Gaming Point

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  1. Bad writer need help with sci-fi story

    If you consider yourself a bad writer, I recommending reading 'Story' by Robert McKee. It'll change your outlook on things.
  2. 5 Core Elements of Interactive Storytelling

    @Carsten Germer   There is no rule that states that gameplay must come first. For some reason people keep bringing that up and I understand why - games have this interactivity element which other mediums don't have so game designers want to emphasize it. However, gameplay tends to do more harm to the story than good, for many reasons. One example I can think of the top of my head is that gameplay serves as 'filler' material which causes the audience to lose attention or focus. Everything you see in a movie is done so the audience's attention is drawn in, for example, if a character is to walk from school to a train station with very little else happening, a movie won't show that scene. It will cut straight to the character being at the train station. Most games tend to make the player walk to the train station, and this is the kind of interactivity that ruins storytelling.   There is NOTHING wrong with minimal gameplay. Walking Dead is a good example where we are drawn into the game with no gameplay except for a few dialogue choices here and there. Yes, they have some point and click adventure style gameplay, but for the most part they do it correctly - in scenes where they want the player to feel the mood of being in the character's shoes. For example: clementine sneaking through the house at night.   This is not to say that gameplay is bad. There's nothing wrong with gameplay, but if it doesn't add to the story, then omit it or find a better way. The key is to use all the elements at your disposal and to use gameplay correctly to tell a story. If a certain experience is better conveyed through cutscenes, then go ahead and use cutscenes. The only problem with cutscenes is that transitioning from gameplay to observing might cause disruptions to the story, but I won't discuss that here because it will take many pages.
  3. 5 Core Elements of Interactive Storytelling

    I seem to disagree a lot with this article, it's not as easy as you say to solve this problem of delivering narrative in games as you say. I'm not even sure if there's a solution to it, games in fact may just not be a good storytelling medium. Gameplay mechanics are indeed good at helping portray a certain experience (i.e. being a cop), however, they do NOT aid in portraying a STORY.   Think of games versus movies as 'doing' versus 'observing,' a story is just generally better conveyed when a person is observing the happening rather than actually doing it. If you were one of the characters in the movie, the experience would be completely different: it's impossible to create the type of suspense where the audience knows more than the characters, or it's impossible to create a scenario where the characters know more than the audience. In addition, being in the actual film means you'll react in completely differently to observers so that's just another factor to consider to make things even more complicated than they already are.     This is why most games serve as 'simulations' rather than a medium to portray narrative. It almost feels like that in order to portray a proper narrative in games, they need to be less like a game and more like a movie. I guess with the right amount of 'observing' vs. 'doing' then a proper narrative can be conveyed where the gameplay aids the experience of being in the role of the main character/s whilst the story unfolds through observation. And this doesn't mean cut scenes, because story can unfold during gameplay as well (but it must be through observation). Overall my point is that observation is necessary for a story to unfold and that gameplay only serves to aid in portraying a certain experience.
  4. No problem Zack. Hopefully I can convince you why over-simplication can be a bad thing..:) With writing, there are exceptions to everything of course. You can have oversimplication and powerful one-liners at the same time. One exception is when there is more meaning involved overall (think Star Wars: "I am your father"). All the events previously builds up to this one moment, and this was why the phrase was so effective.    However, in general, writing dialogue should NOT be about being realistic. The focus should always be on stimulating the imagination (depicting reality 100% will NOT stimulate the imagination unless there are other elements in it which forces the imagination to work). When one writes dialogue where the words mean exactly what the characters are saying, then the imagination isn't being used. This is for most cases, but not all. In Death Note, it's perfectly fine that the words mean exactly as being used, because the audience is forced to think due to the complicated nature of Light and L's plans.  
  5. What do you look for in a good Antagonist (group)?

    Antagonists should be someone or something (e.g. a natural disaster) that presents a difficult challenge for the main character, and at times, this challenge may be seemingly impossible to overcome. The key here is that the antagonist doesn't necessarily have to be evil, they just need to present problems for the main character.     If your antagonist is a person, it's very useful to create a rich backstory to their motivations, because not only will this provide the character with greater depth, but it will also create mystery for the rest of the story. Someone mentioned darth vader being an awesome antagonist and that's because of the rich backstory of him being Luke's father. Avoid the typical cliches of villains who are 'pure evil' and only have self interests (such as wanting to take over the world at all costs) unless there's a good reason for them having those attributes.   I think interesting villains also have their own character arcs. Sometimes, they choose to do evil because their rational brains want them to do it, whilst their feelings and heart oppose that of their logic. This type of opposition between the rational vs. emotional brain is a great opportunity for change to occur. 
  6. New MMORPG on its way! Ideas are welcome :)

    For quests, I'd like to see more teamplay involved. Have a good storyline and allow multiple players to take part in it. I believe that's the strength of our medium over others, although it might not be easy to implement.
  7. Zack, this is a very well written and thought provoking article. You explained concepts that are very hard to define very well and it has made me question and update some of my current beliefs regarding video games. It's very interesting that Japan focuses on world design as the art in gaming whilst most others are arguing over gameplay vs. narrative.     Your article also makes me want to visit Japan to study art, the culture sounds so cool and I just love the creativity in Japan. Though, I've noticed Japanese games or anime tend to have the same problems involving oversimplication of everything - their dialogue becomes so simple that there's no subtext involved in it. Whatever the characters say mean exactly what the words indicate and there's no subtlety behind them. Also they oversimply and/or over-explain themes sometimes, so that's also something to watch out for. But overall, this was a great read and it's nice to have insight from other cultures regarding art. Thanks for writing about your experience with Japan. Thumbs up!
  8. Today, we have a very interesting topic regarding embodied cognition which will be extremely useful in setting an appropriate atmosphere and character perception in your game. The term embodied cognition is a philosophical term which has also been studied in psychology and it basically means that our rational thoughts are interconnected with our sensory experiences. Let's start of by having a look at these two experiments in psychology and hopefully you'll start seeing what I mean and how this applies to games: Experiment One: Holding a cup of coffee This study was conducted in order to determine whether temperature affects our judgement of things. What the researchers did was they had the participants hold either a cup of warm coffee, a cup of room temperature or a cup of iced coffee. Later on, the participants had to make a judgement on a particular person based on a set of information given to them. Overall, those people holding a warm cup of coffee rated that person higher in terms of traits that are related to warmth, for example, kindness. Meanwhile, those holding the ice cup rated these traits lower than the those with the standard room temperature cups. This suggests that temperature plays an important role in influencing our emotions and rational judgements of things. So it's extremely important to consider things such as weather and season in your game. Whatever season you set your game in: Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn will reflect the predominant atmosphere of your game - Spring and Summer (sunny, clear sky, blooming plants) will reflect a more positive atmosphere whilst Winter and Autumn (rain, clouds, snow, dead trees) reflect a more depressing atmosphere. Along with the overall weather, small things such as having the stove turned on in the background will affect our overall response. This stuff ties in neatly with a concept called the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect states that when we have just one characteristic of somebody (e.g. warmth), we tend to favor all of that person's other attributes including things such as attractiveness and over-estimating their height. Experiment Two: Physical Stability This was more of the same as experiment one, the only difference was instead of testing temperature the researchers decided to test physical properties. Participants sat on either stable or unstable furniture and then they had to rate a set of social relationships, given a certain description about that relationship. Those who sat on stable furniture rated these social relationships as more stable overall compared to those who sat on unstable furniture. Not only did they rate these relationships higher in terms of stability, but they also had a higher preference towards stability than those who sat on unstable furniture. Furthermore, several other experiments were conducted to indicate things such as color, physical distance between people, making a frown face vs. a smiley face and flexing your arm vs. extending your arm can affect our cognitive judgements. Whilst we can't control things such as making the audience flex their arms or putting on their smiley face, most things else you can control, including stability. You might not be able to control the stability of the chair that your audience is sitting on, but as long as the characters in the game are on something stable or unstable, the audience will put themselves in the character's shoes and experience that feeling. Tiny things like these matter a LOT. It doesn't just affect our perceptions of others, but it also affects ourselves and our decision making. When we feel warmer, we are more likely to do generous things and feel more trustworthy towards others. It's a beautiful phenomenon that translates extremely well into games and storytelling. Have fun! This was reposted from my website:
  9. When designing game mechanics, it is important to firstly consider what the central idea of your game is about (aka the themes). Is it a game about hacking? About action? Whatever your game is about, the goal of the mechanics is to convey these themes and allow the player to take the perspective of the main character (perspective taking). One way to achieve this effect is through character growth of the main character (the player). Similarly to how themes change in the storyline (e.g. from 'evil triumphs' to 'justice triumphs'), character growth is the same: your main character can start of by being a beginner hacker, or maybe a assassin doing his first mission and at the end of your game they become an experienced hacker or an elite killer. The mechanics are a perfect tool to use to convey this change. At the beginning of the game, the player knows nothing or very little about the mechanics and they are provided with a little tutorial on how to play the game. Note: Don't bombard the player with information on how to play the game at the very beginning, rather, teach them step by step as the game progresses. So let's say the player learns about the first mechanic of the game, then after a while they become better at it (they learnt a new skill); now is the time to introduce a new mechanic into the game and force the player to learn it. Repeat this process until the end of the game, and the skills they learnt must add up and become useful in the end. Just like how in a movie, all the moments build up into the climax, the mechanics in a game should also build up into the final test which the player must undertake. It might be a huge powerful boss they have to fight, or a hacker from the pentagon that they have to face, whatever the case is, this will allow the player to feel a sense of growth. Everything they've been through should allow them to challenge this boss. The player should start off the game feeling like a newb hacker or the timid assassin, but at the end of the game, they should really feel like they've become an expert hacker or an absolute killer. Here's an example to make things clearer: As an assassin, the first thing that your master teaches you is how to equip and change weapons - how to wield the most basic weapon which is the short sword. You first learn about doing stealth kills which simply involve just sneaking behind someone and pressing a button to kill them. Next, you might learn something more difficult such as aiming vital points in the target's body and perhaps even learn how to throw the sword. Finally, you might learn how to engage in combat with another sword wielder - you learn different types of attacks, evading and blocking their attacks. In the end, you will really feel like a swordsman after this learning experience. Unlocking Gameplay Limitations Another way for the player to experience character growth is through unlocking restrictions. RPGs tend to do this a lot where you can't weild a certain weapon or armor until you reach a certain level or you can't buy certain items until you have enough money. These level restrictions will serve as milestones for character growth. The player will feel like: "After all this hard work, I went from wearing leather armor to this full plate mail which is much more expensive and heavier. I'm a much stronger and better fighter now." The problem with this approach is that games tend to bore the players by making them just grind levels or gold until they reach the next level. Yes, it's important that the player must work for these milestones, however, making them go through repetitive gameplay isn't the way to go. Instead, there can be several other ways that you can make the player work to advance to the next levels. So long as the milestones are in place, grinding isn't necessary. The grinding aspect only serves as the work that the player must do in order to achieve their next milestone, however, we all know that most people hate grinding and it's a huge waste of time. As game designers, if you know this much, the only thing you have to do is just set the milestones and create the 'work' that the player must do to achieve these milestones - but avoid things such as boring gameplay. Instead of grinding, they can do missions instead and here's an example: If your game is about hacking, then allow certain features to be 'locked' and the player must complete tasks in order to earn enough points (or gold) to unlock these features. The tasks can include little story snippets (or side stories) such as 'a man is angry at his boss and wants to get him back by hiring you to wreck all the workplace computers with a virus.' Once they finish this task, they might earn 50 points, and this allows them to unlock a better hacking program which in turn allows you to do more difficult missions. So this 'milestone approach' isn't just limited to fighting games and grinding levels, you can do it for many sorts of games (possibly every sort of game ranging from love simulator to detective adventure games). And the good thing about this approach is that, it isn't limited to just the main character itself (i.e. the player). In fact, you can use restrictions to show growth in the other characters. In Persona 4, as you improve your social link with certain characters, they will start doing things such as taking a lethal blow for you during battle so you don't lose. As you max your social link, their Persona 'evolves' into a more powerful one, signifying an irreversible bond that has been formed between you and that person. This is the reason why people loved the Persona games so much and especially the characters. The mechanics aided in the portrayal of character and bonds formed. And for those who've played the game, look at the ending of Persona 3/4 and notice how the unlocking of certain 'limitations' aided in portrayal of the ending. I'm talking about the part AFTER you get the boss' HP down to zero. I won't spoil anything for those who haven't played the game, but this is what made the ending so great - instead of the ending being entirely cutscenes, it transitioned very well between cutscene and gameplay. They used this feature of unlocking gameplay limitations in order to portray one of the final changes that occurs. So as you can see, 'limitations' doesn't just involve 'level limitations' otherwise I would've called it that. It can be any type of mechanical change in the game that involves unlocking a new feature. The new feature can be absolutely anything: from a new spell you learn to having a new group member. Mechanics are a great tool to use to imply 'change' in a game, so be creative on how you use it and you'll discover novel ways to portray narrative - something which is unique only to our medium. Reposted from my website. Make sure you give me a visit.
  10. Character Development in Video Games

    Thanks everyone for the kind feedback :) Can't wait to write another one!