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Finding the hook

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I think it's a difficult balance to introduce a player to a story in a game, and at the same time introduce the player to the game and the game play. What I've noticed is that early on players are much more intersted in just learning the game than they are reading a story. After playing for a while they tend to get into it. Currently I'm reworking my game to take this into account, having the story much lighter and less in depth in the beginning. Is anyone else having a similar issue? What are some steps you can take, to help introduce the player to the storyline of the game, but at the same time actually introduce them to the game play?

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That's interesting, I would think it would be the other way around - that players would want immediate immersion in the story, then a slow and gentle introduction to the gameplay via one or more training levels. Of course you can't just dump them into the middle of the story. You have to start out with an interesting but simple to understand situation so the player can figure out what role they are supposed to play, give the player a chance to learn a little of the game mechanics and complete an objective, and the completion of this objective should alter the initial situation, giving you the opportunity to add complication to the story, setting the stage for a more complicated gameplay lesson, etc.

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I think our initial trouble is we started out with way way way too much to read (Which is actually how it is at the moment, I still need to put in the new version of the dialog). A lot of people have told me that there is just way too much at the beginning to read and usually skip it. It's been kind of hard to get people into the story and the game play at the same time. Our new strategy is going to basically ease them into both.

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Engagement

It is a sign that your game and story are not integrated when someone complains that there is too much story in the beginning. The reason that your 'story' is 'too much' is because the content of your story has no immediate effect on how the player will play the game. When the player is reading the story, the player may be thinking, 'where is the fastforward button? I don't think I need to know this to play the game.'

Quote:
Our new strategy is going to basically ease them into both.
This is vague statement. I assume that you understand that there is supply and demand of information. Your situation occurs because your supply of information exceeds the player's demand. It is obvious that there are only two catagories of solutions: to decrease the supply, or to increase the player's demand. Of the two options, to increase demand is the more logical choice because it promotes exchange, which is engagement--the true meaning of being hooked.

You want the player to feel that he has dived into your game world that is full of new and interesting features that he wants to explore. The duty of the first hour of the game is to distinguish your design from the others. Your objective is to make the player's mind goes wild thinking about the possibilities that the new features may entail.

But the deeper issue remains that your design is not integrated. In an integratd design, the role of a story is not to introduce the gameplay and the situation, and the gameplay is not just to let the player play out the situations of the storyline. The story is not just the explanations, and the game is not just the decisions and actions. The situation that you are facing does not exist for integrated designs. This is not something that can be easily fixed after the begining of the development.

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I appreciate you opinion, but I think your oversimplifying. Some people don't like it when a game and story are overly "integrated". There are people who play a game that do so for the story, and there are those that insist that games shouldn't even have stories. Trying to appease both factions is rather difficult. I think that most people don't start playing a game and immediately read all the text presented to them. Most people don't start out by reading any text at all... even instructions. If say 50% of the people who play a game won't read any of the text presented to them (I've actually read this number is much higher, but I can't remember where) how can one possibly integrate a story tightly with the game play and not loose players. Perhaps if you provided some examples of games the in your opinion had a well integrated story line and game play it may be helpful.

Thanks

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its pretty simple actualy....remove everything from the begining story that has nothing to do directly with the first 20 minutes or so of gameplay.

If players start off in a barn, surrounded by animals, and in the first 20 minutes they are expected to simply venture out and talk to the locals...well they don't realy need to know the history of the previous 2,000 years, what the king ate for breakfast, and whom/what the prince is screwing around with...

Now you may have written a huge backstory inorder to explain the game world and all that..but that is a backstory, at best it may be interesting, and you have a right to be proud of makeing such an effort...but sorry, the backstory isn't the important stuff...you know, the real story, where the game begins.

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Re:

The difference between an integrated design and a non-integrated design is the relationship between the story and the game. In an integrated design, the story and the game are not elements that partition the resources or the attention of the player. The default channel of story telling in a game design is gameplay, not text.

This is the analogy, if the design is a film, and the player is the actor:

For a non-integrated design, the actor is given the script first. The actor memorizes the lines and then performs on the stage when the director says 'action!'

For an integrated design, there are no lines to memorize. The director simply design the sets and provide the actor with materials to be in-character, where the lines are improvised. To design an integrated design is to design the stages and interaction environment that maximizes the player's involvement in the context.


Example of integrated design:
Random words:
[groom = a man or boy employed to take care of horses]
[menopause = the cessation of menstruation, occurring usu. between the ages of 45 and 55]
[Reckless = heedless or careless]

One-minute inference:
This is a horse racing game that revolves around a the stable boy and a reckless racing horse during menopause. Due to an uncanny resemblance to another design, I am just goint to show the old design:

This is a game about racing, where there are two main characters--the designer (Case) and the racer (Frequency). The designer is an analytical jerk that doesn't care about anything but the competition, while the racer is an impulsive and unpredictable freak. For the jerk, the race is just about the price money and/or some other selfish reasons. For the freak, the race has a spiritual meaning about the search of stability. The primary driving forces include the conflict between the violent nature of the race and the search for peace, and the conflict between the walking on the edge of a relationship to secure a relationship. The primary integration is the mutual influence between the designs and the performances, which reflect respectively the thoughts of the jerk and the freak.

You have seen conversations through dialogues or letters, through music and paintings. This is an adaptation where a conversation of visions and thoughts presented through designs and executions.


Story-telling is not a defining feature of games. This topic applies to cases when you want it to tell a story.

A story is an abstraction that has no intrinsic relation to text. A picture (not talking about comics or scenes) can tell a story. A piece of instrumental music (not talking about sound effects) can tell a story. A game can tell a story. On its own. A game that uses only text to present the story is as dumb as a movie that films the flipping script.

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Why can't storytelling be a defining feature of games? If storytelling is a defining feature of such diverse media as movies, novels, comic books, and poetry, nothing prevents it from being a defining feature of games if the designer wants it to be. Look at text-adventure games and card games such as Once Upon a Time - there's practically nothing there _except_ story.

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Quote:
Original post by MSW
its pretty simple actualy....remove everything from the begining story that has nothing to do directly with the first 20 minutes or so of gameplay.


This is actually the strategy we are moving to, but I do think a good story and back story can be worked into a game effectively. Striking a balance is difficult and I'm looking for strategies to improve it. SC2 is my favorite game of all time and it has an exceptionally deep story that it does a very good job of weaning you into as a player. It also has an extremely large set of back stories that are told on tangents to the game story.

I do believe these stories add a great deal of interest to that game specifically, and I think it's comercial success and fan base that has survived 12 years after it's release are tributes to its stories, and back stories more so than the game play.

I need to go back and play it again for some ideas.


Quote:
Original post by Estok
For a non-integrated design, the actor is given the script first. The actor memorizes the lines and then performs on the stage when the director says 'action!'

For an integrated design, there are no lines to memorize. The director simply design the sets and provide the actor with materials to be in-character, where the lines are improvised. To design an integrated design is to design the stages and interaction environment that maximizes the player's involvement in the context.


This all seems rather abstract to me (I apologize for my lack of vision). I would really like a concrete existing game (preferably one that was a comercial success) example of how to "integrate" a design. Do you know of a specific game that uses this approach successfully. How do they apply that approach to the game to successfully integrate it. Your Actor / Director metaphor is interesting, but I'm a software engineer... not a director or actor, so I need an example that's a little more applicable to what I'm doing (sorry I'm a bit slow).

Thanks, this thread has been very helpful to me [smile]

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Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Why can't storytelling be a defining feature of games?

Because then it wouldn't be a game, it'd be a movie?

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