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  • Storytelling In Games: Theme And Mood

    [06.23.22]
    - Robert Renke

  • Incorporating mechanics and narrative

    Throughout the last decade, we somehow established the notion of gameplay and story as opposed and even contradictory things.

    As technology evolves we can notice a shift towards a more integrated approach. The old paradigm is holding us back, as Clint Hocking expresses to The Guardian(2014).

    Chris Remo states in his 2019 GDC talk how important it is to "focus on the elements of the game that are going to speak to your priorities. Everything else is extraneous at best, and potentially works against your narrative goals".

    According to Cassie Phillips'(2016) metrics on multiple-choice romance games, the relationship to the characters is much more important for replayability than branching dialogue or choices that are meaningful to the plot itself.

    The speaker estimates the industry standard to be about one choice every 20 or 30 minutes, and states that more choices don't affect retention significantly. Rather, it is about the emotional magnitude of each choice.

    Figure 9: Phillips, C., (2016). All Choice No Consequence: Efficiently Branching Narrative. Game Developers Conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEa9aSDHawA

    Horneman(2015) explains how fiction and mechanics can inspire each other, giving the example of Deus Ex's black market system.

    The equipment system in Deus Ex started as a purely mechanical feature, posterior to that, a narrative tone was added through the concept of the black market.

    Figure 10: Horneman, J., (2015). The Design in Narrative Design. Game Developers Conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8VIlfTtypg&t=478s

    Another example of such narrative integration of a mechanical skill system can be seen throughout the Far Cry series. For example, Far Cry 3 borrows the Samoan tradition of tatau as a rite of passage. As the protagonist progresses and obtains more skills, those are represented by the progression of the tatau on his arm. Other instances of the series have opted for simpler skill systems embedded in their respective settings, such as Far Cry 5 using the more conventional first-person shooter concept of perks.

    Figure 11: Negron, S., (2021). Far Cry 3: Jason's Tattoo & the Tatau Skill Tree, Explained. CBR. https://www.cbr.com/far-cry-3-tattoo-explained/

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