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Event SuperVision PART 2

by Nathan Cheever on 04/25/19 09:32:00 am   Expert Blogs   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.

 

Part 2 – Game Events

In PART 1 we learned how to manage when events can appear.

 
  • Game Events – are everything the player encounters in the game.
  • The World State – keeps track of progress and statistics informing what’s allowed to appear.
  • The State Manager – controls which events appear based on various World State factors. It can let events be permanently present in the game.  It can also send valid events to the Game Director.
  • The Game Director – decides if it’s the right time to have valid events appear. It controls the frequency of similar events to make sure the player has a variety of choices that don’t immediate repeat themselves.

With those in mind, let’s look at the variety of gameplay events.

 
  • What has a story, is a series of stories, or is systemic/sandbox?
  • What’s a one-off and what’s repeatable?
  • Creation and Motivation types

Quests

Anything could be considered a Quest. Having Quest and Activity labels help to separate highly-authored content from reoccurring content.

Quests are the tent poles to a game – finishing one gives players the feeling they’re closer to a story’s finale.  They usually involve one more gameplay verbs, objectives, story threads, and possibly cutscenes.

When a player chooses to start a Quest all other available Quests (and some game events) are disabled.  When a player fails to complete a Quest, it can usually be restarted.

 
  • They represent the scripted content of the game, often related to the main story.
  • Once completed, they don’t appear again due to their story structure nature.
  • Usually have a specific Quest Giver to introduce and close it.
  • Usually have explicit objectives, unlike Activities which have can have passive objectives.
  • Show up in the player’s journal as primary and secondary objectives.
  • Are always visible on the map screen with a higher priority.
  • Expect the player to prepare ahead of time (buying ammo, information, etc.)
  • Usually limited to a specific area or biome of the game world.
  • Usually involve unique logic and as a general rule lots of components.

Examples

 
  • Infiltrate Dirty Joe’s warehouse to sabotage his product
  • Find where the kidnapers hid your family
  • Protect your boss escaping as agents raid the Casino

Quest Types

These scripted series of encounters come in a variety of flavors.

Campaign Quest – These are critical to finishing the main story and game, sometimes called the Golden Path.

Side Quest – Related to the main story, these are optional and not required to complete the campaign. Access to them may be Conditional to other events. Sequel or Follow-up quests are a flavor of these.

Agenda Quest – Optional stories unrelated to the main story, usually featuring a Regional Contact or Quest Giver.  These shouldn’t be confused with DLC.  Consider DLC chapters their own campaign arc.

Found Quest – A single narrative discovered without a Quest Giver, like finding a map leading to treasure.  Content production is usually lighter, relying more on text, pictures, and stat-tracking instead of new characters, dialogue, or cutscene animations.

Quest Arc

A series of Quests related to a long-term objective.


Activities

Activities are smaller for more specific game experiences.  Not typically as grand or finite as a Quest, they attract players with a change of pace and more consistent rewards.  Good Activities spotlight a gameplay feature.

Finishing an Activity increases resources but doesn’t add to the feeling of finishing the main storyline.  All of them should influence or be influenced by the player’s story providing fictional relevance.

As a general rule, an Activity is unlocked for ongoing access through an introduction Quest. This one-time introduction may be a prerequisite for unlocking the next critical Quest.

 
  • They represent the dynamic open-world or sandbox content of the game.
  • Use systemic or open world content when possible.
  • Can be repeated many times in different forms.
  • Can be available any time unless a World State rule has changed
  • Can have standing objectives – such as “Whenever you find a blue egg, bring it back to me.
  • Don’t show up as primary or secondary HUD objectives.
  • Don’t always show up on the map screen.
  • Are player-motivated and initiated.
  • Are bite-sized and generally quick to finish or disengage.

Examples

 
  • Get the drop on all Gangs you see.
  • Find all Graffiti Tags.
  • Bring wild horses to me.

Activity Types

Like Quests, these have several types to consider.

Themed – These repeatable scenarios involve single goals to gain a single reward.  A chance to exercise a game feature or mechanic.  They have explicit locations to start them.  Examples include Shooting Ranges, Gambling, and Time Trials.  Some of these appear on the 2D Map once unlocked (like a Chop Shop for Car Theft requests).  Others appear systemically, depending on the World State (like a roaming pink limo for Car Theft).  Permanently available if a specific requirement isn't depleted or filled.

Opportunity – Opportunities are like small Quests that replenish over time.  Conditional in nature, these appear systemically based on the World State.  If the player fails to complete the objective, it doesn’t automatically become available again.  The player needs to discover a new instance of it in the game world.

These opportunities can unlock other events related to its story and the eventual goal, but they aren’t to be considered a larger Quest.  An example of this would be encountering Bounty Hunters with a captive from Red Dead Redemption 2.  You can choose to free the captive or take the captive in for the bounty.  If something involves checkpoints or multiple objectives, consider it a Quest.

Push – If players are ignoring Quests, Activities, or simply don’t interact with the world, a Push event will pop nearby to grab their attention and luring them back into the Game Loop.  For example, a gang ambushes the player, a priest shares a donation for saving a friend, or the boss appears and reveals information about the next Quest.  Naturally a Conditional event.

A Push event should never directly engage players if they're standing idle or using the game menu!

Point-Based

Some types are not marked on a map or even an explicit encounter. Some Activities are changes in stats or how players use game currency.

Investment – Investments satisfy long-term motivation for players with an item or upgrade in the game. For example, modifying an ability or vehicle, buying a safe house, clothes, or better weapons.

Tally – How players impact the world can be looked at as a series of statistics.  These raw numbers can be used to create more gameplay rewards to unlock more content.  For example, knock out 10 guards, steal 10 armored cars, or purchase 5 businesses.

Quickie – These change small values on a player. It can satisfy the immediate micro-compulsion loops – do something to get something. For example, looting an NPC or drinking a health potion.

Activity Arc

Activity results can influence future Activities.  Most Point-Based Activities pay-off throughout the game.  For example, 10 headshots unlock the next Gun Expert Perk.

A simple script managing variables in Activities can be influenced by external data (like player statistics).  A common use of this involves spawn count or type of enemy.  It can also trigger additional scripts to create rewards for completing a series of related Activities.

For example, players could hijack Army Supply Trucks anytime they’re available.  After the 3rd successful event, those Trucks now feature two armed drivers, making it more difficult to hijack them.  After the 5th successful event, the drop-off destination is surrounded by enemy gang members.  After the 9th successful event, players are rewarded with a Trucking business and now collects money from Truck shipments.

In this example, the Weapon Truck Opportunity would be removed from the Game Director cue for that specific area.  They might appear in another town or neighborhood.  It might unlock a new series of hijack opportunities, such as Armored Cars.

Another example is hunting in the original Red Dead Redemption.  If the player skins certain animals, his Huntsman rank increases.  Upon completing Rank 10, he gains the ability to create a health kit.  He can still hunt and gain the immediate reward afterwards, but there are no more meta-challenges involving the Hunting activity.


Vignettes

 

Not every event needs to be grand and gilded.  A Vignette is an ambient event which may or may not even involve gameplay. Players may see this as “the world is alive” while exploring.  Some could lead to a Quest or Activity.

This can be similar to a point-changing Quickie event.  Those tend to be systemic though, only expressed by AI actions and relevant to changing some statistic.  A Vignette on the other hand has a narrative purpose, which may not even have a change in point values.

Examples

 
  • Eavesdropping on guards when their shift changes.
  • A hotel clerk gossips about the writer in Room 1408.
  • Watching a wolf stalk a treasure hunter.

Motivation Loops

When you understand what’s attractive to players in the minute, hour, and day, it can help give clarity to the game event.  Murky game design and objectives can be the downfall to an otherwise exceptional team effort.

Core Loop

The common gravy to any game. It exercising the primary game verbs through a series of encounters. Using Action Shooters as an example, their core loop can involve shooting, stealth, cover, and sometimes vehicles.

Common Objectives can be expressed with these categories:

 
  • Takedown – Kill, destroy, or rob a person, place, or thing – such as Assassinate, Raid, or Steal.
  • Track – Find a person, place, or thing – such as Bounty Hunt, Investigate, or Repo.
  • Transport – Take or travel with a person or item to a place – such as Protect a VIP or Vehicle Delivery.

Meta Loop

Spending more time simply in the game can provide you with perks. It’s usually a slow but steady rise in rewards for exploring all aspects of the game.  For example, Investment and Tally events.

Micro Loop

If you’re into impulsive, immediate gain or loss, low impact in the larger picture, then embrace this motivation.  For example, the Quickie event for grabbing some bullets or cash in a dash.


Creation Types

How many of these events mix n’ match with others fall into a handful of categories.

Permanent – An event is always available after unlocked.

Conditional – An event appears based on rules and world states, like Time-of-Day.

Spotlight – An event suppressing all others until dealt with.

Instance

 
  • Closed off and removed from the open world for more control, like a Dungeon.
  • Never competes with other Activities except point-based ones, like a Slot Machine in a Casino Quest.
  • Have a clearly defined beginning and end.
  • Usually epic and fantastic.
  • Highly authored, which doesn’t always mean linear.

Open-World

 
  • Takes place in the sandbox world, like Robbing a Bank.
  • Lives in the same space as Activities, so players might be attracted to other opportunities.
  • Feels like a series of small objectives with an ending revealed over time.
  • Interacts with systemic systems, like Police systems.
  • Made up of multiple parts which can be completed in any order or with breaks in between.


Game Event Pie

Overlapping all these types gives you an idea how they relate to one another.  Most of the Quests and Activities can be in isolated Instances and the Open-World.  Some are exclusively in the Open-World like Found Quests and Push ActivitiesVignettes can relate to just about anything except Meta Motivation Loops.


 


Production Complexity

All of these events come at a cost.  While some are more or less complex than others, they should all aspire to be high quality though.  No event should feel like a cheap checklist like collecting items with no payoff.  It can be simple while at the same time feel like it’s part of a bigger experience.  These labels help set expectations and schedules.

Heavy – Involves unique locations, cutscenes, and/or spectacle events.

Medium – Involves a minor unique location and/or combat arena in an existing Neighborhood or Region.

Simple – Uses existing Neighborhood or Region content.  Little new art is needed.


Summary

Knowing when different parts come into play and the variety of those parts can help anyone designing a game for WHAT and WHEN an exciting event should happen.

You could say the World State keeps track of the pantry...

The State Manager is what's on today's menu...

And the Game Director is the chef who tries to give you treats

 

 

Other Orchestrating Gameworlds articles: Prefab Primer
You can find more posts on my website at CuriousConstructs.com.


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