Game Development Reference
Figure 7.3. Viewer/user/player experience paths.
would let him think his path or “story” was “correct,” when in fact it was a montage
created by his own natural flow of play through a sandbox system. That is not to say
that the experience is designed without attention to linear narrative progression. In
an RTS game, the player is invited to play with “toys,” inside of maps, to accomplish
specific goals related to story and gameplay.
Multiplayer narrative is usually left up to the players to construct on a meta level
as they maneuver their units in strategies against each other. Cutscenes are usually
not presented in a multiplayer game, so the only dialogue conveyed to the player
consists of non-linear unit responses to commands. In the interactive system of an
RTS, a player encounters two primary types of narrative spaces:
Cinematic sequences act as choke points, that is, all players must pass through
them in order to advance. During a cinematic sequence, the data (as presented) is
fixed, so if the total sum of cinematic content within an RTS were to play out in
succession, the narrative would be rendered linear and non-interactive, becoming
then some form of machinima. Dividing the cinematic segments into interactive
“sandboxes” allows the database of art, sound, and play assets to be navigated and
experienced via the player's path choice. In this, the experience of database navigation
will vary from player to player, and experience to experience, both in the cinematics
and the gameplay. Database narrative refers to narratives whose structure exposes
the dual processes of selection and combination that lie at the heart of all stories.
Particular data—characters, images, sounds, events—are selected from a series of
databases or paradigms, which are then combined by the player, through action and
thought, to generate specific stories.
If the game allows the player to interject his own story without heavy-handed
dictation, a much more rich experience will be had. As any good filmmaker would