Game Development Reference
gameplay experience of working towards that portion of the story.
This kind of linear story-telling works best when the player feels it has
been revealed as a direct result of their actions. For instance, if the player fails
to rescue the captured scientist they are unable to discover the story
information that the character holds.The progress of the story is directly tied
into gameplay success.
Strictly speaking, though, this is not a truly interactive story; it would only
be so if the story or plot is changed in some way based upon the way the
player interacts with the game and the story it is telling. The more open a
game is, the more the player is likely to feel that the story is responding to
Gameplay aside, for the moment, the only way for the story to respond to
the actions of the player is if there is a choice the player must make that affects
the story. For example, it could be that the player, during an interactive
dialogue scene, must choose between lying to the police and telling the truth.
Whatever the player decides to do alters the flavour of the game by changing
the story or plot, which has now branched.This branching could have a subtle
affect that does not affect the gameplay and ultimately does not change the
story's ending - in which case the player has interacted with the plot - or it
could have a major affect where the whole experience is altered depending
on the choice. Gameplay and story could be markedly different in one branch
than in the other, which in turn could lead to two very different endings.
A game like this is said to have replay value, because the player could
replay the game, make the other choice and play through the other very
When the mixture of story and gameplay leads to multiple branching
points, the potential for the story to have an increasing number of variations
- with the amount of work involved escalating exponentially - becomes a
very scary prospect. The reality becomes one of controlling the branching,
but in a way that gives the players the impression that it is they who direct
the unfolding story. This is done by creating a number of branching points
that appear to open up the gameplay and story, then regularly bringing
together those branches through gameplay and plot requirements.
To expand on our example, if the player lies to the police, later in the game
there could be the opportunity to meet up with the detective and tell the
truth. While the player might not initially want to do this, there could be a
requirement that they do so because some information the detective holds is
important to the game progressing. The player's truth becomes a gameplay