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Rev6Studios

Linear Character Development or leave it to the gamer?

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Hey guys,

 

                 I have been wondering lately what the average "gamer's" view on this question is. What is more important or has a bigger draw these days? Completely compelling yet linear character development or do people enjoy having control and making their character who they want them to be? With that said in your opinion is there a way to accomplish both? Kind of hit a snag with exactly which pill I wish to swallow.Thanks for the input. -Ethan

 

www.rev6studios.com

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This really depends on the game play your story will accompany - in a typical first or third person shooter (think Halo or Call of Duty) it's not usually expected that the player will have a lot of control over how the character develops (other than perhaps choosing weapons or assigning some abilities), whilst in most role playing games (think Baldur's Gate or Fable) you would usually expect to have at least an influence.

What sort of game are you writing for?
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There are very few games that have high-quality interactive story mechanics that let a gamer develop their character _through_ the game, but I think that it's by far the best option.  If you're asking about non-interactive linear story vs. _no_ story, I personally think both of those are lousy.  Which one is less lousy would depend on the game's genre.  Tell us about your gameplay and we can recommend some mechanics.

Edited by sunandshadow
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I like this:

 

1. A fixed set of challenges where the player can choose the order and style of completing them. The goal is fixed. The backstory of the characters are fixed. The player chooses which characters may join, what to equip, and how they would resolve the conflict. The development of the characters do not affect the challenges.

 

 

I don't like these:

 

1. A fixed set of challenges with a fixed set of teammates, where at some point a teammate dies and there is no way to avoid because the plot is linear.

 

2. A discrete set of fixed challenges that are made available only if the player had made certain irreversible choices in a branching tree. For the player to play all challenges, the player cannot just start the game in a different role, but must save/load key decision points to get onto different story branches. If the player simply starts over, the player would have to go through the story tree again.

 

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I'd say it like this:

 

There is "free character development" and there is "do what you want to do".

 

Games like The Witcher encourage you to take your own path... As long its something the character in question would do. This allows for very fine grained differences in choices, and real paths from action to consequence.

 

You can't be a mage, nor a politician, nor a simple human. You're a witcher, more specifically, you're Geralt. You can do what Geralt can do, you can react how Geralt would react, and the world knows it, the world knows you're a witcher, the worlds knows you're not a politician, nor a mage, it certainly knows you're not a normal human, and treats you like what you are, Geralt, a mutant, a Witcher, in the middle of the human lands.

 

Elder Scrolls games (at least the latest 2) take a different path. You can do whatever you want, anytime. This often ends in varied actions (I can be a mage! Or a warrior! Or a warrior-mage! Or a stealthy illusionist specialized in single handed weapons and alchemy! and so on), but a path much less clear on the consequences side.

 

I've found that such liberty makes very hard for the world to react to the player. In TES the world doesn't cares about what you do, it doesn't matters where you come from, what have you done, who you are, what you're best at, what are you worst at, every single quest is made so anyone in any situation at any time can approach it, because the game makes it so anyone actually can be in any situation at any time, there are no restrictions.

 

Its really interesting since in Skyrim, you're in the middle of a war, waged for very controversial "black or white" things like religion, race, and nations. So you'd expect that if you are say, a Khajiit (cat human thing) or a High-Elf, your experience would be much different from say, starting as a Nord, or an Imperial. But it isn't, there is no difference beyond a few cues here and there. Maybe the occasional nord vendor will say "Oh, you're an elf", will they stop selling to you? Will they attack you? Will you get in prison? Nope, not at all. The most you will get is a frown, or a single speech line. The world still functions the same for you, no matter what you chose to be.

 

The game is so broad that every aspect of it can be approached for equivalently broad angles. So all the possible ways for "character development" end up in making no difference at all.

 

I think there is a middle point in here, and I think it can be achieved through consequences and restrictions. You're a mage? Well, you don't get to enter the warrior's guild, and some people will downright hate you and will refuse to give you quests if they have ones.

 

At the same time you have to compensate for that. No warriors guild? Well, there is a mages guild! And they have mages only quests, with contents that could only be done by mage characters. "Go clear the dungeon" ? That's not a quest for a mage, everybody can do that. Go and study this magical device? Use it to unseal some ancient enchantment? Now that's some mage stuff!

 

In that way you end up with, lets say, "windows". You can see the whole world, its still open, but you choose which window to look through to inspect the world. As Todd Hodward said (but didn't follow through in my opinion with TES games), you can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

 

In that way, choice will matter, what you do will matter, and there will be more clear paths to show that to the player.

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This really depends on the game play your story will accompany - in a typical first or third person shooter (think Halo or Call of Duty) it's not usually expected that the player will have a lot of control over how the character develops (other than perhaps choosing weapons or assigning some abilities), whilst in most role playing games (think Baldur's Gate or Fable) you would usually expect to have at least an influence.

What sort of game are you writing for?

The story itself is a rather captivating story when I was writing it I had an idea for where I wanted each character to go. I just don't know if allowing a person to control character growth and their personality would take away from the depth of the story. My concern is people will run with their own personalities and have conflicting storyline points for character growth later in the game. If that makes sense. It makes the writing for the game easier but loses the depth. I just cant help but think if there is a way to have both.

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There are very few games that have high-quality interactive story mechanics that let a gamer develop their character _through_ the game, but I think that it's by far the best option.  If you're asking about non-interactive linear story vs. _no_ story, I personally think both of those are lousy.  Which one is less lousy would depend on the game's genre.  Tell us about your gameplay and we can recommend some mechanics.

I suppose a good example would be games like mass effect, fable, dragon age. Etc. games that you do have an influence on your character. My concern and how the story line has been written each character has a "growth" persay. Imagine the character development/Story line captivation at some points of a game like "The Last of Us" mixed with a game like "Mass Effect". Is it possible to grasp the best of both worlds and allow control but still follow character development or does that throw it out of the window?

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