Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
A general note on pacing: if your story involves a military campaign, then it
should have a natural ebb and flow reflecting the changing fortunes of the combat-
ants. In the X-Wing games, each campaign of 4-12 missions had its own flow of
increasing tension until a decisive engagement. This was echoed in the flow from the
first campaign(s) to the last climactic battle. Of course, we expected to produce ex-
pansions and sequels, so we always left a few things unresolved and sometimes ended
with cliffhangers.
Pacing is also important to think about within each mission. Try to grab the
player's attention right from the first moment with something dramatic, mysterious,
or surprising. This can be a battle already under way, an unexpected appearance or
absence (bad intel), or a sudden change of loyalties.
Cinematics, or cutscenes, are typically used to deliver parts of the story that cannot
be portrayed well in other areas of the game. That said, the more action-oriented the
game is, the less interested the players will be in extended cutscenes. Keep the scripts
as short and concise as possible; sixty seconds or less is a good rule of thumb.
Avoid the temptation to script talking heads. This was something we did too
ofteninthe X-Wing series.Thatsaid,themoreaction-orientedagameis,theless
interested the players are in extended cutscenes. Except for the intro and finale, keep
the cutscenes as short and concise as possible; 60 seconds or less is a good rule of
Mission Briefings
Mission briefings are an essential part of the writing for a simulator game. This
is where you will have the most room to develop the story, but be warned: many
players will skip right through them! These players are only interested in the action,
and they'll rely on the mission objectives to tell them all they really want to know (as
displayed in the pause screen, or within a window of the HUD).
The big picture. A good mission briefing explains the scenario, the situation—how
the mission fits in the context of the greater struggle. It's a good idea to begin with a
brief call back to the previous mission and to end with a foreshadowing of what will
come after this mission is successful. It also provides the player with a clear idea of
what his objective is. What are the win conditions and loss conditions? What is the
player trying to achieve or avoid?
Who's coming to the party, and what are they bringing? The mission briefing
should also describe the order of battle for both sides—what the player can expect in
terms of friendly support and enemy opposition. Avoid using specific numbers when
describing the order of battle, particularly of the opposition forces. Give yourself
and the mission designers some wiggle room for difficulty adjustments. For example,
don't say, “four X-wings from Red Squadron will intercept three Imperial corvettes
near Hoth.” Instead, try something like, “Red Squadron X-wings will intercept a
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