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Durakken

Side-story episodic content

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Let's see if I explain what I'm talking about without giving too much away so that I can ask the question I want to ask...

 

I'm making a game built around the idea of more of a tv series, in particular a sci-fi series. I have a main story, but in sci-fi shows you generally don't have every episode focusing completely on the main story or even that there would be a main story... For example Star Trek TOS/TNG has no main story. Many Farscape episodes don't really progress the story forward for the first and last eps of a season and ST:DS9 would often have eps that have nothing to do with the main story just for fun.

 

I think that those are great. Part of the fun of sci-fi is exploring with these. The problem is incorporating it into a game. I feel like having them might be problematic and a rip off too as it seems like those episodes would have less game play or feel like it might be more running around doing things people would find boring.

 

Another, similar thing, I'm finding it hard to not feel repetitive as with each "episode" there has to be game play and story where you might want to just explore or have fun, but it seems like having full episodes or just a huge amount of time where the story isn't progressing which seems to be unusual for a game and thus might not be acceptable.

 

So to trying to sum up...

What do you think of non-main storyline related content in episodic games (which, in the way I'm talking about don't really exist yet >.>)? How do you incorporate this stuff...should I even try, given the medium?

 

I hope I've been clear enough to give you an idea of what I need help with...

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The whole purpose on episodes that you can miss 1 or more episodes and still can watch the rest, so it's extremelly valuable for TV series. It makes not that much of a sense/is not needed for games (players can play first 1, then 2, then 3 and so on).

 

Plus, I think a more connected story (like in Babylon 5) is better than those random episodes of StarTrek (if you watch them in the proper order and whenever you desire).

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I'm not sure whether I agree with you or not. Part of the perks of those unconnected stories is exploring concepts you'd otherwise ignore or characters that wouldn't get as much development as they would otherwise.

 

Though, thinking about it, I suppose my problem is coming from the idea of following a main character where as in sci-fi tv shows they often follow other characters for an ep or two sometimes. But there again, I'm not so sure how that would play with the gaming audience.

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I don't think incorporating non-main storyline content will be as problematic as you expect. Honestly, your description brings the concept of side quests to mind--and I know for a fact that most gamers would not mind these at all as long as they can gain something from it. For example, an item, equipment, that extra character development, or something else they would not otherwise have gotten.

 

But I take it these fillers are not optional in your game? You did mention that it's episodic. Either way, just make sure the players are getting something meaningful and interesting from these extra episodes, and you shouldn't have many problems with boredom. Episodes that are not tied to the main story often include some level of character development in place of story progression.

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The best way to describe what I'm thinking is a tv series, but a game. My current thinking is that you must play through each episode to get to the next. I suppose I could make it so that that isn't the case but it would destroy the ability to carry over any character progression for the player. So let's say you play episode 3 and earn $1000 then you want to jump back to ep1 if you still had that $1000 it would be silly. So that concept would have to be thrown out...

 

If I can figure a way to do it I plan on releasing episodes for $1 each or some seasonal value once the entire season is all out. So the idea that there is suddenly an episode that is equivalent to what is called a no money episode that happen in Sci-fi series. Some of those episodes are really good, but not all of them, and some people, no matter how good they are, hate them.

 

So... it seems problematic to me to have an episode that has very little actual game play which creates this repetitive feel I'm noticing and a limiting factor of what I'm thinking in how to progress the story, because from a player perspective I think I might feel a bit ripped off if I paid for something, even if it is just a $1, and it turns out to be a long sequence of quick times or just going around talking to NPCs or something like that... That means that every episode has to have some sort of mission involved which doesn't quite fit always.

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I don't think I understand the context and constraints. It sounds like you were trying to copy a model and you see the shortcomings. If you could list your objectives then a structure can be designed that does not have those shortcomings. You could breakdown the options you have and pick the ones that make the most sense.

 

Context:

Suppose you have already release a game with a main story, that goes from Episode 1 to Episode 12, and you want to add an Episode that would have been Episode 6.5 in the plot. How would you provide Episode 6.5?

 

Availability:

a) Make it available to players who have completed Episode 6.

b) Make it available to players who have completed the main story (Episode 12)

c) Others...

 

Main Plot Indication:

a) For each episode that would not move the main plot forward, indicate them for the player so that the player might skip them.

b) Do not indicate that the episode is outside the main plot, let the player figure it out himself, or assume that the player does not care.

c) Make the non-main plot episode "special" in that the player must do something effortful or intentional to unlock.

d) Others...

 

Episode Initiation (What is available to the player when they start the special episode):

a) Restrict the player to use what was available them him when they have completed the previous episode in the plot.

b) Detach the episode from the plot so that the player could enter the episode with whatever he currently has and it would still make sense.

c) Make the special episode stand-alone and uses new/side characters that are not part of the main plot.

d) Others...

 

Episode Effects:

a) When the player completes the special episode, let the player continue by branching off.

b) When the player completes the special episode, give the player something that he could optionally use.

c) There is no effect whatsoever. The special episode is just for fun.

d) The effect of the special episode was assumed. Even if the episode was skipped, the main plot assumes that the character had already gone through that. The characters might mention what happened in that episode (e.g. "Remember that time we...?" "Let's Not talk about it..." / "No Way! that was not what happened!" ). The main plot advertises about the special episode and the player plays it to see what happened.

e) Others...

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Hmm, taking Star Trek as an example, one approach that might work:

  • Episodes can mostly be done in any order. Think how many Star Trek episodes have no causal connection.
  • However a few secret episodes may be unlocked by completing another episode if the content is tightly coupled.
  • Which episodes you completed and how you completed them affects how your crew and outsiders that you meet view you, which may make certain outcomes easier/harder to get. Multiple axes could be used, e.g. lawful/unlawful, peaceful/warlike, authority/freedom, capitalist/socialist, etc.
  • If you treat a crew member badly they may be less helpful, get demoted, be replaced or even die on a mission.

That would sort of tie the consequences of episodes in, plus all the goodies that players like such as achievements, nice weapons and pretty hats. ;)

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Perhaps I wasn't clear about what it is that is quite the problem that I'm talking about.

It's more about the fact that let's say you get to episode 5, and then episode 6 isn't directly to do with main storyline. I think as a player I might feel a bit ripped off.

Not that there are say 12 episodes in the season and then a 6.5. Or something like that.

Nor is it a "sidequest" but a self contained story, like the Tribble episodes in Trek. They are never part of the main story, but their own little story.

 

I like the idea of marking it out and making it so it is skipable, but having it called out. I'd also make it so if you do skip it you can't go back and play it later though...because they are supposed to happen at a specific point in the timeline.

 

jefferytitan, I think that could very well work if I didn't have a story in mind at all and I might use it later, but for the specific thing I'm dealing with there is a story through line where that wouldn't make sense to do at the current point. Maybe when I switch to that format more I should change the subtitle ^.^

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There shouldn't be any irrelevant content in a planned story arc especially when you're working with limited resources. Plenty of series in tv or anime have self contained episodes and you can as well but they shouldn't be episode 6.5 it should be episode 7.  Give the player a break from the main story to go on the side adventure but also use it further develop other aspects like the characters, or seed in a few ideas that will be important later on.  

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You want the stand-alone episode to exist at that point in the plot for some reason. If you could somehow communicate that reason to the player or make the player feel the same by the end of episode 5, then they will also want that stand-alone episode. So you need to somehow engineer the expectation of the player so that they want it when it comes.

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