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The Arcane Art of Puzzle Depedency Diagrams - Noah Falstein
Noah Falstein is a veteran of the industry, and one of the early innovators in the Lucas Arts style Adventure game genre. He co-created Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which is very, very good.
- 25 year old technique from Ron Gilbert. Ron actually calls them Dependency Charts
- He's right, it IS my first GDC.†
- Developed for Maniac Mansion
- For purpose of talk, "puzzle" means anything you use to challenge the player. Boss fight, minimum level, etc.
- Quick, barebones flowcharts
- Separate game and story. Leave story out of the charts.
- Use key in lock, don't describe finding key.†
- "Cut story ruthlessly, then cut some more until you can't stand it. At that point it's probably about 2x as big as it should be." -Hal Barwood
- Puzzle dependency lets you pare story back to essentials. Only what players need to know to care about the challenges in front of them.
- "It's all keys and locks." - Ron Gilbert
- Make it bushy: branch out, then choke back up. Give players a few things to work on, but have clear gates where all previous tasks must be complete.
- Linear is easy, but blocks, chokes, and fails on weakest link while discouraging autonomy.†
- Research Self Determination Theory
- Bushy lets you gain skills and resources to solve the harder parallel puzzle.†
- Linear overall, but bushy in chunks.†
- Work backwards
- Build ending first, figure out what player needs to know/have to get there.†
- To make harder add multiple prerequisites for progress
- To make easier add alternate paths
- Strong, but expensive fixes
- When stuck on story, look at mechanics, when stuck on mechanics, think story.†
†Tastes Like Chicken: Authenticity in a Totally Fake World - Jay Posey
While Posey's talk comes strongly from his background—dialog and narrative for Tom Clancy games—the tools he described apply well to any genre that has significant player expectations.
- More important that it feel real than be real.†
- Real is often boring.†
- Authentic = real - boring†
- Research the real thing, identify the fantasy, expand from there.†
- Three Main Sources of Reference:
- Experts - doing the job. don't use a glossary; you need context.†
- Tangential - work with, have perspective.†
- Approximate - similar, space miners? Use real miners and underwater welders.†
- Get more than one. Get them comfortable and talking.
- Hollywood (mainstream entertainment)
- Be familiar with what most people expect from this genre, not slavish, but be aware. Writing cops? watch Law and Order. Writing vampire? At least know about Twilight.†
- Fan forums.†
- Tangential communities (air soft, larpers, D&D)
Balancing Act: narrative and mission design - Corey May and Philippe Bergeron
The Narrative Designer and Lead Mission Designer respectively, Cory and Philippe discussed the methods used to blend narrative and mission creation on the Assassin's Creed 3 team. It didn't feel like a system that would scale well to smaller teams.
- Mission design team keeps a rolling doc of cool ideas they couldn't implement. (Like this)
- Solicit for ideas across all disciplines. (This too)
- They make the story and mission arcs separately then bind them together.
- Mission arcs are defined first.
- Mission design doc is explicitly used as foundation of script.†
- Script and missions are then adjusted to match up, with preference given to mission flow.
Narrative in Games: Role, Forms, Problems, Potential - Warren Spector
Warren Spector Made Deus Ex. Listen to him.†
- Borrow consciously. We can be more than interactive movies (Walking Dead was great, we can do other stuff)
- Cutting makes sense in movies, is super disorienting in games. Breaks immersion, steals control.†
- Games are more linear than film.†
- Economy in dialog
- A one off cool moment works in a movie. In a game it happens 100s of times.†
- Let players make the cool moments.†
- D&D teaches a lot about letting players drive the story. Drop the content, systems and GMs.†
- He's pretty sure oral story telling is magic.†
- Games are special because we have
- Real time
- Research topics:
- We need more storytelling structures. We usually use:
- Roller coaster
- Retold (Tetris, madden)
- Hybrid coaster (deus ex)
- Let's get better at non-combat ai. Why don't characters react to the weird or dumb stuff players always do?†
- Sets not worlds. Smaller, more fully realized spaces over huge, poorly defined worlds.