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Ketchaval

Episodic SCRIPTING of scenarios.

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Here is an idea that I want to present for discussion, (I originally saw it being kicked around in the 'propoganda' for the Cassandra project: truth at 30 fps _ as headed up by Kieron Gillen of PC Gamer Uk). The idea that if you make a game in episodes, then this allows the strong ideas and themes to be explored and that by having an episode that can be played through in one / two hours, that there can be (a three act structure) of the idea being set out, of the idea being explored, followed by a resolution where the problem is wrapped up and some of the consequences of the action are shown. (Ie. think of a StarTrek episode). Of course (say I) this approach to story-telling doesn't have to be limited to episodic games, as missions in games can be treated in the same way... although they may have over_arching elements that link them. [edited by - Ketchaval on May 6, 2002 12:53:44 PM]

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I think it''s a wonderful idea, for many reasons. It can reduce the expense of developing a game somewhat, since you can develop two or three short ''episodes'' (rather than one long 40+ hours game) and begin selling them as you continue developing new content. You can provide modding tools to the gamer community so people can make their own episodes. You can probably avoid some piracy issues as well...

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Not if the price for subsequent episodes is at the right price-point. For example, if I buy a game for $50 which comes with 10 2-hr episodes (the first 10 parts of a story arc), and then I can purchase additional episodes online for $7.50 a piece, if the game is good enough and the gamer community raves about it, I''ll probably go buy the original box for $50 and then gradually accumulate the other episodes to catch up with the story arc.

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Heh, my game project uses this exact same form factor.

First of all, money. I don''t expect to make a living off of the game my friends and I are writing. We prefer to see this as a kind of portfolio that we can market laer. Besides, I''m having too much fun to care about money right now. (Inital episode free download, each additional $2.50 for a total of ~$25)

Espisodic writing can be quite difficult. Lets compare: Star Trek TNG to Babylon 5. The former has a classic episodic form, each episode is loosely connected with the next (excluding 2 part''ers which I concider one really long episode). There isn''t really a cohesive _story_, but really a collection of connecting threads. B5, by contrast (after season 1), has long story arcs which take several episodes, if not seasons, to resolve. The problem with this is that it is very difficult to watch B5 non-linearly. Once you lose track, you''re hopelessly lost.

Game episodes, however, arn''t viewed non-linearly. Therefore, you can use the more robust story-arc form.

How I''m writing my game script is the following: First I define and design the characters and world. I set up inital conflicts and some key scenes and happenstances. This provides a general sense of plot without being so specific on each episode. THEN you begin writing episodes, each ending one some climax that will have your players begging for the next one. (B5 did this alot, several other Japanese Anime series use this technique well).

The benefit to the method I''ve outlined is that you don''t have to sit down and write an enitre script just to get started. You can come up with the general plot and characters, and then deal with the little details of dialog and such.

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I''d thought about this idea about five years ago.

The basis for mine was to make an episodic game based around the old "Gargoyles" cartoon. One of the major tenets of a good TV show is that nothing changes, episode-to-episode. (Ex: star trek:TNG). Mostly, the characters stayed the same week-to-week, it was the environment and challenges that changed.

I think a good payment scheme for these would be to release the episode-playing engine for free, and then charge a small fee ($2.50 or so) for each episode. That way, everything is nice and cheap. Make sure that there''s a lot of data on each episode - make it fill up a CD. What moron will waste time downloadng a CD''s worth of video, music, and sound when they can go to best buy and get it for $2.50?

This almost completely eliminates the piracy issue, I think. Maybe you could charge $50 for an eventual "episode creator." That''s a neat idea, too.

-ATR-

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Story, and character relationships can be a motivation for players.. as they play for an hour to see the next major plot change.

With Final Fantasy 7, I often finding myself playing it for one / two hours at a time in order to get to the next development in the plot, and then quit. This allowed me to view it a like watching a series or reading a story-book for a while.

And I suppose that creating things episodicaly allows for more diversity in setting / action, and for a stronger thematic continuity.. ie.the level design ''within the episode'' can be created so that there are different elements that ''reflect the story'', allowing the player to ponder the issues involved.(Whether that be political freedom or what have you.)

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If you think about it, games are already designed this way. It''s just that all the ''episodes'' are levels, and are available within a single game''s structure.

The problem I see with some of the above suggestions, is how will you be able to develop a CD''s worth of content for each episode when you''re only charging $2.50 a CD? Don''t forget, that pricing has this strange effect on how people judge the value of the product. Even if the content at $2.50 is as good as the content at $12.50 or $22.50, consumers will often assume the more expensive product is superiour.

R.

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
Not if the price for subsequent episodes is at the right price-point. For example, if I buy a game for $50 which comes with 10 2-hr episodes (the first 10 parts of a story arc), and then I can purchase additional episodes online for $7.50 a piece, if the game is good enough and the gamer community raves about it, I''ll probably go buy the original box for $50 and then gradually accumulate the other episodes to catch up with the story arc.

Retailers are unlikely to keep stocking your original box just because a few requests trickle in each month. They want to get products that fly off the shelves, and then rotate them out quickly in favour of the next hit title. So while your subsequent episodes are available, chances are high that the original game is not available all that easily.

And what about people who resent paying what is essentially a full product''s price for an unfinished game?

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost | Asking Questions | Organising code files ]

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quote:
Original post by Kylotan

Retailers are unlikely to keep stocking your original box just because a few requests trickle in each month. They want to get products that fly off the shelves, and then rotate them out quickly in favour of the next hit title. So while your subsequent episodes are available, chances are high that the original game is not available all that easily.

And what about people who resent paying what is essentially a full product''s price for an unfinished game?




Exactly, which is why you would sell the additional episodes online. This would lower expenses and increase the publisher''s margin. If the game is popular enough, the original box will stay on the shelf. If it isn''t, then you can make the original game available for sale online as well. Besides, as long as a publisher is willing to pay the stocking fees, stores will put their game on the shelf ad infinitum.

I believe that if the game is well done and the storyline interesting enough, people will not resent the model, particularly because they will know from the get-go that this will be the case.

In many ways, it''s no different from a MMORPG where you pay a monthly fee for access to the game. This pricing scheme doesn''t seem to have deterred too many gamers, or at least, those who haven''t been deterred are enough to keep the better examples of these games going.

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