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thk123

Lots of small stories

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Most games we play today that have a story, tend to have one large overarching plot where the conclusion marks the end of the game, or at least the main component of it. My question is, how come we don't see any (or at least, more) games that have lots of short stories? At first, I thought it might be because the player would become detached from the characters. However, I don't think this would actually be a problem, as it could be the same set of characters, just separated by a small periods of time doing different things. I could picture a Robin Hood type gang, or a crew on a pirate ship run by Sparrow or something. I suppose most RPG's do the whole short story thing with side quests that are self contained stories. However, they are never the central story. I also don't think it would be just be a change for the sake of change, but comes with a bunch of advantages over the traditional single story set up. The stories could be more diverse and each one more focused. Instead having to bring them all under a unifying banner of "defeating the evil person", each can have more unique goals. It would be conceivable that one story may take you to a mysterious island to find a hidden treasure, then, upon completion, the game world would advance and your next story would be about rescuing a child from the clutches of someone evil. They could more reasonably take you to more diverse locations without having to fill in the gaps, both geologically and narratively, between them. It would be easy to add and remove characters and game play mechanics. I also think it would create deeper ties with the universe as it wouldn't feel like a once off. Finally, it would become more easy to design compelling quests. As the stories would be short, they would not require quests that are designed simply to advance the story. In fact, the stories could be written to allow for different quests. In how many open world RPG's are the main story quests better than the side ones? My favourite quest I have ever done was an obscure quest on Oblivion for some demon where I had to steal some cheese, to attract some rats to the city. Then, I had to round up the poison to give to the sheep, at the end, raining dogs fell out of the sky.
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Discrete Plots vs Overarching Plot

Re: Real life balance in the length of plot

The audience expects it because real life is often lacks a series of efforts leading to a satisfying closure. Therefore games (and movies, etc.) fills this gap in experience. On the other hand, if the audience is already involved in these grand achievements in real life they would enjoy small, discrete stories just as well.


Re: The hook of a story

An interaction that suggest to the player toward a rare experience that the player finds safe to explore entices a player. This statement is wordy and it does not describe the only way to do it, but it provides some practical meaning on how to design a hook. A set of short, discrete stories can have these hooks. So if the game has an opportunity to interact with the player, the game does not need an overarching plot. As an analogy, once the player had entered a carnival, the individual booths could be discrete and each one hooks the visitor with a different rare experience. But this does not guarantee that the potential visitor would enter the carnival in the first place. For example, the visitor could have chose to spend the whole day hiking.

You can see that the two types of audience are looking for very different things. It depends on whether the audience already has an experience they expect to gain. People looking for an epic experience would not pick to play a party game, or a game that advertises discrete short stories.

But on the hiking trail, you could still hook the hiker to additional unexpected rare adventures. You could possibly present the trail to attract both types of visitors. That could be how you present the game without changing the design: To the casual players, the game is a series of discrete stories; to the committed or informed players the game has an enticing overall story where the components are the discrete stories. In this case you design one game, but introduce it from two perspectives depending on the audience.


Episodic Design:

The way I have been doing is to divide the story into standalone episodes. Design the game like webcomic strips so that the a player could stumple to the game at any episode, understand that episode, and plays only that episode. If the player is interested in the theme, the player would hit the prev/next button to explore other episodes. The point is that the player does not need to start from Episode 1 to get some enjoyable experience, but once the player has started playing, the player is more likely to want to know the entire sequence to experience the overall plot.
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There are a couple games out there that do something like this. Mother 3 is the first one that comes to mind. The game is split into multiple chapters with each of the early chapters mainly focusing on one character.
Eventually through a series of events the characters cross paths and each players individual story becomes one group story.

I imagine one could attempt a game similar to the 'Lost' formula as well. A series of individual flashbacks created for character development that the player could progress through.
The important thing to remember to really draw players in each individual story much connect to each other in some way.
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Quote:
Original post by bakanoodle
There are a couple games out there that do something like this. Mother 3 is the first one that comes to mind. The game is split into multiple chapters with each of the early chapters mainly focusing on one character.
Eventually through a series of events the characters cross paths and each players individual story becomes one group story.

I imagine one could attempt a game similar to the 'Lost' formula as well. A series of individual flashbacks created for character development that the player could progress through.
The important thing to remember to really draw players in each individual story much connect to each other in some way.


I suppose that was my question, do they have to connect to draw the player in? I guess continuing characters would be the connection in my example, so I agree. In your opinion, if the stories never had any impact on each other, just used the same characters, would that be enough of a connection to draw the player in?
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Re:

That is the episodic format and it works. Examples are sitcom episodes or the Simpsons, serialized drama, manga and games. Imagine a game where you play 'Survival Man' and in each episode, you play to survive in an environment, and the game introduces you to the environment telling you what it has and how it was discovered.

Each episode is designed to be enjoyable on its own. The first time the viewer encounters an episode, the viewer does not need to know which characters are the core group but they are usually identifiable.

The advantages that you have described are also the reasons that I used this format. In the design, the gameplay of each episode need not be the same. In fact you need almost nothing in common about the episode. For instance, you could do it so that only the name of the game is the same, only the gameplay is the same, or only that they all happen in the same game world, but none of the characters re-appear. In the extreme, the mere fact that you or your studio is the creator of those games would make the set have a binding effect.

It seems that only matter is of presenting the set as a set. There is no design requirement about the components as long as the identity of the set is established and the player can perceive the collection of games as a set.


This type of designs do not normally have closure, although each episode could have its own closure (They are not designed to be trilogies.) Closure is not necessary. It is something you could intentionally omit, but at the same time driving away some audience as previously explained. But you don't need them if it is not targeted to them.
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