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Storytelling in RTS's

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I'm designing a RTS that I'm going to start in the fall. I want to have a strong storyline in the game, but I'm not sure how to go about the presentation. I think that it's rather difficult to get the players to relate with the characters, as they feel really distant and you don't get the same body language queues that you can give in other games. Any ideas on how to go about a story driven RTS?

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I always liked Starcraft's mission briefings. Something as simple as a head and shoulders shot with different cuts as different characters told the story was nice.

I found that I related to the characters based on their usefulness... that is, the greater their utility, the more I cared about their story.

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I think story in games works better when key plot points are brought up within the gameplay portions rather than just in cutscenes. With a traditional RTS, a good way to do this is to change mission objectives halfway through - something unexpected happens in the middle of the mission. Maybe someone turns traitor and there's an unexpected ambush, or an unexpected target of opportunity arises, or you stumble on knowledge of a key McGuffin that you didn't know about while ransacking an enemy base.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I found that I related to the characters based on their usefulness... that is, the greater their utility, the more I cared about their story.


I liked a lot of the characters but generally found them all useless to the point the strategic stupidity of sending people so valuable their death was the end for your side to the front line a immersion breaker.

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That's true. I was thinking about using some more normal units in the storyline, but then why would someone important that commands armies care about them.

Also about the starcraft briefings, I used to skip them, and then they took them out from warcraft 3 cause they thought it broke the immersion. I think they should have kept it in though cause they could do briefings and loading at the same time, which would entertain you and force you to watch.

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Make it personal. Give it a cast of characters and focus on them. That might be difficult in an RTS, but still possible. Start the game out with your main character, get to know him a little, then have him thrown into the battle between the warring races/colonies/worlds/what have you. Chronicle his rise threw ranks, use him in different unit positions, and make the story revolve around him. What happens in a lot of RTSs is that the story is about the war first, and the characters second.

Also, I agree with Trapper Zoid in that the story should be presented in the gameplay. Even if partially. Instead of throwing you into the battle, start it with a calm scene, get some characterization, then start the battle.

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