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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?

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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.
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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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Original post by sunandshadow
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I want to know what kind of character you would really empathize with
A character that is well written.

A post that says nothing.


Actually he's saying that if the character is well written and the intent is for the player to empathize with them, then the player WILL EMPATHIZE WITH THEM if that character is well written.

Good writing involves pulling on the emotional strings of audience and orchestrating the response in them that you want to achieve. There are movies where you hate the villain and others where you feel sorry for them... and whichever way you do end up feeling is usually by design of the writer/director.

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Original post by Hypnotron
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.


You don't even think to yourself, "Gee I'd like to play another game with a story like Game X." or "I'd like to play Novel Y as a game." or "Cool minor character Z was underused, I want to play a game where he's the main character." or even better "I'd like to play the main character from Game A with the love interest from Game B, the setting from Game C, and the plot from Game D." Or maybe you pick up a game and read the back, "Oh in this game the main character is a spy, do I want to be a spy?"

(I find it baffling why anyone would want to write a game story if they didn't think this type of thing.)

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Original post by sunandshadow
I want to know what kind of character you would really empathize with
A character that is well written.

A post that says nothing.


Actually he's saying that if the character is well written and the intent is for the player to empathize with them, then the player WILL EMPATHIZE WITH THEM if that character is well written.

Good writing involves pulling on the emotional strings of audience and orchestrating the response in them that you want to achieve. There are movies where you hate the villain and others where you feel sorry for them... and whichever way you do end up feeling is usually by design of the writer/director.

It doesn't matter how well-written the character is if you don't like the concept of the game enough to play it (if you bought them purely according to their gameplay and without caring what the story was about I can only wonder why you would be in the writing forum), or if the character's basic design is alien or repulsive to you.

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It doesn't matter how well-written the character is if you don't like the concept of the game enough to play it (if you bought them purely according to their gameplay and without caring what the story was about I can only wonder why you would be in the writing forum), or if the character's basic design is alien or repulsive to you.


I thought I tackled this issue already. Games are games. About the only thing that's going to repulse me is a game that is intended to be used as right-wing propaganda, religious recruitment or the spreading of hate messages. Otherwise I'm happy to suspend disbelief and murder some strippers, shoot up a post office or bank, and do a drive by. Then I can turn around and play a cop/detective, a pirate, a space captain, whatever.

What I'm trying to convey is that when it comes to characters and stories in games, I personally think that the basic plot and characters are the least important. What's important is making these characters "jump off the screen" and seem natural. What's important are the details involved in the execution of the scenes, the scripts, the level designs, etc. The believability, naturalness, of characters is more important than who they are or what their background is.

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I want to know what kind of character you would really empathize with
A character that is well written.
A post that says nothing.
That's not true.

Find out what genre you are going write, find out as much as you can about the expectations and tropes that the fans of the genre want, and then write a good, believable main character.

I don't care who the character is, what they do for a living, their gender, their race, or any of those superficial details. Write them well and give them interesting, meaningful interactions with the story world.

That's all.

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Re:

This is how I read your prompt:

"Imagine that you are about you start a game and you are creating your character. Suppose I give you the liberty that the gameplay could be whatever you happen to be imagining, then: 1) Who would you want to be in the gameworld? 2) Who would you want to interact with in the gameworld?"

1) I am engaged with my current design so my answer is: I want to be a group of people of different age, gender, appearance, race, culture, job, personal goals cooperating in the same mission to take care of old, discarded, forgotten stuff.

2) I want to interact with old things in the gameworld, such as antiques, obsolete technologies, and old ways of life.

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It doesn't matter how well-written the character is if you don't like the concept of the game enough to play it (if you bought them purely according to their gameplay and without caring what the story was about I can only wonder why you would be in the writing forum), or if the character's basic design is alien or repulsive to you.


I thought I tackled this issue already. Games are games. About the only thing that's going to repulse me is a game that is intended to be used as right-wing propaganda, religious recruitment or the spreading of hate messages. Otherwise I'm happy to suspend disbelief and murder some strippers, shoot up a post office or bank, and do a drive by. Then I can turn around and play a cop/detective, a pirate, a space captain, whatever.

What I'm trying to convey is that when it comes to characters and stories in games, I personally think that the basic plot and characters are the least important. What's important is making these characters "jump off the screen" and seem natural. What's important are the details involved in the execution of the scenes, the scripts, the level designs, etc. The believability, naturalness, of characters is more important than who they are or what their background is.

Okay - it's interesting that you feel that way. I think your taste is fairly far toward the non-picky end of the spectrum, while mine is a lot more toward the picky end. Do you think it's a safe assumption that if I designed playable character options to please various types of picky people (of course trying to make the characters evoke empathy and be vivid and believable, because I think that's what a writer should strive for any time they create a main character) people who were less picky would find one or more of these playable characters pleasing? In other words if I please the picky people will the less picky ones automatically be pleased too?

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Original post by sunandshadow
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Original post by Daaark
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Original post by sunandshadow
I want to know what kind of character you would really empathize with
A character that is well written.
A post that says nothing.
That's not true.

Find out what genre you are going write, find out as much as you can about the expectations and tropes that the fans of the genre want, and then write a good, believable main character.

I don't care who the character is, what they do for a living, their gender, their race, or any of those superficial details. Write them well and give them interesting, meaningful interactions with the story world.

That's all.


You think a goal of writing is to create something typical of the genre? To me that's kind of a disturbingly commercial view. Personally my goal would be kind of the opposite - although it's important to be true to the heart of your genre, I think at the same time you really have to do something new with that genre that surprises its fans.

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Original post by Wai
Re:

This is how I read your prompt:

"Imagine that you are about you start a game and you are creating your character. Suppose I give you the liberty that the gameplay could be whatever you happen to be imagining, then: 1) Who would you want to be in the gameworld? 2) Who would you want to interact with in the gameworld?"

1) I am engaged with my current design so my answer is: I want to be a group of people of different age, gender, appearance, race, culture, job, personal goals cooperating in the same mission to take care of old, discarded, forgotten stuff.

2) I want to interact with old things in the gameworld, such as antiques, obsolete technologies, and old ways of life.


Yep, that's a good interpretation of my prompt. Would you want the group of people to represent anything (for example a cross-section of society illustrating some problem of that society), or have any particular relationship between them?

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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.


You can't. For every violence loving man, there's a pre-menopausal woman.
And, let's face it, you can't make a game that pleases both.

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Original post by sunandshadow
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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.


You can't. For every violence loving man, there's a pre-menopausal woman.
And, let's face it, you can't make a game that pleases both.

Even if it's an interactive story game where the player chooses who to be and what kind of story to live? Practically, I agree that you can't please everyone, but in theory everyone who would play an interactive story game at all would have some identities and roles that would appeal to them, so taking a survey of what identities and roles everyone finds appealing ought to suggest some playable character options and plot paths an interactive story game could have, such that diverse audience members would all enjoy at least one. It's the same basic idea as designing class and race options for an MMO or courtable NPCs for a dating sim.

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How about just giving everyone the choice of character, including backstory and personal goals, then making the story something that doesn't focus on the characters directly?

That way, you're making a game for writers and a game for gamers.

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Original post by sunandshadow
You think a goal of writing is to create something typical of the genre? To me that's kind of a disturbingly commercial view.
Yes. If you stray too far, you will not live up to fan expectations, and will do poorly financially because you turned off the target audience.

By trying to please everyone, you please no one.

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