Game Development Reference
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an “ancestral” treasure, uncovering a twisting plot of mercenaries, great evil, and the
undead along the way. The most recent Prince of Persia tells the tale of a hero who
must save the world from a corrupting evil while on a journey to discover himself.
In each case, story is an integral part of the game package, and both titles seek to
make their central characters much more than a simple avatar; they seek to create
characters as deep as those found in other genres.
5.3 Holes in the Ground: The Pitfalls of Platformers
If audience need not hold back the platform game writer, then what are the limita-
tions and challenges to the writer? There are three that stand out above others:
1. Perception.
2. Resources and technology.
3. Level design.
Perception
As stated earlier, despite the narrative history of the platformer, this genre is not as
strongly associated with narrative as is the case with action, role-playing, or even
shooting games. This is partly because the genre was at its strongest at a point when
game writing was at its most peripheral (limited mainly to adventure games 3 ). As we
have seen, the genre is also often, unfairly, associated with being a children's market.
While they are false, these assumptions can often be a barrier to a writer hoping
to create a narrative in the platform genre because such perceptions stop companies
from investing the time and money needed to provide the narrative resources a writer
needs.
Thankfully, some designers and developers do realize that platformers can have
strong stories and that, historically, platform games such as Metroid 4 have sold partly
because of their approach to story.
Resources and Technology
Whatever the writer's vision, it requires the game developer to invest resources. Every
word in a game has a cost associated with it, thus each game development team will
decide how much should be spent on it. Will the game get a speech engine? What
scripting tools will be developed? How much programmer time, artificial intelligence
(AI) development, and animation work will be given to the story? Will the team
invest in the hiring of voice actors, or time in a motion-capture studio? Without
animation time, the scripted events will have to be cut, or toned down, and a lack
3 Despite the early narrative contributions made by titles such as Donkey Kong and Metroid .
4 Metroid introduced non-linear gameplay and variable story endings—opened by completing the game
in different times—so giving the player a reward and incentive to try the game again in different ways.
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