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Gameplay-story. The new Alliance. Yet another blog about it.
by Colm McAndrews on 04/17/11 04:10:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Yet a few persons seem to graze the solution, then they precipitate back to their personal anecdotes and many, many clichés. It won't do. 

To be stuck in a dicotomy is probably the most frequent mistake of human thought. There's dicotomy everywhere because our brains aren't developed enough to reunite things that apparently are contradictorial.

So there's story, uh writing, a plot, an intrigue, dialogues, feelings, bad boys, love and betrayal. And then there's you playing a silly game, beating things up, shooting, running, shooting again, stuffing bars with skill points... things that count, aren't nerd-oriented, thank god! That is a game, that is interaction. But there's no room for story, there. Because it's two different things. There's conflict because we load those things with cultural rigid ideas, these ideas build a WALL that separates them. And both things rot, they're isolated and are diminished because they can't evolve.

Symbiosis is not only possible, though, it's natural. A story told WITH actions still requires writing, a new kind of writing that takes interaction into account. Videogames are interaction so story has to be interactive!

Role-playing, for instance, is not you abandoning the actual game to feel all emotional and immersed in the lore, just to abandon it again when you're slaying things, get down to the serious business, that's misconception. Roleplaying is already a symbiosis of the two elements, it was there all along. You must interact, or play, with story, which is you having a role(or an active function: a villain, an adjuvator, a hero etc.) in some events.

That is role-playing, nothing else. It's simple as that. See RP is the proof that cultural anecdotes we tend to knit upon terms lead astray from obvious natural meanings that are in front of us.

In an RPG you shouldn't develop your character because of tactics and power, because then you're interacting with meta-elements. Your developing the character has to be influenced and have direct impact on the story(which is a two-way interaction).

-you don't follow the story= you cannot play, story kills you, stabs you right in the end(see Laura Bow... zounds, did that game traumatize yet excited me).

But on the other hand, story progresses only thanks to your material game choices and choices aren't necessarily dialogue and text and the classic concept of writing, they can easily be pure action.

When your character enters a tavern, you will talk to someone instead of someone else(even in sequence, not necessarily a rigid "choice"), thus affecting the story; when you buy a long sword you will be categorized as a soldier or warrior, thus affecting story, when you assign certain points to your skills you choose a class and a sub-class, thus affecting the story.

Everything makes story, choices happen all the time and they're everywhere and they trigger new drama and scripts. And they're fluid, not just useless ranting, boring text written by wanna-be hollywood scribblers. Videogames are not books, interaction is an "ACTION". It is, i repeat, a new type of writing that takes into account the actual game mechanics, they're not independent events, story is the expression of a gameplay.

Mind you folks, i'm not talking about a fantasy simulation... i'm not talking about Oblivion's(lousy and childish, the Bethesda way) virtual aspects, generic life as opposed to the actual story-line... that stuff doesn't need writing, i'm not talking about a player who writes his own story. The game writer needs to write a solid piece of drama, but the player needs to actually play it, not just spectate it.

Bulletstorm's gameplay consists on the player having to shoot and kill with style so you get a score. Story should revolve around this concept so that you may interact with it and feel like you're making the story. When you choose to use a rocketlauncher instead of a machinegun the story has to change accordingly.

This way good writing and good gameplay will be saying the same thing. That's the new alliance that is our common omen. The old concept of story cannot work in videogames, because videogames are in-ter-act-ion. Story has to kneel in front of interaction and shift its shape, humbly... to become something entirely new. We have to forget all we learnt about it, as Yoda pointed out.

Naturally a person who doesn't appreciate or understand gameplay will never be able to write a good story in a videogame. Bioware's Dragon Age 2 writer, a person who hates actual videogames, is clearly a plague to all the medium and IT needs to be purged and boycotted. No wonder Dragon Age 2 is mostly a failure of a game.

I feel it's time to provide clear examples otherwise it's all abstraction:

-at an inn, a person hires you for a job. Go to a cave, kill bandits. So yo do it, kill and kill, reach the boss, the boss talks to you and reveals the quest giver is a bandit renegade, he wants to be the new boss, using you. So you may choose to kill both bosses, one or the other, or tell the peasants so they will get their stolen money back. Choose any, you get different rewards such as different companions, different equipment, different skills, a different alignment, and if it's not too much trouble, you get a few different dialogue lines, sometimes. They're mostly gameish consequences.

2nd version.

-at an inn, a person hires you for a job. Go to a cave, kill bandits. So you do it, but the hints about the trickery can be gathered by investigating the premises, by using your skills of stealth, of disguises, of charisma to infiltrate and persuade the bandits to reveal their secrets and gather needed intel. Now it's time to decide what to do, as above, you can choose how to end the quest. But writing intervenes again in connection with your choices, to provide SOLID consequences. Sparing the bandits means that when you face the final evil entity, the bandits will show you a slick way into the castle in the deep of the enchanted forest, or the bandits will support you when you want to run for lord of the feud.

You guys can see WHERE exactly writing allies with gameplay, and on the contrary you can see how external, forceful and sham it feels in the first version; there's a rigid separation between killing phases and dramatic events, even alignment, which is by definition a consequence dense of spirituality, of karma, doesn't have any result except a "scoring needle" that moves up or down(i'm clearly referring to how Mass Effect handles alignment) whereas in the 2nd case dramatic events are triggered by your own actions and your own final choices result in outcomes that WILL change your character's life.


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