love it. I''m going to take the idea to the next level when my opengl and 3d math skills get a little better. It''s very easy to do if you set it as your goal from the start.

The more things that are set in stone, the less you are able to do this kind of set up. But if you let the game define everything at runtime within a set of rules for sanity reasons, a completly random world isn''t that hard to do.

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Just a follow up to previous post. Maybe the reason you don''t see this in commercial games often is because you cannot have strategy guides, walkthroughs or even ever completly test a game with so many variations. And if your square-enix, you couldn''t render enough FMVs

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quote:
Original post by Vampyre_Dark
Just a follow up to previous post. Maybe the reason you don't see this in commercial games often is because you cannot have strategy guides, walkthroughs or even ever completly test a game with so many variations. And if your square-enix, you couldn't render enough FMVs


right... it's all a conspiracy. I think daggerfall did this. I never even heard of this game until i played morrowind though (a game that doesn't do that), i donno if that has any relevance.

[edited by - tieTYT on April 15, 2004 5:52:34 PM]

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right... it''s all a conspiracy. I think daggerfall did this. I never even heard of this game until i played morrowind though (a game that doesn''t do that), i donno if that has any relevance.


Wha..? That''s not what I said. How do you fully test and support a system for your users? How do you write a strategy guide when you don''t know what situation the users will be in.

In my setup, you can just drop the current job, and find another randomly generated one if you don''t like the current, or get lost. But in a big game where it might be 1 story that was made up on the fly and you can''t drop it, could be a different story.


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Good point Cosmic One, today''s AI would have to exponentially improve before games will be able to create multiple-satisfying storylines on its own.

Another point working against non-linear storylines is that the experiences you design into the game will go totally unappreciated or unexperienced if the player can skip it all. The game has to force the player in certain directions.

Still I think that there are creative solutions that can create what I call "percieved freedom" in games.

Can anyone think of some ways to make the player feel like they are playing a non-linear game but in actuality they are subtley being led down one path?

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Linearity can''t be helped in a lot of cases, but when you think about it, the effect of it can be reduced. By that I mean make the user feel like they''re doing something new, even if they may not be.

One thing that could be implemented would be a random naming system. Instead of having towns and landmarks specifically and statically named, why not give them a large number of possible names, and make it randomly assigned at the start of the game. The many NPCs you interact with on a regular basis could have this applied to them as well. This prevents a single story from being too predictable.

Side quests and optional story arcs are possible as well, as long as they have no effect on the main story. If the game starts and ends in the same way, the exponential growth of number of storylines does not happen. There can be many variances along the way, so minor details become changed and the user feels like something new has happened.

I also believe strongly that good character development through gameplay allows a different feel to the whole game. I don''t mean through personality and dialogue, but through skills or jobs or talents or whatever. Imagine how different a whole game could feel if you went through a FPS getting stronger in your sniper skills or rapid-fire weapons or explosive weapons. MMOs make excellent use of this. DiabloII has one storyline, one set of NPCs and one set of locations, but the customizable characters make it seem like something totally new each time around.

But as you can see, this has very little effect on the main storyline, which still needs to be written as well as it can be, not randomly generated.

Ciao!
****Cosmic****

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Your right about using side missions and characters that don''t effect the main storyline, this is one way to make the game seem less linear.

I am working on a game where the player can complete the six "levels" or areas with bosses in any order they wish. (I loved how Jak and Daxter had one huge game world with no loading or traditional levels).

After all the levels are complete the player can access the final part. Also, while completing these six parts of the game the plot moves along without the player''s decisions directly effecting what happens. The plot does effect the player however. The first part of the game also serves to build up the tension, drama and conflict.

It is not until the last part of the game that the player''s decisions directly affect the plot, thus limiting the possible # of outcomes. The last part of the game is very large and contains several key dilemmas and decisions that will determine the game ending (of which there are 3 or 4 possible).

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