Game Development Reference
Nathan Drake, is confronted with an impossible jump. To make things worse, armed
guards pull up in a truck and start to shoot at him. To progress, the player must
return fire. Shooting at the guards results in the barrels on the rear of the truck
exploding, catapulting the truck into the air for it to then land in exactly the right
place so the player can cross the previously impassable section of the map. While this
is an example of a design-led scripted event, such moments provide opportunity for
story and character, create a memorable moment in the game, and tie the narrative
into the gameplay path.
In a game about movement, the writer need not always use characters to tell
the story; using the environment can be a good trick. Mirror's Edge ,forinstance,
uses advertisements placed to be visible on the gameplay path to help establish the
game's oppressive world. Abe's Oddysee utilizes rolling text signs built into the levels to
communicate both gameplay and narrative information. Such environmental tricks
are generally both cheap and immersive and so can help writers to establish their
story without heavy investment of vital resources.
Speech Design in Platformers
Set animated events such as cutscenes and scripted events form only part of the
writer's storytelling arsenal. Another tool available to writers is dialogue.
On-demand dialogue. On-demand dialogue is triggered by a button press mean-
ing that it is available “on demand” when the player wants it. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
and Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus placed such an on-demand speech engine (GameSpeak)
at the heart of the game. To progress through the levels, the player was required to
talk to and interact with other characters. By using a series of basic commands such
as “Wait” and “Follow Me,” the games' hero, Abe, was able to guide his fellow Mu-
dokons 5 through the levels of RuptureFarms and use them to solve the gameplay
puzzles presented to him. This design element helped to bring the characters to life,
added greatly to the atmosphere, and showed the huge extra dimension that can be
added to games when the characters communicate.
The most recent installment of Prince of Persia features a complex on-demand
dialogue system that allows the player to learn more about the world, characters,
and story events as well as to taunt enemies and even gain hints when solving the
game's puzzles. As the player progresses through the game, new dialogue opens and
old dialogue closes, keeping the dialogue fresh and relevant. This on-demand system
allows the player to choose where to experience the story. Players who want to run
and jump and keep moving need not learn many of the details found in the on-
demand system, but those who crave a deeper story world can gain it at the press of
In both Oddworld and Prince of Persia , the on-demand element requires (in most
cases) a loss of control for the duration of the dialogue. This loss of control is miti-
5 The enslaved race Abe comes from.