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Interactive Storytelling for Video Games: A Player-Centered Approach to Creating Memorable Characters and Stories Paperback – March 3, 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 challnges, 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
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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!
The authors go into open-ended and multiple ending stories and the sstrengths and weakenesses of each as well as the considerations of storylines that are based upon the skill level of the gamer. The authors talk about what it is that gamers want and how to develop effective game stories that companies and players want to see. There are many games that are mentioned and with extensive screenshots of example games. I was rather disappointed that Assasin's Creed, which is probably one of the top games with an incredible amount of detail, gameplay, in depth storyline based in history was not mentioned except in the appendix.
This is a completely new area of writing for me, but coming out of Focal Press, it was definitely a title and a method of storytelling that intrigued me. I think this is a definite not-to-miss if someone is considering writing for the game industry. There are tons of resources of various companies and groups that cater to the need of gamers and game development teams