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dwarfsoft

How would YOU storyboard a divergent storyline?

22 posts in this topic

OK, I think the title speaks for itself. You have a divergent storyline, it needs to be storyboarded, and you don''t have a huge amount of space to include a very large tree of everything... Would you break each divergence into itself and just link it to its parent break, or do you have something more innovative in the way of story boarding? -Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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Why not reconnecting to the ''basic'' flow of the story after some shorts changes ?

Or making only the ''basic'' flow of the story and making annotations considering previous players action and state of the world...

Just two quick answer, but it''s a limited system...

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-
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The divergent story also allows for converging aspects in the line... But I am asking as to how you would represent it as a diverging and converging story within a limited space. i.e. You can''t keep branching, because that becomes large and space consuming... As for the convergence aspect... that makes the storyboard look messy on the whole...

Thoughts?

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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Given that the story diverges then maybe it is wrong to call it a story*LINE*. It is not a line. And if you don''t want to make a tree then trying to put it into the storyboard might be the wrong way to go.

In may own system I go for the freeform style of play. Meaning that there are no scripted story as such, rather there are NPCs (NPCs a people too! :-) ) and each of these act according to their own autonomous script and they really don''t care about the story except when they are involved themselves. When you write tree or story line you see the story from outside while to the NPCs in it the story is actually only seen from themselves. The way to avoid the tree is to take a view of the story from this perspective.
So instead of being a story, the game "story" simply becomes a set of encounters/NPCs that the player character can interact with during the game. If this interaction can be modelled into a continuos story, then fine, but calling it a scripted story would be wrong, because it is so freeform.

So to give an example. Say you story wants to NPCs to meet at a given location and act something out for the player when the player passes by. The NPCs would go around their normal life and when the player approaches the given location the first time the NPC go towards the given location. The acting out for each player has to take into account what happens if one doesn''t come (he could be dead or hindered some way) or if none comes. If none comes only the NPCs themselves (that does not come) is affected. The player characters are not (the meeting didn''t take place). Now the player does not have information need later on and other NPCs might need to check for this (or not).

The point is that the "story" is not centralized but is placed in the hands of each NPC. There is no tree or storyline.

Jacob Marner
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I''d like to help but I''m confused by where you are at. From your original question I assume you have the story written/planned out. You just need help organizing the story board?

I''d do it as a combination. ONe master dwg that has a one word title for each story board panel. This is drawn as a large tree structure. Then use this as an index for the actual story boards, and keep each branch more or less together. Does this make sense?
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I don''t see any current methhods that are really nice.

However, I do have an idea about what I''d like to use to author a diverging story.

Premise 1: It should visibly be easy to follow the flow(s).

Premise 2: It needs to be in a format that allows you to converge without some nasty line routings.

Premise 3: There should be some rudimentary mechanism to check for impossible situations (eg. You can kill someone, then later go on a quest to save them)

The best case solution, in my book, would be a 3D application that would map out the possible choices, handle reconnects, and so forth, and store the script in the nodes. Any time you have a diverging choice, it would be the end of the node, and the story would branch. The choices lead to new nodes, and they end with a decision (If the storyline should always merge with another, it would be a decision of 1 choice ). Seems to me that it would be a lot simpler to work with than trying to thread it on paper

I''m not a big fan of 3D everything, but this ought to be "low performance" enough that VB/D3D would be practical.
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Like I said... I have a reasonably complete story (which is why I require tracking the tree, to tie up loose ends). I look at my story so that it does not directly involve ANY specific NPC, just whoever happens to be there at the right place and the right time. NPCAI/IOL will handle NPC action and interaction...

What I was saying, that by using the tree method, I was losing where I was up to. Would I just trim the tree into ''branches'' as it were and just state the links between each branch... This helps with storyboarding.

Does it make any more sense? I sure hope so... Nice idea about the 3D thing, but I think it is a little extreme for this case

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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The only other thing I can think of would be to cut out pieces of paper representing event and tie/tape pieces of string from one page to another.

Whatever you do, I doubt you''ll get onto one page. But then again, just what sort of "space" are you working on/restricted to? Drafting software allows for layers. If you weren''t restricted to one plane of paper it might make orginization easier.

To keep from having too many lines from crossing, don''t forget about the "goto" flow charting symbol.

Map out the storyboard for each possibility. Irritating, tedious, and obvious. But if you use numbers representing each event/frame rather than writng/drawing it out each time, it might not be so bad.

Just throwing out ideas from the top of my head. It doesn''t sound easy no matter what though.
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Just a thought (I skimmed so forgive if this was already mentioned...)

Could you storyboard using HTML, then use a web management program to manage all your pages? Being able to work on an individual page will allow you to concentrate on details and load text and graphics. The links would link to each plot point. Then an app like FrontPage (not the best, I know, but it works) could then give you a high level overview of your site, and display the intertwining links graphically.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...
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LOL Wav... After reading the previous message by kseh I was just about to note HTML as an option. I think that is what I shall use, because it is more efficient than page breaks in word and easily linked and once I have finished I can just upload it. Cheers... HTML is possibly the best way to go using freeware tools (actually ''Dreamweaver'' isn''t really freeware, but you can use Notepad if you really want )

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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I like to use markers and notecards myself - make a notecard for every event, and assign ones that can effect other events a color or color combination (e.g. red blue orange in stripes like |||) mark that on the bottom of the card. Now mark this also on every card the event is prerequesite for (on the top), and mark it with a black box around it on every card the event precludes. Now lay out the cards in a rectangle, with across standing for chronological order, and up-and-down for whatever seems useful. Number the cards for their across position and give them a letter of the alphabet for their up-and-down position. Now you can just keep them in a stack if your short on space, and put them in order quickly and easily when you want to spread them out and work on them.

Edited by - sunandshadow on November 10, 2000 9:03:26 PM
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The HTML idea sounds good as a final or design doc. But if the point is to tie up loose ends then how do you know what needs to be tied up? It''d be easy to start at the beginning and work your way through forgetting to take a left at the fork in the road this time and wind up leaving all the stuff there undone. And the further into the story you are, I assume, the easier it''s likely to be to miss this stuff.
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quote:
Original post by kseh

The HTML idea sounds good as a final or design doc. But if the point is to tie up loose ends then how do you know what needs to be tied up? It''d be easy to start at the beginning and work your way through forgetting to take a left at the fork in the road this time and wind up leaving all the stuff there undone. And the further into the story you are, I assume, the easier it''s likely to be to miss this stuff.



Ahhh... I''m afraid I don''t know of any other method than the brute force one. You note all the paths, then you create a TO-DO list that encompasses all the paths.

Heck, if all else fails... IT''S QA''s PROBLEM!!!

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...
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Unless you are QA as well .

Hmmmm... I think that I will draw a nice and small tree with dots at events and lines to make the joins. From this, I should be able to make a tree that I can see is complete... Then use a map to get the different HTML pages, and BINGO. The original pic wouldn''t have any details, just events and branches.

Maybe I could just program an LL tree in C++ and write a function to check if there is less than x number of events along a given path, and also to make sure that there is an ''Ending'' element (a NULL doesn''t count). This could be used by anyone else who wants to create a storyline then... Hmmmm.. Sounds like a new project . I will give it the ability to create for you a structured HTML site that allows you to step through it, as well as the checking and stuff...

Think it is a good idea?

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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quote:
Original post by dwarfsoft

Maybe I could just program an LL tree in C++ and write a function to check if there is less than x number of events along a given path, and also to make sure that there is an ''Ending'' element (a NULL doesn''t count). This could be used by anyone else who wants to create a storyline then... Hmmmm.. Sounds like a new project . I will give it the ability to create for you a structured HTML site that allows you to step through it, as well as the checking and stuff...



LOL! Talk about needing QA!!!

quote:

Think it is a good idea?



Actually, yeah. I was going to suggest a programmatic solution, but I didn''t want to appear coder elitist. But if you can write it, do it!!! Much better to fit the tool to you, than find some tool you have to fit to.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...
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Nah, wouldn''t need QA for it... Because I am the QA

I don''t really think that it is that difficult, have an unspecified length of the tree, a few pointers to descriptions, and a title (or a heading for the name of the event), a short description for easy handling, a simple set of links.. It isn''t that different from most of the trees that I have already implemented, and the HTML part is simple. I wonder if I can create that little pic (of the tree) with this tool too , including the image map

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          
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I use an HTML system to storyboard my divergent storyline, I almost completely forgot it

It''s because I''m working on a 3D engine and IOL (http://www.egroups.com/npcai) and have no free time remaining.
(Except to sleep )

Of course a Pointer Tree is the best way to do in either JAVA or C/C++.
(And yes, JAVA does have implicit pointers :p )

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-
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Personally, I like to use a huge tree layout. I devote a wall in my appartment to a storytree.. and go to it. I write rough ideas down first, and then put up a huge sheet of paper. Then i start drawing, where you start.. where you go, etc, etc.

Of course, I''m still working up to a model of true-life. True-life is really right place at the right time, and that''s the way i want a game to be (single player RPG, at least). I want to chart EVERY NPC out, what choices they could make at different points in the game, etc.
Now, say you have 5 NPCs (small game.. i know, just an example). Each one of those NPCs has 5 options to pick from throughout the story timeline. That means that 25 different games come out of one storytree. Now, apply this to realistic numbers. Say you have 200 NPCs, and they have an average of 50 choices in the game timeline. That means over 10,000 DIFFERENT choices are possible all-together. Now, add in your character who has NO scripted story AT ALL.
What you end up with is NPCs meeting at certain times and places. If the player happens to be there, then they''re able to be included in THAT storyline. Of course, the player will hear news, rumors, etc.. which might lead them one way or another. But it also depends on which rumors and news they happen to hear as to what side of the story they hear, etc.
Now, let''s say there is a main plot.. and overall thing. 5 NPCs are involved in this main plot, and their storyline doesn''t begin until half-way through the timeline of the game. The player can learn of this ahead of time, and be part of or foil the plot early on, or they might learn of it mere days before the final act is to be played out.. and they''re under intense pressure to go stop this now.. weither they''re ready or not.

This is a lot more true-to-life than anything else. I absolutely think Baldur''s Gate 2 is kinda dumbed down in this respect. You walk onto a map, go to a certain place at a certain time of day, and something will happen.. regardless of what day it is. I think if the player is ignorant of things going on, and the evil lords hatch their plan, then.. oh well I''d like to make it so they can live in the aftermath of what happens.. hehe. That way, you simply can''t just roam around all you want till you feel you''re ready to make the story go forwards (i think landfish had something to say about this like a year ago..).
Well.. anyways, that''s what i''m aiming for.. takes a lot of time to write each individual NPC''s story-line out than it does to make a main plot and several side-stories that happen whenever.. hehe DYNAMIC WORLDS RULE! ;p

J
p.s. in this example.. if the player were to kill an NPC, they would effectively "prune" the tree. Kinda funny to think about, eh?
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Niphty: This is very interesting. How do you keep the actions of each NPC consistent with their personality and past decisions?
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