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#1 Lyanna

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 07:21 AM

Disclaimer:This is not a professional analysis, and should not be treated as such. As always, these lectures merely represent my opinion. No insult of any kind or form is intended. Also, please note that these lectures were delivered off-the-cuff, and without prior preparation. Hence, the flow and structure may not be as smooth or polished as a written article.

Lecture #1: Interactive Entertainment

[Lyanna]: Lyanna's Lecture on Developing Stories for MMORPGs #1: Interactive Entertainment. a.k.a. The difference between a game and a book
[citruz]: lol
[Anukis]: go on :ph34r:
[Lyanna]: Storyline developers in most games can roughly be classified into two categories: those that come from a programming background, and those that come from
[Lyanna]: a writing background. Each side has it's own faults and weaknesses
[citruz]: lol
[citruz]: ur talking crap
[citruz]: trying to sound good
[Lyanna]: ...err, actually I've spent about 40 hours of research on this. :rolleyes:
[Hathol]: she does have a point :)
[Lyanna]: In the case of those from a programming background, the weaknesses are particularly apparent in the style, immersiveness, and dramatic structure of a story
[Hathol]: btw hi Lyanna
[Lyanna]: hi Hathol
[Lyanna]: This can be seen in the current EL script, which was written by Entropy, a programmer. While the core idea is fairly interesting, it falls flat in delivery
[Lyanna]: There are instances of unbelievability, such as Lord Luxin's language, and the Tutorial NPC's out-of-character talk.
[Lyanna]: Alternatively, story developers that come from a writing background face the opposite problem - that of interactivity. They fail to grasp the full potential
[Lyanna]: of what a game can offer, and instead rely on tried-and-tested methods of storytelling... namely, text.
[Lyanna]: A lot of good old-fashioned role-players who become DMs fall into this category
[Lyanna]: However, with the development of graphical MMORPGs, and sophisticated advances in system, many many tools are offered to create a much more interactive form
[Lyanna]: of storytelling. It is fully possible, in a small game such as EL, to mix and match different storytelling methods and art forms to create a truly
[citruz]: not in this game. go talk to him, go talk to her, go harvest this, good job u did the quest
[Lyanna]: interactive world.
[Hathol]: I think the best person to write a script for an online RPG would be a Cinematographer, who loves Games and has a passion for reading novels.
[Lyanna]: you have a good point... I'll get to that eventually. ):
[Lyanna]: :)*
[Lyanna]: Now, for example, in developing an online community, what matters most to the player is not so much what the world is like, but how their particular characte
[Lyanna]: character* experiences the world. This, therefore, should influence game developers to create stories that have a deep, personal impact on the player
[Iszi]: Greetz all
[Lyanna]: him/herself. However, most game developers tend to shy away from such stories, instead aiming for generic quests - such as the ones pointed out by citruz
[Iszi]: What's the lecture on anyway?
[Hathol]: lecture resumed?
[Lyanna]: Oh yes. Storyline development for games
[Hathol]: :)
[Lyanna]: Now, as I said, most developers tend to follow generic quests that do not produce much of an impact on the player's character, which is counterproductive
[Iszi]: Referring to most devs in general? Or EL devs in particular?
[Lyanna]: With all the possibilities created by a truly Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Game, it is much better to head in the opposite direction instead
[Lyanna]: um... most devs. This is just a general lecture
[Iszi]: checking
[Iszi]: go on
[Lyanna]: Hence, game developers should instead be focusing on how to let each player affect their game world in a meaningful, impactful way.
[Iszi]: impactful... is that a word? ;-)
[Lyanna]: (I make it up as needed... as long as you get the picture, it's fine. ;P)
[Hathol]: I get ya :)
[Lyanna]: However, game developers are fearful of letting the players have too much impact on their world, hence restricting the player's freedom to affect it
[Lyanna]: What they fail to understand is that it is fully possible to create meaningful experiences for the player character that do not necessarily have a
[Lyanna]: large impact on the game world. These are the traditional tools of role-playing, which have sadly been neglected in this game.
[Lyanna]: Classic examples of such tools would be support for in-game ceremonies, such as marriage, festivals, rites of passage, and the like
[Lyanna]: These do not affect the world at large, yet can become cherished memories for the player's character, hence creating a compelling world for them.
[Lyanna]: I will discuss this issue further in the second lecture, entitled "Low-level Stories", but for now, it's back to the topic
[Lyanna]: So, how IS a game different from a book?
[Iszi]: (Most) books are linear, with the script laid out already by the author.
[Lyanna]: The core of gaming is interactivity, meaning that the player must be able to affect his/her experience of the world, through his/her decisions
[Lyanna]: Exactly, Iszi.
[Iszi]: A true MMORPG has infinite possibilities for the player, which - although it may follow a pre-determined format - allows the player to go down paths of their
[Iszi]: own choosing and have experiences entirely different from those of other players of the same game.
[Lyanna]: With that in mind, developers must then start planning for a much more non-linear game, never forcing the player to follow a particular script.
[Lyanna]: However, there are inherent technical difficulties with such an endeavor
[Lyanna]: For example... how do you ensure that the player is psychologically prepared, by his previous experiences, to react properly to any point of dramatic
[Lyanna]: tension in the plot?
[Iszi]: Many computer games rely on a predictable flow of events. Turn the control over to a human - a naturally unpredictible being - and everything is fragged to
You are on the channel #4, and there are currently 6 players on this channel
[Iszi]: btw Lyanna... what "plot"/
[Lyanna]: (I was actually waiting for you to finish your sentence... but by plot, I mean the story of the game, as the player experiences it. A sequence of events)
[Hathol]: we should get wandering fool to join this conversation, he and i have had quite a few long discussions about stoylines and Ai capabilities in games
[Iszi]: oh... I finished the sentence in local... missing word was "frell"
[Lyanna]: Hehe... I should speak to him about that someday
[Lyanna]: Ah
[Lyanna]: Well, continuing on...
[Lyanna]: Therefore, we must somehow allow a naturally unpredictable factor - such as human beings - determine the course of our game's narrative.
[Lyanna]: This is the primary problem that most developers who belong into the second category face. They would rather tell THEIR story, instead of letting players
[Lyanna]: determine the action.
[Iszi]: This is reminding me of a FPS I played once...
[Lyanna]: (Which one?)
[Iszi]: My absolute favorite (can't wait to get the sequel)
[Iszi]: Deus Ex
You are on the channel #4, and there are currently 6 players on this channel
[Iszi]: It had its own plot and storyline, but there were numerous different ways that you could go through it on your own.
[Lyanna]: (never heard of it... but I don't play FPSs, so that's not saying much. ;P)
[Iszi]: Also had several endings.
[Lyanna]: Ah. And did you always reach the same plot points in the middle of the story?
[Lyanna]: (By plot points, I mean Significant Events that drive the story forward)
[Iszi]: Actually, yes and no.
[Lyanna]: ...yes and no?
[Iszi]: Throughout the entire story, your decisions at key points determined what other decisions were available to you later on...
[Iszi]: Although it wasn't as entirely flexible with the player as it could have been, it was still a very dynamic game in terms of plotlines and story.
[Lyanna]: In that case, I would think that Deus Ex is a pretty well-designed game, in terms of story
[Lyanna]: However, being a single-player FPS tends to limit it's scope. An MMORPG faces no such problem
[Iszi]: Although it simultaneously complicates it.
[Lyanna]: That's true too. :)
[Lyanna]: What is needed is essentially a way to allow players at all levels of player get involved in the Lands, and allow their choices to affect the development
[Lyanna]: of the various story arcs that will be implemented in the game, as well as their own individual story plots.
[Lyanna]: For example, if a war were to break out between the temples of the different gods, then the choice of which god to serve suddenly becomes a lot more
[Lyanna]: interesting and important. Your individual choice, as a player, can affect the balance of power in the game.
[Iszi]: And, at the same time, what of the Godless?
[Lyanna]: Of course, to pull this off successfully, the development team must be ready to implement the results of such changes in power (such as the destruction of
[Lyanna]: a temple, or the rebuilding of one).
[Lyanna]: Likewise, the Godless perk becomes a difficult choice as well. It is no longer a mere matter of numerical calculation of pickpoints, but an important plot
[Lyanna]: decision. Do you WANT to get involved in the War of the Gods, or not?
[Iszi]: And at the same time, what would the consequences of just standing on the sidelines be?
[Lyanna]: That's why I say that there must be substantial rewards that come from the result of such a story arc. There must be an opportunity cost for missing out
[Lyanna]: These rewards must be able to affect the player at some level, both physically (via game mechanics), and psychologically (via sense of achievement)
[Lyanna]: sorry... "some" in the previous sentence was meant to be "two"*
[Iszi]: still made sense
[Lyanna]: Now, a psychological sense of achievement can be accomplished in various ways.
[Lyanna]: The most reasonable one to propose, given the current situation, is media coverage. The EL Times, had it survived, would have been a perfect vessel for this
[Lyanna]: It could chronicle the major players in the War, as well as the key decisions that led to the current results.
[Iszi]: EL Times? Sounds like something I missed out on
[Lyanna]: (EL Times - Adyna had started a newspaper via email, but it stopped when she left the game)
[Iszi]: bummer... would be interesting if one could be implemented in-game tho
[Lyanna]: Well, if you're willing to take it up... ;P
[Iszi]: Prolly would be, if I had the time/knowledge.
[Iszi]: yippeee!!!
[Lyanna]: Hehe... talk to Placid or Roja about it. :)
[Iszi]: anyway... back OT
[Lyanna]: Hmm... I seem to have lost my train of thought. But I think that's enough for this lecture.
[Hathol]: was a good lecture :)
[Lyanna]: So, in summary, game developers face the dual problems of creating a believable world, and yet allowing players to affect their experience of it in a
[Lyanna]: meaningful way.
[Lyanna]: This can be accomplished by the usage of Low-level stories, as well as planning for non-linear storytelling.
[Iszi]: Define "Low-level"?
[Lyanna]: The full implementation of such an approach to interactive media would require substantial support via game mechanics and various psychological reward tools
[Lyanna]: (Low-level stories will be covered in Lecture #2)
[Iszi]: oh, right
[Lyanna]: As it stands now, EL is nowhere near the development of such a system. But hopefully, in the future, with the right vision and people, it can be.
[Lyanna]: *~*End of Lecture #1*~*
[Lyanna]: *gasp* *wheeze*
[Iszi]: *Hands Ly an inhaler*
[Lyanna]: hehe... thanks. :) I'll go back to channel 1 now. Lecture #2 will be sometime in the future

Edited by Lyanna, 26 April 2005 - 07:21 AM.


#2 Lyanna

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 07:23 AM

Lecture #2: Low Level Stories

[Lyanna]: Beginning Lyanna's Lectures on Storytelling in Games #2: Low-Level Stories
[DragonSlayer]: hi all :rolleyes:
You are on the channel #4, and there are currently 12 players on this channel
[LabRat]: shhh
[DragonSlayer]: ...
[Lyanna]: In my first lecture, I covered the role and uses of interactive media as well as the types of storytellers that typically exist in game development
[Lyanna]: In this lecture, I intend to further develop that theme, and examine the usage of low-level stories in order to further heighten the immersiveness of the
[Lyanna]: game-playing experience for the player.
[Lyanna]: Now, what IS a Low-Level story?
[Lyanna]: Simply put, a low-level story can be defined as a narrative which is not scripted, but rather emerges from the player's own style of gameplay
[Lyanna]: It usually involves a string of events that are significant to the player's character, and ONLY to that character. Hence, it is different from a high-level
[Lyanna]: story, which makes an impact on the game world, and is mutually-experienced by dozens of players all over the world.
You are on the channel #4, and there are currently 12 players on this channel
[Lyanna]: What, then, could such events be? To understand this better, it is important for the storyteller to have a grasp of how the player actually experience the
[Lyanna]: game
[Lyanna]: An average player life-cycle would typically consist of character creation, an early learning phase, a developmental phase in which they pursue achievement,
[Lyanna]: a plateau, and then either the end of the game where they have reached the pinnacle of achievement, or become bored with it all.
[Lyanna]: This is usually very dry, and completely ignored by most game developers, who proceed to tell a story that runs parallel, rather than interweaving it
[Lyanna]: with the actual character's development.
You are on the channel #4, and there are currently 13 players on this channel
[LabRat]: you have a great writing style lyanna
[Lyanna]: A good example of such parallel paths between story and character development is seen in Eternal Lands, where the choices one makes with regards to story
[Lyanna]: are completely separated and have no effect on one's character, and vice versa
[Lyanna]: To counteract this, I instead propose the enhancement of tools for the players to develop and tell their OWN low-level stories, hence fleshing out their
[Lyanna]: characters.
[Lyanna]: For example, a simple device that has already been used in many MUDs and single-player games involve the player choosing or desrcibing their background
[Lyanna]: before even being allowed to enter the game. This has the dual purpose of eliminating less imaginative players, and encouraging players to focus on character
[Lyanna]: However, this is not fully utilised in most RPGs. For example, in the Fallout series of games, one could pick background Traits that affected one's character
[Lyanna]: and had a decent description to go with them. However, these were limited and generic, and did not say much about the character's development as an entity
[Lyanna]: in a story.
[Lyanna]: If one were to pick a "Small Frame" Trait, for example, one could still enter the wrestling contest offered later, even though it may not have made sense
[Lyanna]: in a narrative.
[Lyanna]: This reduces the player's background to nothing more than pointand statistic-modifiers, which may affect game mechanics, but do not affect story.
[Lyanna]: Hence, we arrive back at the parallel story/mechanics scenario.
[Lyanna]: Now, to begin the process of actually interweaving character development on both fronts, it is important to think carefully about the significant
[Lyanna]: moments in any player character's life. In EL, for example, there are certain achievements or stages where it is possible to insert narrative in a timely
[Lyanna]: and interesting fashion.
[Lyanna]: Consider the choice of race. There are currently 6 possible races to choose from, yet race has no impact on the player's perception or experience of the game
[LabRat]: it does
[Lyanna]: In what way?
[LabRat]: you can't read books to increase your strength against p2p players
[LabRat]: they have a tactical advantage
[Lyanna]: I should have specified "no NARRATIVE impact on, etc."
[LabRat]: yep :)
[LabRat]: but really well scripted so far
[Lyanna]: But that is precisely my point, you see... any impact player choices have are only on game mechanics, never on story narrative, or a mix of the two
[LabRat]: spelling mistake on 'describing' earlier
[LabRat]: are you copy/pasting or typing?
[Lyanna]: Players pick races (in most games) because of the racial point modifiers they get, rather than the story aspect of it. (That was a typo)
[Lyanna]: I'm typing as I go
[LabRat]: ok :) ignoring :)
[Lyanna]: Where was I?
[LabRat]: currently 6 races, no difference between them
[Lyanna]: Oh yes. Now, as to how this can be improved. There are several avenues of integration between the parallel story and mechanics effects.
[Lyanna]: Simply put, it is to make every choice that affects game mechanics also affect story, and to make every story choice also affect game mechanics.
[Lyanna]: Going back to our racial example, it is possible to first, creating different starting points and different racial modifiers for the races. This has been
[Lyanna]: planned already, but it is still essentially game mechanics.
[Lyanna]: However, there are also ways to incorporate story elements into the player's perception of events. For example, it might be possible for the light-levels in
[Lyanna]: caves and other dark areas to be adjusted according to one's race. Since this can be explained via story (ie. Dwarves would see better in caves than Humans),
[Lyanna]: it serves both as a story AND game mechanic effect, which come together to increase the believability of the world.
[LabRat]: hmm interesting - I think I will incorporate that idea into the client :) (if you don't mind!)
[Lyanna]: That is an example of how game mechanic issues can be adjusted to fit story issues. Now, for the other alternative.. (go ahead)
[Lyanna]: To adjust story issues to fit game mechanic issues is to create role-playing and character-defining tools for the player to use, that are backed up by the
[Lyanna]: system.
[Lyanna]: A simple example would be player marriages. Now, this is obviously a story narrative event, that is completely ignored by the game in terms of mechanics.
[Lyanna]: How then can we incorporate the effects of a marriage within the game itself?
[Lyanna]: There are several methods, some of which have already been used by other games. (1) Provide a suitable framework for marriage ceremonies, including venue and
[Lyanna]: religious officiators, as well as a registry.
[Lyanna]: (2) The effects of being a married couple could include having a shared (or at least access to) partner's storage account, and even a home.
[Lyanna]: Incorporating further story and game mechanics issues, one could get a blessing at the wedding, from the God(dess) of Love, which would affect the married
[Lyanna]: couple's gameplay, until the marriage is dissolved or annulled.
[Lyanna]: For example, Elandria would bless the newlyweds with a faster healing rate, since they have someone to go back to at night.
[LabRat]: heh if they argue their strength goes up?
[Lyanna]: Similar examples can be thought of. :)
[DragonSlayer]: wow lyanna it was great, i love you :ph34r:
[Lyanna]: The main point of low-level story implementation is to let the Player tell their own story, and make choices that affect their experience of the game.
[Lyanna]: You will notice that I have not mentioned any aspect of a higher-level narrative yet... this is entirely focused on the player's life.
[Lyanna]: Low-level stories are what the player is most interested in, rather than the overarching high-level stories that most developers like to tell.
[Lyanna]: Hence, it is in the game's best interest that storytellers begin to appreciate the importance of low-level stories, and provide the tools and support for
[Lyanna]: them.
[DragonSlayer]: but that is a hard work to implement
[MikeMan624]:
[Lyanna]: Exactly. :) But anyway, that's the end of my lecture.
[Lyanna]: My third lecture will focus on developing the high-level narrative, and issues to consider.
[LabRat]: not that hard really
[Lyanna]: The problem is not with the implementation, but rather with the acceptance among the people.
[Lyanna]: A lot of players are lazy, and developers want to run it all by themselves.
[LabRat]: change is bad :) add a new spell or potion (a spoon full of sugar :) )
[Lyanna]: (Eep... each of my lectures is 45 minutes long? I can really talk...)
[LabRat]: I was very impressed with your monologue, can I have the series?
[DragonSlayer]: but it was good
[Lyanna]: Hehe... maybe one day I'll post it in the Forums. But if you want further reference material, go to www.gamedev.net
[stormer]: put the lectures on the forum, please

#3 Guest_ciccone_*

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 03:29 PM

Thankyou Lyanna :P

Yours

Hathol Aradan

#4 Roja

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 05:57 PM

That's a good read, thanks Lyanna :rolleyes:

One point I'd like to make....and I'll use your marriage ceremonies as an example since it fits best here.

Creating NPC's to act in such ways as officiators...really only replaces the real life players who do it now. Currently, a "story" such as a marriage is run entirely by the players. I think those things work great that way and is in fact much better than being run by the game. Reason being because with real life players doing the work/story, everytime you get something different. Whereas with NPC's...that factor is majorly limited. And that is, in essence, how a mmorpg should be, run by the players.

IMO...the way for us as game developers to give story to the players, in this instance let's say, would be to make a wedding chapel, or an outdoor wedding area...a wedding dress/clothes/ring...that sort of thing. TOOLS for the players to use to build their own stories, to live their lives in this game.

#5 Lyanna

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 06:38 AM

I completely agree with you Roja. In fact, I fully support the idea of player-officiated and player-run marriages. However, I still like the idea of game support for it. It's pretty easy to merge both... just have an NPC for "Marriage Registry", that players can register with after their wedding. It does nothing except inform the server of the fact (just like a RL marriage licence informs the govt.) that these two people are married, and hence should be treated as such by the game/world. Oh, and of course... yay for tools! :D

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna, 27 April 2005 - 06:38 AM.


#6 ks_copy

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 11:56 AM

Very nice lecture Lyanna, interested to see how far el goes with tools for player based content. Surprised you didn't mention how inefficient dev based content (quests etc.) can be. Like how much faster a player can consume content compared to the enormous amount of dev time they take it takes to produce structured (linear) events. Definately looking forward to lecture 3 :P

#7 Roja

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 01:14 PM

I think what would be ideal is to create some sort of random generated quest/events...but this would need a great deal of superior AI to do it properly.

#8 Learner

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 03:05 PM

I think what would be ideal is to create some sort of random generated quest/events...but this would need a great deal of superior AI to do it properly.

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Just adding more random variables in a quest would make each quest interesting since then you can't find out a specific way to complete it from others, such as the canned list of coordinates that are available. For example, you might have to hunt through several places that have Asiatic Lilies before you find the one you need for your quest, instead of everyone going to the same plant.

Also, having variations on a single quest would make it a little bit more challenging, but that is also harder to write.

#9 Quinticus

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 03:27 PM

I think what would be ideal is to create some sort of random generated quest/events...but this would need a great deal of superior AI to do it properly.

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I'm just currious has to why it would take a great deal of superior AI to do it. I'm not familiar with programing and such things, but i think there's a great start with wandering fool. Couldn't you just have mr. fool wander about all day and approach random people and ask for help. After a person responds yes or no, he could assign them a quest from a pool in a data base somewhere.

What i'm getting at is: couldn't there be a database somewhere with quests and such and have basic AI pull from?
Since i don't really know, is that considered superior AI?

Either way it seems like there's a lot of work involved.

Lyanna, as usual you produce second to none! I enjoyed your other post on E.M.U.s as well. That helped solve several problems i had in trying to write, especially with the storability of essences.

Edited by Quinticus, 27 April 2005 - 03:32 PM.


#10 Learner

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 04:42 PM

Where it takes superior AI is for it to make sense and not seem like a bunch of random junk. It can be done with a good writer and programmer working together.

#11 Soldus

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 05:01 PM

It can be done with a good writer and programmer working together.


*checks thread again...mumbles something about Lyanna and Learner...*

:P

#12 Lyanna

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 03:33 AM

*checks thread again...mumbles something about Lyanna and Learner...*

:ph34r:

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Hehe... that's what we were planning before we both had to leave due to RL. I'm still game if you are (after this week.... got an exam to finish off by Tuesday - then I'm free). But you're right... randomly generated quests were what I've been thinking about for a loooong time now. All you need to do is match the script to the required components of the quest.

Oh, and ks_copy... that was going to be the topic for Lectures #3 or #4. :P

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna, 29 April 2005 - 04:33 AM.


#13 Lachesis

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 08:49 AM

Technical aspects of implementing complex personalized plots

Hi you, I just took a quick glance at story telling forum, and found this great thread. Incidentally, I posted a technical article about that issue only two weeks ago ... the enhanced quest system I proposed there could easily solve the technical problems you mentioned without the need for an AI. The key feature of it would be that you actually don't know that you are doing quests. So these could implement the effects of certain trigger events like marriage or god affiliation. It does not consider global events, such as a war breaking out among gods yet, but this would nicely incorporate in the described system. I hope the article is understandable, being written in a quite mathematical/technical style. Also I have to admit, though this is rather easy to implement compared to the power it gives, it also requires some work to derive the graphs mentioned below. Fortunately, this can be done by any mathematically skilled person in a separate step, the "quest" inventor would just need to specify how the game should react on which events.

With regards
Lachesis

Full agreement, and great idea :) Let me add some common ideas about quests taken from a talk with Malaclypse some time ago:

Non-linear quests
I think Aislinn already has mentioned that. Currently, quests have a linear structure in the way that one task follows another once the previous one has been done. I think the quests could have a more graph-like structure (nodes are possible states of the quest, arcs are actions that are performed) with branchings and remerges. IMHO the Graph ought to be acyclic in the directed sense though so that you don't get exactly the same messages/tasks repeatedly. The state could consist of several distinct informations (please see example). More interesting things can be achieved using more complex graphs.

Interactive quests
This is my favorite one. These kind of quests can only be completed by interaction of multiple players. To achieve this, several arcs of the same or distinct quests are "connected" so that the corresponding tasks can only or may be performed simultanously. Usually, but not necessarily this would mean that it's the same action that needs multiple players in order to be performed. It's also possible that some of the players involved in this action don't need to interact with all the others (please see example). Please also note that the "connection" of these actions is not explicit but rather implied by their effects.

Ghost tasks
Using subtle "tasks" changing the quest state, it'll be almost impossible to map it. If we include "tasks" like ingame hour change or encountering a certain random event in harvesting or having a certain food / ethereality / health points range it'll be even harder, since ten people will have ten different ways to complete the quest and knowing them all still doesn't help the eleventh one. Of course, subtle events should not affect the very next tasks that can be performed, so that the quest is still doable and players have the impression that it is linear.

Example
A simple* example would be a quest which contains an action that can be performed anytime along the quest (say, X), but is otherwise linear (say, A-B-C). The graph of this quest would look like this (node labels list the actions already taken, arc labels denote the action taken at that moment):

start 
 () -----> (A) -----> (A,B) -----> (A,B,C)
  |   A     |    B      |     C       |
  |         |           |             |
X |       X |         X |           X |
  |         |           |             |
  v         v           v             v
 (X) ---> (A,X) ---> (A,B,X) ---> (A,B,C,X)
      A          B            C     done
As you can see, the quest has eight distinct states (each phase of the linear part, one time with X done already and once with it not yet done).

Now for instance, B might involve giving away 10 items of a kind to 10 distinct players at a certain place, and X might be finding someone that gives away one such item there (neater ideas wanted :D). Since X can be done everytime, you might do it accidentally, which introduces some randomness to the quest:

Player one has already done A and now does B. Player two is happy to get the item P1 gives away, but doesn't notice that he performs X that way of course. Now player one unfortunately gets stuck. In the meantime, P2 performed A, B and C and completes the quest. She tells P1 that he needs to perform C. P1 performs C but is still stuck, because he hasn't done X yet. P2 can't help him because she doesn't know that X belongs to the quest.

Now tell, wouldn't that be amazing 8)

With regards
Lachesis

*) To those of you that don't like maths, I have to apologize for the word "simple" :P Compared to the possibilities, it's really simple and straightforward though.



#14 Roja

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 01:55 PM

Hey I think if you guys can tackle making random quests possible you should go for it! I support it all the way..it'll make having quests a lot easier/faster :D

I just haven't had time to get into working with the quests at all...and I won't be in the foreseeable future :/
But that's no reason not to go ahead on it.

#15 Lyanna

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Posted 03 May 2005 - 08:50 AM

I like your idea of a Ghost task, Lachesis. Very interesting - never thought of that one before. As for non-linear and interactive quests - they can be a little hard to map sometimes, which is why I'm now trying to develop a system for mapping and designing quests. What I'm more worried about, though, is that the writers may lack the skill to fully take advantage of the flexibility and complexity of the quest system, and/or fail to present a good narrative that makes sense.

-Lyn-

#16 Lachesis

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Posted 03 May 2005 - 09:56 AM

It's probably a challenge for writers to create interactive narratives, I agree. But I don't think it's possible to take full advantage of branching interactive quests, this system is flexible enough to rewrite the whole message processing of the server only using it. I just wanted to show what's possible, because developers tend to restrict themselves to telling what they can do without major changes or large additions.

I'm very interested in your design/mapping system. What is it like? (Shall I take this to another thread?) A graphical representation of quests would be a great help not only in design of, but also in communication about a quest, giving a good guideline for a developer upon its implementation.

With regards
Lachesis

#17 Lyanna

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Posted 30 July 2005 - 02:33 PM

I include three links, for all interested parties to read. The first two are Gamasutra.com articles, so they will require free registration in order to read. I highly encourage those in the Storylines and Quests Teams to get a Gamasutra account. Learner, you should probably take a look at these too. They have implications in AI and desire-based programming. The links are as follows:

What Every Game Developer Needs to Know about Story
- Important things to undestand in this article is the need for player-centered story, not just dialogue... something that I've been harping about for quite some time. The story MUST come from the player's own choices in conflict, not from merely branching scripted events. Deliberately up the ante in each choice. Make them show their character. (Look at my thread in Storylines & Quests about Random NPC and Quest Ideas... my ideas have always been to throw players into deliberately provocative and character-challenging roles, like an advisor for or against euthanasia). Also, pay attention to the story structure he outlines.

You Must Play Facade Now!
I've been a follower of Ernest Adam's column for over a year now, and he generally gives good advice and insights into things (plus he's got a PhD in philosophy and is a veteran of the game industry for more than 20 years). He analyses an experimental project on the development of drama and interactivity. This is more for the quest people and the programmers than the storylines people. I hope that as you play the "game" you'll get a stronger appreciation of how many ways there can be of designing interactivity and story into a game. Facade provides an interesting perspective on storytelling and drama. I recommend it not for the "fun", but for it's educational and training value for budding quest-writers and general game designers. The link to the game is here: Facade: A One-Act Interactive Drama


Happy learning! :)

-Lyn-

#18 Lachesis

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 05:27 PM

These are enlightening articles, thank you for the links, Lyanna :) Unfortunately, nothing was said about the implications of a multiuser environment. I think some analysis of them could be inestimably worthful for a game like EL. Currently, especially when looking at quests, EL actually is designed like a single-player game. We can have up to one thousand people interacting with each other, but make almost no use of it. I don't know whether a massive-multiuser environment is a means that can enhance the game, or how it could achieve that, I only would like to point on some potentially overlooked capacity here.

#19 Quinticus

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 05:58 PM

I would agree with that lachesis, and i was considering the same thing. Its a daunting task to come up with a way to fit a storyline that accounts for countless personal interations between a large number of people.

The only thing i have ever seen, and i'm not sure i fully understood it, was while i was watching a friend play final fantasy XI. There were territories in this game, i believe, that could be controlled by the actions or presence of a certain number of people of a given race in that territory.

I guess several small storylines could be derived from this method. Such as having a kind of war on a very large scale and having everyone choose a side (be it a god, race, or otherwise) and the winner of a certain side declared by the outcome. It's an unformed thought at present, but perhaps something to start with.

And thanks, Lyanna, for the articles. They very interesting and provided some good points.

#20 Lachesis

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 02:42 PM

Usually a story has various characters centered around the protagonist. The new task is to fully carve some of these characters out, and make them protagonists of a tangent story. There are already several examples of stories told from different perspectives. The next step further is to make these perspectives full-fledged separate (tangent) stories that can be experienced by a player each. The interesting (and difficult) sections here are the intersectioning parts of the individual stories. Modern episode films excellently show how two, three, five or more individual stories peacemeal intertwine until the final scene. This artful interweaving unfortunately is even a substantially greater challenge in interactive media, because you not only lose control over one character, but multiple depending on how many protagonists you envision. Nevertheless, if we could interweave just two stories at a time, this might already greatly enhance the game experience.




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