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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallForum IssuesArchived subforums (read only)CreativeWritingHow to write a Back Story For A game? Need Tips!
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Author Topic: How to write a Back Story For A game? Need Tips!  (Read 1312 times)
swipefaststudios
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« on: April 15, 2016, 12:30:33 PM »

Hi,
This has probably been asked before but I couldn't find anything when I searched the forums.
My friend who is in gamedev said I should probably make a storyline for my game before making the game mechanics and other stuff.
My Question is how do I make a story for a game that isn't cliche or like other stories.
Basically I have a game where you are trying to get treasure for a town to upgrade it, basic game mechanics.
So I have the mechanics but I need a story line.
Are there any tips writers have for making a story believable, metaphoric or have a meaning to playing the game further?
Any tips are appreciated!
If you have a post that has already been made about this leave a link of it below!
Thanks
SwipeFastStudios
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Monstro
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 03:48:08 AM »

Quote
My friend who is in gamedev said I should probably make a storyline for my game before making the game mechanics and other stuff.

Well, that's pretty contentious and depends very much upon the kind of game you want to make. But even in a very story-driven game, you have to choose a story which fits well with the game's mechanics. That means doing both at once, and evolving them at the same time.

Everything depends on what you want from the story; on how you want the story to interact with the game. There is no particular reason why you should aim to make your story believable, metaphorical, or otherwise meaningful (and I say this as a game writer). For every Life is Strange, there's a Super Mario Bros: both are good game stories in their own right because they contextualise and enable gameplay. In many ways Mario's story is more successful than Life is Strange's.

Here's some general advice for you to think about:

* Decide what sort of story you want to have. Is there an overall plot, or is the player repairing the town just because the town needs repairing? I mean, that's already a perfectly good plot for a game.

* Does the player interact with other characters? Is there dialogue? Is there a nemesis the player must fight against? Do you want a plot twist, or to convey a particular message?

* Do you want to tell your story through dialogue, or using the environment? Or silent animation?

I would advice that you incline towards simplicity. Keeping story light and loose, like Pokemon (beat all the gym masters, speak to the occasional character who has a single line or dialogue, where every line is basically a gameplay tip in disguise), is easier to do and more likely to engage players. Complex stories which ask a lot of the player are more likely to fail (I know this from experience).

Telling a novel, innovative, emotionally engaging story in a video game is very hard. If you want to do that, then you need to be a very skilled writer and game designer. And a bit mad. If you don't want to write the Best Game Story Ever, you're already winning and you don't have to worry about whether your story is simple, or predictable, or clichéd. Clichés can be good because we understand them - that's why there are so many stories about World War 2, or the Middle East, or Orcs and Elves. Players understand them instantly and they don't need to invest effort in understanding the basic structure of the world.

So keep it simple, decide how you want the story to be told to the player, and build it up as you go.
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swipefaststudios
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2016, 02:30:53 PM »



So keep it simple, decide how you want the story to be told to the player, and build it up as you go.
Thanks for the tips!
I will keep the simple story in mind!
This will help me in making the game to keep some npc interaction to help move the story along!
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2016, 07:05:32 AM »

Well, you already have a setting, the city. I guess the story would come from the city's history and from what's currently happening with it, as well as from your game's characters.

Story tends to happen automatically once you have characters. What are their wants and needs, who are they, how do they interact. Why are they in the city. There's your story right there. Star writing the main characters and they'll soon develop character arcs.

And make sure it fits with the gameplay.
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doghouse
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2016, 09:12:16 AM »

Abstract: Story structure and some pointers on how it is useful in game design.


Just thought I'd chime in here, as I am someone that enjoys emphasise to some degree on story in game design - and actually, I spent several years studying creative writing.  It's an art in itself and I'm afraid there are no short-cuts (like most things!).

May I just add that setting is merely a holder for a story.  But in gaming, as we know, setting will make a huge element of the game in form of level design.

Sure, as mentioned, complexity (if even at all) of story may depend on game genre and type. But even then, there would be no reason why it wouldn't be possible to have a rich and deep story for even a puzzle game - but would players like that?!

The question of course is, how can story be broken down like that of setting?

By understanding story structure. And there are quite a few examples of this around the Internet.

I could write a lot about this, but instead I can point you to one particular structure which is quite cool and fitting for game design.

Just Youtube Dan Wells Story Structure (7 point system) - it runs for about an hour.

It shan't cover everything story related, but it does allow this:

The main story arc will have seven steps (additional steps can include a prologue - say an opening sequence to your game to hint at what may come.  Also, try/fail cycles).

But the great thing about this structure is its module-like approach.  The structure can be used for sotry through-lines/threads.  What I mean is, you may have a 7 step for the main arc(objective), one for the player (subjective), one for the enemy, one even for setting, for example.

Of course, you wouldn't want all the story arcs playing along side each other. For example, the enemy's story arc may start later on the main story arc, yes?

What this does is create several steps in the story, so that instead of having just seven, you may have twenty - or more! Suddenly, you have twenty levels to design based on the steps in the story, or at least twenty main events in the game.

I hope this has made sense. And feel free to ask questions.  And like I say, watch Dan Wells, it's a very good starting point.

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yopablo
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2016, 05:12:44 AM »

Basically I have a game where you are trying to get treasure for a town to upgrade it, basic game mechanics.

Answer some these questions and develop the answers into a story:
 - Why you have to get treasure
 - What makes this treasure so special
 - Why in this city
 - Why do you need to update the city
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JWK5
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2016, 08:33:19 AM »

Approach the story like you're recounting something to a friend, get the player interested with feeling that this tale is leading somewhere good. The goal here is to get the player actually wanting to know more, actually wanting to see how things unfold and where this is all going.

Story: "So the other day I got a cheeseburger from McDonald's..."
Player: "Okay... and?"

Story: "Yeah, there was a tail sticking out of it."
Player: "Wait, what!? What do you mean a tail!? What kind of tail?"

Story: "I don't know... it was long and grey."
Player: "A rat tail?"

Story: "No, I don't think it was a rat tail."
Player: "Okay, so then what did you do?"

Story: "Well, obviously I opened up the cheeseburger right away."
Player: "Yeah? Well, what did you see!?"

Story: "Oh, it was weird, I'd never seen anything like it."
Player: "What do you mean? What did it look like?"

Story: "Okay, so... "



Once you've got the player hooked and curious you're ready to really cut them loose and let them explore the story through the game play. They have a pretty good idea what they are looking for, now you just have to let them look. You can keep them hungry for more story by throwing them bits and pieces here and there like a trail of bread crumbs to follow.

Once they find what they are looking for, once they've reached a conclusion, if you want the story to be memorable it should play out unexpectedly in the end. It is like a good joke, if the punchline is exactly what you expected and delivered exactly as expected it's not going to be as funny (because there is very little surprise). You don't have to make some obnoxious overblown plot twist, but a little surprise goes a long ways towards making a story stick.
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TheRedPixel
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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2016, 01:44:55 AM »

Reads too self referencial to be featured in Gamasutra TBH.
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ithamore
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2016, 07:31:31 PM »

Are there any tips writers have for making a story believable, metaphoric or have a meaning to playing the game further?

My professors advice for undergraduate students was to "write what you know." It is sage old advice among published and publication-seeking writers. They might have been more concerned with traditional writing, but that fact doesn't negate the usefulness of their advice: write as much as you can from personal experience.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2016, 07:51:24 PM by ithamore » Logged

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krides
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« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2016, 04:33:49 AM »

I like to work on narrative-based games, and (at least for those kinds of games) I found it to be critical to have a timeline of events in place before, during, and after the general story of the game. What happened in this world 10, 20, 100 years before the game begins? How did the cute little creatures living there develop pointy ears? Do they use glass for windows? Who is at war with whom and since when?

It's important to know the facts, but it's also important to know the dates because a game usually has a certain (linear or non-linear — it doesn't matter) structure. Events happen, and you advance. If you want to keep things consistent, it's generally a good idea to keep a little timeline where you write times and dates of all the important events. Otherwise, you might find yourself in an awkward situation that breaks the narrative.

For example: if a character has died, they should not appear alive until they are resurrected, and you want to know when the resurrection happens to know when you can show the character again. You can decide this as you go, but it may have other implications. Whoever resurrects the character should be there to do it. If they are there at 10 am on Thursday, this means that they could not conceivably be at another distant planet 30 seconds after this, so they can't save somebody else. It gets really complicated really quickly, and you want to keep it manageable. A timeline can help you keep things clear and straightforward.

If your game is linear, draw a straight line with an arrowhead on the right and put a little dot on it for every single event in your game's universe. Write the names of these events. Put dates near the dots. Make sure that everything makes sense like it did in your head. Have you noticed any plot holes that need to be addressed? Make sure that the timeline works before you start writing details of each event down. You can come back to it and change it later, but I found this approach to be really helpful (most of all for my own sanity's sake).

If your game has a branched story, you still need a timeline! In fact, you might need several parallel ones to keep track of all the possibilities that emerge from player's choices.

Also, I really recommend you this book: http://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009

It's about movies, but the method described in it can easily be used in games as well with some adjustments. It will give you a better idea of how to structure your story and suggest a working methodology for writing stories. I know it helped me :-)

Good luck!
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2016, 04:22:51 PM »

Read a lot, especially about things that are relevant to the kind of story you want to tell. Like if you want to tell the story of the development of a town, OK, that's a real-world thing, you can read about that. There's a lot of material from the 1800s gold rush in California, for example.

Because you're making a game, you should also think in terms of game functions; for each thing it's possible to do, there could be a character who teaches the player how to do that, or needs the player's help to do that, or tries to prevent them from it, etc.

Start by answering the questions your game poses. Why do they want to build a town there, why hasn't anyone settled there already (or has someone?), and where does the treasure come from?
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readyplaygames
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2016, 02:54:09 PM »

I really think that the story should serve the gameplay. I start with gameplay first, personally.
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