Game Development Reference
If the story and gameplay are really to go hand in hand and both become
an integral part of what gives the player a rewarding experience, then a
controlled branching method may well suit those requirements. Figure 6
shows a possible way that this might be structured.
Although the players are given choices as they make their way through the
game, they are very controlled choices which ultimately draw the player back
to a single climax. Of course, it is still possible to have multiple endings
depending on how tightly you want to draw the threads back together again.
If the ending is the same, regardless of the path taken to get there, the story
is largely unaffected and it is the plot that is interactive.
The controlled branching model can work in two ways.The first is simply
that the player's choices always drive the action forward, so the path towards
the ending is defined by the player by tracing along a combination of
forward-moving arrows. The player will only ever get to pass through one
story node at each level of the game - on the diagram this is seven story
nodes in total, but in reality it is likely to be many more.
The second, more complex way that controlled branching can work is to
offer the player the choices as before, but also give the opportunity to visit
the other choices, too (indicated by the double-ended arrows). In fact, this
may be a requirement of the game and although the player could be given
the choice of visiting the pub, the gallery or the police station, the player
character perhaps has to do all three as part of the game's investigation. In a
way it is similar to making pancakes - you need to buy the eggs and milk
and flour before you can do so. Of course, the likelihood is that you would
not have to go to separate places to buy the individual ingredients, but if you
did, then it is up to you whether it is the egg shop, the milk shop or the flour
shop you visit first.
Taking the pancake analogy further, it could be that your cooker is broken
and needs repairing. Do you get the man in before you buy the ingredients
or after? What if there is an option to arrange the repair and then get a friend
to wait in for you while you go to the shops? What if the friend calls you up
to say that the guy will not do the repair without being paid first?
All these variations and possibilities introduce a level of complexity that
involves a lot of work to keep track of, but there is incredible potential for
variety and for giving the players a unique experience they have unfolded
through their choices and actions.Yet, because you and the design team have
created a structure that you control, the richness of the story can be much
greater than if there is little control.