This is a response to a blog post by Steve Mallory, who makes some good
points about narrative design; read the original post here...
True authorial control... Now there is a scary phrase to use in front of your producer...
authorial control is like taking your player and asking them what they want
to do today, rather than telling them what they are allowed to do. Is
I do love freedom and control as a player. I still remember setting
out across a random (and very dangerous) continent in Everquest just
because I could. There was no mechanical reason for it, but they let
you do it. It was not story-related, but it is one aspect of the quest
for freedom, the desire to forge one's own path.
As a designer, I kind of agree with the terrified producers that it
is scary and yet I love the idea of that challenge. Sandbox game-play
is great, it really gives the player some sense of agency, but I agree
that sandbox storyline is almost one of the Holy Grails of narrative
design. As a designer, as a narrative designer (well, kind of), I am
always haunted by one little game...
Dungeons and Dragons.
I am not talking about any of the SSI gold box games, nor Bioware's
amazing contributions, but the original game with the books and the
dice. As a player, sitting at a table with a DM and some friends,
drinking Mountain Dew that we imported from the USA just to capture the
true experience, I was playing in a game with sandbox storyline. We
could (and, Gygax help us, often did) completely derail the dungeon
master's stories simply with one little idea that he had not
considered, and he would come back the next week with the story
completely tailored to our new needs.
Later on, I was the dungeon master. I learned to adapt on the fly,
to make new stories, even if I did frantically re-use all of the
content I could. I was also briefly a Guide in Everquest, back when
they still had UK servers, and I saw first-hand how a computer game
could offer authorial control, but manpower is not cheap and we could
only work with small groups.
Despite this, we had a chance to tell
free-form stories and make non-linear experiences. In short, any time
I have seen it done, there was a human at the helm and usually one who
was struggling a little while thy made the game up on the fly.
a background in theatre, including some improvisational theatre, so I
could just about do it, but could I teach it to a computer? Could I
actually give the computer enough data to be able to do that, even if
the coders could keep up? I honestly don't know, but I really want to
Left 4 Dead gave us the idea of The Director as an NPC almost; there are individual zombies, but there is also a simulated intelligence that
creates the tension and the drama. Could that be a hint that my dream
is possible? After Christmas, I should ask the technical manager...
He would probably know how to bring me down to earth...