Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
Aristotle was not a Game Designer
Printer-Friendly VersionPrinter-Friendly Version
View All     RSS
April 20, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 20, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


 
Aristotle was not a Game Designer
by Julius Kuschke on 09/09/13 12:00:00 am   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.

 

This week gamesindustry.biz published an interesting article by legendary game designer Warren Spector, in which he talks about universal rules for game design. Even though the text doesn’t contain completely new findings or revolutionary statements, he addresses one problem that I find is worth some more attention. In his last point Spector writes about the issue of “time” in narrative games:

Obviously games can tell stories. So, let’s start from the premise that all that Aristotle stuff applies to us. Agreed? Okay, now let’s talk about the one narrative problem Aristotle didn’t talk about – the one we have to solve that other media don’t. I call it the Act 2 Problem.

First off: I don’t think that Aristotle took games into consideration when he wrote about the structure of ancient Greek plays. Doesn’t it make a huge difference, whether the audience watches a play or movie or reads a book passively or if they actively take part in the story? This, for me, is still one of the biggest problems when it comes to story in games. We try to impose established story structures on games without properly adapting them to our medium.


We’re fine setting up a story (Act 1). And we’re pretty good at ending one (Act 3). We do denouement well enough. Our beginnings and endings tend to be fairly linear and brief.

Are we really good at this? And if so, why? Because we rely on techniques of another medium, namely movies, to present a stunning cutscene? From my head I can remember exactly one really good beginning and one really good ending that were not just cutscenes: The beginning of The Last of Us and the ending of Red Dead Redemption. Of course there are some more beginnings and endings that are quite ok, but to me it feels like cheating when most games don’t even try to bring some interactivity to these particular parts. So in my humble opinion we as an industry still have a lot to improve to create intros and endings that embrace the key strengths of our medium.
But the main problem, and that’s where I totally agree with Spector, is the part in between:

But Act 2? The part of the story where, having established the hero’s problem and gotten him up a tree you throw narrative rocks at the poor schmo? That part, we’re not so good at. And we have trouble with that for one simple reason, I think:
Time.
For some reason I have never been able to understand why players expect games to fill up 15 to 100 hours of their lives. No other medium is like that. Even a short game is the equivalent – in commitment of time on the part of the user – with the average television season. Think about that – a single game is roughly equivalent to an entire season of television.

This could be one of the reasons why so many players never see the end of a game. We lose their interest in this never-ending second act. Personally, I hate it to not finish a game that I started. But I get so bored by games like Assassin’s Creed – that stretch their narrative over dozens of hours without letting the plot make relevant progress – that I did not finish any of the series’ last installments.

While I fully agree with Spector, I think it’s kind of funny that he doesn’t see an answer for the problem, even though he mentions one briefly. He compares the scope of games with seasons in television. And this comparison hits the nail on the head! Due to their expected length games are much closer to TV series than to the average 90 minutes Hollywood movie or a typical stage play. Which brings us back to the three act structure and Aristotle: It simply isn’t made for stories of this length! Television has found much better structures for this purpose over the last decades. Daily soaps and prime time serials like Lost, Breaking Bad and many others are using them with great success. So, what’s the difference to the three act structure?

Tiered story structure

Modern television serials use some kind of tiered narrative structure. Episodes have self-contained story arcs, that bring a regular element of closure , while also providing series-long arcs and multi-episode arcs that join several episodes together.

This model makes the act two problem completely irrelevant as it basically offers an act one, act two and act three in every single episode. Instead of building up tension for that one climax after 40 hours of gameplay, this structure would offer a climax for nearly every play session. This needs much more work on the narrative side (that’s why television series usually have a large team of writers), but it would fit the time schedule of the average player so much better. Telltale already proved that this narrative structure can work for games pretty well, even though they didn’t dare to go beyond mini-series of at most five episodes.

Just as disclaimer: I don’t think that all games should be delivered episodically. They don’t have to be published in episodes to take advantage of a serial story structure. Breaking Bad, Lost and all the others are also extremely entertaining when buying all seasons as a bundle and watching them one after the other.

So, all I’m saying is: if we want to learn from established story structures, we should learn from the ones that fit our medium best. Games deserve more than just three acts! Nobody (at least nobody I know) plays through 50+ hours of content in one or two marathon sessions. Players consume games in small chunks anyway, so it would make a lot of sense to establish narrative structures that support this behavior. And by the way: Levels, missions or quests are already structures that go into that direction. It just often feels like they are randomly scattered throughout the game world and not linked to each other or the overarching plot in any way. But methods for linking story arcs together, for providing closure and climax points regularly are already out there – just look at them a bit closer the next time you enjoy your favorite television serial.

Image sources:

Originally posted on my blog: http://designing-games.com/


Related Jobs

Penny Publications, LLC
Penny Publications, LLC — Norwalk, Connecticut, United States
[04.18.14]

Game Designer
Hasbro
Hasbro — Pawtucket, Rhode Island, United States
[04.18.14]

Sr. Designer/Producer, Integrated Play
Nexon America, Inc.
Nexon America, Inc. — El Segundo , California, United States
[04.17.14]

Web Designer - Temporary - 3 month
Darkside Game Studios
Darkside Game Studios — Sunrise, Florida, United States
[04.17.14]

Mid-Senior Graphics Programmer






Comments


Evan Hill
profile image
Good article, I'm glad to see more people trying to push our methodology forward by throwing out 3 act structure as a fundamental paradigm.

I covered this exact problem in a recent article of mine right here on the site.
I cover something similar to your "tierd solution" as well as two additional paradigms for "Arc pacing"

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/EvanHill/20130816/198446/Tick_Tick
_BOOM__Catharsis_and_Pacing_in_Games_The_New_Dramaturgy_Pt2.php

One thing I don't see referenced enough is that three act structure is intrinsically flawed for games because it was never made for anything other than film. The current idea of three act structure was a convention created by one man in the late 70's Mr. Syd Field. He developed it specifically for film or more specifically for media that lasts 90 - 180 minutes. Before that the standard paradigm was 5 acts.

This isn't to say 3 act structure doesn't work, Jenova Chen uses it masterfully in Journey, but that's because it is only two hours long.

If you want a full deconstruction of how 3 act can even falter in film i recommend this wonderful article by FILM CRITIC HULK:

http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/hulk-presents-the-my
th-of-3-act-structure/

Julius Kuschke
profile image
Thanks, Evan!

"This isn't to say 3 act structure doesn't work, Jenova Chen uses it masterfully in Journey, but that's because it is only two hours long."
You're absolutely right and it wasn't my intent to say that a 3 act structure is always a bad thing. As you said, it's just not made for something longer than ~180 minutes.

I'm looking forward to read your whole article series on the weekend!

Dane MacMahon
profile image
This is a great article. I have been frustrated by game narratives for so long and a lot of the reasons why were presented well here.

I think the main issue with the time factor is you can't have a cinematic story presented in little bits spread across vast amounts of time, as you say. The core issue there for me however is: stop trying to tell a cinematic story, or go make a movie. Games work best when the story is told through the unique aspects of the medium.

Half Life 2 is the king here for linear games, right? You're always in control, 90% of the story is told visually and the dialogue is usually brief and presented inside the gameplay. RPGs work best when the story is discovered in-game, not presented to you (JRPG fans would disagree I guess). It always feels poorly done when a cutscenes or endless cinematic moment takes my agency away.

I think long games are fine, especially RPGs and open world games. Assassin's Creed would sell less if your $60 didn't get you dozens of hours of entertainment I would bet. The trick is understanding that a cinematic style might not work in those games (or any game darn it).

Jakub Majewski
profile image
Half Life 2 is the king here? Well, sure, if you consider "now, you stand around here doing nothing while the adults talk, and then we'll kindly open the door for you" to be good storytelling...

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the attempt. But the way they went about it was terrible.

Brian Wolf
profile image
It was a step forward at the time, but we need better. We already have better.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
It never takes away player control and most of its storytelling is done visually or in brief dialogue. This is after the opening areas, where you do have to listen a lot more.

Jeff Beaudoin
profile image
Just because you can look around and walk around doesn't mean control hasn't been taken away.

If nothing else is going on in the universe besides the "interactive" cutscene in front of me which I cannot leave, then my control doesn't amount to anything and isn't an achievement in design.

Josiah Manson
profile image
I think that Halo is a good example of a long game that is broken into smaller episodes (levels) that each have a coherent story arc. The levels are also tiered into a larger story structure that spans the entire game. Super Mario 3 is another great example where each of 8 worlds was split into several levels with a small fortress in the middle and a castle containing a boss at the end. In some sense I feel that older games may have been more likely to get this right because they made explicit partitions to the content in terms of levels, whereas modern games often prefer to make transitions seamless in order not to break immersion.

Harry Fields
profile image
I do love me some Halo... the aesthetic, the play, the story. :D

... but not the Flood ... haha

Jude Jackson
profile image
I think almost every single game that has levels and a story is an example of this, even games with relatively seamless levels, like the Half-Life games, are for technical reasons built in discrete chunks that each have their own individual arcs. Even open-world games are divided into quests that function much the same way.

Gregory Belacel
profile image
Great article. I have been looking at how TV show are written and structure for a while because I agree that it is a better model for games than movies. As you mention, games length are closer to a full season of a TV show. Even "short", linear game like Call Of Duty, are closer to a mini-series in term of length.

I think there is much to learn from the process behind writing for TV. Similar to TV shows, several peoples are usually involved in a game’s story. Not only the Creative Director and Scriptwriter, but Game Designer, Level Designer, Level Artist may have an impact, on one level or another, on the story.

TV shows are similar, there is usually several writers working on a show, under the direction of the show runner (which I guess, would be the equivalent of the Creative Director on a game). The whole process seems much more collaborative compared to movies, where only a few peoples are in control of the stories.

In my opinion, finding ways to get the different department to better cooperate on the story can only help a better blend of gameplay and narrative in game.

Jude Jackson
profile image
You start out with the thesis that games are different because they're interactive, but in the end it looks like the only distinction you made was the length of the story. Besides, I think games are already taking episodic fiction as a template: Games are built, from the engine up, on a level-based structure, so retrofitting episodic storytelling on to the game design is natural. This isn't new; almost any major game, from Half-Life to Legend of Zelda to Saints Row, has smaller episodes that fit into a greater story.

Of course it's obviously disingenuous to simply say that games can't have three-act structure because they're games. There's absolutely no good reason a game can't be two hours long, as Gone Home, Journey, Dear Esther, and countless roguelikes have proven. It's frustrating to see armchair game design discussion entirely throw out the notion of short stories as inherently unbecoming to games as a medium.

The bigger thing I think you're missing has to do with your analogy. With film and television, the story length and structure are limited by the format, and locked to a given pace. Film is expected to be delivered all at once in a single sitting; television by design has to be built on a 44-minute format, and both run at an exact non-interactive pace. Games have never had any of those limits. The most analogous medium to games, in terms of how it people give it their time, and freedom the player has to affect the pace, is books. Although books can be based on episodes or acts, there's an enormous amount of flexibility in how it's delivered because there's no set assumption as to how the reader will set aside time to read, or how fast she will read, and the exact same is true of games. A written story can just as easily be nine or nine hundred pages, and although there is a measurable difference between a short story, a novella, and a long novel, there exists between them a gradient of structures that simply by design cannot exist between film and television.

Ferruccio Cinquemani
profile image
This comment is spot on.
The obsession on the cinematic three acts structure (whether it is applied on a 3 hours or a 50 minutes story) is incredibily damaging to games. Actually, such strict structures are damaging to movies and tv series as well, to the point where everything has the same pacing and everything is so predictable after the first minutes.
I think it's not a coincidence that the most successful narrative game of the year (The Last of Us) has a structure that works much more like a novel than a TV series or a movie.

Game developers should read more books.

Jude Jackson
profile image
I can't really agree that it's damaging because there's been no shortage of experimentation and innovation in cinema by people who are smart enough to break the "rules". As a moviegoer, what the three-act format does do is guarantee that even the least imaginative Hollywood schlock is at least coherent and easy to follow (go back and watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 to see what happens when you make a bad movie without structure).

Frankly, I think that if the average video game story was on-par with the lowest-common-denominator summer feel-good garbage, it would be an improvement over what exists today. That doesn't mean I don't think the potential is much higher, but there it is. If you're going to crib formulaic structure, crib it from the appropriate analogue.

Ryan Creighton
profile image
Rather than improving the pacing of a 100-hour game, i'd rather just see shorter games.

Andrew Traviss
profile image
I don't really think Assassin's Creed actually suffers from a misuse of the 3 act structure; the game is almost entirely mechanical and exploration based, with some short stories thrown in for good measure. Those short stories slowly reveal a larger narrative, sure, but it's not really the focus of the game.

In this way, I think Assassin's Creed already follows a television-like structure. The problem is just that the individual episodes/short stories often have paper-thin or uninteresting plots in and of themselves. There are several exceptions that were genuinely interesting, and those are the places where the series shines. It's not a structural problem, it's just a lack of focus on the episodic writing versus the main story arc writing.

Alfa Etizado
profile image
I've always wondered why I felt Chrono Trigger had such fantastic pacing, I think this helps explaining why. Every leap across time takes you to a new situation, and it feels like every time era is an "episode" itself.

Matthew Bockholt
profile image
An interesting article, but I don't think it's really that big of a problem, or that this idea is new. Consider, for instance, the Mass Effect series. It uses this exact structure (as do MANY rpgs). You have a start, that sets up the story, in ME1, and an ending, that finishes it in ME3. Along the way you have a series of individual stories (called side-missions) that have beginnings, climaxes, and endings. Along the way you have larger more important stories (story-missions) that have beginnings, climaxes, and endings, but that also move the over arching story-line forward. Along with that you have the larger stories of ME1, ME2, and ME3.

I can say the same of any Elder Scrolls or Fallout game, as well as many others. I think that this has been done for decades in video games. Certainly some developers may not consciously do this, and others may consciously attempt to use the traditional story-telling method, but some games work well that way.

In the end what is important is that as a developer you take into consideration your story-telling method and intentionally use the method you think best supports your game.

Thomas Happ
profile image
Thanks, this is really helpful way of looking at it.

John Maurer
profile image
What I think your story-telling methodology is trying to define is not necessarily new, it has been done before, and done well, by an old company once know as SquareSoft. I recommend this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/172993/

Joseph Eichelberger
profile image
Julius, excellent article. If the story is the carrot dangling from the end of the stick, it needs to be a hearty carrot. Especially if the game in question requires players to sacrifice 30-80+ hours of their lives to witness it.

Let's remember that the tiered story was the norm once for many games. Front Mission, early Final Fantasy for SNES, and so on. What we now call JRPGs were more heavily inspired by manga series, not Hollywood films. And so the serial arcs were critical to them. (And why I think many people still swear by them) As technology has evolved however, making such multilayered tiered stories has become impossible. Not mentioning the dialogue alone!

The three-story-arc has become the norm because it's easiest to adapt the technology to. You have so much animating and voice acting and mo-cap to do, etc.. These things can easily put you over budget. Much more practical to take a samurai sword to the script and cut off a few arcs. The three-arc is essentially the most practical in that regard.

But I think you wisely point out what needs to be said this generation. It really isn't the natural fit, not for gaming-- not when players spend so much time with these characters and in these worlds. Not when the game is so deep with side content that it can clock well over a hundred hours in a single play through. Yet that game abides to the same 3 story arc convention that a short indie title does? It's hard battle to win and one with more than one solution, but it's good to push developers, nay, publishers, to see gaming in this regard. Just my .02.

Royal McGraw
profile image
I agree with the content of this article, and I agree with the appropriation of a television model of narrative for longer (or serio-episodic) games... That said, to my mind, the OP has gotten too caught up in terminology to present what is happening here.

In my experience, narrative is fractal. Lines, scenes, acts, episodes, seasons, shows... Whether you zoom out or zoom in, good narrative performs similar tricks at all scales. Change over time, elements of delight, character or world-building asides, interesting narrative turns: all this is the essential story stuff, and its scalable large and small. And this is *all* narrative, not just tv or film.

Personally, I'd argue that the tiered image is every bit as much a 3-act structure as the 3-act structure image. They're both made of 1, 2, or 4 sections, depending on how you want to parse it. You could also use either image to graph the trajectory of a good scene.

Once you start thinking this way, it gets much easier to plot and plan compelling narratives at a variety of scales. It's no longer some kind of film-tv "act" you're shoehorning in -- you're actually engaging with story at a fundamental level, expanding scope as needed. If the project gets bigger in scope, you'll need more sub-elements (and sub-sub-elements) supporting the overarching structure. If it gets smaller, fewer.

My two cents anyway. Cheers!

Adri Brown
profile image
I agree that the 'tiered' structure is already in place. Skyrim is the videogame equivalent of a multi-season show. You have the overarching story of being the dragonborn and saving the world from the return of dragons. Then there are long arcs for each guild which force you to interact with new locations and towns, providing plenty of opportunity to engage in a smaller 'episode' level errand.
J Jackson has it right, that many games are more equivalent to books. Certainly, you can sometimes apply a 3-act interpretation to a novel, but just as often- if not more so- it is a gradual build to a climax with many obstacles overcome on the journey. The idea of a 'second act' is hardly applicable, and seems more like an external concept we're trying to rigidly assess within a fluid narrative. I think the whole thing is off on the wrong foot when Mr Spector announces we should all 'just assume all that Aristotle stuff applies'. On whose orders?
Also, I would have to respectfully ask Mr Spector what in blue blazes he is talking about when he says he doesn't understand why gamers expect 15-100 hours out of a game. Aside from the insane variance expressed there, (85 hours is a pretty big range) I can think of at least one very good reason gamers expect more than 44 minutes without commercials:
They spent up to $60 for that new game.
Now, given the target demographic for most games, that is a considerable chunk of change. And unlike cable television, they won't be getting a new installment every week, or be able to enjoy numerous OTHER offerings throughout the month.
If we grind up this pointless television analogy a bit further, we find that an entire season of most shows (excluding outliers like Star Trek and Game of Thrones) can be had for $25-40. So we're right in that 'whole season' target zone from a consumer perspective.
Let's not forget that television shows don't require patching in order to play on your 'system', minimum specs are almost unheard of and neither Justified nor BSG has ever corrupted a save file and prevented anyone from finishing a season.

Pithy responses aside, I agree that many games stretch out the 'middle part' until it's too thin to hold our interest. So the question becomes; "why can I watch 74 seasons of Scrubs, but I'm bored to tears at 50% completion of game X?" I believe the short answer is 'novelty'.
With a television show, your interaction is experiencing the events and attempting to predict the resolution. This makes every episode a new experience, shared with characters you enjoy. You don't know how JD is going to screw up this relationship, or when Cox will show he can be a human being. The unfolding of the events and the interaction of the characters is paramount.
But with a game, your interaction is direct. And you know exactly how you are going to resolve each situation, because the tools to do so are clearly defined. Lara will climb and pull levers, while Booker will shoot everything in sight and occasionally use a force power. Er, vigor. The narrative will always take a backseat to the action in these games because the action provides agency. But as the author stated, he grew bored with the Assassin's Creed games. After a rather early point in those titles, you have established all the ways you can interact with the world, and the tasks become the same motions in a slightly different place...for the rest of the game.
Mass Effect 2/3 and the Borderlands series handled the 'middle' extremely well. ME has you constantly improving yourself and your squadmates, but these missions provide story and insight specific to these characters WHILE progressing you through the main narrative. You don't have as much time to get bored because they funnel you well and keep you distracted while you're pushed forward. Borderlands not only contained brilliant writing and memorable NPCs, it constantly altered (incrementally) the only interactions you had with the reality. Guns and Grenades. Every enemy killed was a possible gold mine of awesome weaponry, and completing quests got you more money to buy MORE GUNS.

Obviously these solutions aren't available to everyone, but I do think episodic titles are a nice trend. I would also love to see missions and storylines released into open-world games much like weekly episodes. There is potential for this in the upcoming GTA. And though GTAIV soured me on the series, I can see the narrative benefits of jumping between three protagonists. This introduces finality to a sequence of events that can have flavors of episodes or story arcs. The reason the end of a television episode has impact is because it ACTUALLY ENDS. There is a clear delineation in which the resolution can be contemplated. So if you are transitioned to a new protagonist and their troubles, you have that moment to appreciate resolutions that is not present in standard open-world titles, where you grab your loot and keep moving.

David Navarro
profile image
"and the tasks become the same motions in a slightly different place...for the rest of the game."

This is not a problem if such motions are rewarding to perform.

Gregory Belacel
profile image
It's true that a lot of game, especially Open World game and RPG tend to have that sort of tiered, episode structure, where basically each mission is like an episode. However, on the project I worked on, I never felt that it was a conscious decision to follow that particular structure. The story was still define and written with the classic 3 acts structure of movies.

I think that having both a better understanding on how to properly implement the tiered structure to the constrain of the video game medium AND making the conscious choice of using it properly could help solving some of the pacing/story problem of some of the massive AAA game.

RJ McManus
profile image
Nice post, Julius. I'd like to expand upon your observation that the tiered structure that you suggest here has elements of the three-act structure; in fact, I'd also contend that the three-act structure already has elements of tiered structure. Smaller scale exposition and resolution occur throughout a narrative, at the level of each act or even each scene. Thus, one could understand what you are rightly advocating as adding further levels of the three-act structure to accommodate the additional length of narratives in this medium. I discuss some similar ideas in a post here if you would like to check it out and offer any feedback: -snip-

Keith Nemitz
profile image
3 Act structure is just another tools in the shed. It's always good to have more tools. My last three games used different narrative structures. The Witch's Yarn was intended to be serialized. Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble was a 3 act RPG. 7 Grand Steps used a new form for its emergent storytelling, flash fiction mated to in-game situations. Use tools appropriate for what you're trying to accomplish.

Tanner Mickelson
profile image
I personally prefer the tiered structure. It seems very well suited to the length of games yet not many games that I've played have tried it. Every time I watch an anime like Fairy Tail or Shingeki no Kyojin I notice that the shows would be perfect as games if they were pulled off right, and until I read this article I couldn't really figure out why.

Ryan Schmidt
profile image
Great post, Julius! My Scriptwriting class just covered the three-part structure and how it's ill-suited for games earlier today, so your piece feels like a natural extension of the lesson.

I think one of the best examples of story done well in our medium comes to us in the form of Kid Icarus Uprising. Players are treated to a dialogue-driven narrative that runs directly alongside gameplay, and each chapter (stage) has an arc all its own—ideal for short sessions and maintaining player motivation. For those of you who haven’t experienced the game before, I encourage you to check it out!

hosik kim
profile image
I don't agree with this article. Indiana Jones Movie(Raiders of the Lost Ark) has 3 Act structure and 12 sequences in the film. Each sequence has also 3 Act structure, and each dialogue scene, each action scene has 3 Act structure too. Other Movies have this structure to make a 2 hours story. We can use 3 Act structure to dungeon and quest stories and long stories. This is a structure and tool, not content. We have to deal with characters and conflict and game play to make players immersed.

David Navarro
profile image
"For some reason I have never been able to understand why players expect games to fill up 15 to 100 hours of their lives. No other medium is like that."

Yes, indeed, no other medium is like games. Well done, Warren.

Harry Fields
profile image
It's the perception of value. When a buyer (especially a younger one), plops 60$ on the GameStop counter, they want to see a return that leaves them feeling like it was a good spend. The older I get, the more I appreciate the more polished 8 hour titles, but when I was younger, I wanted 40 hours out of a single player game and didn't care if half of that time was looking at text or walking in circles.

David Navarro
profile image
I enjoyed 90 minutes of Journey and 450 hours of Skyrim. Certainly, Skyrim is the better value proposition (at least for me, since I enjoyed it), but raw value isn't the only consideration.

A game should have whatever narrative structure fits its length. Of course, this is a trivial analysis and the devil is in the execution.

Harry Fields
profile image
I don't know of many who played Skyrim for narrative or at least, specifically for narrative. I think the beauty of that game is that players were able to absorb themselves in the sublime atmospherics and the fact they could basically create their own stories as they adventured. I put in ~120 hours and still haven't beaten the main campaign. Couldn't care less about the main "Quest" story-line. Now venturing the northeastern map area with blinding snow coming down and seeing the faint glow of a lantern I the distance only to be assaulted by a vampire when you trek that way. There wasn't a crafted narrative, but I sure as hell made my own.

Interestingly enough, I couldn't stand Oblivion or previous Elder Scrolls games. I think the atmospherics and art design of Skyrim had a lot to do with its' success. There could be more, but I never really dissected it from a design perspective. It's an experience I chose to cherish as a player, instead.

Harry Fields
profile image
My dream project is a strong engine with a lightning quick creation and QA pipeline for episodic content. It's just so hard to pull off and in an industry where Sequelitis rules, instead of spending the spring/summer creating episodes for Season 2, you have to work on V2 or your product has lost attention of the public. Now perhaps if you could capture the fascination of the public like AMC series do, gamers would flock to subsequent seasons in the same number they did the first.

Unfortunately, this very method would require much technical and artistic/story development upfront, investors would grow antsy quickly. The true return would only be realized after a couple seasons worth of content are consumed. I figure 13 weekly episodes, each with ~4 hours of top shelf play/story. at 2.99$ an episode or the whole season pass for 29.99$ Then spend the next 48 weeks churning out series 2 and so on. Introduce new characters and worlds. Keep it going for 5 years.

Alas, one can dream. Maybe if I win Powerball. ha.

Peter Choi
profile image
In the middle of designing a new, plot-heavy game and this article has shed a lot of light on a subject that is currently very strange to me. Thanks for this fantastic post.

Jesse Mikolayczyk
profile image
One game that I think tried to do a series of episodes system was Resonance of Fate on the PS3. The entire game is split into chapters, each with a main mission objective, and several optional missions and each chapter reveals a small part of the over all story or the character's history. The one issue I had with this game was some chapters did seem to just be thrown in for the sake of gaining more levels to prepare for the final battle, and the story does seem to progress fairly slowly (I don't think you see the connection between the good guys and bad guys until almost halfway through the game) but I still think it was very well done.


none
 
Comment: