Friday, 29 July 2011

In Game Story-Telling

As I mentioned in my previous post on the evils of the cutscene, there are always methods to relay story or information to the player without removing them from they're own perspective. Lets explore some of these options.

Monitors and Cameras

One of the most effective methods of doing a cutscene in game is to use a monitor system. Most games are capable of outputting camera feeds to some form of surface within the game itself. This method is fantastic because you can show your cutscene without breaking the players immersion.
Simply gate the player and un-gate when the cutscene has ended on the monitor.

NPC scripted scenes

These are scenes played out around the player within the map. If the player could possibly interrupt the scene then keep them away from the npc actors behind a fence or forcefield etc...
Friendly npc scenes can normally progress with the player in direct contact as the player can normally not inflict damage on friendly npcs.

Enemy NPC scenes are usually best played out when the player is apparently unnoticed by the enemy. Keep the player in a dark spot and light up the area where the scene is played out.

Most of the time the player is happy to let the scene play without attempting to interrupt however you should ensure that the player can't interrupt the action anyway because some players just can't help themselves.

Enemy npc scenes, if not critical for gameplay, can be made interruptable if you so choose. Go play "No One Lives Forever" for interruptable enemy scenes at their best. Good god that game is funny...

Environment Stories

As in Left 4 Dead or Portal, you can apply a story via the game environment. If you haven't realised before, the graffiti on the walls in the L4D saferooms tell multiple stories about survivors who had passed through before you got there.

Tannoy Systems or Walkie Talkies

Having voice messages played out to the player while the game progesses can be very effective.

A tannoy system is great for keeping the player up to date and can also really ratchet up the tension in a map if the player is given a message that the enemy is on their way.
This is probably the most acceptable method of delivering information while the action is ongoing. Just make sure you're in a quiet period if you are going to tell the player anything important.

I like the idea of adding a narrator to a story. So the narrators voice plays at key points in the story recounting what the player has done or is about to do. You could have a lot of fun with this by having the narrator misinterpret the players action for extra comedy.
If you've ever seen Monty Python's Holy Grail think brave Sir Robin and his minstrels and you'll get the idea.

Even better have the narrator tell the story from the enemies perspective, painting the player as the bad guy. I may try this one day but feel free if you want to have a crack at it.

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