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Default General News - Games and Storytelling White Paper @ PJ's Attic

May 20th, 2007, 22:41
As the weekend winds down (or the week starts, depending on your timezone), we've got a couple of game design items to take your attention off Gothic 3 patches. PJ's Attic dropped us a line about a white paper they have put together on Games and Storytelling. Here's the accompanying blurb:
PJ's Attic has published a white paper titled Games and Storytelling. The white paper describes a storytelling model which our studio developed as a foundation for our game design.

While the model was designed to be inclusive of video games and new media, it also can be used to describe traditional storytelling media such as folkloric oral traditions, music, literature and film.

The model's development was influenced by the writing of Umberto Eco and Marshal McLuhan, improvisational theater techniques, game design principles and over twenty years experience in designing participatory storytelling experiences.

The paper is available as a free download at PJ's Attic.
Here's a content snip:
As the order in which events are meant to occur is a part of plot, it can be very difficult to map plot for a game with the depth of Ultima VII. When the audience manages to experience events in an order not foreseen by the storyteller, it can have negative consequences—“breaking” the story and weakening the plot. One method of controlling this is to plan specific
constrained paths through the plot. By limiting choices within the game, you can segment the audience's experience along narrow plot lines.
Knights of the Old Republic could be said to have two primary plot lines—a “Good” path and a “Bad” path—that the player must choose to follow as the narrative progresses. Since the major points in each plot branch must be accessible from multiple previous plot points across other branches, games like this tend to have a limited number of plot branches, resulting in a rather binary plot experience. Players make choices to follow the Good path or the Bad path at different points within the plot. Throughout the game, the number of switches flipped to Good are counted and tallied against the number of switches flipped to Bad, determining which plot point is activated.
It's a fairly technical paper in some places and the examples aren't confined to RPGs (Tetris is a prominent example) but worth a read for game students and those that like to delve into serious design contentions.
Thanks, Corvus!
More information.

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May 20th, 2007, 22:41
When the audience manages to experience events in an order not foreseen by the storyteller, it can have negative consequences—“breaking” the story and weakening the plot. One method of controlling this is to plan specific
constrained paths through the plot. By limiting choices within the game, you can segment the audience's experience along narrow plot lines.

Stopped reading just about there. Boring, prosaic stuff. Electronic entertainment does not have to endure the limitations of other media, but that's too hard for these chaps to understand.
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May 21st, 2007, 00:01
Originally Posted by Briosafreak View Post
Stopped reading just about there. Boring, prosaic stuff. Electronic entertainment does not have to endure the limitations of other media, but that's too hard for these chaps to understand.
You should give the paper a look actually, as I agree with your assessment. The pulled quote is from the section on plot and if you attempt to staple a linear plot onto a game, my statement holds.

The goal of the paper as whole, however, is to provide a model by which games can be discussed as a powerful storytelling media precisely because of their game elements, not in spite of them.

Regardless, please don't judge it by the provided sample, which is only a short section of a thirteen page paper.

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May 21st, 2007, 00:19
You jumped the gun, Briosafreak. It's simply an example of approaches game developers take, not a recommendation for that path.

It's hard to pull a representative quote from a 13 page technical paper. C'mon, you're smarter than that.

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May 21st, 2007, 00:55
Interesting read. I disagree with a lot of it, but its definitely interesting. You guys did a great job on breaking down story, but most of the examples they are tied to are very weak (but I guess thats a matter of oppinion, I think PS:T is a great story driven adventure but a very weak rpg, most wouldn't agree with me).

The hands-down weakest part is the audience participating by creating their own stories and sharing them on blogs or creating wiki's. That really doesn't add anything to the actual story of the game. I focus on this because it was a large part of the conclusion as to the future of story and games. I think player created mods and modules would be a better example for the conclusion (and "the audiences's story" on page 11) instead of eve and wow and blogs and wikis.

An example: under interactive storytelling, you really don't articulate. I wish I could copy and paste but its on page 12. Your definition encompases every game ever made basically. I haven't played some of the games listed as examples, but what connects all the examples? I don't understand. Why isn't Zelda in the list when its exactly like Beyond good and evil (or vice versa).

Why aren't there any games given as examples for participatory? I can think of a bunch of games where I have an impact on the story somewhat, and after all, this is the heart of what roleplaying is supposed to be about.

All, in all, great paper. I learned a lot about story elements and story in general. I should've have focused on the good more i guess, but I hate to make people's egos bigger. Anyway, i look forward to "Remote Collaboration for Indie Game Studios: Bridging the Virtual Gap."
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May 21st, 2007, 01:17
Originally Posted by roqua View Post
The hands-down weakest part is the audience participating by creating their own stories and sharing them on blogs or creating wiki's. That really doesn't add anything to the actual story of the game. I focus on this because it was a large part of the conclusion as to the future of story and games. I think player created mods and modules would be a better example for the conclusion (and "the audiences's story" on page 11) instead of eve and wow and blogs and wikis.
Mod and such would be excellent examples as well. But I disagree that the forums and wikis don't add anything to the game experience. For a great many people they do. Not the narrative of the game, mind you, but the story of it.

Your definition encompases every game ever made basically.
Pretty much. The point of the paper is to provide a storytelling model that encompasses all games. Sound like I did my job!

Why isn't Zelda in the list when its exactly like Beyond good and evil (or vice versa).
Arbitrary choice, mostly. And because I feel BG&E's narrative contains more culturally relevant metaphors in today's political climate.

Why aren't there any games given as examples for participatory? I can think of a bunch of games where I have an impact on the story somewhat, and after all, this is the heart of what roleplaying is supposed to be about.
Because none exist yet. I am not referring to a game where you can impact the order in which the static narrative elements occur. A truly participatory storytelling experience allows the primary storyteller to apply changes to the narrative based upon the plots and stories provided by the audience.

All, in all, great paper. I learned a lot about story elements and story in general. I should've have focused on the good more i guess, but I hate to make people's egos bigger. Anyway, i look forward to "Remote Collaboration for Indie Game Studios: Bridging the Virtual Gap."
While I enjoy a "good job" now and then, I much prefer that people actually take the time to listen/read and (guess what word I'm going to use here?) participate full in the narrative by challenging assertions and asking for clarification. It is, after all, how I become a better storyteller.

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May 21st, 2007, 01:18
I didn't think this article made much sense. Sorry.
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May 21st, 2007, 01:43
Yeah, and don't get me wrong, this was definitely worth taking the time to read and i learned a lot about story, but I think we see things from different perspectives. I can tell that you have a broader experience playing games than I do. My perspective is pretty focused.

Lets look at Darklands. There is no story. The whole point of the game is to create your own. That is the whole point of any rpg, or should be. This is 100% participatory storytelling.

Obviously, by and large you are right, there are no real participatory storytelling in games as you see it in your head. But I also think you might not be as knowledgable about rpgs and crpgs as I am (which isn't a bad thing, as it just makes me a big dork). What i believe you are describing is traditional pen and paper role-playing games. That is exactly what you are invisioning in your head, but without a DM and a bunch of dorks rolling dice and talking about boobs and orcs.

This is the direction, and the inspiration, as well as the narrative, every rpg developer should take.

Also, no mention of Planescape Torment in a video game paper on Story? If you haven't played it, I suggest you give it a try. Story is what sets that game apart from every other game made.

Mod and such would be excellent examples as well. But I disagree that the forums and wikis don't add anything to the game experience. For a great many people they do. Not the narrative of the game, mind you, but the story of it.
You are right. I can't disagree, but I can fake its not true. But I think this just proves people are wierd more than it provides any type of enhancement to game playing.

p.s. good job.

edit: I also wanted to mention, before I forget, that that was an interesting take on the word narrative: including all the aesthetics as well as UI. It fits the definition as well. I've never thought of it in this sense.
noun-"The art, technique, or process of narrating."
Last edited by roqua; May 21st, 2007 at 01:56.
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May 21st, 2007, 10:01
Regardless, please don't judge it by the provided sample, which is only a short section of a thirteen page paper.
Ok I'll give it another go
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