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2, Issue 9
January 24, 2000
Developing The Story
If I can borrow a line from a review plucked from the early pages
of loonygames, and written by my mentor, loonyboi: Grim
Fandango's storyline, which may very well be the best I've
ever seen in a PC adventure game, mixes film noir with Mexican
mythology, and a definitely warped sense of humor. He goes
on to say: What really impressed me about Grim Fandango
is how...solid a game it is. The storytelling's in a class all
was designed by the same genius behind Full Throttle, another
great LucasArts game. And that genius was Tim Schafer. I asked
Tim and the other gents what they felt the key was to developing
a story throughout a game, without having it degenerate into a
mindless race of kill, find the key, where things
such as character development and a sense of accomplishment on
achieving a goal fell to the wayside.
Tim Schafer: I
think the key is to not separate the story from the puzzles, or
from any other part of gameplay. The story and the puzzles and
the characters and the technology are all connected. The characters
drive the puzzlesManny Calavera would never kick in somebody's
door, so he would have to solve several puzzles in a different
way then Ben Throttle. You have to constantly ask yourself, what
does this character want more than anything in the world? What
would be satisfying for him or her to do? If he wants to avenge
the death of his father, he can't defeat his father's murderer
in a game of chess. He has to kick some serious ass. Every action
has to be a wish-fulfillment for both the character AND the player.
"I want to kick that door down. I want to run a night club.
I want to ride a motorcycle. I want to get the girl." A good
game is a long string of such wish-fulfillment's.
If you dont keep touching on aspects of the story, changing
and developing them in the course of the game, then you might
as well not even have a story. Character is probably the hardest
thing to develop in a game, especially when your character
is nothing but a pair of eyes and some weapons. In Half Life we
used the oblique strategy of having other characters talk to Gordon
Freeman and openly draw conclusions about his motives and comment
on his state; I hoped this would guide the player (just a bit)
to feel that Gordon is changing during play. But things are still
at a very primitive state. For instance, Gordon starts off with
bare hands. Toward the end of the game, when hes obviously
laden with weapons, a scientist tells him, You dont
look as if you have much trouble killing things. Most of
the techniques we take for granted in film and literature are
still in very rough form at this point, or havent exactly
found their in-game counterparts.
First, I can't tell about that so called, "key", even
if there is one. It's my secret sauce, and you can't have it and
I'm still trying to get it to open other stuff.As
for conveying information to the teammates, it's a full time job.
You can't do much of anything else except that. Most designers
will probably agree with that. It takes meetings with groups,
individuals and good hiring. And it's turn me into a schizophrenic
madman. I can only hope I do this job well. Most importantly it
takes constantly reminding yourself and others what the goals
are on the project, and perhaps convincing them that those goals
are valid and worthwhile. A bit of self doubt is also good for
keeping yourself honest, and not becoming that "rock star"
thing that everyone is yapping about. Screw that, more crazy artists
(that includes programmers, who I consider artists) and less attitude.
No offense to people with attitude... sometimes it takes attitude
to create brilliant works. See, how schizophrenic I am?