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Old 07-23-2008, 10:55 PM   #11
Adrir
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Originally Posted by ronnoc10 View Post
I really have no idea what other solution to game writing there can be, other than linear and branched storylines, although I may be using a broad definition of 'branching.'
I don't think event & trigger based gameplay is strictly branched because the triggers and events can occur, in theory, in significantly different orders. Although it can make the story more difficult to follow.
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:15 AM   #12
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I don't think event & trigger based gameplay is strictly branched because the triggers and events can occur, in theory, in significantly different orders. Although it can make the story more difficult to follow.
That's probably why so many game stories are linear. People are afraid they'd be too difficult to follow. It really depends how it was pulled off. To do it well, you would need a good narrative designer who can make the events make sense no matter which order they are in, and perhaps add a significance to each different order.

--
Game flow has the ability to effect plot flow. It probably should affect plot flow. But it doesn't in a lot of games.
For example, the Godfather Blackhand edition, it has a similar sandbox play where you can do anything. However a certain spot will be marked with either a blue dot or blue x, and going to that spot will activate a main story event. It doesn't matter how many stores you take over, people you kill, cars you steal, mob fights you instigate, banks you rob or strippers you hit on in between. The main story is unaffected. No matter what you do, John Waltz will still wake up to find Khartoum's head in his bed. This event will occur right after Michael is safely driven to his ship. It will occur before the main character moves to live in with his sweetheart, Frankie. Again, what you do in between doesn't change this. Though the side stories are near endless, the main story is unaffected.

Writing for games is different than books and films because it is the designers'/writers' duty to figure out how player interaction will immerse the player into the story and whether or not the player has the power to alter the events that occur. In many games, the player doesn't really affect the story, the interaction only results in the player being more immersed into it. That said, many of the methods films and books use to tell stories can be effectively put into a game. Flashbacks and such are among these. Again, a lot rests on how it is done, which details are emphasized in what way, etc.
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Old 07-24-2008, 04:25 PM   #13
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Wouldn't the Coupons idea still be linear? Since as I understand it, the coupons unlock a segment of the plot. The player needs to "earn" each advancement, therefore the plot is still linear, just split up.

I've not a chance to play it yet, but what about Zelda Ocarina of Time? As I understand it, Link goes through various stages of his life, kind of like flashbacks. Again, I haven't played it yet, so I'm possibly misunderstanding.

What would REALLY be a nonlinear plot line would be if someone made a game out of Slaughterhouse Five. Completing each successful stage/mission would result in a time warp to some random point in the main character's life (childhood, deathbed, etc).
I could not imagine Slaughterhouse Five as a game. That would just be one really strange game. Then again, I'm probably one of a small minority who would find a game based on Slaughterhouse Five an intriguing concept.

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I don't think event & trigger based gameplay is strictly branched because the triggers and events can occur, in theory, in significantly different orders. Although it can make the story more difficult to follow.
I think in some ways this could be a good thing, as you get to experience the game the way you want to depending on what missions you want to do and when (at least in that particular block of missions). When GTA IV first came out, there was four of us in my house playing it, and we all experienced the storyline with at least some variations, and in a few places in very different order.

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Old 07-24-2008, 05:41 PM   #14
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I could not imagine Slaughterhouse Five as a game. That would just be one really strange game. Then again, I'm probably one of a small minority who would find a game based on Slaughterhouse Five an intriguing concept.
I can think of two ways off the top of my head it could be done.

1) Each mission is a linear task like any other game based off of what happens in the book. However, the missions are shuffled in a random order, so the player experiences a completely different sequence of events each time they play the game.

2) There are certain points in the game that appear in each mission/level. The player can use these points to save their progress in the current mission. The point will then warp the player to another random mission. If the mission is one the player has already started before, they will appear where they left off on that mission. Missions that are complete are eliminated from the program's selection and thus cannot be returned to.

So essentially the game would treat each mission like a card and randomly shuffle the order they are triggered in. The first option is based on completion, the second is based on when they save the game. Of course, in Option 2, it would be up to the designers to convey to the player that they did not lose their progress in the mission and eventually the game will return them to it. Surrounding context, dialogue, soundtrack&audio, lighting&visual effects would have to heavily concentrate to create a subconscious dark but whimsical feel so the player doesn't get frustrated from focusing too much at completing a task that they're getting warped out of.
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Old 07-24-2008, 08:32 PM   #15
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Since my quote began this thread, I thought I should chime in.

In my book I discuss four approaches to storytelling in games from the most restrictive to the least. The first is Traditional (Linear); the second is Branching (Linear-Thinking); the third is Web (Simple Non-Linear); the last is Modular (Non-Linear) the approach I've been using whenever possible since 1995. It's what I've been teaching at GDC tutorials, conference lectures and now at Indiana University. I say "whenever possible" because I'm a professional game designer and writer, and often I'm expected to use--or am forced to use due to the linear material from another medium I may be adapting--the less satisfying approaches.

Modular storytelling and systemic (as opposed to tightly-scripted) game writing fit the way most players want to play games. Players want to feel their choices have meaning; that the game world is changed by those choices. Modular storytelling allows this true interaction between player and narrative in a way linear and branching never can.

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Old 07-25-2008, 09:52 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by clsheldo@indiana.edu View Post
Since my quote began this thread, I thought I should chime in.

In my book I discuss four approaches to storytelling in games from the most restrictive to the least. The first is Traditional (Linear); the second is Branching (Linear-Thinking); the third is Web (Simple Non-Linear); the last is Modular (Non-Linear) the approach I've been using whenever possible since 1995. It's what I've been teaching at GDC tutorials, conference lectures and now at Indiana University. I say "whenever possible" because I'm a professional game designer and writer, and often I'm expected to use--or am forced to use due to the linear material from another medium I may be adapting--the less satisfying approaches.

Modular storytelling and systemic (as opposed to tightly-scripted) game writing fit the way most players want to play games. Players want to feel their choices have meaning; that the game world is changed by those choices. Modular storytelling allows this true interaction between player and narrative in a way linear and branching never can.

Lee
Thank you for chiming in.

I wasn't quite sure what 'Web' or "Modular' meant, so I attempted to aquir your book, but I can't find a copy in my state I also looked up games that you had worked on, but they are mostly pretty low-profile.
Would modular storytelling be something like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? And what is this web madness?
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:08 PM   #17
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I attempted to aquir your book, but I can't find a copy in my state I also looked up games that you had worked on, but they are mostly pretty low-profile.
Wow, thanks for the warm welcome. Since you appear to have internet access you might try online for a copy of the book. Amazon will have a few. And you can order one from any local bookseller, if there isn't one on their shelves.

[i]Oblivion[/] is a sandbox with a short linear story running down its center.

Web structures attempt to move away from branching by back-tracking and juggling some content to match how the player goes through the story.

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Old 07-26-2008, 02:38 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by ronnoc10 View Post
Thank you for chiming in.

I wasn't quite sure what 'Web' or "Modular' meant, so I attempted to aquir your book, but I can't find a copy in my state I also looked up games that you had worked on, but they are mostly pretty low-profile.
Would modular storytelling be something like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? And what is this web madness?
You can find it on Amazon.com by clicking here.

I just ordered it myself a few days ago ^^;;;
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Old 08-02-2008, 12:18 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by clsheldo@indiana.edu View Post
In my book I discuss four approaches to storytelling in games from the most restrictive to the least. The first is Traditional (Linear); the second is Branching (Linear-Thinking); the third is Web (Simple Non-Linear); the last is Modular (Non-Linear)
In all honesty I am profaining my religion by posting but I couldn't help myself...

Even Modular are not truley NON-linear. After playing thru (usually several times) slight yet very distinctive patterns do form. As to make a point true non-linear stories lie in the fact that they hold a limitless quantity of bodies and endings. Presenting this in relation to a game is extremely difficult.

It would require either finesse enough to present the same story (or parts there of) with slight differences thus allowing for the illusion of non-linear or in reality it could require a enviorment just as adaptive as the player. Simply as to present new challenges and new ends (remember it's not always about the end but the journey too). Still to pose a totally new idea why not begin differently and have the ends the same (or maybe the second, third, or fourth time through the stories meet in the middle) or maybe they don't end at all.

Oh and a comment on the original thread BRANCHING a story and making it bigger adds game time not a new story. Oh and there are other ways of writing storylines...

I know off hand that this is not all true in all situations () so go ahead criticize...

Ok I'm done being stupid, long winded, and a tiny bit sarcastic.
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Old 08-02-2008, 12:40 PM   #20
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I think you're going to far with the semantic argument Neoconk - to use the term linear is to describe something as having one line along which the player must walk. A non-linear story(line...pun ) in your strict definition of limitless is an irrelevant design - that kind of story can't be written, even with the modular 'emergent' story that Lee champions.

What you're essentially saying is that unless there are limitless 'lines' for the player to build himself (building rather than following) then a game is linear. The point I'm driving at is that this design is essentially life from a god's perspective, not a game, not a story, not even a world that is fabricated with millions of characters. That definition is therefore of no use to us.

No linear game exists given a clinical definition of the term. At some point it, by virtue of being a game, becomes non-linear because at the very least the player has some input. A single move of the direction pad means that some authorship of the games events has been given to the player.

The connotation of what makes a non linear game is what we're really talking about. That is to say that a game where you are given the background, then you perform prescribed actions (blow up this and shoot that, point a to point b to point c) is in effect 'linear' (again: connotation, not strict definition), and we are hashing out ways to avoid that kind of...well, it's at best uninspiring and at worst lazy storytelling.

Also, what did you mean by 'there are other ways of writing storylines', because that's the point of this thread - I could be completely wrong and you could prove it by discussing the 'ways of writing storylines' you're thinking of.
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