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MrFistSalad
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« on: February 03, 2017, 11:32:17 AM »

This is something I've been thinking a lot about. My first big game (If you consider VNs games) is about to come out and it features a lot of interactive choices and some branching paths. It strengthens the story in my opinion but my next project (an actual game) would, in my preference, feature very little choice or interactive story-telling.

Bastion is one of my favorite games ever with some of my favorite writing, yet its interactivity was based on actions rather than choices and it featured exactly one premeditated choice.

Does game writing have to be interactive to be good? Far Cry 3 had a decent story that the PC played through experiencing Jason Brody's choices rather than making them. However, while that's still a game in my opinion, I'd never fool myself into thinking a kinetic novel is a game.

What's the least amount of interactivity game writing can have while still being acceptable? And what thoughts do you have on interactivity in game writing as a whole?
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kenjichan
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2017, 09:40:15 PM »

If you'd like an example, I recommend playing Journey. The game itself is absolutely linear and almost bare bones, but the story is there, explained with absolutely no dialogue. And the story is centered around, go figure, the journey of the red-hooded(?) protagonist. Very little interaction with almost anything, yet it conveys a story pretty damn well.
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MrFistSalad
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2017, 01:15:36 AM »

If you'd like an example, I recommend playing Journey. The game itself is absolutely linear and almost bare bones, but the story is there, explained with absolutely no dialogue. And the story is centered around, go figure, the journey of the red-hooded(?) protagonist. Very little interaction with almost anything, yet it conveys a story pretty damn well.

But then would you still consider it a game or is it an experience that could have been properly conveyed in a static medium like a movie or a book? Not hypothetical, I'm actually curious, I've never played it.
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kenjichan
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2017, 07:20:41 AM »

I would definitely say it's still a game. The interactivity is what gives Journey its charm - the weightlessness of the character, the vast expanse of the setting, the beauty of movement, and most importantly, the struggle at the final leg of the game is also made all the more poignant. Putting it as a movie or book would put us in a role as an observer and thus, less likely to sympathize or even care.
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Pfotegeist
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2017, 09:04:21 AM »

Short answer: It makes the game more fun for an experienced player.

Long answer:

Many RPGs have a similarity to VN, seeing how there is a set path.

There are a number of NPCs (non-playable characters) who you can talk to, but inevitably don't need to be talked to by an experienced player. These NPCs are occasionally bursting with useful information for a beginner, which makes it really not a choice the first time, you either talk to all the NPCs, make a lucky guess, did literally everything, or you got your information somewhere else.

There are events that need to occur to open up new paths in an RPG (they're called knowledge flags). Sometimes they're really pointless, like, you have to talk to one NPC who gives you an idea. You might have had the idea on your own. Other times they serve a real importance like preventing someone from selecting all the right options and finishing the game at the very beginning.

There are many RPGs that tell a linear story with no choices.

Other thought:
Puzzles don't always tell a written story and often have one answer. Vice versa, the hint at a mystery in writing adds a sense of discovery for each new clue. There is a similar sensation by simply giving a choice to pick two answers.

Interactivity doesn't equal choice. Games with branching paths usually reconnect as quickly as possible. Although some players don't appreciate the deceptive advertising, the game that pretends to branch, with one outcome, is still a bit to take in for beginners.

Some people only read books once. Some read twice, and book is linear. Playing an open world game might seem like reading a book, when all possible story progress and rewards are done, it seems like playing it again leaves no choice but to do less.
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MrFistSalad
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2017, 12:04:58 PM »

Short answer: It makes the game more fun for an experienced player.

Long answer:

Many RPGs have a similarity to VN, seeing how there is a set path.

There are a number of NPCs (non-playable characters) who you can talk to, but inevitably don't need to be talked to by an experienced player. These NPCs are occasionally bursting with useful information for a beginner, which makes it really not a choice the first time, you either talk to all the NPCs, make a lucky guess, did literally everything, or you got your information somewhere else.

There are events that need to occur to open up new paths in an RPG (they're called knowledge flags). Sometimes they're really pointless, like, you have to talk to one NPC who gives you an idea. You might have had the idea on your own. Other times they serve a real importance like preventing someone from selecting all the right options and finishing the game at the very beginning.

There are many RPGs that tell a linear story with no choices.

Other thought:
Puzzles don't always tell a written story and often have one answer. Vice versa, the hint at a mystery in writing adds a sense of discovery for each new clue. There is a similar sensation by simply giving a choice to pick two answers.

Interactivity doesn't equal choice. Games with branching paths usually reconnect as quickly as possible. Although some players don't appreciate the deceptive advertising, the game that pretends to branch, with one outcome, is still a bit to take in for beginners.

Some people only read books once. Some read twice, and book is linear. Playing an open world game might seem like reading a book, when all possible story progress and rewards are done, it seems like playing it again leaves no choice but to do less.

That's true.

Yet I'm not sure I'd find myself alone in drawing the line at kinetic novels in not being a game. Same  that thing on Steam 'Mountain'.

What I'm curious about is where's the line? Exactly how interactive (even ignoring the concept of player choice) must a story be to be a game?
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Pfotegeist
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2017, 01:19:44 PM »

There's not a defined explanation, but here's mine.

Consider the difference between cognition and instruction. If you store information in memory for later use it's 100% pure instruction. This can be done with any book or movie. Also referred to as rote. This isn't a game, a participant will not need cognition.


The loosest definition I've heard for game is something interactive. My interpretation of this is the participant performs an action without a predetermined outcome. If you were reading a story from a book you could add-lib words to make it a game.  People who read tend to imagine things that they can relate with the descriptions in a book.

So... If you can name yourself, it's a game. You have to pick the right name.

[ illusion can trick a player's cognition, afterthought, sounds better than my initial edit]
edit 2: consider you have more options than limitations on gamification. Just having two people do a similar thing and compare results... makes it a contest.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2017, 01:26:28 PM by Pfotegeist » Logged
st33d
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2017, 01:31:46 PM »

Despite a lot of rhetoric insisting that agency is key, I don't think it's top of the list.

What we want is memories that we want to keep. It's why books and films remain compelling without any agency on the behalf of the entertained. Agency can certainly make an experience more memorable, but it's not what we walk away with. What's important is that you experience a piece of entertainment and think, "yeah, this is mine", something you'll keep with you and talk about with others.

When agency fails it's not because we didn't have enough to do, it's because we didn't want what was offered.
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MrFistSalad
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2017, 05:19:27 PM »

There's not a defined explanation, but here's mine.

Consider the difference between cognition and instruction. If you store information in memory for later use it's 100% pure instruction. This can be done with any book or movie. Also referred to as rote. This isn't a game, a participant will not need cognition.


The loosest definition I've heard for game is something interactive. My interpretation of this is the participant performs an action without a predetermined outcome. If you were reading a story from a book you could add-lib words to make it a game.  People who read tend to imagine things that they can relate with the descriptions in a book.

So... If you can name yourself, it's a game. You have to pick the right name.

[ illusion can trick a player's cognition, afterthought, sounds better than my initial edit]
edit 2: consider you have more options than limitations on gamification. Just having two people do a similar thing and compare results... makes it a contest.

That's actually one of the best inputs I've ever had to this conversation whether IRL or online.

I suppose agency on the speed at which events occur would not be considered interactive enough for game status, as that is how a kinetic novel would play without a customizable name, as agency over speed of progression is also apparent in books and television shows.

Consequently, I'd not call Mountain a game, though in reality it's a arbitrary label, where an RPG with a strictly predetermined series of story events would be considered 'game writing'.

Fascinating.
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MrFistSalad
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2017, 05:22:07 PM »

Despite a lot of rhetoric insisting that agency is key, I don't think it's top of the list.

What we want is memories that we want to keep. It's why books and films remain compelling without any agency on the behalf of the entertained. Agency can certainly make an experience more memorable, but it's not what we walk away with. What's important is that you experience a piece of entertainment and think, "yeah, this is mine", something you'll keep with you and talk about with others.

When agency fails it's not because we didn't have enough to do, it's because we didn't want what was offered.

So, essentially, a game with player agency simply has a better chance of being memorable than a game that does not.
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st33d
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2017, 05:50:01 AM »

So, essentially, a game with player agency simply has a better chance of being memorable than a game that does not.

Then why does everyone remember "would you kindly?" from Bioshock?

As I said, agency isn't the goal. Being memorable is the goal. There's things you can do with agency to achieve that but simply adding agency isn't going to solve anything. Sometimes the most memorable thing can be that you had no choice at all. Whether you want to keep that memory defines its success.
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MrFistSalad
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2017, 09:01:21 PM »

So, essentially, a game with player agency simply has a better chance of being memorable than a game that does not.

Then why does everyone remember "would you kindly?" from Bioshock?

As I said, agency isn't the goal. Being memorable is the goal. There's things you can do with agency to achieve that but simply adding agency isn't going to solve anything. Sometimes the most memorable thing can be that you had no choice at all. Whether you want to keep that memory defines its success.

That's very true. So despite all of the blustering about, the idea is that agency, like any tool in any work of creation, is good in some scenarios and bad in others and that it is the duty of the creator to decide which tools to use and how.
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Pfotegeist
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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2017, 07:06:17 PM »

I remember the term "interactive toy" was used on a YouTube video by ExtraCredits. They did not go into detail about its meaning. I think a screensaver with adjustable properties, a sys prompt, or a calculator would qualify.

A program, like Mountain, where stimulation is not the clear intention of the program could be called an interactive toy. This sounded weird no matter how I tried to word it. It is a generalization, but some of the toys I mentioned have some definite potential compared to wooden blocks and sticks, and still remain unremarkable to most people as a source of entertainment.
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0XPgamedev
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2017, 07:23:14 AM »

This has been a fascinating topic, and I agree that Pfotegeist's input is superb; I'd never thought about games in that way.

The only thing I have to add on the topic is that I wouldn't worry about how interactive your game writing is or 'needs' to be - it's possible to have a well written game that is entirely linear, and just has the player clicking through dialogue or scrolling through text.

I think there's a tendency to xenorate 'interactive elements' in games because it's a strong factor that's unique to the medium, but I think it belies the industry's insecurity with itself - games are somehow seen as 'higher' or 'better' if they have greater interactivity. As we experiment with new types of game, and as you guys have discussed the definition is extremely broad, there is room for all types of experiences with all types of writing.

Bastion may have only had one meaningful choice in it, but that doesn't mean that it was a bad game or that you didn't enjoy it. If you're next game has fixed dialogue that all players will see, you can just focus on making that the best it can be.

Hope you got something out of that and best of luck for your project.
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SchriefFighter
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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2017, 12:55:46 PM »

The beauty and power of writing is that it can be subtle or overt, branching or linear, and it can still be powerful. It just depends on how you portray it and the intent.
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