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Nich

How to handle multiple "views" of a story

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For the game I'm designing, I would like to have two parallel stories, one for evil and one for good. Certain quests would allow you to switch which path you're on at a given point in the game. I would preferably like to have all events happen along the same timeline, so if a player plays through the evil story, and then plays through the good story, s/he gets a feeling of "ooh, so that's why that happened". The problem I'm dealing with is how to keep it so the player feels like their actions have consequences. I don't have anything written yet, but I'll make something up to demonstrate what I mean. In the light story, the player infiltrates a complex, disrupting the enemy's secret plan to take over the world. Now, in the dark story, that still needs to happen for the timeline to be correct. That means that someone playing the dark story can never win. In Sonic adventure 2 battle, they did something very similar, but they just made it so that even when the dark story "wins", everything just goes on as normal (You defeat the good guys, but then don't do anything, and then they thwart your plans anyways). I personally found this unsatisfying, and I would like to try to avoid this in my approach. To avoid this, I see two options: - Make a defined chain of events, force the player to lose sometimes, but try to keep it even. - Keep the stories partially separate. If the dark story is winning, play out that scenario. I'd like to do option two, but I'm worried about the branching factor if I let the two stories diverge too much. I guess my question is: How do you handle multiple views of the same story, while allowing for players on both sides to feel like they accomplished something?

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I'm having the same problem with a game I'm making.

A major difference is that I don't have "good" and "bad". From each stories point of view both sides are good. The major difference is philosophy. The "bad" side merely believes the ends justify the means.

The way I had the problem is that the "bad" side had ulterior motives, and the forces the player controls were using the "take over the world" plan as a distraction to get what they needed.

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I had thought of something similar, simply having each plan that either side comes up with have a contingency that causes the same results no matter who wins, but I'm really worried it will end up feeling contrived, and since the story is one of the major parts of my game, I want to do it properly.

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I think the obstacle that's holding you back is the fact that it's the same story. The beginning can start off the same, sure, but if you want the player to feel like they're actually affecting the story, I believe you need to have some branching. Take a look at Fable 2 for instance:

In the beginning one of your goals is to collect arrest warrants for a guard. Once you collect all of them, you get an offer from a member of this criminal organization to buy the warrants from you. If you give the warrants to the guard, that part of the town later on will thrive. If you give the warrants to the criminal, that section will become a dump, lawless and poor.

While it doesn't affect the main story of Fable 2, it gives an example of how branching works and lets the player feel like their actions really do mean something. Hope this helps a bit :D

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I'm worried about having to write several dozen short stories as apposed to one really good story in that case :). I agree though, it would be ridiculously hard to have a story with meaningful choices, while avoiding changing the outcome whenever possible. I do think it's possible, but it would involve writing the story so that the player expects the outcome you've selected. Really though, the only way to have meaningful choices is to adapt the game to those choices.

I guess I'll change my question then: In a game with more then one story, can you think of any techniques to switch which path the character is on? Would there be any considerations I should make while writing both stories?

An example of a consideration would be no one can die before their role in either plot. This would cause switching issues, as any scenes involving that character couldn't happen.

An example of a technique to switch plots would be if in one quest you insult a particular person, include a quest to make amends.

I'm interested in seeing if you can come up with ways I haven't thought of, this has been bugging me for a while :).

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The first idea that comes to mind is definitely a flow chart. Figure out where you want the player to make their decision, and have the story react to it. This will give you a nice visual representation of how your story can web out into different scenes and how they can connect back together.

If you don't want a bunch of short stories, perhaps you can stick with two or three major storylines, the extreme good, the extreme evil, and maybe a neutral storyline. Your player could start out in the neutral storyline, and each "chapter" you could give him the choice of making the good decision, evil decision, or still walk that middle road.

In game, you could perhaps keep track of how evil or good someone is, and not transfer the storyline over to the other side until he does the required amount of (insert alignment here) deeds.

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I was playing The Witcher recently, and it has many of these kinds of choices that influence the game world but don't influence the outcome. Some are even part of the main story to some extent. What's interesting is that they are all different kinds of evil. For instance, early on you can join a mob of villagers in lynching a witch or protect the witch and thereby having to slaughter the whole mob. Later on, you have a choice of remaining neutral or aligning yourself with one of two warring organizations (kind of like what DavidNeal describes). If you helped one of the organizations at certain points before the final choice, you won't be able to join the other. Your choice has an effect on the outcome of some small events (a bank robbery spanning a single quest) and much larger events (an armed uprising spanning a whole chapter), as well as on what dialogue you will see, which people will like you and/or talk to you, which merchants will trade with you, which NPCs will fight together with you, what quests you will get, and even which NPCs you can sleep with(!), but the ending is still the same.

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That last is kind of what I'm going for. I don't know if I want a neutral story, as it would be hard to make it engaging, but I'm definitely pro having only certain things available to either side. I would like for the player to be able to switch sides between chapters so to speak, but I'm not completely opposed to creating "points of no return", especially near the end where I can cleanly say that the player has chosen path B rather then path A. Alternatively, I could make them choose a path at the beginning and stick with it, but in that case I might as well just make two games :).

What makes an engaging good story? I often find myself wishing I could be a little bit more evil in games that force me to be good (why am I walking into this obvious trap to save the city? Things like that). Right now I have a million ideas on a good evil story, but not so much for the evil story. Bad characters just seem much more interesting :).


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Personally, I've always enjoyed the stories where the good guys are emotionally torn with the decisions they make. Blurring the moral line in stories has always been fun for me. Let's look at a scenario from the first Spiderman movie.

The green goblin gives Spiderman a choice whether to save a bus-load of kids or Mary Jane. His idea is that Spiderman will only be able to save one. In the movie he managed to save both, but just imagine if he could only save one. What choice would he make, his love or the kids? Each choice has a devestating consequence, but gives more depth to the main character.

Things like this could definitely fit in with your game as well, seeing as how it's all about making good and bad choices.

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If you do wish to go wish the first option: "make a defined chain of events, force the player to lose sometimes, but try to keep it even", you could still manage to make it so that the player always has a victory, although so does the opposing side, but possibly on another area the player wasn't dealing with in his/her mission.


For example, let's say that a game had two sides: the international security; and a terrorist organization.

Initially, the player could choose which team they join, and let's say the player may change sides around the start of each chapter.

For the player's first mission, if they are playing as the international security team, they could clean up an old situation from a previous minor terrorist attack or whatever which started previous to the game's time. This chapter's gameplay would end with the player being victorious in defeating the threat, but after that, a cut-scene would commence where there is news of a new threat: a new terrorist organization which just acquired nukes or something. If the player played as the terrorists however, then he/she would have done a mission to assist this new terrorist organization obtaining the nukes.

Then, early in the 2nd chapter, the player could switch sides, and each side would have a different core objective. Maybe the terrorists wish to acquire ransom while the international security wish to disarm the nukes. By the end of the chapter, both happen, but the player would be working on the victory of his/her side rather than the area in which their side "loses".

The next chapter could then be about the terrorists doing a counter attack, but since you wish for your plot to be "good" vs "evil", it could turn out that the international security team were corrupt all along, and if the player continues the "good" path, they would leave the international security team and join a new organization or whatever allowing the terrorists to take out the international security team or whatever.

And etc.

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TRY THIS:
write the story in the first person from a secondary character point of view , a character that "witnesses" both main characters.

I've written a quite long story some time ago called : "The factory of dreams" where there are four main characters, and each of them tells the same story in first person and it came out very nice (as other people appreciated it).

so build the story told by a secondary (dummy) character in first person.
Then approach the game from the third person as the secondary character tells about the others. It's better like this, because if you only have one narrator that is a witness of the storyline, he can be in only one place once,if you build it directly from the third person view you will tend to create an omniscient narrator and parallel plans, witch you do not want, as the player is just one, and can only be in one place at once.

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