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  NegativeZero's guide to designing an immersive story.  (Read 2421 times)
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Offline NegativeZero

JGO Knight


Medals: 30
Projects: 2
Exp: 3 years


Zero but not.


« Posted 2013-05-20 07:16:28 »

Kia Ora, everyone!
There are often threads that I see around these forums of people wondering how they could go about structuring their game's storyline. I thought I'd be able to help those who want to conceptualize a story, structure a story and integrate a story to their game. I hope this thread will help start a reference to those looking to do these things. (And admittedly help me to streamline some my ideas :D)

Please NOTE: this is not done yet. I will expand upon as time goes on.

Theme

So the thing which, in my opinion, you should start with right after first conceptualizing your game, is to decide upon several themes. Themes become the heart of your game, as they maintain a feeling, and should link to everything else in your game in some, even if completely abstract, way. There are often certain themes attached to certain genres, which can be an easier way to decide what themes you want to take.

So if you wanted to go for a horror game, you might use fear as a theme. You not only want to incorporate this into, for example, the characters you encounter, but the lighting, gameplay, SFX, etc.

Not all games need storylines; but all games need themes. Even games like minecraft have underlying themes that have been ingrained in the way the games are played. You may think, that just because you are composing a tower defence game, you don't need a theme. You would be wrong. Think about things like: "What is the connection between what am I defending, and the attacking persons?". Now think how will that affect how the game plays, how it affects the setting, etc., etc.

But NegativeZero, what IS a theme?

A theme, in terms of creative writing, is defined as: (source)
Quote
Definition: A theme is the central idea or ideas explored by a literary work. John Gardner puts it this way: "By theme here we mean not a message -- a word no good writer likes applied to his work -- but the general subject, as the theme of an evening of debates may be World Wide Inflation."
A work of literature may have more than one theme. Hamlet, for instance, deals with the themes of death, revenge, and action, to name a few. King Lear's themes include justice, reconciliation, madness, and betrayal.

While you might start with an issue or theme in mind, themes will also develop or emerge as you write. It may not be until the editing stage that you even begin to recognize your themes. Having recognized them, your themes will help you determine what to cut from your story or novel and what to highlight.

Now while this does change in reference to game design, the principles are still the same.

So what are some examples of themes?
As well as the ones listed above (justice, reconciliation, madness, betrayal, death, revenge, and action), you will often find themes such as innocence to experience, fear and mystery.

How should I go about choosing my themes?
There are several ways to go about this. You could look at some games that you think have aspects of the feel you're going for. Start thinking about how they've used lighting techniques in conjunction with the music to create the effect that they have. You can eventually divine the theme, if you look close enough.

Another way to choose a theme is to think about the emotion(s) you want the audience to feel when playing your game.

Creating your characters

Characters are often what will make or break a game. Often games don't delve into characters, especially with smaller games, or things such as hordes of enemies, mainly because they don't need to. But sometimes character development is totally overlooked, especially in RPGs.

RPG, as all of you should know, stands for Role-Playing game. This means that you "enter" another's character, and play as that character, often starting upon a journey against an overarching villainous threat. In these games and those like it, you character archetypes like those below. Each of these characters should exist with some symbolic or physical function:
  • Hero
    Your "Hero", or "Protagonist", is often the role in which your audience plays. Your hero should really be plot-centric, and influenced by most, if not all, of your themes. When designing your hero, you must think about a variety of things, such as:

    • Where has he come from?
    • Why has he left?
    • Where is he going?
    • Why is he going there?
    • What age is he?
    • What is he like?
      • Is he an anti-hero(does not conform to regular hero archetypes, e.g. serving for justice, purity, generally good person etc.)?

    And all this must link into both the themes and how he develops as a character. Think about how the events of your game influence your protagonist throughout the game. If he starts as a child who leaves his hometown to go fight in a war, how is it that your character is going to change(<-- linking to a theme of innocence to experience)?

    I would recommend getting a pen & pad, and brainstorming questions about your character, and making more, more specific questions branching off of those questions. When you can no longer think of any more questions, start answering the outside questions, working your way in. You now have a web of information about you character!

  • Supporting characters
    Now move on to the characters that your hero will encounter. These characters usually will represent one or two of the themes, but generally no more. You should also consider your supporting characters to each represent a part of the hero, and each influencing him in different ways.

    But the supporting characters shouldn't only develop the hero. They, themselves should also develop, as not to seem mono-dimensional. Because who likes characters that do nothing but follow you around and praise you as some kind of god, or stand there and tell you what how bad you are at what you are doing. Maybe this character sees the merits of the villain's movement and slowly corrupts?

  • Villain
    I'll do this later

Building your world
I'll do this later

Conclusion
Yes, this is a lot to swallow. But please remember: designing a game is not an easy undertaking. When you committed to making a game, you committed to a lot of work, and not just on the coding side.

Terminology

Character development: How does the the character change of the course of these events? NOTE: This doesn't only apply to your hero, any character can, and should, develop.

Mono-dimensional: This describes a character who is predictable, unvarying; they have neither depth nor scope.
Offline NegativeZero

JGO Knight


Medals: 30
Projects: 2
Exp: 3 years


Zero but not.


« Reply #1 - Posted 2013-05-20 07:17:48 »

Also, I know this should be in Articles and Tutorials, but I prefer the usual post style Tongue
Offline heisenbergman

JGO Coder


Medals: 14


L___ o_ G___ a__ P___


« Reply #2 - Posted 2013-05-20 07:37:21 »

Possible discussion point: How would designing an effective story for a video game differ from designing an effective story for another medium like, say, a movie or a novel?

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Offline NegativeZero

JGO Knight


Medals: 30
Projects: 2
Exp: 3 years


Zero but not.


« Reply #3 - Posted 2013-05-20 08:04:48 »

Shocked
I'll certainly think about that.
Offline cheatsguy

Junior Member


Medals: 3


Gamer turned Pixel Artist turned Programmer


« Reply #4 - Posted 2013-05-20 11:46:05 »

I'm working with a multiplayer game with an all-there-in-the-manual story, but I want it to be decent, passable at least. My issue is, since it's competitive multiplayer, the other side has the same character roster as you (like many multiplayer shooters) so I'm not sure how to work with this. My main idea for the actual world was "former high-fantasy world beginning to fall apart with the addition of technology" in a dieselpunk-meets-fantasy style. How would someone go about making a story, or at bare minimum excuse plot, for a multiplayer game?

Busy between school, work, life, games, programming and general screwing around.
If you'd like some pixel art for your game, send me a PM, i'll see what I can do.
Current project: http://elementalwarblog.wordpress.com/
Offline NegativeZero

JGO Knight


Medals: 30
Projects: 2
Exp: 3 years


Zero but not.


« Reply #5 - Posted 2013-05-25 05:01:19 »

Has this guide actually helped anyone?
If not, I won't bother to continue writing this.
Offline HeroesGraveDev

JGO Kernel


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┬─┬ノ(ಠ_ಠノ)(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


« Reply #6 - Posted 2013-05-25 05:08:29 »

I think the reason it hasn't helped anyone enough is because it's incomplete.

Keep going. Smiley

Offline Jimmt
« League of Dukes »

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Medals: 131
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Exp: 3 years



« Reply #7 - Posted 2013-05-25 06:02:17 »

Because who likes characters that do nothing but follow you around and praise you as some kind of god, or stand there and tell you what how bad you are at what you are doing.
That is a character trait which is actual evident in many movies/games. Maybe the rival that always thinks you're terrible or the friend that's screwing around.
Offline Cero
« Reply #8 - Posted 2013-05-25 22:47:52 »

Has this guide actually helped anyone?
If not, I won't bother to continue writing this.
I think it's very good to educate developers on this topic.
I don't know if man are interested here on JGO though.
And I know probably enough about this already... Btw I often read books on this subject, are there some you would recommend ?
I read this Ultimate Guide Video Writing Design. Which was ok overall, but I can't remember the titles of the other ones I read
Generally though, If you really like good stories and character much of this comes naturally to you, well at least it does to me.

Offline Sammidysam
« Reply #9 - Posted 2013-05-26 02:12:11 »

Has this guide actually helped anyone?
If not, I won't bother to continue writing this.

Even if the guide doesn't help anyone, it will help you in writing it.  You probably have learned something just from writing it, which makes it worth it.
Games published by our own members! Check 'em out!
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Offline NegativeZero

JGO Knight


Medals: 30
Projects: 2
Exp: 3 years


Zero but not.


« Reply #10 - Posted 2013-05-26 03:47:11 »

That is a character trait which is actual evident in many movies/games. Maybe the rival that always thinks you're terrible or the friend that's screwing around.
TBH, I know that they do appear a lot, but I generally don't think they make the whole atmosphere of the game(s) any better.

One that immediately comes to mind is pokemon's Gary/Blue. He seems to have been included to be a challenge for the player, being defeated by him time and time again, yet this is not the case. Instead his constant boasting and lack of admitting defeat becomes quite annoying and the only challenge is the fact that his blastoise has type advantage over my charizard.

I think it's very good to educate developers on this topic.
I don't know if man are interested here on JGO though.
And I know probably enough about this already... Btw I often read books on this subject, are there some you would recommend ?
I read this Ultimate Guide Video Writing Design. Which was ok overall, but I can't remember the titles of the other ones I read
Generally though, If you really like good stories and character much of this comes naturally to you, well at least it does to me.
To be honest, I learned what I've written here through constantly playing playing games and just critiquing each game I played, trying to see what was going through the head of the designer(s) at the time.

Even if the guide doesn't help anyone, it will help you in writing it.  You probably have learned something just from writing it, which makes it worth it.
Haha, this is quite true. Thank you for the wise words!
Offline Troncoso

JGO Coder


Medals: 20



« Reply #11 - Posted 2013-05-26 04:55:44 »

I didn't read the whole thing, but from what I can tell it's a guide to writing a story (obviously). In the context of video games, one thing that I would find helpful would be advice on writing your story to suite a video game, if you understand my meaning.

Like, you have this story that you've just written. Now, how do you turn it into a game? It's similar to adapting a book to a film. You can't keep it word for word the same. It just won't work. You need to decide what dialogue is important enough to include, you may need an extra character so what were initially inner thoughts in the story, can actually be voiced in the game, You need to decide when the events of the story unfold in terms of the player's progress, if anything the player does alters the story, at what pace to progress the story, etc.

Stuff like that. I don't think that's what your guide is for, but that's just some stuff I think would be helpful.
Offline Nate

JGO Kernel


Medals: 147
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Exp: 14 years


Esoteric Software


« Reply #12 - Posted 2013-05-26 14:26:36 »

Has this guide actually helped anyone?
If not, I won't bother to continue writing this.
I enjoyed reading it, good food for thought!

Offline Exception_e

Senior Newbie





« Reply #13 - Posted 2013-05-28 08:52:43 »

Has this guide actually helped anyone?
If not, I won't bother to continue writing this.

Made me think about a few interesting points.

I've always kind of lacked a skill in story/character development so this was really helpful. Appreciated, thank you.
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