- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (March 15, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0240817176
- ISBN-13: 978-0240817170
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Interactive Storytelling for Video Games: A Player-Centered Approach to Creating Memorable Characters and Stories Paperback – March 15, 2011
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Lebowitz and Klug's tag-team approach to the subject makes this an engaging read, even for seasoned interactive storytellers. The combination of Lebowitz's theory and Klug's field experience present both new and experienced game writers with both the promises, and the challenges, of experimenting with game narratives. The use of diverse case studies, which cover everything from the classic Final Fantasy VII to the Japanese visual novel genre, provide readers with the opportunity to engage Lebowitz and Klug's ideas and inspire innovation in their own writing. The exercises and questions both guide readers through the key points, and encourage application and exploration, perfect for a classroom setting. -Kathleen Dunley, Faculty Chair-English, Rio Salado College
Interactive Storytelling in Games is a great primer for students, educators, and writers looking to move into this increasingly prominent profession. The authors explain branching dialogue clearly and carefully, covering many details that are ordinarily lost on writers of other types of fiction, as well as the designers of many games! This book will help you understand what makes games tick, how to tell stories using them, and what players really want out of their games and stories. It's thought-provoking, intelligent, and founded on a combination of experience and research that's hard to match. -Chris Keeling, Course Director, Game Design, Full Sail University; Executive Committee Member, IGDA Game Writing SIG
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Aside from the MMO's there are many other types of games. Strategy games like star craft, have a story that drives the missions in the single player mode. SC2 for instance, had a fairly fixed storyline and goal, but at least a few options to get from point A to point B. It capitalized on the characters of the original, and took it to a higher level. This I thought, enables them to release the game one expansion at a time as a trilogy. Had the story been minimal, they should have released the "missions" all at once. They way they did it creates value and incentive for doing a good part 2 and part 3 of the game. This book is about interactive storytelling, and although as I said here SC2 does not use that as much. Where it's used are optional missions they can be played for different goals (although there is only a few). The other element is the tech that is developed, you can only choose one choice going up the tech tree, and once chosen for that game, it cannot be changed, typically this is a choice between attack or defensive strength. You can go all attack, all defense or a combination of the two.
I'm not an MMO player, I don't play a lot of games with player driven stories. I prefer the strategic or the flat out shoot-em-up types. Still I like to have a reason to keep interested, and I like surprises which story's can foster. Even the cheapie games of old it was nice to know something about the quest. One interesting game called Swords and Serpents for Intellivison had a deadly trap for playing as a single fighter. The goal was to kill the dragon in the lowest level, but you read scrolls along the way to find out things and gain powers. For some reason I remember there was a scroll that what it should have done didn't make sense so it should have been bypassed. However, curiosity can kill more than the cat, so you had to read the scroll. It read: "to read this scroll is a fools folly" and it immediately transported you to a small room with four walls and no door. If you had a magic user and a fireball you could escape, but as a fighter it was game over, and you were nearly at the end of the quest. A nice side track to a mostly linear story.
This book explores all the different types of stories that may drive a game, from multiple ending stories to, player driven stories, to traditional stories, branching path, to simple linear stories. It also describes a lot of games and what type of story was chosen for each. This should help if you are deciding what to do. Remember even a very simple story can drive a good game. Take angry birds, the storyline is they were mad about the pigs hogging something, I don't know what, but they have to destroy various structures to do in the pigs. Story, kind of crazy stupid, but without it, this is similar to games like rampart or other shoot-em-up puzzle games. Add the birds and piggies, and it's a run-a-way hit. What the book lacks is how the story should be told or developed, it's not much help there. The make something coherent, consider getting a book on the "Heroes Journey in literature", its what script fixers in Hollywood use to patch up bad stories for movies and TV. It should work for videogames as well.
What you can do with this book is read it as a good summary of the different popular video games of 2010-11. The authors do a comparative analysis at the plot level. Accompanied by extensive explanations of how to classify games.
But you can see important differences with writing screenplays. In some video games, you can have multiple endings, that depend on how the player does. And of course, a game is an interactive process. Quite unlike watching a play or film. This ability to branch a story into several lines, and perhaps have some merge if the player does certain tasks, can be a fascinating challenge to storyboard and master. The book is quite candid about the potential weaknesses of the approach. Which is one of its strengths. It offers a clear eyed study of the potential and pitfalls of current gaming.
Still, if you are able to follow its advice, you can carve out an intricate mesh of a story to entrance your players.
Yes, you can be the puppet master!
Which leads me to this book... I didn't order it so I could began writing my own video-game stories (at least not yet), but rather to get a better understanding of the challenges of writing such things, as well as taking an in depth look at some of the story lines in my favorite games. Not only did this book fulfill all those expectations, but also to my surprise was a really fun read! From the start I knew the author was a GAMER and not just some guy out to make a quick buck. All the examples and points he made were just right on. A great example is how disastrous multiple story arcs can be. It's a great idea in theory, and every now and then a game can pull it off (Heavy Rain), but most of the time it's just frustrating as hell (Final Fantasy X2). Also I thought it was neat how much of it I could apply to other, non-video things. For example, there is an entire break down of "the hero's journey", a story framework that's been used since the dawn of time in many novels, that I'm sure I can bust out on my next English paper in school. And for you tabletop RPG Game Masters out there, almost all the material within this book can be applied to your game.
If you're at all into the stories told into games, or need to write one for that matter, I would seriously give this book a read!