Storytelling...the beginning

 

Ah, so lets dive into video games further. This time, I would love to tell you about stories and plots and how they are woven into the gameplay and the overall gaming experience. This area of story writing and storytelling may seem a bit daunting at first but once you know how to break the story’s structure, it just becomes very easy. A lot of the body coming up is sourced from Chris Bateman’s Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames. This post is not meant to plagiarize or to demean anybody, the following content is for educational purposes for fellow game designers, developers and basically everyone who would like to know more about it.


Before writing a story, we must always decide on the characters. They are the ones that will bring life to your games. It is true that some games don’t need a story but if you want to convey an idea or a message, how would you proceed? Bioshock is a very good example of this. Characters come to life with Ayn Rand’s philosophy and the dialogues are perfect to set the tone that the game wanted to convey. Here the characters were of paramount importance. Whether it be You, the Player, or the antagonist Andrew Ryan and others.  Once you have the characters envisioned, you can proceed with what is known in the industry as the Hero’s Journey Model.

Most heroes follow this model. It begins with the Departure or Diesis- which basically is the introduction of the hero, the setting etc. Followed by the Crisis Point or Peripetia- this is the exciting part as the Crisis Point puts in motion the hook of the film. People start to ask questions such as Why this, What then, How come. It is the point where you should present the most exciting part which will compel players to actually finish the game and find the answers. Which brings us to the Resolution or Lusis. This is the climax, the end of the film. This is where you can choose what to do with the emotions of a player. You can provide them with the answers or you can leave them with cliffhanger.

Between these three major points, there are numerous minor points that you should know of- Departure->Ordinary World-> Call to adventure-> Refusal of call-> Meets a mentor-> The first threshold-> Threshold Domain-> Initiation->  Roads of Trials->  Allies and Enemies->  Innermost cave-> Crisis Point-> Return-> The Road Back-> Resurrection

Once you have mastered this model you can always add and iterate this model based on your requirements. The Crisis Point may not have to be in middle if the audience is already familiar with the character.

Talking about characters, lets begin with Archtypes

A threshold guardian is the character that must be defeated and bypassed in a hero’s journey, so that the Hero can enter into the other world and begin down the Road of Trials- A threshold guardian can be the lover who forces the hero in a “you will have to choose between your quest and me”

The Trickster is a after a character who could be on the side of good or evil, but is most often working his own benefit.

The Herald is the messenger that (according to the adage) we are not supposed to kill.
The news maybe good or bad, but whatever the Herald brings often sets the Hero down the road, or introduces a reversal as a plot point.- In the Hobbit, Gandalf first function as a Herald for Bilbo, later as the wizard (mentor) in both the hobbit and the lord of the rings.

The shapeshifter is the character who “went over to their side or came over to ours”, the undercover agent and the betrayer/Traitor. They build tension into the story as we, the audience are never sure what role they really play until the denouncement climax of the story, film or game.

The Shadow is the bad guy. Some of these might have no depth at all but some might be complex due to tragic character flaws.

Well that’s it for today folks, I have to do research for a game I am making.

Next time I would like to talk about Structures and Progressions system in videogames. Later :)

The reality is broken

What is a game? That’s the most fundamental question asked by Jane McGonigal @avantgame in her book The Reality Is Broken 

So let’s take a look at what she means.

<DISCLAIMER> (The content featured below are not meant for copyright infringement but rather for educational purposes)

"When you strip away all genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.”

The goal is the specific outcome that players will work to achieve. It focuses their attention and continually orients their participation throughout the game. The game provides players with a sense of purpose

The rules place limitations on how players can achieve the goal. By removing or limiting the obvious ways of getting to the goal, the rules push the players to explore previously uncharted possible spaces. They uneash creativity and foster strategic thinking.

The feedback system tells platers how close they are to achieving the goal. It can take the for of points, levels, a score, or a progress bar. Or, in its most basic form, the feedback system can be as simple as the player’s knowledge of an objective outcome:- “The game is over…”. Real-time feedback serves as a promise to the players that the goal is definitely achievable, and it provides motivation to keep playing.

Voluntary Participation requires that everyone who is playing the game knowingly and willingly accepts the game, the rules, and the feedback.

The above definition may surprise you for what it lacks: interactivity, graphics, narrative, rewards, competition, virtual environments, or the idea of “winning”- all traits we often think of many games, but they are not defining features. What defines a game are the traits- Goal, Rules, Feedback System, Voluntary Participation. Everything else is an effort to reinforce and enhance these four core elements. A story makes the goal more enticing, Complex scoring mechanics/metrics make the feedback system more motivating. Immersive graphics, sound, 3D environments increase our ability to pay sustained attention & advanced algorithms increase the game’s difficulty as you play.

Well this pretty much sums it up for what the def. is of the video games.

Next time we will go in detail about video games with a help of a book Game Writing:Narrative Skills for Videogames  by Chris Bateman

The Production Pipeline

So, today we talk about the production pipeline. You might wonder- what is a production pipeline? Well its a method or a process through which a video game or an animation film is created. Some of the things mentioned in this article are also related to the process of how modern films are made.

The Production Pipeline consists of the 3P’s:

Pre Production

Production

Post-Production

Pre production 

In this stage, the game idea is pitched to the team and the lead director and the investors. And if approved it goes to Storyboard/flowboard to showcase a bit about what the game is about in the forms of sketches and concept art. If all goes smoothly, it proceeds to the Game design Document-which is like the Bible of the videogames.

Production

Production involves the actual creation of assets and the world environments. Stuff like 3D modeling, texturing, animation (character design, world design, world objects, level design)

After all this is done, the last step before this moves to the post-production is the Technical Design Document which involves the integration of the assets to the Game Engine(Game Plan, AI, Audio, Networking, Special Effects, IO Programming)

Post-Production

This phase involves the testing phase such as white box testing, black box testing, beta testing. After all the bug tests and stress tests are over and done with, the final game code is announced as ‘Gold’.

 

I hope this was a good video game education today. Next time, I a going to introduce a few key chapters from one of my favourite video game design books. Watch for this space!

 

Song of the Day- DMT by XXYYXX