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Hey all! :) The next round of the writing contest is scheduled to be a "Plot Sketch". I'll assume this means either a plot synopsis or a plot outline, the two standard ways of communicating a plot. I'm probably not going to be entering in this round because I'm not interested in creating a vengeance plot, and also because I'm busy trying to finalize a plot outline for my novel-in-progress (Learning To Kiss Dragons, if anyone remembers me posting about it) in time to start writing the novel on november 1st, for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Anyway, since I'm not planning on entering but I did want to continue encouraging the competition, and since I'm thinking about techniques of creating a plot outline, I though I'd do a little lecture/workshop on creating them. [smile] Okay first, what is a plot? Conveniently, I've already written a whole textbook chapter on the subject, so you can just go read Chapter 7 - Plot. [wink] So that talks a lot about what a plot is, but not how to create an outline or synopsis of one. Well, the first thing to do is to create a logline, a 1-2 sentence statement of the plot. There are 3 simple ways you can get started: 1) If you know your theme and main character, you can construct a premise logline. So our theme is revenge, and our main character is Shai. Just ask yourself, "What lesson will Shai and/or the audience learn about revenge?" This lesson is going to be about WHAT you should/shouldn't do re: revenge, and/or HOW you should/shouldn't go about doing it. Some example premise loglines: "Inflexibly pursuing revenge leads to death." "The only way to find inner and outer peace is to not let bullies push you around - you must work really hard and persistently to defeat them, then you can feel proud of yourself and get on with your life." "Protecting your people is more important than having a personal life." "Those chosen to be tools of the gods cannot escape their fates." "Forgiving or forgetting an injustice is dishonorable and unacceptable." "Warriors who fight on the side of right will find self confidence and inner strength." 2) If the premise approach is too abstract for you, try the Provost Paragraph included in the textbook chapter. All you have to do is fill in the blanks like its a mad-lib. This is actually a very brief synopsis - to condense it to a logline try to state the main thrust of the action in one sentence. 3) If you find that too restrictive or formulaic, the third method is The Snowflake Method. According to this method, every story consists of 3 disasters (or transformations if you prefer) and an ending. Again, this will give you a very brief synopsis, which you can extract a logline from. Now, creating your synopsis/outline. In both cases, you want to state the title (if you have one) and the logline at the top of the page. Now, if you are doing a synopsis you will describe the main events of the game in paragraphs, usually one-two paragraphs per act if you are using an act structure or one paragraph per chapter or two if you are using a chapter structure. The synopsis for a novel generally runs at least two pages and may never run more than 5 pages. Games are a bit shorter, I would be astonished if you needed more than 3 pages. OTOH, if you are doing an outline you simply list the major plot points in the order in which they occur in the game. Hopefully you all learned in high school how to create an outline for a research paper of something. An outline for a story is even easier because they are usually simple lists, you don't have to worry about subtopics and roman numerals. Outlines run a little longer in terms of page count than synopses simply because of their formatting, but they are usually shorter in terms of word count because they explain what happens, but not why or how the events cause each other the way a synopsis does. To expand from a logline to a synopsis or an outline, the first step is to make a list of all the steps necessary to get from the initial incident (Shai's children getting killed) to your premise/conclusion. For example, if you want to convey the premise "Inflexibly pursuing revenge leads to death.", someone needs to die in the pursuit of revenge. It doesn't necessarily have to be Shai - she might narrowly avoid death by learning from someone else's example. But if you want to talk about death, _somebody_ has to die. If you want to talk about revenge, _somebody_ has to be seeking it - probably more than one somebody if you want to show the contrast between one person doing it the 'right' way and one person doing it the 'wrong' way. And if you want somebody to seek revenge, before that they have to have a reason to seek it and make a decision to seek it. Also, you want them to have obstacles to overcome. So you have to think about what obstacles could help demonstrate your points about what/how the main character should/should not do things. Typically, an obstacle teaches a lesson - the obstacle can be overcome the 'wrong' way, which will cause problems to multiply, or it can be not able to be overcome until they finally try the 'right' way, after which the problem will be solved but a new problem will take its place. Okay, that concludes my lesson on how to create a plot outline/synopsis. Please ask questions if you have them! [smile] Tomorrow I will put up an example of a truly awful plot outline (the one for my novel [wink] ) and we can use it as target practice for criticising and improving an existing outline.

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Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Is really helpful. I actually don't think I'll enter again either, I guess I didn't catch the part where we had to follow round 1's winning entry. I really don't wanna do a revenge plot, either. That story doesn't really interest me.

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.

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What will people say when they find out the writing forum moderator, who is also writing a book on game design and writing isn't compeiting in the writing competition? I think you should reconsider and see if you can devise an entry for this round.

You say you don't like stories about revenge. Well then don't make your story about revenge. Shai's motivation at the start of the game is revenge but that doesn't mean she can't grow and change. The type of story the game is about has yet to be written, and the events that will unfold have yet to be told. We have beginning and a character now, it is up to everyone’s own writing talents to weave them into the story that they want to tell.

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Being the moderator doesn't mean I'm obligated to particapate in everything that happens in the forum. And I was planning on entering round 4 even though I'll probably be mad busy with NoNoWriMo at the time; It's only round 3 I'm not interested in. I _know_ I'm terrible at plotting, I don't need to bang my head against a brick wall trying to plot something I'm not inspired by to figure that one out.

Also, since the introduction clearly states that Shai is going to be spurred by revenge to become a great woman warrior, I think it would be very structurally unsound to try to write a plot with a different theme from that initial incident. The first scene of any piece of writing makes a contract with the reader, and it's up to the rest of the piece to deliver what was promised.

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Original post by GOR-GOR
Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Is really helpful. I actually don't think I'll enter again either, I guess I didn't catch the part where we had to follow round 1's winning entry. I really don't wanna do a revenge plot, either. That story doesn't really interest me.

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.


Thank you for saying so, I'm always happy if I actually manage to help somebody. [smile]

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Original post by GOR-GOR
Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.

I agree, this is really useful for when I get around to actually writing a game with a plot (which looking at my present plan, might be around 2008. Sadly, long story themed games are out of my development scope for quite a while...)

I'm also a bit daunted by the sheer scope of this round; I don't think I could write the plot for a game in the hour or two I could spare. I'm not going to conclusively say that I won't enter, but I can't guarantee that I will either (mainly because I don't think I could give it my best shot in the time available). I'd definitely be trying to write a scene script for round 4, though.

The main story structure that I'm aware of is the one for epics, such as the one outlines in Campbell's "The Hero's Journey". Does that kind of story structure, in your opinion, apply well to games?

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Yes, heroic journey aka heroic monomyth plot structures apply well to games because players like to be heroes, go on journeys, get tested, be given gifts, gain powers, defeat monsters/villains, etc. An it's easy to implement as a game because it's strictly linear and often the hero is the only developed character. I would say at least 80% of existing RPGs as well as many FPSes use this plot structure. If anything it's overused.

Some other common plot structures (not necessarily appropriate to games) are:

- A standard linear relationship development plot. This can include anthing from a romance to a buddy/odd couple story to an internal struggle within one character like Crime and Punishment. The climax of this type of plot is generally the fulfillment or destruction of the relationship between the two characters - sex, marriage, pledge to be best friends for ever, a permanent separation, the betrayl of one character by the other, or the death of one or both characters. If we were to write a game about the character Soroland/Sanglante and their quest to not be trapped in the same body any more it would likely be this type of story.

- Thriller/psychodrama - This type of story focuses on fear, protection, adrenaline, paranoia, and doubting sanity. Threats appear periodically in the form of serial killings, messages from a stalker/blackmailler, vandalism, beatings, and direct verbal threats. Generally the character issue is the character to whom the threats are being delivered struggling to make a decision about how to feel about them and what to do about them. The climax is of course the final ending of the threats, usually by the death of the threatener, but sometimes by the escape of the one being threatened or by a more creative means of neutralizing the threatener, often by magically altering them in some way to take away their ability to threaten or change their desire to threaten.

- A mystery/detective plot - Generally this type of plot has an initial incident of a crime or suspicious clue being discovered, and the activity focuses on learning/discovering the truth. The character issue can be either internal to the criminal (their motivation), internal to someone else (their emotional/psychological reaction), or between two criminals or a criminal and their ally, or two detectives, or between the detective and the criminal. The climax is a revelation of what actually happened, either in the form of a confession or the detective explaining it to someone else.

- The faction plot - found in historical novels, comedies of manners, and operas, this is a story of a struggle for political or social power between at least 3 factions. The focus is often on the issue of loyalty and individual sacrifice for the good of the faction. Often blackmail, an arranged marriage, intimidation, seduction, bribery, and making deals are involved. The climax may involve the triumph of one faction, the destruction of one or more factions, or the unification of two factions.

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Okay, here's the example plot outline. I decided to take it easy on you and, instead of giving you the whole woven plot outline for my novel, I'm just giving you the main character's plot strand. So, your mission, if you choose to accept it [wink] is to rework this plotline to make it better. You may convert it to synopsis form if you prefer.



Outline for main character's bildungsroman plot strand: Merru goes native as a dragon. (M stands for Merru's Plot Strand)


M1) Merru finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a dragon, on a planet of dragons whose language he doesn't speak.

M2) The dragons treat Merru like a typical new construct, i.e. like a dog.

M3) Merru tries to avoid treatment he doesn't like, resulting in problems for himself and Attranath.

M4) Merru comes to terms with being thought of as a pet.

M5) Merru takes advantage of being a construct in ethically questionable ways to pursue his pleasures and curiosity.

M6) Merru wants to be a good construct to help Attranath (his owner), but figuring out how to be a good construct requires learning to understand dragons.

M7) Merru makes funny mistakes learning to speak and act like a dragon.

M8) Merru learns that beta male dragons will have sex with him.

M9) Merru wants to be a good alpha male dragon to gain respect, to gain the power to act autonomously, and to protect Attranath.

M10) Merru learns that having sex with beta males doesn't fit with being considered a good alpha male dragon.

M11) Merru becomes Attranath's blood brother.

M12) Merru needs to masquerade as a real alpha male and a leader to protect Attranath.

M13) Merru is worn down because he doesn't like being a leader, but he wants to be a good leader because his followers look up to him and deserve to be lead well.

M14) Merru uses his leadership position to help Ravennin and push Ravennin and Attranath together.

M15) Merru sees Lieann's demand as a chance to escape from being a leader while looking like a hero/martyr, so he entrusts Attranath to Ravennin and substitutes himself for Lieann's intended hostage.

M16) Merru wants to be Lieann's ardenmate and must 'out' himself to do this.

M17) Merru and Lieann work together to accomplish something which makes their enemies feel threatened.

M18) Merru wishes he could have a child with Lieann.

M19) Merru becomes Ravennin's submate, and Merru and Lieann work to make Ravennin a clan leader.

M20) Merru uses his creative problem solving abilities to protect his family.

M21) Merru finds his place in the world by becoming a father and a teacher.

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This is gamedev. The design of a plot for a game story is not the same as that for a novel. You might as well just consult your writers' group.

A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.



re: TechnoGoth on plot design

* The choice to not compete is very logical. Plot sketch is almost completely a topic of design, not writing.
Quote:
We have beginning and a character now, it is up to everyone’s own writing talents to weave them into the story that they want to tell.
There are many different kinds of talents and approaches to designs. I personally condemn your view of design. It is not design, it is duct-tape. Furthermore, interactive plots cannot be represented effectively on plain writing. That particular ability is obsolete in the context of game design.


re: Presenting plot strands

S/S your style of presenting the plot strands is very distracting. You should group them in terms of transitions and delineate the states and the operators, and the plots used to represent those. Example:

S0) [Describe the character's initial personality or belief; list plot elements used to present the character's personality of belief]

[List the possible transitions; For each transition, list the plot elements (actions or circumstances) that transit the character to its next state]

S1) [Described the character's current state; list the presentational plot elements][List the next set of possible transitions and list the corresponding transitional plot elements]

...(and so on)


Why do I say this?

M1 and M2 are not states, they are presentational elements for the same state. M3 is a transition, where M4 is another presentational element that describes the submissiveness of the character. In short, your way of presenting the elements hid their functions. A modified presentation:
Quote:
M0) Confused but Rebellious
Merru finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a dragon, on a planet of dragons speaking an exotic language. The dragons were treating Merru like a [dog]. Although [Merru] is confused by the situation, [Merru] did not submit easily...

Confusion:
[List plot elements showing that Merru is confused]

Rebellion:
[List plot elements related to Merru's contempt or attempts to rebel]


M1) Confrontation
By various attempts, Merru tries to avoid treatment he doesn't like and created problems for himself and Attranath.

Confrontation:
[List the plot elements related to the problems]
...


The way you presented the strand was distracting. The person reading it is not primarily interested in the actual events, but the states of the character and the transitions.

Another note: The actual story is incomplete. You can't just dump a character in a new setting explaining no meaning whatsoever about that transition. Neverneverland has a meaning. Alice's wonderland has a meaning. This is a fatal design flaw when the meaning of such transition is not presented.

If you read the four hierarchy in the begining, you should start to see how anticipation and flexibility are coming to player. If it is a game story is interactive, then you can expect that each [List] contains interchangeable elements that serve the same function. For example, player can [encounter] different ways where Merru expresses his confusion. The player doesn't need to hit all the elements, so that you can leave some room for replayability. However, to create anticipation, the gameplay needs to be consistent. This means that the way in which the player experiences the character's confusion and rebellion must be intuitive and integrated through the gameplay. A classic* example:

You are an angel and you have a mission. However, a demon had turned you into a teddy bear. You got [kidnapped] by a kid who is not necessarily happy. The kid wants you to stay but you have *more important* things to do. And thus the conflicts, interactions, plots, mystries, and meaning.

In this context, anticipation is created by the consistent struggle between solving the kid's problem, the bear's problem, and the mission.

* This is a classic because the formula is really old: Involving a hero with a determined goal encountering a different viewpoint in an unexpected situation, thus presenting a meaning through the struggle of the meaning of the original mission.

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Estok - Mostly I agree with you. So I'll get the few points where I disagree out of the way first, then move on to critiquing the outline.

Quote:
The choice to not compete is very logical. Plot sketch is almost completely a topic of design, not writing.


I doubly disagree with this. Firstly, I believe that creating plot is at the very heart of writing, not design. The design element only comes into play when you are figuring out how to make the plot playable. Secondly, I'd be perfectly happy to compete in a design contest, I'm a designer as well as a writer. I clearly stated my reason for my decision not to compete in this round: I have no interest in creating a plot to explore the theme of revenge.

Quote:
This is gamedev. The design of a plot for a game story is not the same as that for a novel. You might as well just consult your writers' group.

A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.

Again, I disagree with this in several ways. First of all, if you are writing an interactive story the most important part of the interactivity is not the ORDER in which events are encountered, it is the existence of a RANGE OF ALTERNATIVE events, one of which is chosen as a result of the player's actions.

Second, interactivity is not the be-all-end-all of game stories; a totally linear plot has its own virtues as the story structure for a game. Any linear plot, such as this one for a novel, can be implemented as a linear game. It wouldn't necessarily be a great game, but it certaily could be a game. Not to mention that there are non-linear novels, such as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books or books where the action takes place over several repetitions of a time loop (like the movie Groundhog Day) which could easily be implemented as interactive stories.

And where the heck is theme in your hierarchy? The first purpose of any plot structure is to convey an argument and conclusion about a theme - didn't you say this yourself back when you were talking about the TDM? A game plot is not fundamentally different from a story plot, it is just presented through a different medium.


Anyway, those points aside, I think that grouping them in terms of states and transitions is an excallent suggestion. This sort of grouping is the type represented by the story diagramming method of the plot tree (i.e. grammatical tree). Another example of the functionality of this structure can be seen in the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis theory of history.

So, to restate all that in a simplified way, a plot outline can easily be built out of the following building blocks:

Character A is in state J.
Character A is impacted by action X
Character A reacts, changing to state K.
Character A takes action Y.

Character B is in state P.
Character B is impacted by action Y.
Character B reacts, changing to state Q.
Character B takes action Z.

Character A is in state K.
Character A is impacted by action Z.
Etc.

Note:
- A character can be impacted by his/her own action or an outside action not performed by any of the characters such as a natural disaster.
- Taking an action might mean chosing to do nothing as well as actually doing somthing.
- A single action might affect more than one character.


Quote:
Another note: The actual story is incomplete. You can't just dump a character in a new setting explaining no meaning whatsoever about that transition. Neverneverland has a meaning. Alice's wonderland has a meaning. This is a fatal design flaw when the meaning of such transition is not presented.

I was intending that the meaning of the transition be an initial mystery which is explored throughout the progression of the story and finally explained either a bit before or a bit after the climax. But I agree, there is no mention of the meaning in the outline itself, this is a flaw.


About Merru's confusion - a confusion such as in your example, is generally a wavering between two opinions. What two opinions do you think Merru is wavering between?

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I think you're both write. (HA-HAAAAA! hahahahahaha.... god I'm funny)

Looks like simply two different apporaches to the same problem, again, Estok thinking that his way is the only way. To me, it looks like, Estok's approach is made more for one of those new age, 3D, 3rd person perspective run around hack-and slash adventures.

Sunandshadow's approach looks more like those nostalgic top-down anime style RPG's like Suikoden 2(drOOOOOOOOOOOOooooOOOOOoolls remembering -that- brilliant story).

There's a myriad ways of tackling any problem that presents itself, and we all work on different levels of creativity. Estok's is obviously more mechanical, SS's is more.... creative?(don't get offended, Estok, I'm not meaning that word to say she's more creative than you, I'm just struggling to find another word that describes what I'm thinking about at the moment... say... day-dreamy... free-flowing... something more intuitive rather than intellectual to it's approach. I dunno. Creative will do, if not taking it's literal meaning, and reading it's context first.)

Anyway! Grar ;)

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
The main story structure that I'm aware of is the one for epics, such as the one outlines in Campbell's "The Hero's Journey". Does that kind of story structure, in your opinion, apply well to games?


A quick game story discussion

In some RPGs it does, yes. But I find it more interesting when a RPG is presented in shades of gray.

In early RPGs, most villains were usually pure-evil wizards. But most game designers have found that the concept of villains that draw sympathy to themselves works extremely well. For example, what if the villain has a recurring memory that haunts him from his past and this is shown in the game? The player will feel sorry for the villain, and yet at the same time (possibly) hate him, because of all the bad things that he did throughout the game. In more modern RPGs, villains have been used to bring drama and life into the story.

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Re: Story plot vs game story plot

You are not reading what I posted.

Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
The choice to not compete is very logical. Plot sketch is almost completely a topic of design, not writing.

I doubly disagree with this. Firstly, I believe that creating plot is at the very heart of writing, not design. The design element only comes into play when you are figuring out how to make the plot playable. Secondly, I'd be perfectly happy to compete in a design contest, I'm a designer as well as a writer. I clearly stated my reason for my decision not to compete in this round: I have no interest in creating a plot to explore the theme of revenge.

The design of a game story is not the same as the design of a story. It doesn't matter what you are happy with, I was talking about the design of the contest. The design element come into play way before the completion of the plot. This is the reason I gave the four points in the design of a game story plot. You also didn't read exactly what I wrote about the four points:

Quote:
Quote:
A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.

Again, I disagree with this in several ways. First of all, if you are writing an interactive story the most important part of the interactivity is not the ORDER in which events are encountered, it is the existence of a RANGE OF ALTERNATIVE events, one of which is chosen as a result of the player's actions.

Your first point is meaningless, because what you mentioned was Flexibility. This is a hierachy for Game Story not just interactive story. Satisfying level 1 corresponds to a linear plot that is playable. A fully interactive story occurs when you get to level 4. The following showed you your misunderstanding:

Quote:
Second, interactivity is not the be-all-end-all of game stories; a totally linear plot has its own virtues as the story structure for a game. Any linear plot, such as this one for a novel, can be implemented as a linear game. It wouldn't necessarily be a great game, but it certaily could be a game. Not to mention that there are non-linear novels, such as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books or books where the action takes place over several repetitions of a time loop (like the movie Groundhog Day) which could easily be implemented as interactive stories.
I don't know what you were reading. A story that does not provide opportunities for interaction is not a game story. Interactivity is defined as the 'power to provide gameplay elements', not the power to change the story. I didn't reject linear plots in the hierarchy. You are making assumptions. This is a hierarchy. Interaction is the bare minimum that a game story must achieve.

Quote:
And where the heck is theme in your hierarchy? The first purpose of any plot structure is to convey an argument and conclusion about a theme - didn't you say this yourself back when you were talking about the TDM? A game plot is not fundamentally different from a story plot, it is just presented through a different medium.
Why would theme be mentioned? This is not about plotting, this is about the hierarchy of complexity of game story plot. Theme is clearly independent to this complexity. Your presentation might work for normal stories, but for game stories there are these four major considerations beyond what you said. TDM I mentioned before was about the design of semantics and its presentation, this is about the complexity of interactive game stories. They resid in different level of design. A game plot is fundamentally different from a story plot. In a game plot, the player is not an audience, but a participant. The design of the game story plot is not the design of the sequence of events, but the design of the rules that induces the events.

It is like designing a new ball game: How do you design the rules such that each participant experiences a plot through the interaction and that a climax is guaranteed.

Since you mentioned TDM: In terms of a top-down design, these four points are of higher level than the selection of the theme. This means, before you even start using TDM on the semantics, you should identify the level of interaction you want in your game: How much do I want the story to be interactive? To what degree should the events of the story be formatted and consistent such that anticipation is created? How flexible do I want the story to be, how replayable do I want the story to be? How active should the engine be in constructing the plot? How automated or active should the engine adapt to the changing plot line?


M0

Quote:
About Merru's confusion - a confusion such as in your example, is generally a wavering between two opinions. What two opinions do you think Merru is wavering between?

I don't care either way, because asking for help on personal novel projects that aren't even related to games is just [wrong].

Objectively, it doesn't matter what opinions the character is wavering. In the scale of a plot strand, it that point of the strand is not conveyed in the first point it is [a failure].

Technically, your plot strand is missing at least one plot point. In all similar designs, there is one addition plot point before this:

Quote:
M1) Merru finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a dragon, on a planet of dragons whose language he doesn't speak.


The missing plot point M0 conveys the identity and personality of the character before the change. Think any story where the character goes to a different dimension. Be it Donnie Darko or Planet of the Apes, M0 establishes the meaning of the transition. The absence of M0 is not a result of negligence, it is reflection of the lack of design depth. It is as serious as 'forgetting' to include the climax of the story. You cannot forget to mention the meaning in a plot outline. The entire outline is the manifestation of the meaning. Every single event exists to shape the meaning, to answer the prompt in M0.

When a plot outline lacks M0, it reeks. The absence of M0 is a strong indicator of [immature] design because a casual reader does not have the eye for the semantic thread. And when those reader design stories, their stories also lack the semantic thread. To them the thematics, emotions or characters are enough. But those are no where near the depth of a normal story. It is not that those other stories are better beyond expectation, it is those that lack it are incompetent, by a very large margin. It is like drawing a character with one third of it missing. It is obvious.

Quote:
I was intending that the meaning of the transition be an initial mystery which is explored throughout the progression of the story and finally explained either a bit before or a bit after the climax.
You cannot see this as just an option or intention. This is the heart of a story. Without it, it is just walking fresh. The meaning of the story can be discovered in the story, but the indication of its existence* needs to be present in the first sentence.

* The indication of its existence almost always narrow the focus of the reader. You don't need to say what the meaning is, but you need to say what topic or argument is about. For example, the beginning of the M-version of Cardinal Prime features a praying priest bleeding to death, alone, at night before the statue of Mary with a merciful smile. (Cardinal Prime is a psychodrama game involving crimes, religion (it is not about Christianity), mathematics, and networking). Story replayability is a very important feature. The plot element of the beginning scene echos through out the game as the player discovers its meaning and implications. The meaning of the story can be very different depending on how the story progresses, but all of those meanings are bound to the same initial sence. You should start to see that is it not a matter of intention, but integration.

It is not a careless decision that M0 is missing. M0 cannot be missing.

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Gor-Gor: We weren't even talking about the same topic. One is about story writing, one is about the consideration of gameplay in story writing. The two methods do not tackle the same problem. The things I said tackle problem beyond the consideration of sole story plotting.

Creativity favors the prepared mind. By the time you verbalize the rules of your subconscious, the rules are already integrated. You need no method or procedures, designs that satisfy the requirements come out of thin air. It becomes trivial to design semantically sound interactive stories with integrated gameplay. It is like composing music, when you no longer think about what the next note should be or to 'design' what it should be. They just come by themselves. But if the time comes, you also have the ability to evalute individual notes.

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Quote:
Original post by Estok
Re: Story plot vs game story plot

You are not reading what I posted.


Of course I read what you posted, I just think you're wrong. >.<

As for the M0, otherwise known as the prologue, I usually find that it is only possible to know what should be in it after writing at least the first few chapters of the actual script/story. I know vaguely that M0 ought to show Merru being a scholar playboy (his identity before the initial incident) and probably reading something about eggs or mythology, or even thinking about the lack of intimacy in his life, although that's a bit too blunt. But I don't know exactly what should go there and I didn't want to include any confusing undecided bits in the outline to make it easier to edit.

Also, for people who prefer In Medias Res beginnings, M0 would probably go later in the outline as a flashback.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on November 13, 2005 6:50:08 AM]

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Again, I think you're wrong, Estok.

I don't really believe some of these games with fantastic stories were written as your style of writing, the example you produced, I forget what you called the style.

Again, I think different types of design suit different types of games. I highly doubt every composer follows the same method, the same formula for writing their music. They all have different means to founding, and finding new tunes.

And if you say this is the only way, why -can't- it be done? It makes more sense to me, that a game would be written as a plot, and the gameplay would follow to enhance and flesh out the story... all be it in a much more complicated way than say a screenplay would.

I think the gameplay should evolve from the story. LEt me remind you that, agian, I'm speaking circumstantially. For story driven games, the gameplay should evolve from the story. In action games/other style of games where the story doesn't matter, or where the gameplay -is- the focus and not the drama, then sure, whatever works best to fit the genre.

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Re: s/s

I don't know why you are trying to counter that you didn't read what I said. In your post you said flexibility is important. That was exactly what I already said. You said that any movie can be turned into a game but introducing gameplay. That that is what I said, and that Anticipation separates those designs and those that are coherent.

My inference is that you are not fluent in semantic construction. Think about this:

1) Suppose Merru read something about eggs or mythology, and then he is suddenly in the world of dragons, this makes the plot appear very childish. This is probably the reason it wasn't included (and shouldn't be included as is). Why is it childish?

2) Think about the scholar playboy identity. That is also pretty bad considering that the original scenes had nothing suggesting that he is a playboy. So if you had put it as a prologue, it would make the meaning seemingly imposed.

3) The lack of intimacy is a better central theme, but it still doesn't fit the situation. If he wants intimacy so badly he won't care becoming a pet.

Quote:
But I don't know exactly what should go there and I didn't want to include any confusing undecided bits in the outline to make it easier to edit.

It is not trivial to find a perfectly fitting prologue if the entire design did not follow a central focus. That is why the absence of a prologue (or the equivalent forms of it) is a very strong indication of mis-design.

I am not telling you anything new about prologue. You know all of that. You just didn't do it. The art of the prologue requires it to echo before or after the climax. It is about how to shape the plot such that the reader wants to have the prologue rerun. This can only be done if the prologue exhibits replayability, through depth, double meaning, contexts, or perspectives. Higher level construct requires the seamlessness of the prologue (because it is cliche otherwise if every story begins with a quote or a poem. It is just [bad].) Therefore, while the meaning of the story is delivered in the space where there is supposed to be a prologue, the audience get the meaning, but should fail to identify any replayable part until it is 're-run'. This is a strong design because the viewer has no defense that the original scene had a double meaning. When it comes it catches the viewer by surprise.

Some of these effects can be conditioned. For example, in an episodic design, you can start the ending music 15 seconds before the actual ending of each episode. I don't want to explain what it does. It is up to your interpretation.




Re: Gor-Gor:
You were wrong on the assumption that my method favors hack and slash adventure games. In this forum I posted several designs, almost none of them was of that genre:
Quote:
Dreambell: A servant impersonating her master in the wake of a seizable imperial power/A loyal and gullible servant inevitably involved in the deceptive power struggle involving a betrayal. Cryo: A person revived int the future to discover the reincarnation of a tragic past. Cardinal Prime: A couple of professional thieves struggling through mistrust and chances through an accidental death of one of them. Thirteen Tails: A group of rebels dancing on the line between peace and terrorism. X-zero: A group of rescue crews discovering the reason behind the abandonment of a spaceship of evacuating comrades. Little Red Riding Hood: A presentation of optimism through the cold attitude of the village and the ridiculous encounter of the curse of the werewolves.


The common feature that binds all of these is the use of mystery as the medium for interactivity, where player perception and interpretations are used for the feedback loop as the basis of interaction. TDM wasn't about hack and slash games.

On the method of different designs, of course there are different ways. You said that I say there is only one way. I didn't. In fact, I didn't even mention any procedure in this thread. Think about this:

1) Interaction
2) Anticipation
3) Flexibility
4) Mobility

This is not a list of procedure or methods. These are features of game stories with increasing complexity. The post wasn't about that every game with a story must exhbit all these features, but that this is the hierarchy that distinguishes game stories of different advancement.

You can design a really well-written linear story. Nothing wrong with that. It is a primitive design. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to eat raw egg. The hierarchy defines the features that make a game story more advanced than others. It has nothing to do with preference. You don't like game stories with mobility? I don't care. But those designs with mobility are more advanced.

Although you misunderstood what I actually said in this thread, you are correct that I don't think that gameplay should evolve from a story. To me, it is like saying, "I prefer counting the squares over taking the integral." That design choice is an inferior option. It is an option you choose when you have no better alternatives. In order to understand this, you need to know what 'gameplay' and 'integration' are:

Gameplay is the set of elements of interactions. Be it action, be it interactive dialogues. Doesn't matter. Anything that makes the player click or to hit a key is gameplay.

Integration is the intertwinedness between gameplay and story. You can measure this by measuring how much the story is affecting the player's decision on click the buttons, and how much the clicking of the button affects the story. Does the player slaughter monsters to make money? Does it make any difference in the story what monster is slaughterd? If there is a difference, is the different essential to the meaning of the story? Or is it just some curiosity of economic/ecological balance? Integration measure relevance between each gameplay element and plot element.

When you assumed that my approach favors hack-and-slash game, you were probably thinking gameplay in its narrower definition. The truth is the approach didn't originate from action-driven games. It originated from story-driven games, in particular, mystery story driven games, those interactive stories with absolutely no fighting or action. The pictorial interactive stories. You were accusing me from the uncommon end, because the normal accusation is that such approach lacks 'gameplay'.


Going back to the topic, I don't think that gameplay should evolve from a story. Think about this intuitively: Is it better to think about the story first, and then design the gameplay, or to keep the gameplay in mind while designing the story?

Which one of these seem most likely to make the best game?

R1E1.Wedding
R1E2.Scientist
R1E4.Prison
R1E8.Corn

Why? Is it because the intro seems to provide gameplay opportunities?



[Edited by - Estok on October 15, 2005 2:43:46 AM]

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I don't know, I don't remember any of them.

And just because you don't like the idea of it all makes it inferior or superior. Just because it's your opinion doesn't mean it's right, or fact. It's just your opinion. That's why I find it so funny that you weigh your opinion over everyone's heads like it's irefutable law.

As I said repeatedly, -For certain types of games-, hell yes, I'd prefer story written first with game play deriving from it.

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You are not listening. The point is not about any certain type of game. It is a general scale of complexity and advancement. It is not a matter of opinion that Calculus is more advanced than simply algebra. It is not about whether you like the simplicity of algebra or not. It is about complexity, compatibility.

Which movie is more compatible to the game medium?

Finding Neverland or Peter Pan?

I am talking about extremely obvious flaws. You made a mistake when you tried to counter argue. I am not talking about what you assumed I was talking about.

The original argument is more advanced than you think.

The difference between Plotting for a story and for a game story

In general, when you plot for a normal story, you think in terms of conflicts, themes, characters and dynamics. These considerations are not sufficient for a game story. Just take Conflict for example:

Conflict: Just merely having a conflict is not enough. Depending on how advanced the design is, the conflict exhibited in a game story plot also need these features: Interactive, coherent with gameplay, integrated with gameplay, and exhibits anticipation.


Interactive Conflict

A conflict that is not interactive in nature is linear. In some stories, a conflict is portrayed. The characters involved in the conflict move toward a predicted direction. A good plot for a story does not require the conflict to have branches, opportunities for alternatives, nor the capacity to contain the flexibilities. This is not a topic on preference. Regardless whether a linear game plot is favorable, it is of lower level of complexity. It is like video taping the pages of a book to tell a story. It doesn't matter whether you like that style personally, it hasn't used the potential of the medium.


Conflict with Gameplay Coherency

Conflicts that are not coherent with gameplay are not contained by the gameplay, or are inevitably presented through disjoint modes of gameplay. This usually translates to uninteractive cutscenes, where the hero performs actions that are not part of the gameplay. For example, if most of the game involves killing monsters, but the final boss requires the player to toss a gem or to solve a riddle instead, that is inconsistency. Sometimes this is desirable, especially when the normal gamaplay of combat is painfully boring. But that is a design flaw in the gameplay.


Integrated Conflict

When the conflict has nothing to do with the actualy content of the gameplay, the player starts skipping the cutscenes and dialogues. For these designs, the game and the story are like two very different things. Example: There is a love triangle of some sort between the three main characters, with no relevance to the gameplay. The love triangle is obviously important from the perspective of the story, but is disjoint from the gameplay. It doesn't matter whether you like the triangle or not, it is a primitive implementation in terms of the complexity. In terms of integration, if the story features a love triangle, it better have some impact on the story and the gameplay. This is about design complexity. It is extremely easy add relationships and personality all you want. That is trivial. It is not as trivial when the additions play essential roles in gameplay.


Conflicts with Anticipative Gameplay

Anticipation is closely related to coherence and integration. An conflict with anticipative gameplay is a conflict where the player can sense the intensity and development of the story through the gameplay, and vice versa. This is a design where each cutscene prompts the player on upcoming gameplay, and the changes of gameplay prompts upcoming changes of the story. To understand this, compare this with the situations where cutscenes only prompt developments of future cutscenes, where the player either play the game to move the story along or skip the story till the next block of gameplay. Both of these situations occur because the story and the game are not cross-anticipatory. The player either have much more anticipation for the story, or much more anticipation for the gameplay. Cross-anticipation synchronizes the two disjoint threads of expectation and development. This is a feature that higher level game stories exhibit.

Designing a game story plot is not just about writing.

[Edited by - Estok on October 16, 2005 7:52:50 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by Estok
Re: s/s

I don't know why you are trying to counter that you didn't read what I said. In your post you said flexibility is important. That was exactly what I already said. You said that any movie can be turned into a game but introducing gameplay. That that is what I said, and that Anticipation separates those designs and those that are coherent.


My point was that flexibility is only important for interactive stories, and is less important that presenting a thematic argument. My second point was that linear stories are not obsolete or inferior to interactive stories, they are merely an alternative medium. My third point was that writing/designing a game plot is essentially the same as writing/designing a story plot. Perhaps you are just ignoring my points whenever you happen to disagree with them.

Quote:
My inference is that you are not fluent in semantic construction. Think about this:

1) Suppose Merru read something about eggs or mythology, and then he is suddenly in the world of dragons, this makes the plot appear very childish. This is probably the reason it wasn't included (and shouldn't be included as is). Why is it childish?


I don't think it will make the plot appear childish. Eggs are not necessarily related to dragons. I wanted Merru to be thinking about the symbolism of eggs, which would not be specifically dragon eggs. Then there will be no mention of eggs made in relation to the dragons for several chapters because it is not relevant, Merru does not even know they are an egg laying species. The point of the prologue is to introduce the idea that Merru's life is barren even though it's very comfortable, and I believe having Merru think about eggs as a symbol of creative fertility is a clear, powerful, and concise way to communicate that.

Quote:
2) Think about the scholar playboy identity. That is also pretty bad considering that the original scenes had nothing suggesting that he is a playboy. So if you had put it as a prologue, it would make the meaning seemingly imposed.


His scholar playboy identity will be expressed in the first few chapters through his internal monologue of indignant complaints about being treated like an animal and sneaky attempts to remedy this.

Quote:
3) The lack of intimacy is a better central theme, but it still doesn't fit the situation. If he wants intimacy so badly he won't care becoming a pet.

He doesn't know he wants or needs intimacy, the plot is about him discovering what he he lacks to be truly happy. Also, becoming a pet does not create intimacy because he can't speak the dragon's language at first, so he can't form an intimate relationship with his owner because he can't communicate.

Quote:
The art of the prologue requires it to echo before or after the climax. It is about how to shape the plot such that the reader wants to have the prologue rerun. This can only be done if the prologue exhibits replayability, through depth, double meaning, contexts, or perspectives. Higher level construct requires the seamlessness of the prologue (because it is cliche otherwise if every story begins with a quote or a poem. It is just [bad].) Therefore, while the meaning of the story is delivered in the space where there is supposed to be a prologue, the audience get the meaning, but should fail to identify any replayable part until it is 're-run'.


This is irrelevant to me. I already explained that my non-interactive stories are intended to be read/played only once, and so should communicate all information to the audience on the first run through.




Now, to get back to the actual purpose of this thread, talking about methods of plotting. Here is a very useful plot framework a poster on another writing board gave me yesterday, along with examples of each step from Frodo's plot thread of _The Lord of the Rings_. I found it very helpful to go through and fill in the blanks for Merru's plot thread in my novel. [smile]


1) Stasis: This is how things stand at the beginning of the novel. If nothing happens, the character will keep on going like this forever.

Merru is a scholar/playboy who is the master of his domain but lacks intimacy in his life. (lack of intimacy = barenness, Merru is thinking about the symbolism of eggs.)

2) Trigger: Unfortunately, sh#t happens. An event beyond the control of the character turns the day from average to exceptional.

Merru is unexpectedly dropped into an alien body in an alien world.

3) Quest: The quest is generated by the trigger. An unpleasant trigger often results in a quest to return to the original stasis. A pleasant trigger (eg. winning the lottery) may result in a desire to increase or maintain pleasure. The quest may (and probably will) change throughout the novel, but subsequent quests should incorporate the former, raising the stakes.

Merru will not tolerate being treated like an animal, he wants his comforts and pleasures darn it!

4) Surprise! Unexpected obstacles keep the character from achieving her/his goals. "Conflict made concrete." This may happen suddenly or as an accumulation of events.

Merru lacks knowledge about the dragons' manners and customs, which keeps causing a looming disaster which he must narrowly avoid or wiggle his way out of.

Obstacle 1 – Cage
Obstacle 2 – Bossy Dragons
Obstacle 3 – Don't Know How To Be Helpful
Obstacle 4 – No Sex
Obstacle 5 – Forbidden Sex
Obstacle 6 – Passing As A Dragon
Obstacle 7 – Lieann's Demand
Obstacle 8 – Incompatible Public And Private Lives
Obstacle 9 – Attranath And Ravennin Should Be Here Too
Obstacle 10 – Getting A Territory
Obstacle 11 – Defending Family

5) Critical Choice: In order to surmount the obstacle(s), the character must make a choice. "What am I going to do now? How am I going to deal with this obstacle?"

The obstacles occur when traditional or habitual paths are blocked; overcoming each obstacle requires thinking outside the box and finding an unorthodox path to the goals. The unorthodoxness of the new method in turn requires the character to adapt internally.

6) Climax: "The decision made manifest." The critical choice has consequences. The climax is the result of those consequences made visible.

The 4 discover a new way to create a family (in both the territory and egg senses of the word).

7) Reversal: "A change from one state of affairs to its opposite..." Something
or someone has to change in the novel.


Society's condemnation is converted to admiration, and barrenness is converted to fertile creativity.

8) Resolution: A new stasis.

Merru, Lieann, Ravennin, and Attranath now have a territory of their own which is safe from the prejudices of society. They love each other, love their children, love their jobs, and live happily ever after.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on October 17, 2005 11:14:12 PM]

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Dimensions of Game Story Design

The medium of game story is not fundamentally the same as that of a normal story. To say that the designs are fundamentally the same is like saying that the 2D cartesian plane is fundamentally the same as the 1D x-axis. Interactivity is the dimension that normal stories don't have. To stay on the x-axis is a choice. The understanding that There is the second dimension is not a choice. It exists. In general I don't reply to push a point. I only reply when what I said is being distorted.

This is what you are thinking:

"A plot for a game doesn't need to be interactive. Non-interactive game stories are still good, they are not obsolete. Flexibility is not important for these stories because they aren't interactive. For these stories, the designs are fundamentally the same as that for the design of a normal story."

This is what you think I was saying:

"A game story needs to be interactive, furthermore, it needs to be anticipatory, flexible, and mobile. Non-interactive stories are obsolete."

I didn't say any of these. I said that your view of what a game story is is too narrow. It is one thing to be content with your own view of what a game story is, it is a very different thing to see your view in terms of the overall roadmap.

Just think about this question. Suppose you are writing a textbook on writing plots for game. Would you write this line:

A game story is no different than a normal story. In fact, you don't need to know anything about gaming to writing a good game story. How the game works or how interactions work is not a consideration when you are writing the story.

Do you dare to say this in a textbook? If not, what exactly are the general differences between designing a plot for a game and for a story? Are all game story plots exactly the same as normal story plots? Of course not. What the the differences?

I am not speaking on a narrow subject that you imagined. Reconsider what you said in the begining of this thread, you completely ignored the existence of the second dimension of the design of game story plots. That was unacceptable.

In TechnoGoth's post, he said that he wanted to write a game story in 2008. I said that his view was obsolete. His view of what a game story encompasses is obsolete. Linearization is a choice, given that you understand the role of interaction in the higher dimension. But if you don't even see the second dimension, your paradigm is wrong. It is wrong beyond the matter of opinions.

If you still think that I am ignoring you, can you paraphrase exactly what I said was 'obsolete'?


Immature Semantic Constructs

Definitions
Immature Design: Not fully developed. Such as a pre-alpha software compared to its beta
Childish Design: Not complicated, superficial, mimics the form of deeper designs but lacks the same depth has its couterpart.

How to detect childish designs:
Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations, but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings.

Quote:
I don't think it will make the plot appear childish. Eggs are not necessarily related to dragons. I wanted Merru to be thinking about the symbolism of eggs, which would not be specifically dragon eggs. Then there will be no mention of eggs made in relation to the dragons for several chapters because it is not relevant, Merru does not even know they are an egg laying species. The point of the prologue is to introduce the idea that Merru's life is barren even though it's very comfortable, and I believe having Merru think about eggs as a symbol of creative fertility is a clear, powerful, and concise way to communicate that.


How to detect semantic forgery:
By detecting inconsistencies between the semantic claimed, and the semantics that the plot exhibits. If the semantic claimed by the symbolism is not established in the actual plot, the semantic is forged. Suppose the author didn't have such symbolism in mind, but was accused of having no meaning, the author is likely to make up meanings on the spot by using the obvious symbols. However, the meanings do not necessarily match the serial number of the plot, because the plot wasn't written with those meaning in mind.


Quote:
His scholar playboy identity will be expressed in the first few chapters through his internal monologue of indignant complaints about being treated like an animal and sneaky attempts to remedy this.
You plot didn't support this, because it it was of any significant, it is hard to just say "M4) Merru comes to terms with being thought of as a pet." It made no sense that a conflict with a significant would be downplayed in a plot sketch. It meant that the playboy identity wasn't a conflict at the moment the plot was written. This is a hint that you are not fluent in semantics, because it means that you want it to have meanings, but you can't think in terms of them natively. You are at the stage in which you need to see the plot, and then discover meanings.

It is not about whether this is good or bad, it is just the definition of being not fluent--thinking in thematics, then translate them into semantics. In the absolute scale, being not fluent is inferior. Being fluent is not a choice, it is a naturally developing skill. You don't even need to train yourself to be fluent. You are becoming more fluent every day. So this is not an opinion that being not fluent is inferior. The point is not to compare you with someone else, but you with yourself a year from now. And the difference is that you will be more fluent.



Prologue

Quote:
Quote:
The art of the prologue requires it to echo before or after the climax. It is about how to shape the plot such that the reader wants to have the prologue rerun. This can only be done if the prologue exhibits replayability, through depth, double meaning, contexts, or perspectives. Higher level construct requires the seamlessness of the prologue (because it is cliche otherwise if every story begins with a quote or a poem. It is just [bad].) Therefore, while the meaning of the story is delivered in the space where there is supposed to be a prologue, the audience get the meaning, but should fail to identify any replayable part until it is 're-run'.


This is irrelevant to me. I already explained that my non-interactive stories are intended to be read/played only once, and so should communicate all information to the audience on the first run through.
You have confused the topic with rereadability. When a prologue is 'replayable', it means that the same prologue can be displayed two times to induce different meanings in teh same strand of plot line. This is completely not about reading or playing the story more than once. This concept is for designs that are non-interactive and are intended to be read only once. This is the echo effect that exhibits in the same strand when the reader reads the story once. Example (American Beauty):

Plot point 1: The monologue by the father that he died, casual enough
Plot point 2: Conflicts and stuffs, as the audience start to hypothesize how the father died.
Plot point 3: Everyone hates one another, while the father learned that he really loves his family
Plot point 4: The father got killed.

At this point, Plot Point 1 echoed, with the newly gained meaning of the death. A lot of times I am just talking about simple things and effects. It is differently not irrelevant to your design. You are missing simple things. These are very simple things in terms of semantic construction.


Design through Form vs Design through Content

Even when you used the guideline, you are still focusing on the thematics. It has nothing wrong with the guideline, but your depth when you applied it. (Although I can assume that the poster of the guideline wasn't semantically fluent neither, because the words are all thematically driven.) It is not good to get excited with these kind of guidelines. I don't know how you will read the following statement, but following guidelines is the first step toward childish designs, because it is exactly what it is--following a form without the derivation from the core. The guideline is a distraction when it draws the attention away from the overall semantic development of the game.

This is exactly what happens when someone tries to 'decode' a design without sufficient depth in their perception. They can only decode the superficial form of the design, without understanding the inner mechanisms that make the design alive. It is guidelines like this that make writers unrealistically confident on their abilities, because they blind them from an entire dimension about story writing.



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Quote:
Definitions
Immature Design: Not fully developed. Such as a pre-alpha software compared to its beta
Childish Design: Not complicated, superficial, mimics the form of deeper designs but lacks the same depth has its couterpart.

How to detect childish designs:
Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations, but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings.


Quote:
I don't think it will make the plot appear childish. Eggs are not necessarily related to dragons. I wanted Merru to be thinking about the symbolism of eggs, which would not be specifically dragon eggs. Then there will be no mention of eggs made in relation to the dragons for several chapters because it is not relevant, Merru does not even know they are an egg laying species. The point of the prologue is to introduce the idea that Merru's life is barren even though it's very comfortable, and I believe having Merru think about eggs as a symbol of creative fertility is a clear, powerful, and concise way to communicate that.


How to detect semantic forgery:
By detecting inconsistencies between the semantic claimed, and the semantics that the plot exhibits. If the semantic claimed by the symbolism is not established in the actual plot, the semantic is forged. Suppose the author didn't have such symbolism in mind, but was accused of having no meaning, the author is likely to make up meanings on the spot by using the obvious symbols. However, the meanings do not necessarily match the serial number of the plot, because the plot wasn't written with those meaning in mind.


Heh, I found this interesting. It reminds me a lot of academics who pore over a simple work and see things that aren't there, or as a more immediate example, RPG fans who pore over their favorite game for meaning, and find only oblique, disjointed references to Wagnerian opera.

I'm always finding myself dodging the impulse to add some symbolism that "sounds neat" and let the reader sort it out.

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I haven't seen either movie, and if I'm wrong for arguing with you when I think you're wrong, and you think you're right.... I think that shows pretty much how useless it is to talk with you about this kind of thing.

I think it -does- all boil down to your opinion, because there -are- differences between story interactivity and game genres.

When you play Half-Life, the story won't change because of the gameplay. No matter how many times you play it, no matter how many different weapons you use, or however differently you try and play it the story won't change. No less, you'll still have to complete the game in the same order of events.

Same with games like Legend of Gaia, and Suikoden, and other story driven games of that nature.

The complexity between algebra and calculus has -nothing- to do with it. hahahaha ;)

In a game where the story, and the drama of the story is what's important the story -can- come first, and the gameplay will develop from there. If you have a story, you can establish the atmosphere, the theme, the feel, and come up with a gameplay concept that compliments it. Your way has a place in the industry, and maybe it's the way to do things in the majority of genres, but this other way -still- does have a place, too. ;) It's all in the design, and the purpose.

I think you need to accept that you -don't- know everything, and that your opinions aren't the end-all-be-all that you think they are.

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Quote:
Original post by Estok

Childish Design: Not complicated, superficial, mimics the form of deeper designs but lacks the same depth has its couterpart.

How to detect childish designs:
Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations, but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings.


I don't understand what you mean here.

"Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations"

Ok... that means any existing symbol which has an existing meaning in our culture right? As opposed to a symbol which you create yourself which doesn't have any meaning until you give it one?

"but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings"

And that means that whithin the story you specify or reinforce what the symbol means, yes?

And then, are you saying that symbols which both start with a cultural meaning and then are further specified and explained in the story are childish? I have no idea why you would think that. o_O Please explain.

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Re: s/s

Do you know that Biege and Gor-Gor read my posts wrong? They thought that I said things that I didn't say. If you understand that please clarify the confusion. It gets meaninglessly repetitive.


Re: Biege

This is about complexity. This is not about evaluating a particular work. The notion of audience is still present. This is completely not about trying to do something when the audience is not ready. The hierarchy of complexity exists independent to the design choices you make for a particular work. I am not telling anyone that any design needs to exhibit or try to fully express the hierarchy. This is not that kind of discussion.

Re: GOR-GOR
Quote:
I haven't seen either movie, and if I'm wrong for arguing with you when I think you're wrong, and you think you're right....

This is the problem: I never said that the things you think I said are wrong. You are disagreeing with something that I didn't say. And you don't understand what I am saying. You only see the filtered version of my message, and that message is obviously wrong.

It is simple fact that game stories come in different styles and designs. Of course not all stories are interactive. Your accusation that I am speaking of something be all and end all, something with only one option is completely wrong. I am not talking about that at all.

This is about complexity. Some maths you solve by using algebra, some maths you solve by using calculus. In terms of the ladder of mathematic complexity, calculus is more advanced because you need to have a decent knowledge of algebra before you can understand calculus and to apply it.

The prompt that I was addressing was very simple:

Is there a hierarchy/ladder to game story complexity?

Is there a hierarchical structure between the properties that a game story may exhibit?

This is not a question about whether calculus is better than algebra, but whether calculus is more advanced. You are still thinking that I am talking about quality instead of complexity.

In the perspective of game story complexity, a decent structure of the story is the foundation. Everything that s/s said in the first post, you would need. Interaction builds on top of this foundation, where no only the plot and characters are sound, but are interactive. This is an advancement in complexity, because the resulting story has everything s/s considered, plus something more, which is interactivity. What is one step further? What features do more advanced designs exhibit? Anticipation, which requires the existence of a decent story and decent interaction. Beyond that? Flexibility. Beyond that? Mobility? Beyond that? I don't have a full forecast, but this forms a hierarchy of complexity.

This is about dimensions and complexity, not design choices. When you mention 'end-all-be-all' you are talking in the realm of design choices. Not the design space.

Am I asking all the game stories to be interactive? Of course not.

Am I condemning designers that do not aim to introduce interactivity in the story? No.

Am I condemning the designers that denies this dimension of possibility? Yes.

I responsed to s/s's original post because it was a very narrow view of the design space and its considerations. It was not a response to the design choices. I didn't say that every story needs to be interactive. I am not providing any 'sole' procedure. It was a discussion on the paradigm level, not preferences or requirements. It defines complexity, not quality.

The points in a hierarchy is not equivalent to a list of requirements:
Quote:
This is gamedev. The design of a plot for a game story is not the same as that for a novel. You might as well just consult your writers' group.

A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.
The design spaces of a story within the gaming medium is not the same as that for a novel. This is gamedev. The variables and premises are not the same. Take the vector of audiences for example. Is the vector that characterizes an audience the same as that for a player?

The fact is that s/s's view is a projection of the design space. By definition, it is narrow. It is as narrow as an architect designing for a clinic by simply following the design procedures for designing a home, and expect the occupants to customize the structure after it was built.

The reason that you don't see many interactive stories, is because it is complex to implement, reflecting the existence of the hierarchy of game story complexity. It is not that people don't want more interactive stories, but that no structures could express it fully, nor there was precedents of well-established history of tackling such designs. That is why this is not a task for a normal story writer. The tools that a story writer is familiar with are insufficient to respond to the complexity.

A writer that says the design of a game story is no different than that for a novel does not say it due to understanding, but the ignorance of the extra dimensions of the medium.

If you are a writer, think about this question:

If the story needs to be interactive, what are the principles that enhances the experience due to interactivity? How does that affect the design of the plot?

Then we get back to the discussion of the hierarchy of the complexity of non-linear plots: branching stories, modular stories, interlacing stories, stories with changing pasts... These aren't topics normal to stories in non-interactive media. In light of this, the achievements of the current game stories are just the tip of an iceberg. Don't let them blind you from the actual dimension of the design space.

The notion that game story and novel story design are fundamentally the same is very uninformed.



Re: Childish Designs
Quote:
Childish Design: Not complicated, superficial, mimics the form of deeper designs but lacks the same depth has its couterpart.

How to detect childish designs:
Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations, but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings.


The common situation:

You watched Lord of the Rings and you like it. So you start making a story. In your story you have a elven archer, a drawven warrior, and a wizard with white bread. Someone asks you why you have those characters. There is actually no reason for having them other than your subconscious affinity to them. There are several way you could respond:

a) You can make up the reasons on the spot, because you think that it takes a reason for the decisions.

b) You can respond by saying, "who cares?" This is completely valid because most works are of expression in nature.

c) You can say, "I don't know why I picked them, they seem to have a meaning to me but I still don't know what it is. I think I will find it out as I continue writing." This is also completely valid, because most of the time, a story is not written for an audience, but for yourself, to gain knowledge about yourself. It is like having a lucid dream and desides not to control it so you can observe the symbolisms without altering them.

A design is childish when the situation resembles a, because the meanings are forced onto the symbols to 'cover up' the perceived short-comings. A design is shallow when it exhibits situation b, because it is no more than a sequence of events where the writer did not perform the task of design in all directions. Situation c has nothing wrong by itself. That should be the most often case because it is uncommon that anyone would start a design from scratch without following any unexamined semantic templates. There are bound to be symbols everywhere that exist without conscious decisions. The result of this can go two ways, either the writer succeed in identifying the symbolisms in the process, and refreshed the whole design in light of that understanding, or the writer failed. In case 1, the creation of the story turned into a design the moment the writer started editing and highlighting the symbols. In case 2, the product can either turn into an enigma or an immature design.

A design is immature when it is not fully developed, such as a set of symbols and ideas halfly cooked or integrated. If you just follow your subconsious, there is no initial reason to believe that the contents conceived were coherent. Without any filters and adjustments, the product is just a spell-checked log of the interplay of the subconscious symbols. Just as normal dreams may not make a lot of sense, the log of it does not necessarily make sense unfiltered and uninterpreted. In order to make it coherent, the writer must at least identify the assumptions the subconscious made beyond the scope of the contents so that the reader has a complete reference to understand the content. But this still doesn't rid the piece of the problem that the content may not be semantically coherent. When you have the eye to see what is coherent and what is not, you are in case 1. Otherwise, the design is immature (hasn't reached its maturity).

A creation is an enigma if the existance of the meaning is vivid, but not the actual content. The meaning of the piece might be incomprehensible for the desginer and the audience. But everyone reading can feel the meaning, yet cannot express it. From every angle, you get a feeling that there is a meaning. Your subconscious got the meaning, but not you, as if the meaning of the piece is encoded in the language of the subconscious. The power of an enigma is that it penetrates any conscious defense. You read it once, no matter whether you know what it is about, you are affected. It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with the visible content. The message is not in the seeming argument. An enigma can be a product of creation and also a product of design. The design of enigmatic pieces often involves the presentation of strong symbols to make deep impressions that will rally in the target. This is not anything new. This is impressionism. This is a main effect of rereadability. It favors concentrated presentations where the attention of the reader is undivided. The content doesn't need to be abstract, but most of the time the actual message is not verbally present in the content.


Detecting childish designs:

"Identify symbols that are primarily established by their thematic associations"
Quote:
Ok... that means any existing symbol which has an existing meaning in our culture right? As opposed to a symbol which you create yourself which doesn't have any meaning until you give it one?
No. Thematic association means associations between symbols due to their affinity in forms. I am talking about the association between one symbol to the next, not the association between a symbol and its common meaning. Example of 'thematically associated symbols:

Sun and moon - both are celestial objects
Sword and warrior - medieval things
Book and bookmark - items from the set 'book stuffs'
Chess and warfare - things from the strategy set
Phoenix and egg - forms of creature in the same life cycle
Banana and monkey - I think you get the meaning.

These symbols are thematically associated because they are taken from the same thematic set. In your case, dragon and eggs share a thematic association. In general, major symbols of a piece are supposed to be thematically associated, that is the basis of thematic coherency of the semantics. In terms of complexity of semantic construction, it is more advanced to create symbols that are not thematically related, such as:

"Life is like a box of chocolate."

Symbols like this deals critical damage if it provides a strikingly new but relevant association. When you do something like this you also secure the uniqueness of the symbols. This is why it is a more advanced design. In high level designs we don't talk about the presentation of the meaning, but the induction of its essence.

I wasn't talking about what you were thinking. You are supposed to create new meanings as it get more advanced. You thought that I was saying something trivial. The main difference is that the symbols picked for the new association are not from the same thematic set.


When you pick items from the same thematic set, and impose on them common variations of their meaning, there is no observable difference between a childish design or a design with very shallow symbols.

Shallow symbols - (def) Symbols with meaning of the same thematic set. Example: an hatching egg to symbolize birth or a break through; a sword to symbolize might or leadership; a pen to symbolize a writer.

'Shallow' is an adjective describing the command of the author of the symbol space. The depth of the symbol space is infinite. The command of the author is his ability to get deeply in the space to fetch a meaning. When you just wade on the surface, you get shallow symbols. This is not about clicheness or preference. For instance, sword symbolizing leadership is shallow because that symbol is established by the fact that swords are often carried by people in command (as opposed to footmen with spears, swords take a lot more metal than a spearhead). Although many shallow symbols are also cliche, a symbol that is shallow does not imply that the symbol is commonly known. It implies that it can be commonly infered, easy to get.

Adjectives like 'shallowness' are neutral. Different kinds of symbol have different usage. Infrared has a lower frequency than ultraviolet. It obviously doesn't mean that it is a worse wave in the general sense. But when all of the symbols in a piece are shallow, it is a sign that the author lacks the ability to draw deep from the symbol space.


"but forcefully substantiated afterwards in an attempt to infuse the icons with meanings"

Quote:
And that means that whithin the story you specify or reinforce what the symbol means, yes?
No. The order is important. When you think about the process of creation, symbols that are thematically associated do not arise due to the choice of the author. They simply exist because they are of the same set. For instance, when I write about a story about warriors, it is hard to dodge the topic on weapons or swords. Similarly, dragons and eggs are from the same thematic set. A childish design is exposed when the author tries to snap meaning onto the symbols that arose not due to intended semantic association.

The difference between a childish design and a semantically shallow design lies in the way the semantics are constructed. In a childish design, the designer snaps meanings in an attempt to make it look 'mature'. This is detected by seeing the time of creation of the symbols.

Symbols, when they exist, are important for a story. They are almost like characters by themselves, waiting for their turns to show up. When a plot sketch does not contain a symbol that the author claims to exist, it is a sign that the semantics of the symbol did not exist at the point the plot was created. In fact, if the plot sketch contains no symbols at all, it implies that the author did not have any semantical symbols when the plot was created. A plot sketch with no symbols expresses the instantaneous shallowness of the plot. (What you posted was an outline. What an outline documents exposes the considerations of the author. It is unthinkable that an outline does not document the relation between the events and the symbols. The absence of these relations implies the absence of the symbols.)

Quote:
And then, are you saying that symbols which both start with a cultural meaning and then are further specified and explained in the story are childish? I have no idea why you would think that. o_O Please explain.
The topic has nothing to do with culture or explanations. It is about the depth of the symbol, and the construction of its semantics.

Can you now paraphrase what a childish symbol is? Can you paraphrase why I think it is childish? Did I give you enough information to rewrite the plot outline so that the symbols do not appear childish?


In terms of semantic complexity.
How would you score the symbolism here?

"Life is a box of chocolate",
Childish 1 2 3 4 5 Very Deep

How would you score your symbols?
Childish 1 2 3 4 5 Very Deep

5 Very Deep - The seamless integration of the symbolism reflects the society, and defines a new paradigm in such conciseness that is going to change many lives that will impact the philosophical, social, and cultural statuses for years to come.

4 Deep - The integrated symbolism is philosophically intense, and encapsulates the arguments intelligently to provide a concentrated thematic representation of the story's semantic cause.

3 Mature - The symbolism provides a new perspective that encapsulates a curiosity or an unique point of reference. The symbols are well-integrated to the piece appropriate to the level of meaning of the piece.

2 Immature - The symbolism has not achieved its purpose to conentrate any arguments or perspectives. It appears scattered or incoherent, although important.

1 Childish - The symbolism seems forced and unrelated to the story, where its meaning and implications are un-integrated or undeveloped in the plot. Its thematic presence overrides the author's attempt to infuse it with meaning, resulting in a thematic design clutted by its imposed meanings. The ill integration of meanings is distracting the thematic core of the piece.



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