Help With Story-Driven Game Concept

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I'm very much a beginner when it comes to game development. I'm merely trying to come up with a concept at this point for a project later in life. I would like constructed input, opinions, and criticism that will help me fix things wrong with my concept in mind.

I've loved story-driven games, and have always thought about making one. I'm not the most colourful crayon in the box, so I find it difficult to come up with appealing storylines that are well designed for a video game and not a written novel. I've came up with several story concepts that I feel may be suitable for games, but for this thread, I'll only explain 1. Please respond with things that I should add, remove, or fix.

I want this to be a story-based game, obviously. I'm not sure if I want to create a game that looks like an old-school RPG game, a 2D sidescroller, a click-to-select, or any other media I happen to think of. I feel it wouldn't be good to make it a first-person perspective game, because that is usually used for gameplay purposes in survival games, shooters, and other games including first-person fighting, which,  being a story-driven game, this concept does not have.

The protagonist is this kid that's around 20 years old that has seemingly dropped out of high school before the game's story takes place. Despite this, he's intelligent and classy, and is able to live comfortably in his own apartment; he even has his own job at a nearby bookstore, where he makes decent money. You figure this all out around the time you begin playing. After a while you notice that the protagonist is dealing with strong grief and sadness; could this be the reason he dropped out? But, what could it be?

This idea begins to grow itself into the player, but, as the player continues playing normally- meeting some of the protagonist's old friends, learning more about them- they begin to forget about the protagonist's depressed state. This is then brought back after a while of exploring the town and coming back to your apartment to rest. After doing so, the player is dropped into this "dream" first appearing to be your normal residence, but slowly becomes distorted over a few minutes until you realize where you are. You can't seem to wake up. This can be done a few sections later when you receive a necklace given to you by a dubbed "imaginary friend" from your childhood that appears in the dream. You can use this to your advantage if you need something to complete an area that is in the real world, shop for new items, or complete a day of work at the bookshop in exchange for currency. Doing so can and will affect the way you perceive the dream world; dreams are never the exact same. Enemies can become more difficult, an area can become more distorted, dialogue may change, tiles may switch, and you may lose or receive items. The amount of times you transfer between realms will affect the outcome towards the end; not by a lot. Only things such as dialogue, characters, and the attitude that characters have toward you will change.

The game will consist of a tutorial character that is seemingly a normal-looking person. Of course, since the world becomes more distorted throughout the dream, the leading characters/bosses will also become more and more bizarre and hostile-seeming throughout the areas leading up to the end of the game, where you discover the true background of the protagonist and the reality of the real world; the character was born with a mental illness that allows them to create a different 'world' to cope with trauma, and has morphed the real world into their own perception of a normal life, where they only have to deal with the grief hinted at towards the beginning of the game (the death of their mother). Though reality is actually very terrible; they realizes that the world is filled with horrible death, destruction, and peril that is not only being dealt with by them. This realization causes them to revert their perception or the real world back to this insane nuclear wasteland full of sorrow. They can't find any of their "friends" and can't go back to the dream world, because none of them were real; they were made up by them to cope with their mother's passing. The wasteland is also a perception by him, but it's much more realistic, figuratively speaking. The message from this is that no matter what your issue is, almost everyone else has, is, and will deal with the exact same thing that you are. There is so much bad in the world, so much death, and so many horrible things that you don't notice. So, you need to stop wallowing in self-pity and fix it yourself, because no one else is going to. They have their own problems to deal with.

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Well um first off why would the chracter want a world where he'd have to fight

Usually they do the opposite of whats happening in real life.

If one is weak, they dream of becoming strong

If one lost a loved one, they dream about being reunited with them

So if they did think the world was so bad, he'd want to imagine a world which is peaceful, maybe even cause of him

A good example is catherine where the player character uses dreams to escape from his problem by running away

So I'd think instead of changing landscape make it two different narratives

One in his head and another in real life

Thats all uh so hoped you find my opinion useful

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Hi,

On 1/29/2018 at 9:50 PM, Lumberjack RPG Development said:

I find it difficult to come up with appealing storylines that are well designed for a video game and not a written novel.

That fact that you're differentiating between video games and written novels already puts you ahead of many writers.

Sid Meier said "a game is a series of meaningful choices." In other words, your story (the kid, the dreams) are only important insofar as they support the player's story, which are the choices that the player makes. Can you refine your synopsis to focus more on the player's choices? For example, can you cut some of the set piece descriptions and provide more details on how the player's actions in the real world affect the dream worlds, and vice versa?

Theme is also important, and you're starting to develop one, but I think you could go bolder with it. But keep in mind that players will also find their own meaning (as you can't ram theme down players' throats), so you'll want the game to support that.

On 1/29/2018 at 9:50 PM, Lumberjack RPG Development said:

I feel it wouldn't be good to make it a first-person perspective game, because that is usually used for gameplay purposes in survival games, shooters, and other games including first-person fighting, which,  being a story-driven game, this concept does not have.

Another good choice. You may have noticed that in first-person games the story is about the world, since you don't even see the protagonist. Games with character-based stories usually pull the camera back to third-person so you can see the main character.

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On 30-1-2018 at 3:50 AM, Lumberjack RPG Development said:

I feel it wouldn't be good to make it a first-person perspective game, because that is usually used for gameplay purposes in survival games, shooters, and other games including first-person fighting, which,  being a story-driven game, this concept does not have.

I wasn't gonna respond as most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing myself, but Tony Li's reply above made me wanna say something. While I agree with him on the third person thing, as I get more easily attached to my character if I can see "me", there is one gi-mongus exception to this. I'm speaking for myself, mind you.

Firewatch. Try it if you haven't. It's first person, but I don't believe I've ever been more interested in characters as I have been in that. To say much more about it would be at least a minor spoiler, but the reason I bring up the game is that it's completely story driven and in first person. Let me just leave it at that it had me so enthralled I forfeit a night just so I could play it head to tail.

Anyway, sorry I can't be more helpful.

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Very true. Great game. There'll always be exceptions. I didn't mean to imply any hard-and-fast rules.

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I think you have a pretty strong theme to work with and overall storyline. I think in terms of figuring out the nuances and story beats, motifs, etc. you can do that by starting to write a script - start at a point that draws your interest, write the scene and how it plays out. A game isn't going to be as linear as a script, but you can kinda figure out things like main story beats, get an idea of the pacing, and how the "side-quests" or the more freeform activity the player does will fit into the themes, etc. As for gameplay I think it's a good idea to think about what best helps reinforce the games themes and motifs, e.g. a point and click can feel more deliberate and contemplative, parhaps fitting into themes of mystery and problem-solving, RPGs are generally about characters, personal identity, empowerment, etc. Of course you can invent a new kind of gameplay. I'd also think in terms of what you would find enjoyable to play.

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