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TechnoGoth

Time span of a game episode.

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Well I'm still trying to hash out the design for my heavily story based anime school sim, and I'm unsure as to how long to make each episode. Basically the game consists of one season of 12 episodes each episode has its own story arch that ties into season's story arch. Each episode has to have both story and gameplay conclusion at the end of each episode. The player’s character is carried over from episode to episode and the player is supposed to play them in order but they will be able to skip anyone they choose. So I'm trying to figure out how long an episode should be originally I was thinking either one month or one semester (4 months). In the case of one month it means that each hour in a day is important has to be used to the fullest in terms of story, gameplay, and character growth. It is also a very short length of time and doesn't have much in the way of an important gameplay event that has to be prepared for. A semester has plenty of time for both story, gameplay and character development and has a clear defined gameplay goal to prepare for at the end of it. But it also means that the season would take place over 4 years which is a fairly long time over which to develop a story arch, it also means that character will have changed a great deal. It also creates a problem if I decided to make a sequel since it means that sequel will have to have either a new cast of main character or the focus of the game will have to shift greatly. I've been thinking of compromise of an episode being 2 months ending in a midterm exam but I can't help but think that a 2 month time span would end up having the worst aspect of the 1 month and 1 semester time spans, rather then having the best of both.

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/me lets slip one of the secrets of writing..

Do a time and motion study. Every character in every setting in every attitude has common factors:

1. Scale of the setting: this effects how long it takes to run, walk, fly, etc. That time frame reference is part of your baseline.

2. Ability of the character: is it a knight that can run twice as fast as an elderly charcter or a character that is strong and tough, but not fast. Acceleration over distance on a per character basis, and as a collective rate of advance is another part of the physical navigation of the drama at this point in plot advancement.

3. Is said character(s) talking, fighting, emotionally weakend, ill -- what factors affect the physical progress because of emotional or character affliction elements? Like walking all depressed or walking all elated are two different rates of speed.

4. Every character in every setting in every plot has oppositional force. Is that force applied now (as in you are being ambushed, and forward progress toward the plot goal of that episode temporarily suspended because you are busy making a stand or running skirmish that is an aside) or applied slowly over several sequences (sequences are groups of scenes as a function of plot advancement, and shots are the elements of sequences). If that force is not physical, or mental/emotional, what place has it got really in your plot?

Time an motion studies of the actual physical and mental factors effecting the setting right now in terms of plot advancement and the place in the character arc your character is in at that time, gives you most of the elements you need to determine your 'rate of exposition'.

Rate of exposition is to me (not the writing dictionary here) what you impart or expose informationally to the viewer/user that engages them, keeps them engaged and pulls them through the story in a tensionated manner.

This all is sort of related to linearity, as is obvious, but if you detail describe the physical, emotional, oppositional architecture at play in this moment for your character that your player or viewer is empathetically engaged with, you'll go a long, long way to determining the rate of exposition as a function of "how much to I give them to not confuse them but keep them working to understand/empathize for an entire x amount of minutes [usually the length of a broadcast segment or a standard format, such as the feature film screenplay format or teleplay format, or game cut scene format, or drama through line format] so that I meet my production standard of "this has to be accomplished, revealed, understood in this episode/level/character within episode or level".

So, in taking a step back, we can see that what a person can handle perceptually as a function of "oh this was too much to have thrown at me in one episode, to, oh, I can't wait to tune in next week and see what happens next" [which points to the dramaturlogical technique that describes what you leave them hanging by (usually a fingernail off a cliff face) so they will tune in next week.



HTH,
Adventuredesign

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I was thinking either one month or one semester (4 months). In the case of one month it means that each hour in a day is important has to be used to the fullest in terms of story, gameplay, and character growth.


I'm not exactly sure how you intend to implement the story in the game, but many episodes in anime, or any show, really, can take place over the space of days or even hours. An episode of "24," for example, covers only 1 hour. (Granted, you're viewing multiple characters, but still...)

In a game, you have the luxury of moving time and space as needed. I see no reason why a well-paced storyline can't take place in a month or less. On the other hand, I'm not sure what kinds of storylines these are supposed to be, so maybe they are complicated enough to take that long.

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Original post by Taolung
Quote:
I was thinking either one month or one semester (4 months). In the case of one month it means that each hour in a day is important has to be used to the fullest in terms of story, gameplay, and character growth.


I'm not exactly sure how you intend to implement the story in the game, but many episodes in anime, or any show, really, can take place over the space of days or even hours. An episode of "24," for example, covers only 1 hour. (Granted, you're viewing multiple characters, but still...)

In a game, you have the luxury of moving time and space as needed. I see no reason why a well-paced storyline can't take place in a month or less. On the other hand, I'm not sure what kinds of storylines these are supposed to be, so maybe they are complicated enough to take that long.


The story lines involve events happening at the school and the interpersonal lives of the main characters. The gameplay goals though exist outside of the story goals the episode ends when the gameplay goal has been reached. For instance in the case of the semester the episode ends at the end of each semester with the player having complete some exams.

Gameplay wise the player effectivily has so much time a day to do stuff, so they might have 6 hours of class they have to attend a day, maybe they have a part time job, or are the member of a club, add in time spent studying, socializing, etc, and a game day will pass by rather quickly.

I think that I'll go with each episode being a single semester that will make each one long enough for the player to satisfy their gameplay desires and allow for a story to unfold.

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Edit: Oops, I just made a fool of myself, I misread what you meant by an episode. I'll leave the original post in tact, but you can safely ignore me.
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This depends HEAVILY on how many plots and twists will occur in a given "episode."

In television circles, they refer to plots according to letter, the A plot, the B plots, and so on. Any given show usually just has the A plot and the B plot. Sometimes you have a C and D, but then it gets too complex. An episode of Everyone Loved Raymond, typically only has an A plot, but occasionally has a B plot also. An episode of House MD ALWAYS has at least an A and B plot. The new Battlestar Galactica has closer to D and I swear I saw one with an E plot (meaning 5 threads of story running at the same time). My three cases are 30, 60, and 60 minutes each.

Now, as for twists. BSG doesn't really have twists. It has more of surprising developments that actually aren't surprising themselves, just surprising that a writing staff for a show had the balls to take that direction, rather than ducking out. House MD has a dramtic twist before every commercial (called a cliffhanger). Everyone Loves Raymond has one comedic twist typically after the second commercial.

Hope this helps.

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