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Just how in depth do you get in a game story?

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I am a fan of the FPS genre, so my mod will be FPS, but I do not want to go for the Multi-player aspect first as that is the easy part, just make a fun and playable map that flows awsome. But in a Single Player game that is where u need the story, but just how in depth do you get with a story for a gmae? just how much detail do you need, I see very visually and see everything around my character right down to where everyting in the enviorment is sitting. Story is so important to me as I want to emulate Pixar in the way the Story comes first and not touch anything till it is perfect, or as close to perfect as I can get as not one writer is ever completely satisfied with their work and always wish to add more or tweak something else. Games should pull you in instantly having the player moving around interacting as fast as you can since In my opinion the world has no patience and most people skip the movie scene just to get to gameplay. But with that small amount of time just how much story should I have or detail to the story before I let the player take control of the manipulation? I have worked on this story for about a year, I have about a stack of notes 2 feet tall and the few I shared the concept with gets great responses for originality. I started with a background of the team and what you the player will be becoming a part of. that is about half a page but I provided enough info that it is all you need. I read that treatments for movie scripts need to be as short as possible cause the shorter it is the higher up the person will be who reads it. I am doing this as a mod and not looking to try to get it made professionally but with the people I know and their talents it can be done on the level very easy for a mod. After the Background I am writing the First treatment and have it at about a page, but it is easy for me to go nuts here with the detail. I know I must save it for the script but the characters have stories between each other and it is stuff I can't simply make small flash backs too. Do I suck it up and re-work to make it shorter or do I keep it as I envision it? It wont be like super big but the intro would be a good length. What is your advice? Also, according to copyright laws the second you create written or artistic works it is protected by copyright law even if you do not have the official fprm from the Libraryt of Congress just yet, is it right to be skeptical to show your work to others if it honestly has an angle that has never been approached in terms of story or should I relax and have faith my idea wont be ripped off?

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Re: Storytelling through FPS

FPS provides one of the best environment for deep story development. It is arguably better than the RPG genre because the leveling up aspect is not a realistic construct.

The thing you need to watch out, is whether the player wants to participate in the story, or to participate in the action. Many FPS mods focus on the situation--to provide an interesting situation or AI that requires a new kind of tactics. A player can play the game again and again to try different tactics for the same situation, but it is not intuitively true that any player can tolerate playing the same story over and over. People skip the story because reading the story again does not impact the tactics. And I am not saying that they want the situation to change by interacting with the story: they want the exact same situation so they can try different tactics.

An FPS genre favors non-verbal story-telling, a scripting of the story into the AI of the npcs, an integration between story and tactics. In other words, the distinctive behavior and situations in the game level speak first to the player that an underlying story exists. The discovery and story arc are delivered non-verbally. The player will experience the story again without skipping any cutscene, because there is no cutscene to skip.

"Games should pull you in instantly having the player moving around interacting as fast as you can since In my opinion the world has no patience and most people skip the movie scene just to get to gameplay. But with that small amount of time just how much story should I have or detail to the story before I let the player take control of the manipulation?"

Your first sentence is correct, your second sentence originated from a wrong paradigm. In any story-telling game, control and manipulation should be immediate. Game as a story-telling medium is not comparable to passive media. There is no distinction between gameplay and story-telling.

The easiest way to get around this is to simply motivate the player to discover the story through gameplay, instead of using the story to entice the player into the gameplay. This is not totally integrated, but it is the easy way out to get a player into the story without being obtrusive.


Re: Details

The art of story telling is not about how much detail you have, but the bandwidth of detail you can present through each word. The standard answer is that you do not suck it up and you do not keep it as is. You integrated the details into the existing components. It is like applying great pressure to individual carbons until they fit together to form a diamond. This is a basis of semantic replayability--the discovery that there is more meaning to discovery every time you play the game.


Re: Disclosure

If you plan to make money from your mod you should keep it secret until no other team can beat you in your own race, because customer anticipation is a powerful tool. Otherwise, you should consider the benefit you get from disclosing it versus the psychological pressure that someone might rip you off. You can test a forum to estimate whether there is any benefit at all for disclosing an idea. What do you hope to get by disclosing your concept?

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If you're going to get a really good story, one that has no weaknesses, you are going to have to get into it really deeply. In my years of writing, I have come to a rule that in fiction, one word for every ten written should be in the final copy. If you think it is good right off the top of your head, well, now you know why 99.98 percent of all people go unpublished or unproduced. Even in fiction, research is the key. Without a good contest for your imagination to play in, you get too many loose associations that don't develop well.

Adventuredesign

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Personally I like games to have a good deep story, and I watch all the cutscenes (at least the first time through, again if they're good). I have written the scripts for several cutscenes in the game I am working on and they tend to be on the long side. (Click here if you want to see any of them; Interlude 1 is particularly long.) Personally, I think that a good story is necessary to make you feel like you really are the main character and really care about your allies and your cause and hate your enemies. Of course if you just want to shoot stuff then you don't need a good story, but I like to know why I'm shooting stuff. A game with a good story is one that the player is likely to become engrossed in and to want to finish.

Although telling a story in game allows the player to be more directly involved in what's going on, it gives the writer less ability to tell his story. In an FPS, cut-scenes are better when the main character is going to be speaking or interracting with other characters. They are also better when you want to show something that the main character isn't actually seeing. (e.g. enemy generals plotting his demise)Personally, I'm for a good in depth story with long cutscenes where appropriate.

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Original post by Estok
Re: Storytelling through FPS

FPS provides one of the best environment for deep story development. It is arguably better than the RPG genre because the leveling up aspect is not a realistic construct.

The thing you need to watch out, is whether the player wants to participate in the story, or to participate in the action. Many FPS mods focus on the situation--to provide an interesting situation or AI that requires a new kind of tactics. A player can play the game again and again to try different tactics for the same situation, but it is not intuitively true that any player can tolerate playing the same story over and over. People skip the story because reading the story again does not impact the tactics. And I am not saying that they want the situation to change by interacting with the story: they want the exact same situation so they can try different tactics.


I struggle with this every day. We try to have the player participate in the story, and that is a hell of a job to pull off without falling into the "have the player participate in the action" trap - or what one would call it. I have spent some time thinking about these issues and have some stuff on this page, if you're interested: www.sicher.org

/Mikael

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Re: The rules of freedom

I read the blog on Character Impersonation. I didn't see an immediate relation to the topic. In Character Impersonation, the second half dealt with interactive story involving a player-defined main character. There was a list of rules for such design:
Quote:

1. The character should be visually anonymous and carry a name given by the player. That name should be used as much as possible by the game. (An interesting sidenote. Look at Façade and how they use the selected given name in the game.)

2. The player should never see the character, and if he/she does, it should be clear that the player is in control of the visual appearance.

3. The game should not provide any backstory to the character that is not wished for by the player. This means that the game's story probably should be oriented around "here and now".

4. The game should never take the control away from the player and never force behavior or actions onto the playable character. To play a fun idle animation (for exampe, the character yawning after a minute of idle time) is also forbidden.

5. Since we have no proactive choices for the character in a narrative sequence, a simple solution to the narrative is to have the events of the story happen to the character. Instead of having the main character deciding to go on a mission, make the premises of the game change in the story so it becomes inevitable.

6. The character should not speak in the game.

7. Let character progression happen in gameplay only. Story progression should be about the game world and its inhabitants. You, as a player, are in the world and acts upon it. If the main character grows, it is only because the player grows.


I don't have a problem with 1 to 4. Those are pretty straight forward. Although we do see customized automation (i.e. the player can select what happens when the player character is idle). The process of customization can be a form of training instead of a checklist.

7 is pretty vague. What kind of 'growth' of the player can the game detect?

6 poses a thematic issue. The point of interactive story is to engage the player. A game where the character can't speak harms interactivity quite a bit. It might make the game feel disconnected. What is the point of allowing customization yet denying the involvement of the character? I understand that this is an implementation issue. You are probably thinking that the engine can't react to everything the player might say. But the point of giving the player the freedom is to enhance engagement, denying dialogue is counter productive.

5 poses a philosophical issue. The question is, "Is the player trying to change the story by behaving differently?" The design of 5, in a nutshell, means that the player can customize all he wants, but none of that is really going to change the story. One way or another, the story gets back to the player. Is this a desirable trait? Is the player more interested in completing the story with different personality, or in completing a different story due to different behaviors? Intuitively, a player is probably more interested in how different behavior impacts the story, so 5 is also counter productive. However, you can change the wording of the rule. In an older post where I talked about creating emotion in games, I said that in order to genuinely support emotion, the emotional content cannot be part of the strategy. That principle applies here as follow:

The states modifiable through customized behavior can change the experience of the events to align with the preference of the player, but cannot change the thematic content of the events.

Example (Patlabor):
In this game, you play a pilot of a mobile police. Most of the missions are carried out as team missions, where you will work with your teammates. Customization includes the personality and routines of the main character, specialization in tactics, and modding of the mobile police. By different customization, the main character may take different roles in the team (such as the commander, the sniper, the 'tank', etc), and by doing so affects the composition of the team (so if you are a sniper, and the mission only needs one, NPC A who is also a sniper probably won't go with you). While these customization changes the role of the player and perspective of the story, it does not alter the sequence of missions.

The meaning of this, is that while the player look forward to playing different roles and personality, the player is also not anticipating a change of the events due to the customization. This defines the boundaries of the effect of customization so that the player doesn't look forward to something not provided. Compared to 5, the player in this design won't feel trapped by the system, yet feels a vivid effect of the freedom of customization.

In conclusion, in order to implement freedom, you need to define the boundaries of freedom in a way such that the player doesn't look beyond it.
Quote:
But when you think about it, isn't all artistic expression about creating within some set of boundaries? And what makes these boundaries less interesting than others? To me, this surely sounds like a great storytelling challenge.
To introduce freedom is to introduce an acceptable boundary.


Re: Other PC-Player relationships

In Character Impersonation, two PC-player relationships were described: 1) Where the player impersonates a pre-defined PC; 2) Where the action of the player defines the PC.

There is at least one more PC-Player relationship:
3) Where the Player controls the PC indirectly, where the freedom of the Player is filtered through the PC before reaching the game world.

The wording is pretty bad here. I will give an example:

(Little Red Riding Hood)
In this game you play Little Red Riding Hood's angelic grandma. You are a voice that tells Little Red Riding Hood to do stuffs. Only through LRRH can anything be done. There are situations going on in the game world, and you are a major inference on how LRRH interprets and react to the events (LRRH is pretty obedient). You have the choice to be a mean grandma or a benevolent grandma. Depending on what role you play, the meaning of the story can be quite different.

This is a design simplication. Because the Player's freedom is limited toward one agent. It is understandable that LRRH may not understand all the emotions and expressions you displayed. LRRH serves as an abstraction layer that stablizes the pathway from the Player to the world. She serves as a noise filter, filtering all the commands that the game can't handle. Everything that LRRH understands can also be understood by the game world.


Re: Shaping multiple character

Referring back to rule 4 and the Patlabor example, it is actually fun to allow the game seize control of a player character. I don't see anything wrong with the design in which the player gets to shape multiple playable characters, and allow the game to automatically perform the shaped behavior. It can be pretty fun to play against the personality the Player shaped previously.

Although I understand that rule 4 does not comment directly on this situation.

[Edited by - Estok on September 27, 2005 2:36:55 AM]

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Original post by Estok
Re: The rules of freedom

I read the blog on Character Impersonation. I didn't see an immediate relation to the topic. In Character Impersonation, the second half dealt with interactive story involving a player-defined main character. There was a list of rules for such design:


Well, you mentioned the two approaches of having the player participating in the story or in the action. Maybe I misinterpreted the whole thing, but to me, what I try to describe in "Character Impersonation" and an earlier blog ("Narrative in Games") are attempts to find practical methods to deal with storytelling in games - in your two situations.

Quote:

7 is pretty vague. What kind of 'growth' of the player can the game detect?

It cannot. The whole thing is taken to the extreme here so I argue that having character progression in the ordinary sense (like in a movie) separates the player from the game character. What I mean is that if the main PC grows it is because the player *believes* it has happened because the player applies his/her in-game gameplay experience to the character.

Quote:

6 poses a thematic issue. The point of interactive story is to engage the player. A game where the character can't speak harms interactivity quite a bit. It might make the game feel disconnected. What is the point of allowing customization yet denying the involvement of the character? I understand that this is an implementation issue. You are probably thinking that the engine can't react to everything the player might say. But the point of giving the player the freedom is to enhance engagement, denying dialogue is counter productive.

The basic idea is that the game should make as few decisions as possible for the player and removing the *voice* of the PC seems perfectly doable without harming interactivity. The game can still allow for the same kind of interactions. For example, put up a prompt with "Ask Ken about the nuke" is okay. Again, the argument is taken quite far but I believe that game-given personality and voice could be counterproductive.

Quote:

5 poses a philosophical issue. The question is, "Is the player trying to change the story by behaving differently?" The design of 5, in a nutshell, means that the player can customize all he wants, but none of that is really going to change the story. One way or another, the story gets back to the player. Is this a desirable trait?

It is of course more desirable to allow the player to change the story, but this poses enormous practical problems. Branching story is a real tough one and makes content production a nightmare (at least how we work). So, I have thought about these issues in terms of telling a somewhat linear story and then see how that can be done as efficient as possible and still being able to keep the milestone schedule... :)

Quote:

The meaning of this, is that while the player look forward to playing different roles and personality, the player is also not anticipating a change of the events due to the customization. This defines the boundaries of the effect of customization so that the player doesn't look forward to something not provided. Compared to 5, the player in this design won't feel trapped by the system, yet feels a vivid effect of the freedom of customization.

I have a sense that we are not really talking about the same thing here, but I need to give it some more thought. You are on to something interesting here though.

Quote:

In conclusion, in order to implement freedom, you need to define the boundaries of freedom in a way such that the player doesn't look beyond it.

Agreed.


Quote:

Re: Other PC-Player relationships

In Character Impersonation, two PC-player relationships were described: 1) Where the player impersonates a pre-defined PC; 2) Where the action of the player defines the PC.

There is at least one more PC-Player relationship:
3) Where the Player controls the PC indirectly, where the freedom of the Player is filtered through the PC before reaching the game world.


Sure. However, I am thinking that perhaps your relationsship #3 is really the only one possible. I touch something I believe is just this and talk about it as the "performance" in the blog article. It would be interesting to dig deeper into that idea.

Quote:

Re: Shaping multiple character

Referring back to rule 4 and the Patlabor example, it is actually fun to allow the game seize control of a player character. I don't see anything wrong with the design in which the player gets to shape multiple playable characters, and allow the game to automatically perform the shaped behavior. It can be pretty fun to play against the personality the Player shaped previously.

Although I understand that rule 4 does not comment directly on this situation.

I agree, it would be fun, but I believe that going for a design as you propose in the Patlabor example would require a different approach than what I'm proposing in the blog, and possibly a whole different set of design rules.

Thanks for your comments!

/Mikael

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After the Background I am writing the First treatment and have it at about a page, but it is easy for me to go nuts here with the detail. I know I must save it for the script but the characters have stories between each other and it is stuff I can't simply make small flash backs too. Do I suck it up and re-work to make it shorter or do I keep it as I envision it? It wont be like super big but the intro would be a good length. What is your advice?


I know it's hard, but start shortening stuff. I mean, it isn't as if the detail and all the work you put into worldbuilding will just disappear.

You'll have to make some tough choices, but in the end you'll come out with a better sense of your own story, and if you want to go back to the more detailed version, it's still there for you.

also, sicher, that's an excellent cat you have there. I'm still reading the game-related parts, though :p

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