Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
sion of your plot skeleton; with this in hand, you can begin preliminary discussions
with your leads or upper management about any changes deemed necessary.
Nothing different so far from ordinary writing, except what I'm trying to point
out is that sometimes writers don't bother with producing actual charts. This may be
fine in other games, but sandbox games can be huge, and having something everyone
can refer to will save immense amounts of time. The manner in which you can access
quests in sandbox games also demands a level of organization in the representation in
order for things to go smoothly. You may not like doing it, but trust me, your team
will thank you or it.
Sandbox Games Depend on Level Geometry
Before further defining the game story chart, there's another important thing to point
out about sandbox games.
Since players have the ability to roam where they want in sandbox environments,
you will need to make sure your story progression takes that into account. You'll want
to distribute story elements as widely as possible in the game world, so the player has
a chance to experience all the different areas. This comes with an obstacle, though;
typically, game designers are going to lock out certain parts of the map for varying
reasons, the least of which being that players may have too much freedom at the start
to properly channel their concentration on the fun parts of the game. Find out what
those reasons are and, more importantly, what these locations are and make sure that
none of your story elements occur in places that are supposed to be locked at that
point in the game. The last thing I'd suggest is to really study the map and know all
the locations; try to tie each scene to the “sets” that will really produce the kind of
emotions you're looking for. In many cases, the map itself can be a good source of
ideas, so get your magnifying glass.
Story through Objectives
When looking at your story structure in a sandbox game, a good way can be to
look at how it breaks down into objectives for the player. When thinking of the
game from the player's point of view, it's important to understand that your primary
motivation—what pulls you to action in any game—is completing all the objectives
handed out to you. A game story is powerful when what concerns you as a player also
concerns your character, so you need to blend your story with the type of missions
that have been designed as much as possible, thereby ensuring that those objectives
are interesting as well. Look for what concerns the character and what he is trying
to accomplish throughout the story. If your story is centered around action, this
action should be immediately transferable to the player, keeping his motivation con-
stant and his play interesting and relevant. An objective can be as simple as “defeat
your enemy,” but the obstacles combined with dramatization will really make the
experience a memorable one.
Therefore, what's important to understand in sandbox games is that the story or
level architecture aren't really the vehicles to the gameplay—the players are. Players
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