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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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I think episodic games are a bad idea, unless you can make them more akin to a soap opera than a series. The problem is that people will be discouraged from buying the second one unless they own the first, and so on. So you''re getting diminishing returns on your work.

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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.

-Solstice

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"...I was given three choices, the earth, the stars, or..."

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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?

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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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Is it episodic if it uses the word episode or act? Like diablo 2? Or is any quest considered an episode? Is anything between the cut sceans an episode?

Cause really if its an rpg it has to episodic.

What I understand from this post is that by episodic it is meant "incomplete game". This is a bad idea, I rush through games, play all day when i first gem em, a game without an end? Not an rpg.

Sure each episode has some closure. But they all should advance torward one point, and IF i play allot ill have to wait. THis also kind of sucks cause I always liked my side quests marked as optional.

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quote:
Original post by Kilj
What I understand from this post is that by episodic it is meant "incomplete game". This is a bad idea, I rush through games, play all day when i first gem em, a game without an end? Not an rpg.



I''ve seen this many times with my college roommates. Currently the fad is Diablo 2, one has already finished the game over the weekend, and the other is sure to before finals is over. I myself, am not a "hard core" gamer in any sense of the word. I have yet to finish *any* of the RPGs I''ve started since FF7 in 1999.

There are however, RPGs with *don''t* end. Swords and Circuitry defines these as Non-terminal RPGs and include most, if not all, MMORPGs -- PSO, Ragnarok Online, and so on. Now, most of these games focus on the social factor rather than the storyline itself (which IMHO tends to be weak).

A story based RPG that doesn''t end, that is bad. Much like a sitcom that''s well past it''s prime, the network keeps funneling money into it even if it does suck.

-Solstice

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aeris.deninet.com

"...I was given three choices, the earth, the stars, or..."

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I took it to mean episodic as in each segment is complete unto itself, but that the storyline is continuous...

Kind of like stand-alone X-Files eps within the context of the greater mythology...

But, that may not be what Ketchaval had in mind...

R.

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Well the thing is, there are two ideas here. The one that I wanted to lay some emphasis on being that sections of games could be done so that they work like a TV show intro, increase in dramatic tension, resolution (and reflection on what has happened / consequences).

The other idea is Kieron Gillen's , and so I'll give you a link to the page I am referring to so that you can read it in his own words.

http://www.deusex-machina.com/cassandra-project/theory-mission-statement-one.asp

[edited by - Ketchaval on May 10, 2002 6:42:04 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
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.

I think it''s totally different, because you don''t feel like you''ve ''missed'' anything by coming into an MMORPG late. Whereas the episodic games mentioned in this thread imply (although I may be wrong) a very distinct story where you will miss out if you don''t go back and play earlier versions. Even if each episode is fairly self-contained, you''ll still miss out on a lot of history and characterisation if you don''t play the earlier ones. The best you could hope for is something along the lines of a computerised soap opera which is shallow enough to let you get into it quite quickly.


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Yes, you might feel like you''d missed something, which is why you''d want to go and buy the earlier episodes.

Knowing that there were 9 books in the Wheel of Time series didn''t seem to stop people from starting the series, and you''re not going to start it at number 9 are you?

If it were, to use a TV analogy, like 24, yes, you might feel like it was difficult to get into the show if you''d missed any of the previous episodes, even though they do a pretty good job of summarizing the events so far.

If it were like X-Files, where you have an overall mythological arc but stand-alone eps within that structure, I think it could work.

In my opinion, episodic content would give you an oppotunity to develop characters with a lot more depth, rather than less as you''ve suggested. But I do agree the idea poses certain logistical challenges. Not insurmountable ones, but they are there.

I think it will just require a certain shift in people''s attitudes towards gaming. Games are structured the way they are largely because it allows developers to take advantage of people''s game IQ. You might introduce a new structure that does things differently, but there always has to be a first.

Just the way I see it...

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
Yes, you might feel like you''d missed something, which is why you''d want to go and buy the earlier episodes.

Knowing that there were 9 books in the Wheel of Time series didn''t seem to stop people from starting the series, and you''re not going to start it at number 9 are you?

That''s the optimistic approach I would take the pessimistic approach, which is that people won''t bother with the later ones unless they can get the earlier ones. And I still think supply of the earlier ones will be a problem. Books have longer shelf lives than games. I can find books from the 80s without any trouble, but it took me four years of searching to find a copy of the game Realms of the Haunting, starting 2 years after it first came out and only finishing last Christmas because I came across a semi-legal export in a bargain bookshop, of all places.

Only two times have I ever bought a sequel when I didn''t have the original: I got Matchday 2 back in the late 80s for my Amstrad, and I got Ultima 7 back in 94 or so. And no, I never went back to get the prequels.

I doubly wouldn''t start the Wheel of Time series at the 9th book, as they''ve been unreserved drivel since about the 6th book, if not earlier. But that''s for another thread...

quote:
I think it will just require a certain shift in people''s attitudes towards gaming. Games are structured the way they are largely because it allows developers to take advantage of people''s game IQ. You might introduce a new structure that does things differently, but there always has to be a first.

Do you have any other examples of where a shift in the audience''s attitude has worked? I mean, you could argue that turn-based strategic wargames or text adventures are the model for the future, assuming that people''s attitudes towards gaming change. It''s not really saying very much.

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quote:
Original post by Kylotan

That''s the optimistic approach I would take the pessimistic approach, which is that people won''t bother with the later ones unless they can get the earlier ones. And I still think supply of the earlier ones will be a problem. Books have longer shelf lives than games.



I agree, except if you release them with enough regularity, say a new episode every month or two, then you avoid this issue. Also, if you make the games available for download online, availability won''t be a problem. Besides, I can go down to EB and buy a copy of System Shock 2, Half-life, or Command & Conquer right now if I like, and those games are years old. If the publisher is willing to pay the stocking fee, the store will stock the game. And if the game is popular enough, the publisher will pay the stocking fee to keep it there...

quote:

Do you have any other examples of where a shift in the audience''s attitude has worked? I mean, you could argue that turn-based strategic wargames or text adventures are the model for the future, assuming that people''s attitudes towards gaming change. It''s not really saying very much.



I''m talking more about methodology and mechanics rather than drastic changes in gameplay. This kind of episodic content wouldn''t be that difficult for people to get their minds around since it''s exactly the model they''ve become accustomed to from decades of TV shows. Another example would be the MMO games. The introduction of a persistent online world opened up a lot of new possibilities for gamers, and required a kind of rethinking of all the things we''ve come to take for granted, things like the game not continuing when I turn off my computer.

R.

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quote:
Original post by Tacit
Another example would be the MMO games. The introduction of a persistent online world opened up a lot of new possibilities for gamers, and required a kind of rethinking of all the things we''ve come to take for granted, things like the game not continuing when I turn off my computer.

In all fairness though, the initial audience for MMO games was almost entirely comprised of roleplayers who had been asking for persistent worlds all along, and MUDders who already had been playing such games since 1979 and who were just given graphics on top.



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True true...but it seems their ranks have been given a steroidal injection thanks to the willingness of non-RPGers to jump on the bandwagon, wouldn''t you say?

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