Designing Player Stories

     

    Back in the 1900’s, I would wake up early on Saturdays. Sneaking into the study, after a heavy dose of “Thundarr the Barbarian“, I would hide under the desk and wait for my brother to arrive – friends in tote. There I would sit and quietly eavesdrop on adventures undertaken in new worlds – places like Gamma World, Dungeons & Dragons, Axis & Allies. As a suburban kid thier magic seemed like the aroma of some mystic sicentific wonder factory. Over a hill, in a forgotten fairy tale crumbling on infant bookshelf. 

    When I grew old enough to understand the rule systems, for these story engines, my appetite for them only grew. Somewhere between Contra and Duck Hunt, I found Dragon Warrior I, II & III. For me these games were the fullfillment of the dream inspired by those early board & role-playing games – and they just kept coming. I’m talking StarCraftSewer Shark, Déjà Vu, Dragon Warrior II, ‘Double Flibbin Dragon’, Dune IICusters Last Stand… ok maybe not that one.

    So much has happend since – KOA: ReckoningMetro 2033, Jade Empire, Halo, Cityville, Angry Birds and so much more. Why we still bicker about wether game should be a story telling medium when some of our favorite games have allowed up as players to weave great stories is puzzling to say the least.

    I believe our over specialization is killing us. Most game developer’s I know are multidimensional character’s – their skills span the gamut and if set free could provide a creative space to loose the ego’s and make great games. So I call on you and indeed myself, to break free the bonds of our self-ascribed roles and take what is rightly yours – the ability to craft interactive experiences that cross the divide of illusion and reality. RTS, FPS, Indie, Social Causal Core FTP MMORPG, it’s all the same – drive the vision from the pillars of what you intend your audience to experience to be and more importantly what they expect it to be. All else comes after.

    This isn’t writing nirvana – I’m not here to blow hot air. We are talking about design games a different way – a narrative centric approach. Driven by the idea that mechanics – actions are the fundamentals units of both story and game play. What do you want them to walk away and say about your game? 

    It’s going to be a story – the viewer/user/player’s story.”It happened, I did x and then y before all f happened. It was awesome.” That story is driven the the narrative architecture of you game experience, the navigable interactive sequence that is a video game.

    These day’s it can be even be done with free tools; by yourself (or with your firends) in the basement, on a relative’s bill late one Sunday night.