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Scene based narrative

Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2010, 01:17:32 am »

What if the interaction that gives you the means to go to the next scene is simply very interesting in and of itself? More interesting than getting the reward.
This you need to expand upon Smiley Are you talking about a sort of like an engaging conclusion to the scene? Or do you just mean that the most interesting interaction (which players will be drawn to) is also the interacts that locks up access to the next scene?
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2010, 09:49:22 am »

Sorry, it was a quick note that I made via my iPod before going to bed.

I was thinking that rewarding the player is not a bad thing in and of itself. The only problem with rewards in many games is that you do a lot of interactions only because you are given a reward. And then you're interacting with the system, and not with the story. And we don't like that.

But the reward system is a very good one for pacing the experience of the player, as in the scene-based narrative structure that you're suggesting.

So it seems to me that we can have our cake and eat it by simply making the interaction itself more interesting than the reward you get (i.e. the fact that you can progress). So that the player genuinely enjoys playing and the reward feels like a kind of bonus (that may even surprise them).

A great example that comes to mind is Ceremony of Innocence. It is structured as a linear series of postcards. You first see the front of the postcard. Some elements are interactive. It's fun to interact with them. After some specific interactions, something happens in the scene on the card. Then the card flips over so you can continue reading the story (and get access to the next card). But the interactions with the elements on the picture side of the postcard is where the gameplay is. They're often so pleasant that getting the reward is sometimes disappointing (which is subsequently made up for by the clever story and the excellent voice acting).

I think the kind of "free-form" interactions that were designed for CD-Roms like Ceremony of Innocence is something we can learn a lot from. Especially people like you and we who like working with 3D simulations. We have a tendency towards realism that is really not required by the medium. But realistic interactions can be very banal. Maybe letting go of realism is one way to make interactions more interesting in and of themselves.
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2010, 09:42:43 pm »

Michaël Samyn:
Good point! I really like the idea of a player thinking:
"nooo, is the scene already over? Do I have to progress now? Can't I just play a little longer? Pleeeeeassse" Smiley

To bring in another "game being a play mate"-metaphore
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2010, 09:01:15 am »

the idea of a player thinking:
"nooo, is the scene already over? Do I have to progress now? Can't I just play a little longer? Pleeeeeassse" Smiley

That's a great emotion to aim for in design! Smiley
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2010, 09:12:45 am »

I think Crayon Physics Deluxe works like that a lot actually. Many of the levels are really easy to beat by building a really boring solution and just pushing the ball forward. Any one who just runs through the levels in that fashion will surely get tired very fast though. The second you start trying to come up with creative solutions the whole game changes and become so much more enjoyable. Basically you could stay at the first level forever, playing around with the system. And since progress is so easy it could be classified as voluntary and (kinda) immediate.

I remember from Petris talks that he first tried to fight this phenomenon (which is a natural instinct from a game design perspective) but later decided to instead embrace it -- the game is so much better off because of that!
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2010, 07:22:24 pm »

Aren't a lot of games already a scene-based narrative?

A lot of FPSes essentially have you going through very fancy hallways, which block you and force you to clear them in order to continue.  Large portions of Half-Life games are a good example because they're more narrative-focused, but it's very common for almost all FPS games.  Non-scrolling platformers are even better examples - each screen is a scene based on physical limitations.  Kyntt is a perfect non-scrolling platformer example of a scene-based narrative.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the terminology, though.
Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #21 on: March 05, 2010, 08:17:29 pm »

Quote
Kyntt is a perfect non-scrolling platformer example of a scene-based narrative.
My thought was more that there would be very little (if any!) going back for forth between scenes. Also, and idea was the exit of each scene would be fairly obvious and the player could leave when they felt like it. This means that the player could remain and explore a certain scene until they thought it was enough and then move on.

I agree that games like God of War, Devil may Cry, Painkiller etc have this kind of design where they lock you into a very short area and then throw enemies at you, when enemies are killed you can move on. These are a very simplistic and extremely constrained examples though, but the idea is essentially the same. What I am interested in exploring is using this for more not-gameish works and I think that using a limited environment and a clear (or at least easy to find) exit could allow for a good base to build a large variety of different experiences. The idea is also that the scene is very non-linear with many different things that can be done. For example, one simple scene could be a kitchen where the player could try out different equipment and then exit by just going through a door.

Hope that makes it a bit clearer! Smiley
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #22 on: March 05, 2010, 08:56:08 pm »

Ohhhhh, ok.  Gotcha!

So you do each scene once, but you can choose whatever order.  Yeah that makes sense since you have been talking about the idea of experiencing something a second time kind of ruining horror.

I've thought about this too for what I want to make.  But in my example you could go through the scene multiple times.  It'd be nice to figure out a way to present the scene slightly differently each time, though...  Maybe there'd be different details shown?  Anyway, maybe getting off topic.

Thanks for clearing that up. Smiley
Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #23 on: March 05, 2010, 10:18:45 pm »

Quote
It'd be nice to figure out a way to present the scene slightly differently each time, though...  Maybe there'd be different details shown?

I like how it is done i Forbidden Siren. You revisit the same level several times, but using different characters and things you did on past visits can influence what you see. Also, since the time of visits is not chronological things you end up doing stuff that you previously encountered too (if I recall correctly) Smiley

I also like the idea of revisiting places but adding slight differences.
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2010, 12:14:33 am »

What exactly is the advantage of structuring a game in different scenes (as opposed to, e.g., having one big scene)? Is it a way to impose some linearity that can then be used to tell (linear/plot-driven/arched) story? Is it merely for technical reasons (reducing memory requirement and loading times e.g.)? Is it a way to easy the player into the game by limiting the options available at any moment? Or are there other advantages?
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #25 on: March 06, 2010, 01:01:30 am »

Quote
What exactly is the advantage of structuring a game in different scenes
For my part, the main reason it is to make user focus and not feel overwhelmed. For example, if game requires the player to explore a house, then just letting the whole house be explorable from the start might feel like "too much" for the player and faced with all possibilities they decide to do nothing instead. The scene based narrative solves this by letting the player explore one place at the time and thus confiding the player to a smaller area and letting her explore without getting lost. This can off course be solved in other ways, such as the metroid style where new areas are blocked until some condition is met, but this easily makes the game more complex and harder to handle.

Another advantage is that it makes it easier to handle change. For example, lets say a game takes place at one location and changing scene is simple going forward in time. Then for each "scene", it can be change according to things made in the previous scene. An example would be a dinner party where the first scene is the appetizer, next the main course, and so on.

It is also easier from a design perspective and lets you easier plan what things that can interact with one another. If the player can explore a huge world then there is no telling what strange things they might do that could break the experience.

Of course, sometimes having a large world might be preferable, but I think scene-based-narrative solves some problems that might arise.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2010, 01:06:44 am by Thomas »
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #26 on: March 06, 2010, 09:42:33 am »

Your reasons are very sound.
The big problem to me with a scene-based structure is that it imposes linearity. Is that something you're trying to solve? Are you trying to find a way to have a non-linear scene-based structure? Or do you like the linearity?
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #27 on: March 06, 2010, 12:31:51 pm »

It depends on the game. I can think of game ideas where linear would not be good. But for the ideas that are whirling around in my head now, imposing some sort of linear structure seems appropriate. What I want to be able to do (given my current ideas) is to give the player as much freedom as possible and still be able to focus on conveying a certain message, theme, etc. I believe that this limiting of action-space can be good for gameplay (as I explained earlier, it does not overwhelm the player), but I also believe it is good for design. The way I have worked on games for over 10 years is to be able to have write down a synopsis and use that in order to plan as much as possible. While I like the idea of the game flowing from some simple start, this is not the way I am used to working and when I have tried it, problems have arisen (it was not until we made proper planning for Amnesia that the project really started shaping up).

I guess it depends a bit on the whole authorship thing too. This is really another discussion, but I can kinda sum it up here: When working on a game there is usually a lot of people involved, even for a small team like us, we have a core team of 5 persons and then the same amount (if not more) of freelancers that handles misc stuff. This means, that once content is made, it is hard to have artistic control and I take on the role as a coordinator more than artist. Sure, there is a lot of tweaking that can be done and tons have been made in projects, but it is mostly on lower level as consistency needs to be kept and there is always fear of the dreaded "domino effect". This means that I would like to be able to "see" the game before it is implemented and to limit the scope of possible interaction it lets me do that. If I would have just let it all flow from a simple base mechanics, it would all be a mess and very hard to keep track of. I guess that sort of development works if you are very few working on the project, but they way we make games now it does not.

I think this is a large reason why many (all???) major game productions feel so "soul-less". Even in games like Bioshock, which has an interesting concept, things are extremely shallow and nobody really wants to take "responsibility" (just check interviews with Kevin Levine where he insists that the game is just about having fun and any message is accidental)

As a final note: I have recently began writing a short story (in Swedish! Tongue) whenever I have time to spare and motivation. There is a vast difference on personality to this work, compared to when I work on game. Even though I pour a lot of myself into a game, I can kind of distance my self from it and not take it so personally. But with a written story, it is very personal and it feels more like a work that I really have to stand for and defend. I would like to have this in a game and to feel that I have really put part of myself into it. Amnesia is a step close, but far from the extent I would like. This does not mean that I need to design everything myself, it just means that I need to be able to "project" myself into at the design process and then make sure it sticks when production starts.

Now this became a really long rant. Sorry bout that Smiley
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #28 on: March 06, 2010, 01:08:43 pm »

Don't be sorry. It's a nice read.

I understand how a scene-based structure makes projects of the size that you're making more manageable. I do think that you should be careful that the structure is not telling too much of the story (at the expense of the author). So I can imagine that you need to do a lot of work on the narrative to make it work with this structure. And I guess that some stories would not work at all.

I'm not arguing in favour of an open world, or letting everything emerge from a simple mechanic. I'm arguing for adapting the form to the content and not vice versa.

I hear what you're saying about the distance you feel as an author creating games (vs writing a story). We actually created this distance on purpose when we were first starting to make games (after years of making deeply personal and almost exhibitionist art pieces). But now we're slowly moving back towards a more personal approach, while still maintaining a desire to communicate with a wide audience.
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Re: Scene based narrative
« Reply #29 on: March 07, 2010, 03:35:37 am »

Interesting turn about 'designing everything'. My current game is practically all by me, and I have reached a comfort zone where I realize that to make larger games I need to get more people to work on it - whilst fearing letting others in who may not understand what I am driving at.

The whole issue of authorship in games is poignant, large productions all seem quite soulless. The small quirky indie-games with their small quirky flaws are far more 'warm'. I think large games should definitely move towards authorship and try and say something. Perhaps modern culture is against this to begin with? I hear so many gamers who say they do not want clever stuff. They'd rather have a re-hash of robots from the 70's.

Interesting irony in interactive media is that if you let it be goalless the player will always assume he may have missed something - and if you give him a signal when the goal has been fulfilled he cannot function without having that final goal. I suppose the better path for a scene-based game would be to make clear the means and nature of interaction (the explorable elements) and let the gameplay be in the manipulation of these elements rather than the exploration. Otherwise there will always be the fear of not having pixel-hunted properly - I hated that most in old adventuregames, I like puzzles but they would always rely on a factor I simply did not notice - and the environments were nice, but I would rather spend time in them because they are nice (as I am prone to do in Riven) rather than because I have to find a button about 10 pixels large (which happened, also, in Riven).
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