Story for game developers

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Presentation slides for a lecture I gave at the METU, Informatics Institute, Ankara, October 31, 2011

Presentation slides for a lecture I gave at the METU, Informatics Institute, Ankara, October 31, 2011

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  • 1. METU, Informatics InstituteAnkara, 31 October 2011
  • 2.  This lecture presents a brief summary of the Three-Act-Structure in Classic Drama Theory As we learn the basic concepts and structuration principles of this approach, we will also stop inbetween and see how video games deal with these concepts and principles.
  • 3. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 4.  Climbing Tension  A story does not only progress horizontally, but also vertically  A scene that doesn’t carry the plot to new heights is considered as wasting time and stagnating story progress. Chrono-logy  Events are related to each other in terms of causality and time  Chrono-logical relations are often established in the mind of the player, as part of the interpretation process  This allows designers to play with the chrono-logy of things because the player would complete the story mentally, and in retrospect Unity  Due to dramatization requirements, anything that’s not central to the story will be eliminated  In video games it often happens that side quests violate this rule ▪ They often do not contribute to the rise in plot per se ▪ Often this is done for the sake of variety ▪ Or they help the player in meeting other goals such as collecting extra points to increase the character level
  • 5.  Feature films stay often loyal to the Three-Act- Structure However, they would divide the three acts into four quarters While the Beginning and the Ending acts get a quarter each, the Middle is alotted two quarters, that is, half of the duration of the film  Usually each of the Middle quarters deals with one specific issue
  • 6.  Quarter 1 (First Act): Set up of the plot, introduction of characters, planting of middle acts. Quarter 2 (Second Act): The first of middle acts, in which the goal is to free Sarah Connor from the clinic in which she is being held. Quarter 3 (Second Act): The second of the middle acts, in which the goal is to destroy Skynet and its infobase. Quarter 4 (Third Act): Build-up to the climax, resolution and denouement.
  • 7. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 8. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 9.  Looking closer at the two previous slides, we can identify three dynamics that a narrative designer has to intertwine in order to get good results:  Plot Development  Character Growth  Middle Acts We will now have a closer look at how these dynamics work
  • 10.  Game and narrative designer often have to deal with the issue of introducing the player vocabulary.  The player needs not only to learn about the story, but how to use controls. It is therefore a very delicate issue in design to set-up a teaser scene that doesn’t frustrate the player in terms of learning the gameplay.  Often designers will solve this by splitting the task into two: ▪ They’ll use a cutscene that serves as a teaser ▪ They’ll usa a tutorial that teaches the player how to play the game ▪ Example: Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Examples where designers tried to combine the two are  Max Payne (PC Version)  Spiderman (Wii)
  • 11.  In video games, intensification is often the result of increasing complexity of the game systems that revolve around the player. Sometimes intensification is based on enemy AI that adopts a more aggressive stance  Early sneak attacks of rival nations in Age of Empires tell us we’ve got to hurry However there are games that have «scripted» intensification  In games like Metal Gear Solid, we are presented with cutscenes that allow us to witness dialogues between game characters which reveal that the complexity in the situation has increased
  • 12.  When it comes to plot, a lot of games do not waste even a minute to set it up:  Pong  The white dot comes at you  if you fail to bounce it back  1:0  Pac- Man  The ghost are coming at you  If you don’t move your avatar  One life lost Good games will always make sure that the player has to do something to get out of misery  Half Life 2  The Sims They will make sure that there is necessity, that is, an inevitable challenge that motivates the player into action
  • 13.  Many games are based on outer motivation  That is, it’s mainly their actions and looks that reveal something about characters Controls and affordances play a crucial part in this  We can only carry a role that the controls allow us to carry out.  For example special moves play an important role in distinguishing characters in fighting games. However, modern games also reveal a lot about inner motivation, that is, what the character feels about their own actions  This will often come in cutscenes ▪ Final Fantasy series ▪ The cutscenes in Soul Calibur II  Sometimes the player is allowed to keep character diaries in which they pretend to know the inner motivations of the characters ▪ The Sims
  • 14.  Another common thing in video games is that character growth is often presented in quantifiable terms  RPGs have experience levels and character inventories  Many Tycoon games have star ratings or financial indicators  RollercoasterTycoon or Ceaser III on the other hand, have a palette of «barks» for their character that will change depending on statistics ▪ This is a nice way to add an inner motivation aspect to the characters  ▪ It makes them look «deeper»
  • 15.  Since many video games are built around levels rather than quarters, we will see reassessments or denouments being presented immediately after a finished level or play session  The characters in Tekken will often say something about their victory or defeat after a fight is over.  Railroad Tycoon 2 has a narrator that talks about our performance in the past level
  • 16.  Video game progress is often based on levels.  This means that the quarter rule doesn’t apply.  Hence, it makes often no sense to apply planting methods during the introduction of the game’s story Instead, in many games we see designers prefer to have mission briefs  In other words, the planting of the next act is done moments before the level starts, and not in the introduction of the game  The introduction of the games is used for other purposes ▪ Such as teaching the player the game vocabulary, presenting backstory, or introducing the world settings ▪ This seems to be a significant difference between video games and movies ▪ The product design and consumption method requires the video game narrative designer to deal with planting differently
  • 17. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 18. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 19.  Whereas the overall proportion of a video game may fall wide apart from a four quarters model, we may observe that levels are structured closer to this approach
  • 20. Story: An Introduction for Game Developers
  • 21. Thank you very much… http://altugi.wordpress.com İsigan (dot) altug (at) gmail (dot) com Twitter: altugi