Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Is my story ruining my gameplay?

The Story: Is it ruining my gameplay?

While I was a member of a mod team a while back, for some reason I got lumped with the job of writing the script. I inherited an already done outline and several scenes of dialogue already written.
What had been done up to that point was truly awful. What I tried to do didn't turn out much better unfortunately. It might have made a good TV show but it had no place in a game.
See the problem was, the guys on the team had already selected the environments, the order that they would appear in and the general motivations of the player.
Everything they had done was pretty good but trying to write a story to string it all together was an impossible task. I recall days where the team actually considered altering whole sections of the game in order to try and make the story make sense.. Utter madness...

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. Make the story as minimal as possible! I mean, one line of text should do it. For example...

Escape from jail
Outrun the bad guys
Get to this place by this time

That's all you need in a custom map. Anything more is overkill and unnecessary.

I don't think I've played a custom map or mod that had a compelling story. I can't say I've played that many games that had an amazing story either. There are rare exceptions of course (Jedi Outcast, Thief 2, X-Wing Alliance) but most game stories are very awkward affairs that never really grab the players attention.

I wish this wasn't true, because when a great game story is created, it can be magical, but alas most fail. Custom map stories are usually incredibly awful...


Stick to good gameplay.. the player will forgive you I promise.
Just set the player up with a basic goal and keep those goals coming each time the complete the last one.

Goals can be delivered by NPCs if you like. It just doesn't have to mean anything. It doesn't have to fit within a larger context.

The moment you find yourself ditching great gameplay idea to service a story for gods sake stop.

Think about Left 4 Dead or Portal. Two amazing games that ditched story almost altogether (some sly graffiti in both adds a bare minimum).

I may give the player a choice in my next map. "Do you really want a story? Break glass to hear story...".

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