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Writing For Video Game Genres

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 85

Aeonite writes "The third book in a pseudo-trilogy, Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG, offers advice from 21 experts in the field of video game writing, pulled from the ranks of the IGDA's Game Writers Special Interest Group and wrangled together by editor Wendy Despain. It follows in the footsteps of Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing and Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, and in keeping with the trend, offers the most specific, targeted advice for how to write for an assortment of game genres." Read below for the rest of Michael's review.Depending on your particular poison, the authors of each chapter might be immediately recognizable or complete unknowns. Possibly most likely to be familiar to a general audience are Sande Chen (The Witcher) and Richard Dansky (Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Far Cry), but Lee Sheldon (the Agatha Christie series), Andrew Walsh (Prince of Persia) and David Wessman (the Star Wars: X-Wing series) might also ring a bell.

The important thing here, however, is not who the writers are, so much as that they deftly cover a wide variety of terrain. As the subtitle suggests the book covers everything from FPS to RPG, from MMO to ARG, and the entirety of alphabet soup in-between. Each chapter covers the particular challenges of writing for one particular genre, and generally offers specific tips on how to overcome those challenges when writing for that genre. The chapter on MMOs, for example, discusses the fact that MMOs have stories that never end, worlds with millions of chosen ones, and a complete inability to control pacing or quest flow. "Writing for Platform Games" emphasizes the need to provide a coherent narrative even while the player is generally busy trying to complete the next jumping puzzle. Other familiar genres covered along the way include Adventure games, Sports games, Flight Simulators and Driving games.

Several of the chapters also venture outside of what traditionally constitutes a "game genre." For example, Richard Dansky and Chris Klug respectively cover Horror and Sci-Fi/Fantasy, themes that are based on the shape of the narrative rather than any particular gameplay format. Later chapters also explore Sandbox games (which author Ahmad Saad indicates can include everything from Grand Theft Auto III to SimCity), Serious games (being "games that do not have entertainment as a primary purpose"), and Casual games. Chapters are also devoted to specific platforms: Evan Skolnick covers Handheld games, and Graeme Davis explores Mobile Phone games. The fact that some of these categories necessarily include games that might also fall into genres covered earlier is never a problem here, however; each chapter offers specific advice relevant to its particular subject, and there is little if any "what he said" repetition to be found, and certainly nothing like outright contradictory advice from different authors.

While a single numbered outline format is followed throughout the book, each author writes in a slightly different fashion. This means that some authors (such as Andrew Walsh, in his coverage of Platformers) present swaths of dense copy within each numbered section, whereas others break up their chapter with numerous subheads, a single short paragraph beneath each point (as with Daniel Erickson's chapter on RPGs). Further, while the format of the book's bulleted lists is consistent throughout, their prevalence is somewhat uneven; Lee Sheldon's chapter on Adventure games is chock full of bullets, while Dansky's chapter on Horror games nearly dispenses with them altogether (but for one single list of five items). Certain chapters contain many charts, tables and/or screenshots, while others lack them altogether. One particular design feature — a boxed "Special Note" that intrudes into the margin — is used only a scant handful of times in the entire book, which makes each sudden instance more of a "Hey! Over Here!!" than the "Psst, by the way..." which I think was intended.

None of this is in any way bad: in fact, Despain's Preface encourages skipping around, and specifically addresses the issue of inconsistency by saying that the chapters are "written as personal essays with the individual style of each author intact." However, it is a notable feature of the book and worth a mention; this is not a book you read from cover to cover in one sitting.

The larger consideration for the purposes of review is this: should you buy a copy? The book's intended audience is — as with the earlier books in the "trilogy" — geared towards professionals already working in the game industry. Quotes on the back cover specifically mention "those of us swimming in the murky waters of games storytelling," and the book's closing chapter (J. Robinson Wheeler's "Writing For Interactive Fiction") dispenses with any illusion altogether, saying "If you're reading this book, you're a writer..." Even the Preface says "we" more than "you" when addressing the reader. The assumption is that you're already "one of us," and while that's a warm embrace for me (since I am indeed "one of them"), it might come across as a bit of a lukewarm shoulder for someone outside the industry.

In short, this book — perhaps even moreso than either of the previous IGDA Writers SIG books — is by writers, and for writers. As a "starting point from which we (game writers) can work together to improve the state of the art," the book provides an excellent foundation, and deserves to be on the bookshelf of any game writer or designer, be they novice or veteran. As for everyone else... if you're ready to dip a toe in the chilly waters of game writing, you could do far worse than to check out the advice within.

You can purchase Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Game story (5, Funny)

PizzaAnalogyGuy (1684610) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204098)

The chapter on MMOs, for example, discusses the fact that MMOs have stories that never end, worlds with millions of chosen ones, and a complete inability to control pacing or quest flow.

I have always wondered why MMO's actually have a more dynamic world. It doesn't even need to be something where you can interact with everything, but where your actions have actual effects on the world.

Interesting concept would be have two or three nations. Every nation would be having it's hierarchy, starting from a single king to ministers and then to army wiht its generals and lower level players.

For those who wouldn't want to fight, there would be an economical system based on the same idea. Lets say you wanted to be a level 80 pizza baker. But as with life, you wont get to the top right away. Your life would start as an abandoned-by-his-father, homeless boy on the streets of Naples, Italy. As a kid you didn't have any money and had to live on the cold streets. There were lots of fine italian pizza restaurants. After closing time you went on their back doors and sneaked some already cold pizza from the trash. Pizza that was too rotten to be eaten by the classy rich people. Tasting and mixing the different kinds of pizzas you found from the trash actually teached you about different kinds of flavors in pizza and sooner or later you dinged your first level.

Now the economy could be nicely mixed in. As a low level character without any gold, you have to start from the bottom, doing work that higher level players found boring. You set up your own little corner where you would take quick pizza orders from people walking past you. From soldiers injured by the enemy forces. Because you didn't have any start-up cash, you would took an order and walk behind the other pizza place and hope they've just thrown something out. Perfect, almost the pizza that the customer ordered. You just take out the pepperoni with your fingers and deliver the pizza to the customer. GZ first quest done, level 2 dinged, made some cash and even improved your skills. Eventually your grant level 80 quest would be to create the largest pizza in the world - larger than anyone has ever done.

This is also why the world should be SKILL BASED, not level based. You do something and you learn. Eventually you would be the best pizza maker in the world.

That is what i want to see in a game. Maybe this book helps me get in to gaming industry as a game story writer.

Re:Game story (2, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204334)

I thought "NewHere" had the most obscure gag-based nick. You, PizzaAnalogyGuy, have taken away that crown.

Re:Game story (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204354)

As a low level character without any gold, you have to start from the bottom, doing work that higher level players found boring.

This it the thing that kills the MMO concept, IMO. Everything in the game is in there by design, so why would the designers deliberately put in bits that are "too boring for high level players" and how could that possibly be "acceptible level of boring for low level players"

MMO game economies have raw materials invariably going for higher prices than the finished goods for a reason, and the reason is that XP makes doing a job more valuable than buying the output, and that due to the variety of activities available to them, there is nothing that is more boring for a high level character than a low level character.

Re:Game story (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205772)

>MMO game economies have raw materials invariably going for higher prices than the finished goods for a reason

It still puzzles me that I can get ten gold for one [Fadeleaf], when a [Lesser Invisibility Potion] won't sell for 50 silver.

Re:Game story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30207804)

People don't want Fadeleaf bundled into Lesser Invisibility Potions... they want freakin Fadeleaf.

Re:Game story (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205386)

Except that, by definition, only one player can be "the best pizza maker in the world". So what happens when thousands of people play pizza makers?

And spending my recreation time doing something that "higher level players found boring" doesn't seem like a great idea to me. I'd rather spend it doing something not boring thanks all the same.

See ultima online for what happens with that model of gameplay.

Re:Game story (1)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205406)

You created a new account just to post pizza analogies? Wow, and I thought my extended period of unemployment was making me go crazy from boredom!

Because it doesn't work (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#30207472)

The short version is that the MMO genre started there, but basically that's not what most people want. And that like communism or anarchy, it requires a different kind of human to work than the ones we actually have.

E.g., UO tried hard to have a world where animals have realistic reproduction cycles, and you need two wolves to get one more wolf. But some people then made it their quest and goal in life to make wolves extinct, just so they can shaft the other players that way.

E.g., UO tried hard to have a realistic econom, with finite resources like ore. Though they did have the foresight to create more ore when items made of that metal are removed from the game (including sold to vendors.) You know, so a realistic supply and demand would work. But some players took it upon themselves to ruin it for the others, e.g., by hoarding iron items in their bank, just so ore wouldn't spawn for the crafters any more. Not to corner the market later or anything, but just to be the fuckwit who keeps others from enjoying the game they paid for.

E.g., UO tried hard to have a player-based justice. Except they had to eventually grudgingly admit that there is nothing you can do in character, to someone who sees their character as just a disposable harrassment tool.

To get to your examples: Nations having hierarchies sounds good when you're the first player, but not as the guy who started on a 5 year old game and where every rank above you is fillled with people who seemingly never quit. Some group of fucktards somewhere will make it their goal in life to get those postions just so they can then leave their account running without ever logging in, just so _you_ can't get them.

(And if you think they wouldn't pay money just to inconvenience someone else, in UO there was a brisk trade where people just kept buying accounts to scam, cheat and grief and get banned. Sure, they lost the money, but they made a few people miserable.)

Additionally, you don't seem to talk about quests for example. Sure, if your MMO is just a mindless repetitive work simulator, like in the pizza example, it's easy. But that's been done already. See, UO again. Most players these days want lots and lots of quests and _story_. Double so the casual gang. And no, "you're a pizza boy, now go grind and ding" doesn't quite cut it.

And those story quests don't mix well with persistent world changes. If someone saved the princess and she doesn't respawn right back in the tower, now what? There are 10,000 other players on the server. What will _those_ get instead of that quest? Are you planning to pay designers to write 10,000 different quests there, so the other players get something of comparable difficulty to do? Didn't think so.

Basically until we have an AI Dungeon Master which can generate passable story arcs and quests on the fly, a different one for each player, that idea is really a no go.

Re:Because it doesn't work (1)

One Monkey (1364919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212368)

Or a system of voluntary moderation of accounts by trusted users like everything else on the internet. A Dungeon Master client for those interested in quest design might be handy too.

Re:Because it doesn't work (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225006)

That's why C.J. Cherryh's ``Morgaine'' universe would be perfect --- it's a story of gates which lead to different worlds, each of which must be closed before heading on to the next, but almost all of which were manipulated by an all-but extinct precursor race, so repetitive elements would make sense --- basically a world would remain until played out, then the last character would close the gate on leaving, instantiating a new world which they went to.

William

Re:Because it doesn't work (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230228)

"To get to your examples: Nations having hierarchies sounds good when you're the first player, but not as the guy who started on a 5 year old game and where every rank above you is fillled with people who seemingly never quit. Some group of fucktards somewhere will make it their goal in life to get those postions just so they can then leave their account running without ever logging in, just so _you_ can't get them."

For a while there I forgot you were talking about a Mmmmogprrrr...

Re:Game story (1)

Simetrical (1047518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30218614)

I have always wondered why MMO's actually have a more dynamic world. It doesn't even need to be something where you can interact with everything, but where your actions have actual effects on the world.

Try EVE Online. It's a space setting, not fantasy, but it's in line with this. You use spaceships to gather ore, which gives you money. You can build things, make capital investments, form corporations with private armies, sell shares in your corporation. Or be employed by someone else's corporation, or become a pirate, or whatever. I haven't played it, but my impression is most things are run by players, and it pulls it off pretty successfully.

The question is (3, Funny)

Nautical Insanity (1190003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204108)

can they teach me to write a good first post?

Re:The question is (5, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204678)

I'm sure they can. My advice - work on your timing.

Re:The question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30216478)

Sorry AFK - what's up?

How about some normal shit for once? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204142)

So many games out there revolve around crazy Japanese themes and shit. Frankly, I want none of that. I don't want characters with unpronounceable names. I don't want characters who look like anime. I don't want characters who talk like anime characters. I don't want tentacle rape.

Re:How about some normal shit for once? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30206404)

Thats a tall order when most games are written for a Japanese audience.

Re:How about some normal shit for once? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30208966)

Madden.

Why not get successful writers instead? (3, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204172)

C.J. Cherryh for instance, two of her universes --- the Morgaine series and her Alliance-Union (``Merchanter'') series both seem purpose-built to have RPGs built out of them --- and both have a sufficiently large canvas as to make a Massively Multiplayer game work very, very well.

The Gates in the Morgaine series in particular would translate well into RPG mechanics of restarting a game w/ an extant character.

William

Because Successful Writers Cost Actual Money (3, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204256)

...unlike the folks who will be buying this book, who would most likely work for free for the opportunity to be part of a game development team.

Because most can't write for games. (3, Interesting)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204332)

Writing for the interactive medium is very different, depending on the level of agency the game offers. If a game provides a fixed linear story, then a conventional writer can learn to do it; but many games offer the player the opportunity to affect the plot, and that severely wrings the withers of a lot of writers.

Writers are under the impression that it's "their" story. In a video game, it ain't.

Re:Why not get successful writers instead? (4, Interesting)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204360)

An RPG writer I know of tells a story he got from from Mike Stackpole, where a Hollywood studio flew him out to meet their creative team and asked him all kinds of questions about his book property. In the end they decided not to go with the property, but there wasn't one question they asked him they wouldn't have known the answer to if any of them had actually read the book.

Re:Why not get successful writers instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30206264)

It's a common complaint at writers conferences. Basically, if you are dealing with Hollywood, you should expect them never to have read your book.

Re:Why not get successful writers instead? (1)

One Monkey (1364919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212580)

I bet the meeting lasted a heck of a lot less time than it would have taken all the attendees to read the book... writers need to get over themselves.

Good thing it's covering writing... (5, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204184)

...and not artistic design. Whoever drew a cover should stay very, very far away from any sort of real work.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204302)

Well, maybe they're hoping the Space Marine on the left sucks so bad Games workshop will be too embarrassed to sue them.

I know a handful of guys I work with that would have done a much better job for say $50-100 which on a $50 book is nothing at all.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204352)

I know a handful of guys I work with that would have done a much better job for say $50-100 which on a $50 book is nothing at all.

Well, that depends on how many copies of the book you sell, now doesn't it?

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204414)

Even on the tiniest shoestring buget, you take up a $5 collection from each of the authors, donate some plasma or something.

Maybe you can't judge a book by its ocver, but people still buy them like you can.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204426)

Maybe you can't judge a book by its ocver, but people still buy them like you can.

By its Cover even

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204888)

There might be a reason - if GW has IP claims on the space marine design.

The Publisher is AK Peters... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204636)

...the fine scientific-publishing folks who brought you "Algebraic Combinatorics and Coinvariant Spaces," "Symbolic Dynamics and Geometry: Using D* in Graphics and Game Programming," and "Realistic Image Synthesis Using Photon Mapping." So, for them, what you see on the cover of this book is practically Michael Whelan.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (2, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204708)

You have to wait for the companion second volume to come out, Drawing covers for books on Writing for Video Game Genres. It really mixes things up by having a brilliantly-drawn cover but 200 pages of half-assed, nonsensical rambling.

So basically, it's ghost-written by Rush Limbaugh.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30207010)

Video game writing is pretty much on par with the quality of that cover art.

Re:Good thing it's covering writing... (2, Funny)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 3 years ago | (#30207476)

Excuse me, but if you don't instantly recognize a Space Marine from the Mr T 40k Universe ("I pity the genestealer!"), E'Latina'a the Hispanic Night Elf from the further reaches of southern Kalimdor (She is the one that gives you the quest to kidnap the rich daughter of King Varian for ransom, you know, the "My white powdered goods are of the highest quality" chick) and ... and ... that game with the psychopathic purple rat wearing the ammo belt ... I think it's a character from Everquest (surely one of the millions of expansions must have dealt with mutation in lab mice), then I really don't know how to help you out here.

It's all quite simply, really. (0)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204246)

"Scantily Clothed Girls with Guns."

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (0)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204374)

RPG "Scantily Clothed Girls with Guns."
FPS "Scantily Clothed Girls with Swords."

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (0, Redundant)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204388)

Oops

FPS "Scantily Clothed Girls with Guns."
RPG "Scantily Clothed Girls with Swords."

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (0, Redundant)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204620)

RTS "Scantily Clothed Girls with Zerg Rush."
Flight Simulators "No Scantily Clothed Girls, thus they don't sell them anymore"
Fantasy "Scantily Clothed Girls on Slashdot."

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214304)

RTS "Scantily Clothed Girls with Zerg Rush."

Somehow, getting Zerg rushed by scantily clothed girls doesn't sound all that bad to me.

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (1, Funny)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204846)

Not as easy as it looks, is it?

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204392)

So why wasn't there ever a Dirty Pair video game? Well, aside from Project Eden which apparently a) sucked and b) was never released outside Japan, probably because of a).

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204982)

Why is there no Dirty Pair game? I think mostly because the people likely to play it in Japan think 1985 was a billion years ago.

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (1)

grahamwest (30174) | more than 3 years ago | (#30208000)

It may also be that there was an entirely different game called Project Eden released in the USA in 2002 or so.

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204416)

"Scantily Clothed Girls with Guns."

Only if you want a sucky movie [imdb.com] made based on the game.

Re:It's all quite simply, really. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204496)

I'd hardly call that Scantily. I want something like SIN Episodes: Emergence - where I can see a Thong on the box cover and the opening sequence has a very suggestive waterfall scene.

Hardly Writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204364)

1. Find enemy
2. Point weapon
3. Pull trigger
4. Steal items from dead enemy
5. Flee scene of crime-victory
=
6. Profit

P.S. Your site visits are dropping tremendously.

Yours In Baikonur,
Kilgore Trout

Be careful with those RPGs! (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204380)

Rocket Propelled Grenade games can cause quite a bit of damage and even the death of people.

So be careful kids!

Writing is not a central element to gaming... (0)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204412)

but, it's important.

I can think of a lot of games that are fun, have awful stories and clumsy dialogue but it's just enough flavour to make things interesting.

What kills me sometimes is that a game developer might create some elaborate for a game thinking it's important for users to encounter "Wall o' Text" every so many minutes.

I really appreciate video game writing when it's all co-ordinated into one package. Portal was one example where the game mechanic, the puzzle elements and some clever storytelling combined together to form an awesome yet simple game. Nothing groundbreaking, just all the elements came together nicely.

In fact, that should be the goal of most game designers, to bring gameplay and storytelling elements together.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (1, Informative)

paazin (719486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204494)

Writing is not a central element to gaming...

Let me introduce you to Planscape: Torment, friend.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214368)

Writing is not a central element to gaming...

Let me introduce you to Planscape: Torment, friend.

Let me introduce you to a game that's fucking impossible to find through legitimate channels. :(

Whenever there's a discussion about deep stories in games and games where your actions have an impact Planescape: Torment always comes up, it's some kind of Godwin's Law for video games.

I have few regrets in life, but one of them is not buying that game when it was still available in stores.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30217322)

Amazon has like 20 something copies available.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204650)

I personally cannot think of a Single Player only game to have come out in the last 3 years which has failed to do just that. Any game that focuses on the immersive 1 player experience does it rather well, the story-telling is something like reading a book (for those who enjoy reading books) or like watching a movie (for those who... yeah you get the idea). Single player games really do tailor it to the user so their gameplay always seems to line up with the story rather well, mostly because there are no other elements to cloud it up.

I kind of prefer it that way, it seems like a 1 on 1 with the developers. I felt like I got to know Valve and their new acquisitions when I played Portal. I could tell they had a good sense of humour, and really loved mystery. And I don't know about the rest of people, but I feel awkward playing that type of game with someone watching. Even now, I'm going through Dragon-Age on the 360, which means its on the TV in the living room - and I can honestly say I don't enjoy playing the game when someone is watching. I know that when my room mates played it they skipped the dialogue. They did things differently, sometimes in an easier way. They feel the need to interject a joke in the midst of my playing. Maybe I'm just insecure, but I prefer it when I'm immersed so deeply into a game that I lose track of time. But when someone is there I can't help but feel like I should try to make it entertaining for them too, which is sometimes different then what I find entertaining.

And when you throw in a multiplayer experience - all storyline kind of gets tossed out the window. Its no longer about you and the designers, its now about you and your friends. You don't care about the characters story so long as their stats are better then your team mates. You are no longer playing a role, but rather playing a game.

And when a game feels like just a game, you couldn't care less how it ends.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (0)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204932)

Story is not the most immersive part of single player games: it is the activity and challenge. This was corroborated by Lennart Nacke working for the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Game and Media Arts Laboratory in a study called "BOREDOM, IMMERSION, FLOW - A PILOT STUDY INVESTIGATING PLAYER EXPERIENCE". They had players play various levels designed by them, some with scripted story events, and others with no events. Some with a lot of challenge and fast action, others without. Afterwards they asked the players to rate which was the most immersive. By far and large, the level rated most immersive was the level with no story sequences and a lot of action and challenge.

This of course makes sense, since in order to get in the zone and become immersed in the task of playing video games, you need a stimulating activity (action). Having a scripted sequence of cutscene pop up is a good way to kill flow.

Re:Writing is not a central element to gaming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30205524)

True. The correct way to merge story with gameplay to increase immersion is to imply the story, possibly with limited use of messages over a PA system, etc. Just about anything more and the player would start to notice problems, like not being able to reply to the NPCs in the way the player really wold do in real life, etc. Something like a PA system is does not break immerrsion as much, since the player can actually reply out loud, and see the same impact as in real life (none, since the person on the other end can't hear you). NPCs that are expected to act human tend to destroy immersion. You might not expect a Zombie to acknowledge something odd you just did, or something you said, but you would normally expect more from a human than you ever see in NPCs.

For games like shooters, the ultimate immersion would be a form of VR with very high realism, except where deliberately changed, such as perhaps reducing recoil, lack of pain getting shot, able to take way more damage then realistic, and perhaps semi-magical healing etc. But otherwise very high physical realism, allowing players to improvise weapons, and do other things not necessarily anticipated by the game developers. All characters would be other humans, and always acting in character, etc. Basically, much like the blue vs blue military training exercises that use rubber bullets, and fake grenades, etc, except that there is basically no risk of real injury, and explosions etc could be simulated properly, unlike with the training.

LoK (0)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204446)

Let me know when there is a book written by who ever wrote the dialog for the Legacy of Kain series. That series had some of the best monologues and character dialog I've seen in games to date.

Re:LoK (0)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204880)

true, LoK series is simply an example of wordsmithing mastery, narration and dialogues in games of the series are nothing short of pure genius. Another example of such a linguisitic brilliance would be Planescape: Torment and there is nothing that comes even close to these two.
person that fleshed out the LoK's world of Nosgoth would be Amy Hennig, though i am not sure if she was personally responsible for the spoken lines
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0377339/ [imdb.com]

Re:LoK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30210876)

I believe she was responsible for the lore, storyline, most of the dialogue. She's also the creative director on Uncharted 1 and 2, and acted as head writer with two other writers iirc

Writing For Video Games (5, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204456)

There is an impending disaster perpetrated by an insane villain. You rise from complete obscurity. You single-handedly (or with the help of characters with whom you have a love interest) defeat the entire opposing army, which attacks you in waves. Conveniently, they save the hardest opponents for the end when you are strongest.

For added depth give your character a dark past, such as your village and parents being killed by the opposing forces and making you a real lone wolf. Rinse and repeat.

Re:Writing For Video Games (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204750)

I think I played that game!

Re:Writing For Video Games (0, Redundant)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204824)

You have my condolences.

Re:Writing For Video Games (0)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30204916)

Don't forget that no one ever vocalizes your name unless its a sequel or part of an already established franchise.

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205720)

Unless they either force the character to a particular name, or, as with Mass Effect, let you pick a first name, but only ever use the last name in dialogue (i.e., everyone is "Commander Shepherd" regardless of what you pick as a first name, which, as far as I can tell, is only ever used to identify which set of game saves you are currently using).

Re:Writing For Video Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30205264)

I love the part where they create a side-kick for you, who wanders in near the beginning of the game, and then kill him off later on, when you're "emotionally" attached to him/her/it.

W

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205310)

A "chosen one," destined to save all mankind? That could never work as a videogame.

Puuulease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30206282)

"Shoot everything that moves and everything that doesn't" is all you need to know.

Re:Writing For Video Games (4, Interesting)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206384)

-The main character is usually a kid. The kid's parents are usually dead or are killed at the beginning of the story. The kid was raised by an aunt, uncle or some other "guardian"
-Even if the main character is a soldier in the king's army, he's still a kid.
-The hero usually lives in some small village, which is often destroyed at the beginning of the game or somewhere in the first act.
-The plot usually involves something that will ultimately destroy the world.
-Any damsel in distress is invariably beautiful.
-Even when villains claim to want peace and a solution appears to be offered, it's never true. Even if one tries to cut a deal, there's always a shadowy overlord who will stab him in the back and return to the festivities of taking over or destroying the world.
-If the hero is ever put in jail, there is always a convenient way to escape - by talking with another inmate who has an escape plan, by stealing the guard's keys...

It's pretty sad how often these are true in any modern fantasy story.

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214940)

So, what you're saying is, all I need to to do break the cliche is write a story where:
  • The main character is really, really old. Like so old he's too old to be in the Queen's navy, but he's still there anyway. Also, despite his age, he still has his parents, with whom he's had a long, healthy, and rich relationship, where they've fully imparted upon him a sense of heritage and family history.
  • The hero will live in a large city, which will most definitely not be destroyed. Or if it is, it happens at the end of the book.
  • There is absolutely no danger to the world, or to anything at all, really.
  • The damsel in distress will be ugly. Or perhaps not even a damsel at all. Maybe cross-dresser with no sense of makeup or fashion.
  • Villains will want to claim peace, and it will be true. They'll settle all of their differences in the first act, and peace with reign. The shadowy overlord will fully endorse the peace. Discussing the quality, duration, and integrity of the peace will take up most of the second act. The third act will contain a brief moment where everyone is worried the peace may not be maintained, but then it will be, and the story's climax will hinge on everyone's expressed relief that the peace was maintained.
  • The hero will be put in jail and spend the rest of the story stuck there. Peace deals will have to be brokered through the bars of jail.

I think we can all agree this would be an un-sad, very novel interpretation to make a truly postmodern fantasy story.

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

frost_knight (885804) | more than 4 years ago | (#30217052)

Quirkz, I think a thoughtful, moving story could be created off of the roadmap you've provided. A skilled writer could make the "worry about the peace" absolutely gripping.

And perhaps the "ugly damsel" is the most beautiful woman in the world to the main character...Niafer from "Figures of Earth" by James Branch Cabell springs to mind.

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30216526)

These are tropes and an essential part of storytelling. Calling them "sad" just exposes how little you know, and makes you look like a total moron. Go back to consuming stories, and don't try to talk up to people who know more than you. Thanks, bye!

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30217046)

These are overused clichés and because of them 90% of books are essentially the same book with character and place names search-and-replaced. Calling them "essential" just exposes how little you know, and makes you look like someone who never thinks outside the box. Go back to consuming stories, and don't try to talk up to people who know more than you. Thanks, bye!

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206672)

You're selling video games short.

For example, there's usually amnesia involved also.

NO plot ends @ X hours of gameplay - cutscenes (2, Interesting)

turtleshadow (180842) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206804)

I think the hardest thing for gamers and writers to face is that the plot has to end in some forced timeframe.
Reviews kill game houses that end the game with only 6 hours. Others pan a game for having 40 hrs of in game content.

WOW, EVE and others you can play for man months if not years as the outcome of the plot is injected and/or generates over time.

For RPGs go for a multiple (but less than 4) story arcs that are solid. B5, Trek and other successful series use this method as hopefully at least one will captivate the playing audience and immerse themselves into the story.

The best "trick" was Star Wars and the Boba Fett/Biggs or HL's Freemen sparse & unwritten arcs. How much fun was it to have the players/readers live that out for themselves and then build entire mod's or experiences around just a few ideas of a character. -- Thats the Role Play in RPG.

Even Halo's abrupt end due to budget cuts was like having your favorite serial TV show have a cliffhanger midseason!

Re:Writing For Video Games (1)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 3 years ago | (#30207566)

You can tell the villian is insane because he gives his troops random armor and weaponry, and his orders to glue guns and armor to their bodies were ignored by some of the goons meaning that the main character can occasionally remove them from dead enemies and use them himself, because of course he entered the fight originally with a sharp stick and some rags.

The one thing you will never find though is a setting in which the black plague is rife. Kinda hard when all your heroes spend their formative years destroying the rat population.

you 1nsensitive clod! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30204970)

I see a problem... (1)

puroresu (1585025) | more than 3 years ago | (#30205580)

Games writing is certainly a new field in the grand scheme of things. Can there really be enough established work of sufficient quality that you can point to it in a textbook?

I mean, how many games are full of one dimensional characters, predictable plots and cookie cutter settings? I remember hearing Bioshock lauded as an excellent example of originality and quality in writing and conceptualisation, but having been thoroughly disappointed with it, I'd much rather play something with a minimal plot and more focus on gameplay.

Probably on a SNES emulator.

Experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30206154)

I would say with the current state of video game writing I would be suspicious of anyone who calls themselves an expert.

If a Game has a Great Storyline (1)

Wowlapalooza (1339989) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206198)

, which is engaging and critically-important to the whole game experience, would we still call it a "video game" (a label I've never been fond of attaching to, say, RPGs)? Seems like "video game" refers to a game which is mainly about, er, the video. In this sense, it's an oxymoron to have a "video game" with a strong and central storyline.

Discuss

Re:If a Game has a Great Storyline (1)

beatsme (1472991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30209102)

I'm not entirely sure what there is to discuss. Semantics? Videos can have central storylines as evidenced by, er, movies.

WoW backstory (2, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206548)

The backstory in WoW actually has some potential. Unfortunately, the story is revealed 512 characters at a time, and nobody actaully reads it. They get the quest pane, and dismiss it, and then maybe look to see what they have to kill/gather/find. If there's a question that needs to be answered at the end of the quest, it comes from thottbott, not from actual immersion in the quest.

The first time my character ran Scarlet Monastery, I actually read the books in the library, much to the scorn of my impatient party. At the end of the quest, I was the only one with the answer to the quest giver's question -- everyone else looked up the answer on thott. I found that experience genuinely gratifying. I read the quest logs, even though many of them are silly and boring. I think the whole epic Azeroth story is pretty good, easily as compelling as something Cherryh or Jordan might have developed. It's kind of sad that it's lost on the average WoW player, who seems to be more intent on getting the game over with so they can get to lvl80 and harass other players in the cities, or try to out-do each other on the marginal benefits among the various purples.

The game is fun at low levels, if you actually play it instead of blindly skipping it.

Re:WoW backstory (1)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 3 years ago | (#30207662)

Yeah this is the thing. The story in WoW is actually quite reasonable for the most part, it's just that no one ever reads it. Admittedly the text scrolls so slowly that you need to have instant quest text turned on regardless but there is some genuinely entertaining writing, and some truly funny stuff as well.

Re:WoW backstory (1)

Reapy (688651) | more than 4 years ago | (#30217682)

Actually most people post about wow saying how they read the story and nobody else did. Then a bunch of other people chime in saying they read it and nobody else did. I think most people did read the story or get a little bit out of it...but still overall, while wow has a story, fun world design and great artistry, the plot is still very shallow and unchanging. I know in the last expansion they finally figured out a way for you to effect the world, which is great, but at the end of the day, if you want plot, you are better served playing a true RPG game, or reading a book.

Also, WOW is 4 years old, meaning many players have leveled up multiple characters through all the zones in the game and have done most all quest lines already, so there is no reason to stop and smell the roses.

Every player has their way to play the game. While I enjoy exploring and seeing new areas in the game, I find the plots somewhat boring and repetitive after having played games for most of my life. Up above people managed to pretty much sum up every game plot cliche off the top of their head. We've all seen it before. So, if a player wants to rush up and get into raiding and improve their character, that is just fine. It may not be your style, but it doesn't hurt you that they are playing that way.

I know some players really enjoy finding holes in game geometry and getting outside the gameworld. For me, this is not so exciting, since you can just fire up most games in a level editor and see what it is like, and getting outside the gameworld in one game is pretty much the same in every other world, more often then not annoying me. In assassin's creed 2 I accidentally got stuck in a corner and got pushed outside the level. This annoyed me rather then excited me, as I had to restart to continue playing. But other players really love finding those gaps and messing around underneath cities walking around on the 'floor' of the 3dspace. Good on them.

To each their own, really. Life is more relaxing that way...try it!

The parable of the monkies... (0, Troll)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 3 years ago | (#30206888)

We knew they'd bang out this book sooner or later, and look, they even got to do the cover!

wtf (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30208660)

WTF is a "pseudo trilogy" anyway?

Re:wtf (1)

Anci3nt of Days (1615945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30209620)

WTF is a "pseudo trilogy" anyway?

The Matrix. I swear it was only one movie, but everyone still calls it a trilogy.

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