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
[Anukis]: go on
[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]: ur talking crap
[citruz]: trying to sound good
[Lyanna]: ...err, actually I've spent about 40 hours of research on this.
[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]: 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
[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]: 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
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[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]: 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
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[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.
[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.