Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Between the beats. Humans are multitasking machines. We can handle
some story shoved at us when we're in action, but not much. If you want to
tell the player something while he's out defeating the hordes of enemies he's
facing, you have to keep it short and audible. Text messages go largely ignored,
so you're stuck with dialogue. Called “shout-outs,” these snippets of dialogue
should only contain one idea like “go left” or “kill the red guy.” Keep these
shout-outs as short as you can, generally less than 10 seconds. To complicate
your job, these snippets also have to be said in such a way as to relate important
details about your non-player character's personality. To do this, always push
for the best voice talent you can get, as tone and delivery will transmit volumes
of information even behind lines like “Watch out!”
On the ground. A popular way to tell stories in games is to place bits and
pieces of it in journals and books and newspapers that the player can find
and read throughout the game. You can also have non-player characters stand
around and wait for the player to talk with them. This is a good way to tell
story, but it relies totally on the player's desire to learn about the game's world
and his ability to find these bits and pieces of story in the first place. This
almost forces you to make your story somewhat non-linear. You have to allow
for the player to find story bit A and C, but not B and D.
Quests. Quests are a good way of relating story. As you know, quests are
missions or tasks you ask the player to complete. From the nature and content
of the quests you give the player, you can detail your important plot points.
“Go fight the zombie horde attacking the town to the west” tells the player
that the land is being overrun by the undead and from which direction they
are coming. Players, once again, have little patience for the specifics, so keep
things as quick and as simple as you can.
Semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. While not totally
within the realm of the writer, adding signs and symbols to the game's envi-
ronment can help you tell your story. The problem with symbols and signs
are that most of them are highly culture-specific. A red octagon usually says
“stop sign” in the United States but can mean something totally different to a
player in Korea. One type of sign that tends to reach beyond culture is facial
expressions. Smiles, frowns, etc. can communicate a lot of information to the
player. Fortunately, today's technology allows games to do a decent job of fa-
cial animation, allowing us to use these powerful symbols. Another way to use
semiotics in your game is to establish your own set of symbols specific to the
world of your game. A good example of this is the way World of Warcraft uses
exclamation marks to indicate that a quest is available from the character it is
floating over.
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