Story through Character

Hello all, and yes, I am once again posting a blog! No wai! First I have some important news for the gaming culture: There has been a new website put up by some of the main faces in Australian video games (palgn.com.au, vooks.net etc) about introducing the R18+ to Australian game classifications, you can find it at http://www.everyoneplays.org.au. This website is a vital step in the right direction, and if all the big industry names in Australia get together and put their opinions forward, promoting education for people who do not understand the classification system, and strict rules as to who the games can and cannot be sold to. The introduction of the R18+ rating should be welcomed as it will give help stop games getting in under a MA15+ rating that really shouldn’t be, and we can stop games being changed for Australian audiences, which in itself will stop some people pirating games to get the extra content.

And back on with my normal blog. As many of you may or may not know, I am in my last year of my degree, and that of course means that I am beginning the final year project in which myself and four other students band together to design, implement, beta, test and “release” a complete and working game. There are a few small issues with this assumption so far. Each team is meant to have a programmer and our team of 4 designers and a animator does not have a programmer. Also, well… that’s about it. But creating a game without a programmer is not an easy task.

Once our group was finalised (about week 3 of semester) we all sat down and thought about this issue. What could we make that didn’t require a lot of programming, didn’t need a budget and wasn’t going to be at the scale of a development team of 200? What else? A 2D action platformer / side-scroller! This was perfect because we can essentially make the whole game out of Photoshop, throw it together in an engine like Torque and be able to get it doing everything we want it to do. I might even be able to program something that simple! Taking this idea to the “clients” (also known as tutors who will grade us) they said that because our group is kind of stunted, that 2D is fine, but we would have to make the story be the selling point. That is what I have dedicated this blog to.

Story is a multi-layer problem to solve. You have to have a plot line, you have to have compelling characters and reasons for actions. In the world of a 2D game, the player can always see themselves controlling the main character, which gives the player the impression that they ARE that character. This then changes the players rationale for all decisions within the game, and should give them a whole new perspective on what that character is feeling and why. Writing a story for a 2D game in my opinion should be done by using strong characters, with specific roles within the game universe. Every mission or level the player works through should have meaning, and should be given a reason, and explained to a satisfactory level.

This brings up the question, how does story progress? Should the game have cut-scenes, or should it be other characters within the game using speech bubbles to convey plot elements. Do speech bubbles even appeal to the sort of people who would be playing a 2D action game? I think a combination of both character-driven story and game-driven story would work best for our situation, and should be apparent the whole way through the game, even to the point of bosses having a dialogue with the character, and choices being given to the player as to whether they kill the boss or simply disable them (as an example). Giving the player the option to choose how they play the game will create a bond between the player and the player-character which will help immerse the player within the game. These options should be available from the beginning of the game, and never taken away.

Background is also important, whether it is discovered through the story, or if it is revealed to the player from the beginning. The earlier of the two (in my opinion) is the most enjoyable, where the player learns about whom they are controlling, and in a way influences their own interpretation of the character that they are discovering. The second method would be the fastest way to introduce a player to their character, and seems to be best suited to casual games (which don’t usually have much of a story) and other small games. With the game we are developing, I would like to implement a learn-as-you-play style, with very little setup on the characters or situation, encouraging players to get more out of the game and enjoy the storyline much more.

That is about all I have to say on the subject for now, but be sure to stick around for any more updates.

Keep thinking,
Andrew

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