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JuJu posted a topic in Developing ToolsHOW WRITE GOOD, PART 2: DON'T DO THE THING Hey! What, you're back again? I didn't scare you off the first time? Wow... okay. A little unexpected, but okay. So, how did the story go? Mhmm... Mhmm.. ah, okay. So you: HAVE A STORY, BUT IT KEEPS ENDING UP TOO PREDICTABLE/ IT'S HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT'S GOING ON? Okay, I think I can help with that. Sit here, and let's talk about it. So you've got the story. But somehow, it keeps slipping down the mountain on one ski, ending up at the bottom in a crumpled heap so predictable that the player can see the end coming from the first thirty seconds of descent. It seems like everything's at a loss, because you can't figure out how to keep the story from crashing, despite knowing the linear narrative and all that other stuff we talked about last time. Well, here's the problem. We gotta keep that story from crashing and burning. How? Well, let's see. Why don't we try giving the story TWO skis instead of one? And maybe some ski poles so they can guide themselves down the slope? Boots and bindings would be a good thing too, so the story can actually stay on whatever ski it has, whether one or two. Are you getting the metaphor yet? I hope so... To explain in more detail: a story with no supports is the same as a skier with no supports. It's not going to end well for anyone. What the heck are supports, you ask? How can a story have supports? Well... let's think about our story from last time. A small girl with red hair lives in a shabby house on the edge of a futuristic city; she goes from her house to find her missing mother. By itself, this is technically a story. And depending on what we decided to do with our narrative, it's a good game. But it's still a little.... lackluster. How can we fix this? With supports, of course! Support #1: Setting Wait a minute, wait a minute! You say. We know the setting already, Juju! It's a futuristic city! Yes, but... do you know what atmosphere means? Not air you breathe atmosphere, but aesthetic atmosphere. This city... the girl's house is shabby. It's safe to say she doesn't live in a very futuristic part of the city. More likely, she lives in the slums. Why would there be slums in a futuristic city? What sort of people live there? Let's say, for instance, that to survive in the city as a healthy citizen, you have to pass an aptitude test that places you with a job. (a la Divergent series, almost). Those people who can't pass the test for whatever reason have no other choice but to live in poverty on the outskirts of the city. By extension, this would mean that the girl's mother also failed the test. Does this failed test play some part in her disappearance? Hmm... Is there more to the plot than meets the eye? All of this can be gleamed just from the setting of the story. Wow! Support #2: Characters and Their Locations What kind of story would it be without characters? Well, there are a few games that have only one or two characters, but in our game, we have a whole city's worth! That's a lot of work.... or is it? Get out your linear narrative that you've written in your word processor, or in the back of that shabby notebook that holds a few papers from tenth grade and a crude drawing of your gym teacher. Here's where we map out where our character will go. What do you mean, Juju? Well, again, it all comes down to organization. Personally, I use Excel for this, but in most word processors there's an option to make a table that will do basically the same thing. What we're going to do is write down where the character will go and what they might find there. For our game, I'll include a downloadable example. Let's say that the redheaded girl goes to the bus stop, an office building, a seedy diner, the neighborhood near her house, and finally a warehouse. In my real game that I'm making, there's about 15 of these. IMPORTANT: THESE ARE NOT THE NUMBER OF MAPS YOU HAVE (well, they can be, but I don't use it that way). THESE ARE ONLY THE AREAS THE PLAYER AND CHARACTER GO TO! If you look at the attached example, you can see that there are 3--Count 'em, 3-- columns. They say "Name of Area", "Enemies", and "Key Scenarios". Of course, you can add more or less columns depending on preference. I've written the name of the areas, whether I expect any enemies to be encountered in said area, and if the area holds a valuable cutscene that's used to further the story. The best thing about this is that you can always leave your story, come back to it, and remember at the very least the bare basics of what you were planning on doing to it in the game. In terms of maps, each area can have as many maps as you like. There can be three maps in the bus station, for example: the outside, the inside, and the bus itself. This is also where you can start adding an important support: Characters. In my own organization, I have an excel workbook that has many, many tabs. These tabs are labeled things like: Enemies, Items, Key Items, Skills, Characters, Areas, etc. My Character tab has the name of the Character, a brief explanation of the Character, and what Area they can be found in. Some are just NPCs, others have Key Items for the player, and others help further the story in other ways. If you don't have Excel, you can easily add a Characters row to whatever table you're working with. Why the trouble, you ask? Well, think back to that aesthetic atmosphere. Have you ever watched a show, or played a game, and found that one NPC that struck a chord with you, or that one side character that you liked better than the hero/heroine? What if they hadn't existed. Would the game still be the same without them? Of course not! Good characters flesh out a story and make it more believable. And that's what we're trying to do- sell this story and its sincerity to the player. There are plenty of more supports that I could go into, if I had the time. For homework, read up on these links. They're hand picked by me, so you know they're good 1. R.R. Martin Tells You What's What (that's the Game of Thrones guy, for those of you who aren't into that sort of stuff) 2. World Building and You: How to be an Awesome God of Imagination 3. A Sum-Up of This Lesson and Part 1, but Written by Someone Else Is that everything? I think that's everything... oh. Wait. Before you go: Don't. Do. The. Thing. Okay, so you know how we've established that skiers need supports to stop from falling down and dying? Okay, a skier with protective suit and two skis and poles is fine. But a skier with five pillows, two sets of goggles, twelve poles, nine skies, and a big marshmallow helmet will crash and burn just as easily as one with only one ski! You can't juggle that many things going on! A story with too many supports will be as bad as one with no supports at all!!!! Okay, okay! You say. How can I tell? Easy. Remember what I said was the most important part of the story? Think hard, now. The main character must have a goal. Good job! Now, every time you add a support, think to yourself: how will this help my main character achieve their goal? Think about the ski thing again. We give our skier two skis, two poles, bindings, boots, a suit, and a helmet. This is to help them reach the goal of skiing to the bottom of the mountain and making it there in one piece without dying. Just the same, your supports MUST have a way of helping the main character to reach their goal one way or another, or else it's just extra baggage that'll weigh the story down until it has no way of moving forward. Like it? Am I still stupid and know even less than before? Can't wait for part 3? Let me know!
So everyone loves playing the hero, saving the world getting the girl all that...but does anyone take the time to consider things from the other side of the story. I can't remember who said it or where I heard it but a phrase that has always stuck with me in "Evil is just a matter of Perspective"... So here is my theory, A story told from both sides... Is this even possible? The only way I've been able to plot a story like this so far is with the use of an Anti Hero on the side of Evil, someone manipulated into doing the bad things so the true evil party can maintain plausible deniability...which still leaves the plot ending with a reveal of the "true" evil and then we're back to Good vs. Evil and ultimately a huge waste of time on the side of Evil. But i'm wondering if i can maintain an evil character and not end with some heel face turn at the end. I have some idea such as Evil necessary evil, or the paradox that evil must always exist for there to be good, its just tricky to pull off without leaving things unfinished or plot holes. Ideally the idea of presenting the story from both sides is in fact to eliminate a majority of the plot holes to tell a more complete story. The other difficulty i'm having is in the mechanics of the game itself. Now it would be simple to create 2 separate games to tell either side of the story. But i'm thinking much more ambitious a single World, A Single Game...same key locations visited from two different sides, The Lair of Evil a foreboding and Dark end game dungeon to the Heroes, But a Home and Base of operations to the Bad Guy. Now sure this could all be achieved through the use of in game cut scenes but people tend to get bored by unnecessary exposition, why just have a conversation about the bad guy having already obtained the MacGuffin when you could experience yourself as the bad guy, 'Caus chances are whatever this thing was, and the kinds of things you've probably already had to do just to find a decent sword, that must have been some epic adventuring! Or ever wondered why the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of you at every turn, now you can find out. It also adds another element of strategy to the story with shared areas of the game there comes the opportunity for both sides to stumble upon the same treasures, now as the guiding hand in all this you have the option to choose, do you take the loot now and hope you don't need it later or could whatever is in there be more useful to someone else? Anyway, this is all still just mad ramblings and theory at the moment so feedback and idea's are much appreciated...GO!