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sunandshadow

Your ideal game story to play?

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This is partly based on the idea of what a 'game fore writers' would be like, and partly based on my own realization that the problem with interactive stories is that it's relatively fun and easy to write one suited to yourself, but mystifying to try to write one that would please and satisfy a different type of person. So here's the actual question - imagine you are playing a game with a very flexible interactive story. Ignore what the gameplay would be like, it's irrelevant. 1. Who would you want to be in the gameworld? Age, gender, appearance, race, culture, job, backstory and personal goals. Feel free to list multiple options, maybe you can try a different one each time you replay the game. 2. Who would you want to interact with in the gameworld? This can be a love interest, a best friend, a comic relief traveling companion, a recurring enemy, or a faction/culture. Describe as many as you want.

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Well, ignoring the obvious reality that you can't please all the people all of the time and thus even hallmark games like Half Life 1 will still be disliked by some, I don't agree with your premise "that it's relatively fun and easy to write one suited to yourself, but mystifying to try to write one that would please and satisfy a different type of person."

If you're a good writer and can script an interactive story that you enjoy, then I believe it will have broad appeal. People overestimate just how good a story needs to be for a video game. Indeed, because games are interactive, things like originality rank extremely low on the list of things to get right. What ranks high is execution.

Going back to Half Life 1... the story is actually full of cliches... secret government lab experiment gone wrong, monsters start to invade, only you can save the world, the military is out to get you too... etc. But Half Life 1 succeeded in making the realm seem real, making your character seem apart of that realm, and making the choices available to the player seem reasonable. All that along with great direction (pacing of the story, the different "acts", scripted events, art style and level design, etc) In fact as you recall, Half Life 1 started out very much like a movie with you riding the tram into work while the opening credits rolled by.

Portal is another example of a game that was defined by better than average writing and direction. My point is that in the final analysis, who the player is and who they interact with, and the general plot of the story, are all less important than the details. The details are what will make an environment and scenario seem like its real and truly unfolding regardless of whether the story is a rehashed Hollywood B movie script.

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Example response:

1.A. In WOW I enjoyed the Tauren starting path the most because I liked being a member of a native-american-style culture and specifically one that was more on the pacifistic and communistic side since that fits my own philosophical beliefs.

1.B. Some jobs I have enjoyed in various games are resource gatherer (herbalist, miner, lumberjack, skinner, farmer, etc.) I like having a crafting recipe which is sort of like a shopping list, then going out myself and finding all the ingredients. This is also one of my favorite things about exploring a game world: finding random or semi-random useful resources as 'treasure'.

1.C. I like being some sort of animal specialist: summoner, monster capturer, pet-user, monster-breeder, or shapeshifter (I see being a shapeshifter as a scholarly/spiritual pursuit of understanding of different animal totems so I can add their forms to my repertoire.

1.D. I generally feel the most fulfilled by acting as a problem solver who acts as a therapist and matchmaker, among other things. Like finding 2 NPCs who are fighting and getting their disagreement sorted out, of finding an NPC angsting over some internal conflict and helping them resolve their dilemma and cheer up. Repairing machinery and buildings, revitalizing a farm or town, and permanently removing trash or a monster threat are also quite satisfying. With shapeshifting in particular, I'd love to see it done as a MacGyver/Indiana Jones puzzle-solving adventurer approach to learning to use my shapeshifting to manipulate the world.

1.E. I love when a game indulges my artistic side by letting me design my character's appearance, clothing, possibly a house, or maybe breed pets or flowers with decorative appearances.


[Edit: I'll come back and add 2 after I think about it more]

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Why are we doing this exercise when clearly, the responsibility of a game for writers is squarely on the storyline and actual game content.
As a scribbler (I'm not a writer, nobody can read my writing), I'd have to say that I don't want to play amazing story based games if their settings and their content (aside from the story) suck.
I'd rather just go watch a movie rather than sympathise with a character that is dealing with issues I don't understand, or play a game that's only saving grace is it's story (I'm looking at you Force Unleashed).

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Original post by Hypnotron
Well, ignoring the obvious reality that you can't please all the people all of the time and thus even hallmark games like Half Life 1 will still be disliked by some, I don't agree with your premise "that it's relatively fun and easy to write one suited to yourself, but mystifying to try to write one that would please and satisfy a different type of person."

If you're a good writer and can script an interactive story that you enjoy, then I believe it will have broad appeal. People overestimate just how good a story needs to be for a video game. Indeed, because games are interactive, things like originality rank extremely low on the list of things to get right. What ranks high is execution.

Going back to Half Life 1... the story is actually full of cliches... secret government lab experiment gone wrong, monsters start to invade, only you can save the world, the military is out to get you too... etc. But Half Life 1 succeeded in making the realm seem real, making your character seem apart of that realm, and making the choices available to the player seem reasonable. All that along with great direction (pacing of the story, the different "acts", scripted events, art style and level design, etc) In fact as you recall, Half Life 1 started out very much like a movie with you riding the tram into work while the opening credits rolled by.

Portal is another example of a game that was defined by better than average writing and direction. My point is that in the final analysis, who the player is and who they interact with, and the general plot of the story, are all less important than the details. The details are what will make an environment and scenario seem like its real and truly unfolding regardless of whether the story is a rehashed Hollywood B movie script.


This doesn't really respond to my post at all. I'm asking a pretty simple question: you personally as a player, what kind of game story do you dream of living?

Quote:
If you're a good writer and can script an interactive story that you enjoy, then I believe it will have broad appeal.

This, I just disagree with. Some people have broader or more common tastes than others, but I very often encounter fiction, movies, and games that are reasonably well done and must appeal to someone but just do not interest me. And it's just as applicable the other way - when I or most other writers make a post on a forum describing some story idea we are really excited about, the average person reading the post is _not_ going to share the opinion that the idea is really appealing. You mention cliches, I find that there is a vanishingly fine line between overdone cliche and powerful archetype/childhood memory. Take vampire romances for example - there are a tone of them, some people adore them, other people wouldn't read one if you paid them. Even at the level of romance as a genre, some people crave them, some people are neutral to them, some people actively dislike them.

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Original post by sunandshadow
1. Who would you want to be in the gameworld? Age, gender, appearance, race, culture, job, backstory and personal goals. Feel free to list multiple options, maybe you can try a different one each time you replay the game.

Male, white but not not pale white (probably more tan). Basically, someone similar to me in gender and race. Age between 25 and 35 (I'm 18), so the character is 'mature' and not some idiotic bumbling teenage, but not so old that he's an old/ancient/wisdom-beyond-you type character that's deliberately supposed to be mystical or archaic. Basically, I don't want someone who's a 'relic of a foregone age'. I want someone who's a prime example of the current age.

I want him to be up against powers greater than him, whether those be governments, groups of secret societies, or a single-powerful entity.

I want him to be limited in his power, and not some mad powerhouse of a person who by the end of the game can flick his finger and destroy cities, but I do want him to wield lots of power that's beyond most of the everyday people you meet in the world; but only because he's worked for it, and it's cost him.

I don't want him to progress rapidly during the course of the game. If he's already 25-35 when the game starts, he should already be aware of his powers and already be fairly sufficient with them. He should be experienced from his travels/journeys, but not some stereotypical 'battle-scarred veteran' who thinks he knows everything. (The more wisdom you have, the more you understand that you don't know everything)

I don't want him to be some unapproachable 'lone wolf', but he shouldn't be the center of attention either. Random people you encounter shouldn't know who he is, and even if they did, why should they care about him?

He shouldn't think he's in control of everything, and he should show signs of being overwhelmed when circumstances are against him. He shouldn't be emotionless; he feels pain and he laughs, like others around him.
He shouldn't be someone people think of as 'cool', nor should he try to be. He should be someone people wouldn't give a second thought about while walking down the street, unless they actually meet him.
Quote:
2. Who would you want to interact with in the gameworld? This can be a love interest, a best friend, a comic relief traveling companion, a recurring enemy, or a faction/culture. Describe as many as you want.

I definitely do not want a companion who's there for comic relief. Such characters almost always get on my nerves. A lover is okay, especially if she is captured, and definitely if she is killed when the protagonist tries to rescue her (But maybe in his travels he heard of a way revive her).

I wouldn't mind having a pet in the game, as long as the pet isn't supposed to be 'cute'. I don't mind if it looks cute, like a ferret or something, but I don't want it to act cute. I'd especially like it to be something useful in battle, that's about waist high. (Wolf, lizard-like creature, etc... Standing on two legs is unacceptable; because then I'd think of it as a ally and not a pet)

I'd like to encounter several different sentient races aside from humans, but don't want them to be the center of the plot which everything revolves around. (Why should I care about a ancient civilization that's be missing for thousands of years? Let it stay missing; but I am interested in exploring ruins of castles or civilizations)

I don't want a rival who I've known for years to be the main villain, or on his side. If I had a arch-enemy for the past 10 years, I would've killed him already, or else he would've killed me.
I don't mind allies on my team depending on the battling system of the game, but I'd prefer to battle and travel alone (with the exception of my pet if I have one)

I want to make friends and allies to help me in my journey, but I don't want them to journey with me, unless as part of the plot and only for a short while. I want to form 'contacts' with people I meet, who can help me, and whom I can help. These relationships shouldn't be "Do something for me, and I'll stop withholding information from you". These people should willingly help me out, free of charge, and I should be able to help them out also, without seeking rewards.

I want the bad guy(s) to not just be super powerful, but rather, intelligent and with the resources to aid said intelligence. Not sneaky/sly, but tactical and clever enough to do things that'd make me acknowledge their actions as a smart move while playing the game.
Example: They wont burn down a village just as a show of force, knowing that that would turn people against them. But they would do things like divert rivers to withhold water from cities under siege, and create landslides to stall enemy movements and block access to resources. Clever and with the resources to back it up, not mind-numbingly-stupid-but-powerful.

I don't want the main character and the main enemy to be the only 'forces' in the world either. There should be other 'players' on the chess-board, so to speak, who have their own motives and you encounter. You may be indifferent to them, you may be of use to them, or you may be in their way. Never is there just one or two people struggling for power. Never is there just one organization in the world.

You, as a player, might not care about these other forces, but they should be there in subtle ways. Not stereotypically controlling and manipulating you, but you should stumble across them while trying to accomplish whatever your goals are, and acknowledge their presence, even if they have no relevance to the primary goals, and even if they don't attack you, and don't need your services.
They should just be there, just as you are just there, and your enemy is just there. The world is not full of millions of nobodies and only 2 people of importance.

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Original post by Cpt Mothballs
Why are we doing this exercise when clearly, the responsibility of a game for writers is squarely on the storyline and actual game content.
As a scribbler (I'm not a writer, nobody can read my writing), I'd have to say that I don't want to play amazing story based games if their settings and their content (aside from the story) suck.
I'd rather just go watch a movie rather than sympathise with a character that is dealing with issues I don't understand, or play a game that's only saving grace is it's story (I'm looking at you Force Unleashed).


Think of this thread as a survey; imagine I was designing an interactive story and I wanted there to be a character, setting, plot that every audience segment would love. You being one of the audience segments. I want to know what kind of character you would really sympathize with, what issues they could be dealing with that would really catch your interest and seem important and meaningful to you.

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I don't dream of living any kind of game story and I don't believe most people do either. To me, the question is not the right one to be asking frankly.

I never dreamed of playing as a gangster, but Vice City showed me it could be fun.

I never dreamed of playing as a scientist who has to kill aliens and commandos, but Half Life showed me it could be fun.

I never dreamed of playing as an Imperial fighter pilot, but Tie Fighter showed me it could be fun.

A good writer / designer can make a player fall into a "role" and enjoy themselves whether they would like that character if they met them on the street in real life or not. The key to doing this successfully is as I talked about.

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