Storytelling In Games - Q&A with Dishonored Co-creator
GamesRadar has another interview with Harvey Smith. He is the veteran game designer and co-creative-director on Dishonored.
GamesRadar: What do you think is the paragon of storytelling in gaming?
Harvey Smith: To this day, the first System Shock by Looking Glass Technologies feels unbelievably cohesive, engaging to the player, and ahead of its time. Truly an under-appreciated master work. I got to support those guys as a tester, so I played the game for 10 months straight (working on the floppy then CD versions). It just never got old. There was the sense of place, so strong I used to dream about Citadel Station, before the disaster. Also, the emergent narrative and creeping player-driven pace made the experience so rich compared to most video games, which are more static, controlled and scripted. It's a highly subjective answer, but System Shock represents a great blend to me.GR: Having written a book, what do you now appreciate more about telling a story in games?
HM: In games, I'm much more interested in interconnected game systems that enable the player to act creatively on the game environment, and the exploration of the environment at the player's own pace. That's one of the reasons that writing a novel was so interesting; it's very different; fundamentally different. Some of the basics of what make writing work are hobbled in video games. In games, agency is the dominant goal, all description is visual, the best "plot" is derived from a series of player-driven actions and the game's response, but setting still works well.
The thing that suffers the most is character, because in games players are very active--always engaged in something, or devising some plan and undertaking it, rather than simply observing--and we have not yet managed to make much meaningful interactivity in terms of doing things with characters yet. Working with co-creative director Raphael Colantonio on Dishonored, we spent a lot of time talking about what works and what does; Dishonored also included an embedded narrative, but our key goals were related to systems, atmospherics, emergent narrative and the richness of the setting.GR: Are developers straying from what defines a good story?
HM: Hopefully, since that generally produces a more interactive game.