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Wavinator

If gameplay were plot, would there BE story?

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This is another thought experiment for those interested in dynamic plots... Imagine that you and a half-dozen NPCs are trekking through wilderness. You all have been forced together by fate, you all have the same objective, but you all are pursuing it for different, hidden reasons. Different people in the group have different strengths/attitudes/abilities, and you suspect there are some covert alliances. Because you're the only one that can read the ancient runes on the map, you've been designated the leader. Oh, and you have a hint that one of you might be a murderer.
Now imagine that you have a suite of basic plot-related actions. For the sake of brevity (a skill I'm still learning [rolleyes]) I'll suggest a few, but imagine it's 5x as many:
  • Try to ally with / try to drive away a character
  • Accuse / defend a character (let's assume all significant events, like theft or attacks, are logged & useable in dialog)
  • Express disapproval (rumor/undermine) / support for a character
  • Typical actions: Take / drop / attack / sneak / etc.
  • Plot an action with an ally on any of the above

Given these parameters, you might experience a game like this (apologies for the length, have to set this up): -You, Mario, Max, Gordon, Kate, Sam, and Link all stop for camp. Kate and Sam strike up their ongoing conversation on stealth techniques (alliance?); Max intimidates little Mario into getting firewood; you hear Mario cursing under his breath about justice or revenge but can't be sure because of the accent; Gordon starts fiddling with some electrionic contraption; and Link, as usual, goes off to practice with his sword. -You go over to Link and he offers to spar with you; after some helpful skillbuilding exercise, he asks you what you think of that pushy Max character; you decide to confess that you don't like him, and Link suggests (a bit darkly) that somebody ought to do something about him -Back at camp, Max and Gordon have gotten into a fight and Gordon's electronic contraption is in pieces. The fight escalates when Max pulls his guns on Gordon, who is unarmed apparently due to his technical difficulties. You try to get Max to see reason, but he only relents when Kate intervenes. (They talk away from the camp a bit, and Max seems more mellow coming back) -You notice Sam studying Max intently before your watch is over -You wake up to the sound of Kate and Mario having a loud argument about missing bullets and koopas (whatever the hell those are), and you notice that the map you had, the only guide through this dangerous territory, is missing. And so is Max. -Exploring around a bit, you come upon Max, face down in a puddle of water, but with no map.
Would This Experience Be A Story? Assuming this all happens freeform and plays differently each time, would it be considered a story? A story is usually defined as a set of events which are neatly tied together, with everything happening for a reason. But in this scenario, many events (like arguments) could repeat-- nothing is set just so such that it happens at the right time, only once.

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I don't want to get into a debate over definitions or semantics, but I will say that I think that what is proposed would be a disappointment in story terms for me. Tensions between characters can make a storyline so much more interesting, but you're still missing a major story arc. This is another reason why I am very sceptical about proposals to create 'purpose' in games through procedurally generated quests and so on - it's easy to get things right on a fine-grained level but the really important stuff, the growing tendency towards one major conflict and resolution, is unlikely to arise this way.

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It sounds as though it is story to me. I'm not sure what the definition of story is.

Perhaps the defenition of story when it comes to games should be different than the literary one. Games aren't the same as movies or books no matter what we want to think due to the interactivity.

I guess my thought is: who cares if it fits into the definition of story. That sounds like it would be a very innovative and fun game.

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I think if gameplay were plot, it would essentially be the Low Level Story with some worldbuilding to setup circumstances.

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the growing tendency towards one major conflict and resolution, is unlikely to arise this way.


It depends on how situations are approached. Lets take the main character (you) and your ability to read Runes. The rest of the team knows they need you, even though some of them may dispise you or have their own motives, so until they get where they need to go they won't do anything to you. But the moment they don't need you anymore, it would be time to do some re-evaluating, and they may try something, start a fight, or run off. At that point, it would be upto the player to resolve his issues with his companions (brutally or with diplomacy, whichever way he likes). Or the player may choose to purposely not decipher some runes to buy himself time to resolve some issues (who killed Max) before they don't need him anymore and try to make a move.

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I'd say not, it raises more questions then answers, and people generally like resolution to their plot, that being said, it would be a good start to a story arc. Also, a good story will generally build up to something big, although this story has foreshadowing, there really isn't that much conflict, and for a game I think it would be kinda boring.

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I may be off base, but what you're describing seems to look a lot like The Sims. I get a lot of different options that let me interact with others around me on varying levels and they, in turn, respond to those actions. Depending on the level of companionship I have, my actions will produce different reactions.

This is great for interaction and a certain degree of role-playing, but it doesn't tell a story. I guess some people might play Sims and tell themselves a story that goes along with it, but they are invariably making most of it up in their own minds. Sims doesn't really tell a "story" - it allows you to interact. Those are two different things.

With that said, I'd probably have fun with the kind of scenario you have above, and I can see ways that it would allow you to influence the greater story, but I don't see interaction, in and of itself, a story.

.... Hmm, thinking about it, I think that this could become "story" as soon as you introduce "motivation." Why did Max run away, after all? If his reason, his motivation, for running is your "story" it might work.

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Don't know, or really care if it 'story'. But I think that it would be a step forward in terms of 'unscripted language' in games, which is one of the biggest problems that we face at the moment. We either have to sidestep it or bypass it.
Personally I'm hoping Will Wright will do something ingenious in this area or inspire someone else to do so.


It would be good to have an icon based ideas exchange / information gathering-giving / order giving speech system. Maybe some kind of radial Maya-esque menu that has several main icons, ask , tell , order, special. When you click on ask you get several icons pop up around it that represent ask about person, ask about goals, ask about feelings etc. With a little tool-tip to say what that icon means just so people don't keep forgetting.

This way you could tell someone about your quest, tell them how you feel about them, ask them what they think of Max etc.
Language was one of the main evolutionary factors in human development, and could have powerful effects on the type of games we get.

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That's a good beggining for a story. What determines wether it's going to be a good gameplay experience is what happens -after- that.

So if it goes on and all there is is a kind of a Sims game, it's not goint to be much fun for most of your intended audience.


I think that the single most important thing that can bind all of these low-level gameplay "atoms" together is purpose. Interaction is just a set of rules that supports this. Random things like accidents and stuff belonging to that category can happen like in real life with seemingly no apparent purpose. But anything else -must- have purpose. By "purpose" I mean, it is the direct or indirect result of a "sentient" creature (simulated of course) trying to achieve an objective. In your example scenario, the natural question that the player asks is "why?". Why is this happening? If the answer doesn't make sense, the "story" doesn't make sense. The only way to answer this is "because character X wants to do Y" (there could be a chain reaction of events so that a character's action could end up being the cause of whatever is happening now).

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Would it be able to (dynamically) reach a conclusion/climax (presumably once you reach your destination, whatever it is) where the hidden motives would be revealed and things would seem to fall into place?

If yes, at least then I'd be certain there was a story :)

Btw. this thread made me think of a Matthew Reilly-plot-o-matic (TM). If you don't know, this guy writes very turbocharged action/adventure books, usually following the formula of several competing (armed) teams going after some extremely valuable objective in some well-defined location, and there being the usual traitors & plot twists. Could be sweet if a game would dynamically create stories of this kind, with different world & destination & teams each time...

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Original post by Taolung
Sims doesn't really tell a "story" - it allows you to interact. Those are two different things.


This sounds to me like you think that story can only be told, not experienced. Would that be accurate?

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Original post by Jotaf
So if it goes on and all there is is a kind of a Sims game, it's not goint to be much fun for most of your intended audience.


I think this is vital. MOST gameplay is cyclic and repeating at the moment to moment level, with the exception being puzzles. You hack, or you jump, our you steer, or you shoot, etc.

So your point would suggest that as soon as an interactive experience becomes cyclic, it can no longer be a story? Because what the OP model is the idea that the traditional story elements (relationships between characters, motive assessment, conspiracies) be cyclic, theoretically with the player being responsible for how well the story is going (i.e., if things keep seesawing, you'll have to try something different).

Quote:

I think that the single most important thing that can bind all of these low-level gameplay "atoms" together is purpose. Interaction is just a set of rules that supports this. Random things like accidents and stuff belonging to that category can happen like in real life with seemingly no apparent purpose. But anything else -must- have purpose. By "purpose" I mean, it is the direct or indirect result of a "sentient" creature (simulated of course) trying to achieve an objective. In your example scenario, the natural question that the player asks is "why?". Why is this happening? If the answer doesn't make sense, the "story" doesn't make sense. The only way to answer this is "because character X wants to do Y" (there could be a chain reaction of events so that a character's action could end up being the cause of whatever is happening now).


As an aside, purpose is sort of suggested a bit ("you all have the same goal, but for different reasons"). The challenge here is that from a first person perspective (in story-terms, NOT gameplay terms) you may not know the purpose of others.

Worse, yet, you may come to the wrong conclusion. Now that is one of the major advantages of a tightly scripted game that limits your freedom but makes certain that you are exactly where you need to be for a revelation or turn of events to count.

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Original post by Kylotan
I don't want to get into a debate over definitions or semantics, but I will say that I think that what is proposed would be a disappointment in story terms for me. Tensions between characters can make a storyline so much more interesting, but you're still missing a major story arc.


Can you explain this a bit (maybe give me some examples of where you've seen this done well in games)?

By major story arc, I think of the standard major story arc we get in most games, which is shades of the hero's journey or kill "teh grate evul!!11" [grin]

For a journey, a major story arc could involve destinations on the map and transformations to characters once they arrive. Maybe Kate's got a high powered rifle that will change the balance of power. Maybe when you come to some ghostly ruins, Max is suddenly back as a villain, etc.

Having said that, I can feel the immense difference between having written fiction and carefully arranged the house of cards to fall just at the right time, and the idea in the OP.



Quote:

...the growing tendency towards one major conflict and resolution, is unlikely to arise this way.


In gameplay, conflict and pacing can be controlled by frequency of activity and dwindling resources. Could that be used here? Particularly, consider modeling emotions as resources, so that "growing hatred" or "dawning awe" become triggers for different events, animations and behaviors. (Uh, easier said than done, of course).

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Oh, and just a small point of order! SIMS?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!? Since when did characters actively plot to murder one another in The Sims!!!??? [lol]

As an aside, I note this as one of the fundamental ways that we as designers are influenced by genre. Now, any game which involves internally modelled individuals who have relationships and react to one another must, I think, be funneled through the lense of The Sims. The danger of this is that the stronger the lense, the more it will morph the expectations of anyone who encounters an idea that looks like it but is not it.

This is understandable. We only create frames of reference for that which we can conceptualize and relate to.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I'm imagining Miss. Marple the emergent RPG. :). I'm not quite sure how a mystery would be done without relying on totally-pre-canned dialogue. However, what I'd suggest would be to use little snippets of dialogue + facts.

Ie. You investigate person x and you get back six different bits of information.
Job references > So you can phone these people and check if his references are real or fake. If they are fake, why are they fake? If they check out, is the person pretending to be the person whose references you have checked out?

Significant other> their girlfriend, or boyfriend > so you can go see what they think of them.

Odd events> any odd behaviour is shown to you in a little in-game engine "memory clip". Ie. when they were seen sneaking around the camp last night.

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I don't think it can be called a story in the traditional sense, as it has already been said, it misses timing.

However, if the game was able to keep track of the "storyline" and correct it on the way, then it could be something. A slightly different example than yours: There are 8 friends in the wilderness. They have found an ancient treasure, and their purpose is to get out alive and reach the nearest city.
One of them is a murderer, who wants the treasure for himself.
You're the leader, so you have the (presumably) only weapon, with only one bullet. Things go on as you described, freeform(alliances,disputes,collecting clues and things...). But every once and a while, a character gets murdered with a knife(thus revealing the fact that the murderer also has a weapon), leading to new story rearrangments(forming new alliances, breaking old ones, re-evaluation of elements...). If you manage to stay alive(by being careful, make the right alliances...), you reach the climax, where only 3 of you remain alive. Based on the conclusions you've made, you shoot one of them. After that, you search the body and find indisputable evidence of whether or not he's the killer. If you were right, then you win. If you were wrong, you are alone, unarmed with the murderer, and you die.

I used that simplistic example because getting a character out of the picture is perhaps the easiest way for the game AI to "steer" the story. It could be other more complex things though, like if your conclusions are way off, a situation is dynamically created with purpose to give you clues that will lead you to the desirable place.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
could this be made as a multiplayer version of "a murder mystery party" but with the characters playing towards another goal besides figuring out who it is that is doing the sabotage.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by Jotaf
So if it goes on and all there is is a kind of a Sims game, it's not goint to be much fun for most of your intended audience.


I think this is vital. MOST gameplay is cyclic and repeating at the moment to moment level, with the exception being puzzles. You hack, or you jump, our you steer, or you shoot, etc.

So your point would suggest that as soon as an interactive experience becomes cyclic, it can no longer be a story? Because what the OP model is the idea that the traditional story elements (relationships between characters, motive assessment, conspiracies) be cyclic, theoretically with the player being responsible for how well the story is going (i.e., if things keep seesawing, you'll have to try something different).


It doesn't necessarily stop being a story and start feeling like The Sims once the experience becomes cyclic. But if this is abused, and for a while all you do is manage relations, it's not really a story anymore (IMHO). For this to work, the relations would have to evolve relatively slowly, with plenty of warning for what is happening. You can't make the user too obsessed with this relationships thing. This only applies to relations the player knows about, of course. BTW you're right about comparing this to The Sims but it's the first analogue that comes to mind :)

Quote:

Quote:

I think that the single most important thing that can bind all of these low-level gameplay "atoms" together is purpose. Interaction is just a set of rules that supports this. Random things like accidents and stuff belonging to that category can happen like in real life with seemingly no apparent purpose. But anything else -must- have purpose. By "purpose" I mean, it is the direct or indirect result of a "sentient" creature (simulated of course) trying to achieve an objective. In your example scenario, the natural question that the player asks is "why?". Why is this happening? If the answer doesn't make sense, the "story" doesn't make sense. The only way to answer this is "because character X wants to do Y" (there could be a chain reaction of events so that a character's action could end up being the cause of whatever is happening now).


As an aside, purpose is sort of suggested a bit ("you all have the same goal, but for different reasons"). The challenge here is that from a first person perspective (in story-terms, NOT gameplay terms) you may not know the purpose of others.

Worse, yet, you may come to the wrong conclusion. Now that is one of the major advantages of a tightly scripted game that limits your freedom but makes certain that you are exactly where you need to be for a revelation or turn of events to count.


Sorry, I know it was suggested, but you did not exactly convey the idea that you have a system in place to make sure that purpose exists (it sounded a bit like a "pie in the sky" feature that wouldn't make it to the real game). I think I brought this up a couple of times before, but the only way to do this is with planning AI, which I don't think you're considering to implement.

About wrong conclusions, you're saying you want the computer to cheat to make up for the player's bad detective work :) Actually it's a pretty good idea. The existance of important relationships without the player knowing about them (they're not in the relationships screen) should trigger natural events to help them being discovered. Give the player a clue, trigger a conversation he can overhear, or give him a nudge in the right direction. I'm sure it would make for an awsome gaming experience.

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Essentially, it is a story because conflict exists.

Plot is an essential, inseparable component of story, imo, and in my experience developing stories over the years. What I think you are really driving at is a morph of plot into gameplay, thus the story is "play." The elements are still there, just in another form.

I think I am going to stowaway on the mothership...

Adventuredesign

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Quote:
Original post by Taolung
I may be off base, but what you're describing seems to look a lot like The Sims.

Dunno, it made me think more of Agatha Christie's novels* and of "Colonel Plum, in the bathroom, with a spoon" ^^;;

(think there was at least couple games which had you deduce the murderer from random set of clues and ability to converse with NPCs to figure out possible motives etc)

*) so i guess yes, you can say there actually is a story. It would be good if it lead to some sort of either conclusion or follow up down the road, but it's already a story in basic sense.

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hey Wavinator, I was just thinking about this earlier today, remember that old AI thread?
One of the methods I had considered was predicate logic. Build a model of the starting state with relationships and etc, and then when the player (or an event or something) changes the state, re-check the model and fix the rules to keep them consistent.
Well, just today a teacher shot down that approach. Turns out that checking a model for consistency is an NP problem :(

On topic: Yes I'd say it is a story, and I'd be very interested in it. Of course you'd need to manage tension along the road (which I believe can be done) and you gotta have a proper satisfactory ending (which I believe will prove hard to implement).
About relationships taking the cake: if your plot is interesting, it won't. Will you spend your time chattering with Kate if there's a murderer among your group? Plus, the NPCs themselves should lose interest in chitchat the longer you keep at it, forcing you to move.
The difficult bits are the climax (feature film style)or climaxes (if you're going for TV/book style story rythm).
I imagine two approaches:
a) the tension metrics, where you measure the tension of any given moment and try to drive it where you want it to be, which may be any curve you prefer (some books use a sine-like curve that drops off rather sharply at the end of each chapter, for example).
b) a story entity. an incorporeal AI that possesess your characters and makes them *DO THINGS*. Okay that's a funny way to put it, but you could have an independent entity that shoves characters into the story. They'd go out of their normal ways when this happens. Sometimes flipping out, sometimes being heroic or whatever, just to keep things interesting.

About correcting the player's mistakes and always deliver the ending:
I believe this is a good approach, of course there should be a threshold for how awful a leader you can be before the game stops holding your hand and lets bad things happen. Think of this like the Prince of Persia walking on ledges. It felt a bit scary, and you had to balance... but you weren't really going to fall if your balance went off... you'd just fall to the side and hang, then jump back on.

Wavinator is this a random idea or are you considering it for your space game? sounds neat if you can pull it off. Just avoid predicate logic XD

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Original post by Wavinator
This is another thought experiment for those interested in dynamic plots...

Long description edited out for sake of brevity...

Would This Experience Be A Story?
Assuming this all happens freeform and plays differently each time, would it be considered a story? A story is usually defined as a set of events which are neatly tied together, with everything happening for a reason. But in this scenario, many events (like arguments) could repeat-- nothing is set just so such that it happens at the right time, only once.


Well, I'd consider this to be a story of sorts, but as a lot of people have pointed out it mightn't necessarily be a very good story if the system doesn't try and make it one. If the events feel disjointed from each other, repeat too often, or just feel too 'procedure' based, it won't gel. If the system however managed to pace it like a story arc, then it could work.

One way I think dynamic story could work is if you have different layers of story events that the system to work with, sort of like milestones that the form the backbone of the story arc. For a murder mystery, for example, there needs to be a murder, and the crime needs to be solved. For a murder to make sense, storywise, there needs to a motive, so that need be justfied, and so on. I guess this would work as a backward logic chaining system (not sure if I got the right terminology there).

Now I come to think of it, I'm sure I've read something similar to that example somewhere before, when I was doing some research into representations of storytelling systems. Let me just check my old notes....

Ah yes, there was a system called the Automatic Novel Writer that generated short murder mysteries developed by Sheldon Klein at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s. From memory, the system ran a bit like simulation, giving a log of what the characters did in a old mansion type setting, before eventually one character would murder another, a detective would arrive, and one of the other house guests would solve the murder. Here's an extract of what I summarised about this:

Quote:

The plot is created by a simulation of the behaviour of the characters using a series of bejaviour rules written by the researchers for each event in the story. Sample of the types of events are 'Two friends meet by chance, they agree to play tennis, one of the friends flirts with other friend's wife' and 'Pushing your business partner down the stairs to gain control of the business'. The system also keeps track of time, with various events occurring at different times (such as 'Tea is served at 4 p.m. All guests stop their activities when the butler serves tea'). Sove events may provide the triggers for future events (for example, flirting with someone else's spouse provides the trigger for a lover's tryst and adultery, and this tryst provides another trigger, in this case for murder). The choice of rules is done probabilistically using likelihoods determined by past events and character attributes. Each character is given a numerical value for a number of personality traits, such as attractiveness, sexd drive, intelligences and propensity for violence. Eventually, the novel writer will choose to perform one of the six murder events. This starts the chain of events that starts with the selection of a character to play detective and solve the crime.


This is from my notes, but my reference is 'Automatic Novel Writing: A Status Report; Technical Report 186, Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin, July 1973', so I don't know if it can be easily found on the web (I can't remember how I found it.).
I do remember that the tech. report included source code (can't remember the language though). It was basically a bunch of predesigned scenario events that slotted together to make a story.

Not sure if all this makes sense, and I can't even remember if I stayed on topic, as I should have had lunch two hours ago. Oh well, I've written too much to not include this to the discussion now!

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by Taolung
Sims doesn't really tell a "story" - it allows you to interact. Those are two different things.


This sounds to me like you think that story can only be told, not experienced. Would that be accurate?


Yes and no. When we watch a movie or read a book, we still experience it, and we still put ourselves into the scenario...but not in the sense you're referring to. If you mean can story be generated on the fly based on the players actions, I'd be inclined to say no.

By bringing up Sims I didn't mean to imply that this is just another variant of it - I suppose what I meant is that Sims is a genre of its own and that this kind of gameplay seems to fit into the genre.

I actually think it's a pretty neat idea, I'm just reluctant to call it "story."

The story of Star Wars is about a simple young man on a far off and forgotten world who ultimately defeats the evil Empire and restores peace to the galaxy. This story can be told any number of ways - the character interactions we see is *how* it is told. Events occur, decisions are made, and relationships are developed *specifically* to further the underlying story.

In other words, character interaction is only a tool used to tell the story.

I see "story" has being similar, in a way, to "fate." Imagine Star Wars where Luke is the player character. What if the player never chose to purchase R2D2 from the Jawas? R2 couldn't have led Luke to Obi-Wan, which ultimatley means he never would have become the last remaining Jedi and that the Rebellion may well have been destroyed by the Empire. What were the odds that R2 would have even made it to the Skywalkers in the first place? What I'm getting at is that throughout the entire story, seemingly little, random events occur to build and orchestrate a larger, dramatic story. These seemingly random character choices and events were carefully planned and orchestrated by the author in order to tell the larger story.

Now, back to the Sims:

Players can talk about the stupid funny things that characters did in the Sims - accidentally burning down the kitchen, whizzing on the sidewalk on the way to work, or getting into an arguement with their mother. This in a way provides a story, but not in a literary or theatrical way.

So I guess this is what needs clarification:

Are you talking about creating a situation where players could share stories about the things the NPC's did or said while they were playing - or, are you talking about creating a story complete with plot, pacing, direction, foreshadowing, twists, and ultimately an epic conclusion?

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I personally like the OP model from the standpoint that it should be used as a mode of telling the story. There should always be a general outline as to the major events in the game, but if you were to use the OP model to gain alliances make enemies etc. you could presumably never play a game the same way twice. Yes the general story is there, but if you use the OP model to determine which path is taken within the story then it will change slightly each time depending on your choices.

For example, lets say you make an alliance A, then this parties within alliance A could ask you or lead you in this direction. But, if you made alliance B instead then you would be lead in a different direction.

--Ter'Lenth

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On a simple level I'm imagining a relationship based game with (little to no dialogue) as being based around something like Gang interaction. Something along the lines of GTA: San Andreas


You can tag territory to insult the other gangs.
Do things to improve your status ie. so called 'respect'.
The more you encroach on other gangs territory the nastier they get.

This would be a simple form of 'communication' that would work well when combined with gameplay. ie. gameplay actions translate into messages that the other gangs receive.
Also you could put in 'diplomat' functions, ie. sending worded messages to other gangs / countries asking for support / declaring war / proposing truces / making conditions for surrender (ie. I want you to release any hostages, give up your trade in this area etc.).

Of course, I don't mean to promote gangs since they are a scourge on society.
The same system could work with small states. Imagine that each state / region in a country has gone independent!

I can TOTALLY see this working! Would this be the kind of thing you are thinking about. Where character relationships are important. Of course this example is fairly simplistic in that there is a strictly defined end goal, ie. become the most powerful gang / control the most territories. or reuniting the nation in the other example. This makes it less easy to have "character motivations" beyond the gameplay goals. However, if you add in more gameplay goals (ie. things that characters can work towards) then you can start to have deeper and more subtle relationships and story.



Ie. In your example Max has a crush on Kate, but doesn't want to admit it so he volunteered for the expedition so that he could spend some more time with her, and hopefully charm the pants off her (literally).
Gordon, is in it for the gold. Because he has run up large gambling debts that he needs to pay off.
Sam is in it because he secretly loves Max, but knows that Max isn't interested in men.
Kate wants vengeance on Sam because he ran off with her boyfriend on their wedding day leaving her jilted at the altar.
Kate ALSO wants to go on the expedition because her mother Lara was a famous Tomb raiding archeologist and she wants to live up to the high expectations that her father had, of her becoming one too!

Wallace is on the expedition because he knows that the tomb they are visiting contains the holy grail. And he is prepared to kill anyone who will stop him getting his dirty little hands on it.

EDIT: also would each motivation lead up to a certain dramatic "plot" point which would reevaluate the relationship dynamics. Ie. You see Sam running off with tears running from his eyes after talking to Max. You go over and talk to Sam and he won't tell you what's going on. The next day he tells you that he came out to Max, and Max freaked out :-(. Or maybe Kate goes to talk to him and manages to calm him down, then she tells you.

[Edited by - Ketchaval on June 25, 2005 8:18:50 AM]

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Wow! Lots of great feedback!

I'd like to drill down a bit further by refining this a bit more: Let's assume that the example in the OP aims to create (in terms of story) the average FPS or RPG gaming experience (IOW, you will recall the experience as being on par with the stories found in Half-Life or Baldur's Gate or -insert favorite FPS / RPG-, sans cutscenes).

With the exception of some very notable games like Shen Mue or some of the Final Fantasy games, I've believe we're talking about a narrative that is so simple it is wrong to try to compare it to a feature film or book. Story most often comes to us in cutscenes, in game interactions, exposition (briefings, notes, etc.) and scripted events. As Naz and Ketcheval have noted, these are fundamentally different experiences.

So here is a more extended question:

Given the setup in the OP as well as conflicting motivations, AND a map of locations which act to resolve and develop the plotline, at the end of playing will you be able to say "the story of this game is that..."

While playing, will you be able to say, "the story so far is that..."




If the player is in the driver's seat, it suggests many different possible "stories" arising out various interactions. As said above, if you make alliance A, things could go one way; alliance B would make them go another.

Now, given this, it seems to me that just as you should have the freedom to foul up your experiences on a level in an RPG / FPS /etc., you should be able to arrive at a suboptimal "story."

Consider the case of progressive murder: One story out come should be that everybody dies but the murderer, who gets to claim the treasure at the end of the quest.

Now you may despise that ending, but that should be motivation to replay. IOW, this means that game stories could be so fundamentally different from movie or book stories that a bad story is acceptable because it was caused by the player's actions.

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