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  • Narrative Vs Gameplay: A Toolbox For Harmonious Coexistence

    [05.28.20]
    - Valerio De Simone

  • Proximity Communication

    NPCs or other PCs talk to the character vis-à-vis. Sometimes they wait to be spoken with, sometimes they reach the player themselves.

    PROS yes

    • The world looks alive
    • Different NPCs can express different opinions and points of view
    • Players go looking for NPCs for many gameplay reasons, like equipment and quests

    CONS no

    • Potentially high use of models, dubbing, writing
    • The more NPCs there are, the more players is likely to skip dialogues and go back to the main gameplay

    EXAMPLES enlightened

    • Fallout Saga
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    • Final Fantasy Saga
    • Undertale

    Companion

    An NPC follows the main character, communicating with him regularly. Alternatively, the player guides a group of characters, which interact with each other.

    PROS yes

    • Every moment is ok to deliver content
    • Great bonding with the NPC

    CONS no

    • A lot of AI programming
    • Strong game design choice. NPC must be designed to be useful to the player, and never an obstacle, for example

    EXAMPLES enlightened

    • The Last of Us
    • Baldur's Gate saga
    • Oxenfree

    Transitions/Traversal

    Often used to hide level loadings, to calm the pace of the game, to give cheap game time, or to simply make the player move from an area to another with map and space coherence. These moments, usually, have a low level of interactivity.

    PROS yes

    • It fills an empty but necessary moment, with few, mostly mechanical gameplay and distractions for the player
    • Especially useful in combination with backtracking

    CONS no

    • When the destination is reached, the dialogue suddenly interrupts, unless the player chooses to wait for it to end. A rough choice, he would do nothing but listen to the narrative

    EXAMPLES enlightened

    • God of War (2018)
    • Red Dead Redemption

    Items

    Places to visit and objects to gather are scattered over the world. Once reached, the item delivers a piece of the story/theme/setting. Very common, almost every game delivers narrative this way.

    PROS yes

    • Players are encouraged to explore areas far from his main path, looking for items
    • Often related to the achiever player type, players often look for items to achieve an objective

    CONS no

    • Weak, few players linger in reading books and item descriptions
      • This effect can be prevented with audio registration or comment by the character, but that requires more dubbing

    EXAMPLES enlightened

    • The Witcher Saga
    • Dishonored Saga
    • Divinity: Original Sin 2

    Loading Screen

    The narrative is delivered during game loading, usually with text and images.

    PROS yes

    • It fills an empty but necessary moment, with no gameplay and distraction for the player

    CONS no

    • Limited time to deliver it, hardly can give deep pieces of information
    • Dependent on the quality and quantity of loading screens. Forcing a loading screen just to deliver a narrative is not recommended

    EXAMPLES enlightened

    • Dark Souls
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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