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Wavinator

Making backstory REALLY count

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What are some ways of fully expressing backstory in-game? Most games I''ve played have all but the flimiest of backstory. Four groups are at war... (common RTS story-line). Aliens are invading and must be killed... (just about every sci-fi shooter in existence). You are the chosen one sent to find the Magical Doodad that will stop Evil Foozle from taking over the realm... (countless fantasy cRPGs) Except as a starting point for storyline, which is expressed in missions or quests, backstory seems to see little expression in-game. But even clever backstory, as with the old game Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, (which detailed the rise of the authoritarian Hegemony, who proclaimed that the teaching of history was "child abuse") seems pointless if all you do is kill troopers. What does it really matter if King Leoric''s son was captured, or that Wirt was tortured by demons (Diablo)? It all seems meaningless and intangible, probably because backstory is rarely useful in any impactful way. But what are some ways to make backstory mean something? One way I was thinking of was that change should be fundamentally imbedded in backstory. If the history of the game world sports some kind of revolution, then players should be able to fundamentally alter that revolution, maybe by upholding it, or subverting it, or just interacting with the revolutionaries. If not, then it''s just another "ho-hum" piece of backstory. It''s meaningless, maybe in the same way that greater world events are meaningless to most people... because it has little impact on their daily lives. Thoughts? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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I think you need more game mechanisms tied to the setting and backstory.

If the backstory details a culture which revolves around poison (the Sarkoy) than there needs to be more tie-ins with poison and gameplay. You can be poisoned by an assasin, or by what you eat, or you may employ various methods to poison others, which invloves knowledge of techniques, and special devices.

Each salient aspect of the backstory needs game mechanisms which enable one to live, play, or experience those elements. Even if the backstory is primarily historical, it still sets the stage for the current locale, its culture, architecture, technology, beliefs, and so on.

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I''m sure most people implement backstory as a Necessity...well, I wann make a game where I shoot stuff, so I need to justify it somehow, yeah some story or the other.
Backstory should not just tie in with the game, it should -create- the game. If you want to understand the level with which backstory can submerse people into a world, read the Dune Series by Frank Herbert. The universe is justified with an agonizing amount of history, and that is precisely why you''ll be inclined to read all six books.
Politics, technology, revolutions..religion, feuds, wars...one can really create an impressive universe to set a game in if you think about it long enough.

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You could make the backstory info important to the player playing the game. For example, part of the story could be that the invading aliens come from a desert planet and are scared of water. While they''re chasing the player, he sees two options, a river and a forest. If he knows the backstory, he''s more likely to make the best choice.

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Omnipotent_Q
"Natural Gas! It gives you... ideas!"

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IMHO the backstory has to have an influence on the game to make it meaningful. This goes beyond the character skills available or considering how a NPC would react.

" What does it really matter if King Leoric''s son was captured, or that Wirt was tortured by demons (Diablo)?"

Let''s look at this bit. In Diablo the story really doesn''t matter. It just provides an excuse to hack your way to the lowest dungeon to kill D.

However, suppose that the game is a quest to rescue the son - instead of killing D then the whole nature of the game changes. It might not be enough to just kill monsters, you need to locate the son, bribe guards, plan an escape etc... Thus the story, played out properly, creates a wholly different game.

Wirt is tortured by demons. Wirt had knowledge of the rescue party''s plans - or a secret passage they might use. The demons gain that knowledge. Thus the torture of Wirt affects the game. Presumably in this aspect the player - proceeding down the secret passage - is suddenly ambushed by demons who know that he will use the passage as a result of Wirt''s info.

So an RPG that has an effective backstory that is used by the designer to stimulat gameplay is going to me much better than one that just uses the backstory to justify hackin an slashin.

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