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TechnoGoth

Closed Environment Stories

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Here''s a problem for all the writer here, maybe we''ll make it a little compitition. The problem: How do you create an interesting story for game that takes placed in a closed envionment? For example a game that takes place on a train. ----------------------------------------------------- "Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own." Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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Even better than a train, why not a cube, where all the walls are painted white, and seemingly all made out of six inches of concrete? the idea would be to amuse your character long enough to get out of the box without going mad. The nicest way for this to work, I think would be to have a time limit from the beginning, and just have a bunch of abstract puzzles the character can solve using the inventory and the limited environment given. Then the story would be with the player, "I only had six minutes left, but I had to find out how this switch worked to make a perpetual motion machine!!!", and it would be more personal, if more abstract.

As for a train, many games have been made on trains. "The Orient Express", for example, focused on a murder mystery. Personally, in terms of having a really complicated plot, I don''t think that it would be hard given a small space(I work in a relatively confined place with only 3-4 rooms, and find that people themselves will make enough stories about their interations with one another to finish an entire game), but given an introverted perspective, things could become really interesting in finding out about both yourself and the character you''ve inhabited(which, regardless of the context, is an extention of the game developer himself!)

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I was going to make the same comment, re: murder mysteries and trains.

I''m also going to take it further and say a house can also be considered a closed environment - so games where you search a house qualify.

There was a movie called "The Cube" (1997) that better identifies what I think you''re reaching for. The premise is that 5 (?) people are trapped inside a labyrinthine cube, sort of a giant Rubik''s cube, except each room contains different traps. The trick is to discover the hidden code that becomes a map, identifying those doors which are safe and which are not, and use that coded map to try and find your way out.

It wasn''t the best movie in the world, but from a psychological/sociological view it was pretty interesting to watch.

I guess the trick is to define what qualifies as a closed environment. Sticking to movie analogies for now, the (very bad) movie "Phone Booth" certainly qualifies under the loose definition. Every sci-fi movie where the good guys fight alien creatures on space ships/space stations/outposts qualifies. Any airplane disaster/hostage movie applies as well.

So, the first question I''d ask is: how limited are we in choosing a "closed environment"?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I''m not a writer but I had played some games with a closed environment settings.

6 Day Assassin - a short adventure game where you are an assassin trying to get out of a room. Nice little game, take 3 minutes to break the game if you know all the spoilers but if you do not know the solutions of the puzzles, you may take several hours to complete the game.
http://www.agsforums.com/games.php?action=detail&id=11

5 Days a stranger - a medium length adventure game where you are a burglar trapped inside a haunted house. You objective is to find mysteries of the hauntings and find a way to get out of the house.
http://www.agsforums.com/games.php?action=detail&id=269

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It seems everyone has gone with the adventure game apporach, but what about the other kinds games, such as RPGs, Survival or even strategy games?

As to what I mean by a closed enviroment I mean a limited area that the character can''t leave. Perhaps no more then a dozen or so rooms/areas.

places that sping to mind or have been mentioned already are:
train
house
cube
airplane
Fun house/ haunted house
isolated/underwater/outerspace research post
small village/colony in a forest/the moon/underwater/underground

now that we have some settings, we just need a genre, and plot.


-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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In terms of closed environment stories, the first things I think of are marooning stories like _Lord of the Flies_ and _Swiss Family Robinson_. I like these kinds of stories because they generally involve the character adapting to the new environment (playing McGuyver) and having political/psychological interactions -> evolving relationships with the NPCs, both fun things to do in an adventure/dating sim type game. Then, it would be easy to add a FPS hunting element, and/or a sim level where you controlled the development of your little settlement. And then there''s lots of potential for humor since the civilized people and the wilderness or post apocalyptic setting make a sort of ''odd-couple'' character dynamic (sometimes it''s useful to regard the setting as a character).

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quote:
Original post by SJ_Zero
Even better than a train, why not a cube, where all the walls are painted white, and seemingly all made out of six inches of concrete? the idea would be to amuse your character long enough to get out of the box without going mad. The nicest way for this to work, I think would be to have a time limit from the beginning, and just have a bunch of abstract puzzles the character can solve using the inventory and the limited environment given. Then the story would be with the player, "I only had six minutes left, but I had to find out how this switch worked to make a perpetual motion machine!!!", and it would be more personal, if more abstract.


If you exchange the time limit element here for a completeness requirement you get the puzzle game _Jewels of the Oracle_, where you have unwittingly wandered into an ancient magically-automated intelligence test, which you have to pass if you don''t want to stay locked in some musty stone ruins until you starve or die of old age, whichever comes first.

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A closed environment game, you have to understand, implies that the dozen or so boards in the game, are not only the only boards the player will ever see, they''re also the boards the player will frequently see. That means that you have to make each board visible interesting in its own right, and also not have all of it''s content availiable from the start. This means at least some of the boards will have a puzzle. The trick to writing some form of game or story around this closed environment is making sure that enough about the closed environment has enough merit to have a story told about it. Is this a haunted train? Is there a murderer on board? Is there a bomb set to go off?

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Here's a problem for all the writer here, maybe we'll make it a little compitition.

The problem:

How do you create an interesting story for game that takes placed in a closed envionment? For example a game that takes place on a train.


>My answer is to create the environment matrix for the entire story world, and then apply the character bios (which contain the motivations, skills and adaptations they apply in all, some or specific situations) to the environmental template.

You may find out that you haven't got all the makings of a story there, in terms of dramatic impact, but you will know what can go on there that will be both realistic and not breaking the suspension of disbelief.

Also remember one of the great assets of a well written story is an exotic location, which can have all kinds of environmental goodies hidden in it due to it exoticism that can allow you to have more things to interact with.

An exampe would be, is this train on this planet, at this time or in the past or future. If the train is off planet, and on another planet, is the politic, technology, life forms, cultural environment different enough to make what would have been "The Orient Express" on this planet a hundred years ago "The Magellanic Commuter" with a whole different set of environmentals that can effect plot, character, action and setting.

Adventuredesign


[edited by - adventuredesign on June 9, 2004 10:21:26 PM]

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I think I have to point out the obvious here, which is that almost all games are set in an enclosed environment unless they create new areas dynamically (which is hardly realistic).

Games set solely on trains, inside houses etc. are not restricted by the environment any more than one that allows the player to traverse an entire planet or solar system.

The real problem that needs to be solved is that of how much detail to include, based on the more limited scale, and how to vary it enough to keep things interesting.

Large CRPGs such as Morrowind don''t tend to offer much in the way of detail or interactivity in the areas between towns, so even they can become uninteresting on the second (or even first) trip through them.

A CRPG set on a train is unlikely to offer many opportunities to engage in combat (unless the passengers were all slowly turning into zombies or something similar), but there would still be plenty of scope for exploration of finer details.

Such a game could afford to allow the player to interact with objects that a larger version would not, such as including cupboards, lockers, drawers, briefcases etc. that can be opened.

If it was based on something like "Murder on the Orient Express", and the player was supposed to be investigating, clues would likely consist of very small items (such as a spot of blood or a single strand of hair).

The appearance of each carriage type would vary, as would the items normally found there. A dining car would be quite different to the sleeping compartments for example.

One of the tricks many text adventures used was to limit your movement in the environmemt in the early stages of the game. You might start off in a locked room for example. Once you managed to get out of there, you might find that other areas are closed to you until you solve a problem or otherwise make progress.

Again, if it was a murder mystery, the person responsible may well have gone out of their way to slow the investigation, such as disposing of the conductor, locking the freight carriage etc.

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