Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
accounts of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and became one of the main themes
in TIE Fighter .
9.3 Structure
Simulator games often use a linear structure with a sequence of missions that must be
completed in the order they are presented. This structure is well-suited to standard
narrative conventions, so it does not present any special challenges. However, many
simulator games attempt to break free of this with different structures. Some use
a branching structure where the outcome of certain key missions determines which
branch of missions will follow. Most games that try this end up with the various
branches still converging toward the same finale, however. Considering how difficult
it is to come up with one good ending for a story, it's not surprising that there are few
attempts at stories with multiple endings! Also, there is the sad fact that most players
do not play games to completion, and even fewer will replay a game to discover any
alternate story paths—thus this extra work is largely unappreciated and therefore a
poor use of development resources.
X-Wing used a linear structure, and the dev team decided to try something a
little different for TIE Fighter . Rather than have all 34 story missions play in a
strict sequence, they were divided into seven “battles” consisting of four to five mis-
sions each. The battles were arranged in a three-tiered structure with four battles
on the first tier, two on the second, and one on the third. Players were allowed
to start with any one of the first four battles, and if they got stuck on a mission,
they could start another battle, returning to others as desired. The battles could
be completed in any order, but to open up the second tier, all four first-tier battles
had to be completed. Similarly, on the second tier, players could start with either
of the two battles but had to complete both to gain access to the final battle. Play-
ers were free to play the battles in sequence, but it wouldn't hurt the overall story if
they didn't because each battle was essentially a short story that could stand on its
own.
In X-Wing Alliance , we returned to a strictly linear structure, but we added a
feature allowing players to skip up to three missions over the course of the game.
This was in recognition of the fact that many players will find a particular type of
mission too difficult (even at lower difficulty settings) or just not their kind of fun.
Rather than force a player to succeed on a mine-clearing mission, for example, they
could take a pass on it and continue the game. Obviously, this necessitated a bit of
finesse regarding the storytelling in order to maintain continuity.
Another structure is what is sometimes referred to as “hub and spoke.” There
is a central hub (typically represented as a home base) around which there are a
number of spokes that present different missions or sequences of missions. There
is little or no constraint on the order that players complete each spoke. It's a small
conceptual step from this to an open-world structure in which there isn't even a
central hub but simply an open environment where the player engages in missions
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