Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
of scripting tools means that dialogue and events will only be able to be played in
a small number of set conditions. As such, the presence, abundance, or absence of
each of these determines how a story is told.
Level Design
Making sense of the gameplay world. Framing a believable plot in a realistic
Grand Theft Auto IV style game is a world away from making sense of the envi-
ronment platformers take place in. To create the acrobatic gameplay found in a
platform game, the action must occur in a broken world vastly different from any-
thing the player will have encountered in real life or in fictional settings—a topogra-
phy constructed from plunging abysses ( Mario Bros. ), endless rolling barrels ( Donkey
Kong ), whirling sawblades ( Prince of Persia: Two Thrones ), and marauding chickens
( Chuckie Egg ). This environment is another reason many platform games choose
a cartoon setting. Such a choice means the platform world makes sense without
explanation. However, some effort needs to be spent explaining the world to the
player when the decision is to go for more “realistic” human characters inhabiting a
“real” world—not every nuance of it, but enough to establish the setting so it makes
The credibility or believability gap that broken worlds present can be tackled by
pushing the player into a world that seems familiar from other genres— Uncharted:
Drake's Fortune takes the player into crumbled ancient ruins the player will have seen
in adventure stories such as the Indiana Jones films—or by forcing the player into real-
world settings such as scaffolding platforms hanging off a skyscraper ( Tomb R a i d e r :
Legend ).
Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus takes the simple approach (in a very elegantly con-
structed game) of setting the action in a giant, high-security food factory. This in-
dustrial setting allows the use of machinery as obstacles while making total sense to
the player. The choice goes beyond this, and the setting proves (spoiler alert) to be
the core of the story. Abe's journey is to discover what has happened to his people. It
appears at first that they have been enslaved to operate the factory's machinery, but
ultimately Abe learns that the machines through which he has journeyed are actu-
ally turning his people into food. This choice of environment not only explains the
game's setting but is integral to the narrative journey bringing the character's motive
and the gameplay objectives together.
Prince of Persia (2008) also uses the environment to tell the story. Throughout the
game, the Prince's companion, Elika, informs the Prince of the history of the world
through which they are passing. This history and the way the characters interact with
it are not just key to the game's functions (the need to travel), but they reflect back
onto the characters and make the game world a character in its own right.
A broken world = a broken narrative. Beyond the challenge of explaining the
world, the broken nature of platforming worlds offers further challenges to the writer
that, without careful thought, can send the narrative plunging down an abyss.
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