Game Development Reference
In linear stories of any type, the storytelling is more focused, and the events
more immediate. There is a definite sense of pressure, and even the environments
are narrower. This style of tale is better able to build suspense, and it can carry the
action along with the pace of a cinematic nail biter. In essence, linear storytelling is
generally best suited for high-intensity storylines and action-packed games. Call it
the Roger Corman school of scriptwriting, where every ten pages has a love or action
sequence to keep the audience involved and interested.
Modular narratives are a unique way to present story, because they allow the player to
explore the main narrative at his own leisure as well as enjoy a number of side stories.
Modular narratives can be used in sandbox and free-roam games like the Elder Scroll
series or Deus Ex , where the world and its tales are more open for exploration.
To start with, modular narratives are often stories that encourage players to ex-
plore the environment. They are told through moments of discovery and connecting
the dots. The basic story is set, so even if the player never ventures from the guide
rails of the central story arc, he still enjoys a rich experience, but an even richer narra-
tive awaits those who explore. While this style definitely uses the gameplay narrative,
it also relies more heavily on the empathic, supporting, and independent narratives
as well, all in the name of fleshing out the world.
Modular narratives are often the stories of an entire setting, and not just the
protagonist. It's focused on more global events, with the hero as witness to the hap-
penings of the world. It's more about building emotions like suspense and mystery
than pushing the player down the steep slope of action on one ski.
6.10 A Guiding Hand: Staying Inside Your Head
Narrative in an FPS is a tricky thing, especially when more companies are eager to
keep the immersion quality high by locking the player inside the character's skull.
This can be problematic when cutscenes are usually the chief way of dousing the
player with story and game-relevant information. That said, there are tricks to shut-
tling the player through the yarn without relegating him to the role of passive ob-
Before diving into these methods, however, it's important to note that each tech-
nique is strongest when interlaced with the other methods. Think of it as reinforce-
ment or layering the story so that more than two things point to the same clue;
it's important since any of these techniques alone can be missed by players rushing
through scenes and environments. In fact, it's best to relate information through
more than one sense, meaning that if one cue is played out aurally, the supporting
cue should be visual.
These methods may also help parse out information over the length of the story.
Information dumps are nothing more than heavy-handed exposition, and it's often
better to use these events to continually feed the player small packets of information