Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

How Little Choices Make Sorcery! Feel Epic

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Sorcery! [official site].

From Warlock of Firetop Mountain on I was pretty much obsessed with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Of course I was: they presented richly drawn fantasies in which I could play a part, my imagination spinning on their words and illustrations. (My favourite illustrator? Obviously Russ Nicholson.) Inkle’s Sorcery! series, four text-based games adapted from Fighting Fantasy co-creator Steve Jackson’s original gamebooks, capture all that made Fighting Fantasy special and add a magical extra: the dynamism of videogames.

In fact, Sorcery! often feels more dynamic and alive than videogames. As you progress through the books, your adventure keeps getting richer, the world more responsive to your passage. It’s partly down to the increasing freedom you have to explore, but more, it’s because each book is filled with choices that feel like they have consequence; that the game is watching and remembers your every move. Sorcery! is fluid and feels player-directed, and yet it’s strongly authored. It’s like Steve Jackson is writing it for you as you play, reacting to your every action.

There’s no AI here, though. Sorcery!’s magic is down to a system that’s far simpler, but yet results in at least as much intricacy. This fantasy epic is actually just a lot of:

THE MECHANIC: Little choices

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How Virginia’s Cinematic Editing Works

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Virginia [official site].

Virginia is a new game from studio Variable State about two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of a child. But its story is less about that mystery than it is about the lines you draw between the fragmentary events, images, locations and characters you witness, as well as lines you draw towards things you sense you haven’t.

Like Brendan Chung’s Thirty Flights of Loving, Virginia tells its story through a technique that’s absolutely native and everyday to filmmaking but it’s novel to games, at least outside of cutscenes. Games are meant to be unbroken realtime, right? And yet powerful and subtle dramatic effects are possible through:


(Light spoilers and references to events in the game naturally follow.)

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How RimWorld Generates Great Stories

This is the final conflict that ended my colony, Henry's Indolence. Read on for the story of how it fell to ruin. (Spoilers: it was kind of Henry's fault.)

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, RimWorld [official site].

Every player will have stories of their RimWorld colonists. Dramas set amid cabin fever, raider attacks, depressing decor, infected limbs, cannibalism and bloodthirsty local fauna. Personal dramas, tales of threat and victory, of small things and large things, tragedy and comedy. This colony-building game is designed very specifically to generate such stories. But while it feels as if they arise from deep simulation, all watched over by an AI, they’re actually the result of something both more powerful and simple. RimWorld tells great stories because it uses:


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Garriott Says We’ve Not Mastered Storytelling

He's lived on the moon.

Interviewed in the latest episode of Game Theory with Scott Steinberg (below), Lord Richard Garriott of Britain explains that as far as game narratives may have come, be believes they’re still falling far short of those in books and films. He says,

“I don’t think we’ve yet mastered the techniques of true interactive storytelling.”

You can see the full interview, along with contributions from Charles Cecil, Jane Jenson, Bob Bates and others, in the third episode of this new series, this time focusing on game narrative. Oh, and I have a little rant, too.

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Gore Verbinski: Not Useless After All

Look upon my pixel-shaded facial pockmarks ye mighty, and despair

Though the internet gave the director of the increasingly turgid Pirates of the Caribbean movies a gentle roasting for his infamous “You must possess some madness” advice to gamingdom, it rather seems as though he’s thinking along potentially exciting lines for his own flashing pixel endeavour. (Pirates of the Carribbean Online, pictured above, is not it. But hey, you make your bed, you lie in it.) Read on for Gore’s thoughts on “anti-narrative.” Not a pretty phrase, but his intentions sound better.
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A Word Is Worth A Thousand Pictures

This wordthink originally appeared in the Escapist. It’s an exercise in tackling the graphics vs narrative argument, which perhaps occasionally lapses into cliche. As you’ll see as you read through, I don’t necessarily agree with all my arguments – it was written in an attempt to create a thesis which would generate opposing antitheses. Together, we can reach synthesis. Discuss.

Booker's front cover

A Word Is Worth A Thousand Pictures

“It is a curious characteristic of our modern civilization that, whereas we are prepared to devote untold physical and mental resources to reaching out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy, or to delve into the most delicate mysteries of the atom… one of the greatest and most important mysteries is lying so close beneath our noses that we scarcely even recognize it to be a mystery at all. At any given moment… hundreds of millions of people will be engaged [in] one of those strange sequences of mental images which we call a story.” – Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots

Narrative is our link to the universe.

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Hooray For The Writer’s Strike?

COD4’s Captain Price. Everything a real man should be.

Protesting writers may be dragging the US movie and TV industries to an embarrassing halt at the moment, but ever-terse entertainment industy rag Variety (via Eurogamer) reckons distressed wordsmiths may turn to videogames to fill their increasingly empty coffers.

Having slaved through more atrociously-written games than I can remember, that’s potentially very exciting. While a disdainful look at the last few months of similarly atrociously-written Hollywood blockbusters (Die Hard 4.0’s “send all the gas!” lunacy kept me chuckling for months) suggests that this won’t lead to an influx of Bioshock and Planescape beaters, having professional writers attached to games is surely a step up from getting That Quiet Guy In The Office Who’s Good At Apostrophes to do it. The idea of TV writers coming over is particularly exciting – there’s been some incredible US genre telly of late. Read the rest of this entry »