Game Opinion: Game Stories

Hello!

Overview

Today we are going to look at 3 types of stories and three games that show case these types of stories very well in my opinion. (Beware of Spoilers)

  1. Skyrim – fragmented player centric story
  2. Mass Effect – player choice driven
  3. Assassins Creed – linear story

Skyrim

While I personally have not beaten this game, I have spent several hundred hours combined playing Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.  Those games have similar types of story mechanics.

The fantasy games like Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim give little to no information about the player to leave it ambiguous enough for the player to fill it with their imagination.  Ambiguousness is key in these types of stories because the player can be anything from a warrior to a mage and a lizard man to a furry cat like race.

Fallout on the other hand does provide some history as to who the person was.  Fallout 3 you play as the hero from birth up until maturity.  Once you reach maturity to leave the safety of your underground vault to explore the Washington wasteland.  This game is more about taking a character given to you and moulding it the way you want to.  This is similar to Fable’s story progression.  You are a hero and you can either be bad or good.  Fallout uses a karma system to do this.  However the karma system didn’t have a huge impact on gameplay.  In Fable your entire persona would be modified depending on your choices.

The story in these games are fragmented and sporadically placed.  You always have a main quest objective, but whenever the player is exploring they have a chance of starting a new quest line.  That is the greatest thing about this style of telling a story.  Its more immersive because the player is in charge of completing tasks.  In other RPG’s there are little quest statements that pop up and you must read and accept that quest.

Bethesda has made their quest system very dynamic and open.  Sometimes you hear about a quest just by listening to an NPC conversation.  If someone asks you to go pick up some useless item for them and you don’t want to, you can literally kill that NPC and end that quest line.  There is a lot of freedom given to the player in this type of story telling.

Mass Effect

Mass effect is known for its speech choice interactions.  The player is in a social interaction with an NPC and they choose what to say.  The game categorises the players choice in a karma system but they have Paragon and Renegade in place of positive and negative.  Paragon would be the good intentions that are fairly selfless and morally correct.  Renegade are more selfish and immoral choices.

The game does offer some grey areas that are not paragon or renegade choices.  Later versions of the game have special scenes where the player is in a quick time event where they must quickly decide to do a paragon or renegade action.

The quick time events are a good way of advancing the story since they have the players first initial response that is most genuine.  If someone is really annoying you, and you are trying to a nice person and do paragon actions yet you flick the right trigger to slap them in the face, it brings out your true emotions.

Mass Effect doesn’t give the player a huge role in determining the story, but the player does get to pick what path to take to reach the end of the game.  Over the trilogy the choices the player makes have greater consequences.  Some choices only effected the way some NPC’s viewed your character later choices affect the lives of hundreds of people and the extinction of some races.  Even some of your crew members lives are at risk if the player picks a wrong choice.

This type of story telling is good when the game has a good story and world that the game designer wants to immerse the player in without using a completely open world.  Many players who play open world games spend more time playing around in the sandbox then caring about the story.

Assassins Creed

This game offers a really interesting storyline in the first game that looses its meaning after the 3 sequels.  They integrate their story in real world events questioning the way we look at the things around us.  The plot becomes somewhat controversial not using the standard good vs evil approach.  Instead they use the Assassins vs Templars approach.  The Assassins fight for free will and oppose a ridged system of development for humankind.  Templars believe that order is the only way for our species to realise its ultimate potential.  The series is all about two shadow organisations fighting over centuries.

Assassins Creed is really good at setting up a epic story that has a lot of depth and creates several questions in the players head as to what is going on.

Granted that the first game had very linear and unchanging gameplay but they had a story with great depth and was epic enough to build an entire franchise out of it.

Thank you for reading
– Moose

Game Idea: Unnamed RPG

Overview

So I spent the last two weeks going over how I think RPG’s should be made in order to create a great user experience.  I talked about the difference between JRPG and WRPG and why I thought WRPGs are better.  To summarise, I think that WRPGs have better combat systems and more immersive  worlds as a result.  JRPGs have been focused on stories and the only great JRPGs that sell well in North America are the ones that try to copy some WRPG mechanics (Dark/Demon Souls, Monster Hunter and so on).

I have a game idea focused around a theme and a world that I have been keeping at the back of my head for a while.  Now that I have a blog and have some knowledge of Game Design behind me I think it would be a good time to start working on making this game a reality.

Game Idea

My goal for this game is to create a unique user experience.  The only time I find that I have a great RPG experience is when I play Bethesda RPGs like Fallout 3, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim.  Why is this?  Their worlds are so large and offer so much freedom and randomness that as a player you actually feel like you are sculpting your own adventure.

Imagine a game like Dungeons & Dragons (Tabletop RPG).  While I have never played a game, the basics of the game are as follows:

  • Each player controls a single player
  • Players work together in a party of adventurers where each member has their own speciality (warrior, mage, healer, etc.)
  • Each player directs the actions of his or her character and its interactions with the other characters in the game.  This is done using verbal impersonation of the characters by the players, while also employing a variety of social and other useful cognitive skills, such as logic, basic mathematics and imagination.
  • Items required to play the game are the rulebooks, a character sheet for each player and a number of polyhedral dice.
You essentially sculpt your character to whoever you want them to be, then allow them to roam around in a world as you see fit.

While I obviously don’t have the time and resources to create a full 3D world as expansive as the Elder Scrolls and Falllout games, I do feel that this is a great idea, but not really a feasible one.  It is greatly out of scope for one person and is a bad way to start designing a game.  Games made by indie studios  should start designing their games through a unique mechanic or dynamic as opposed to a theme.

Since I am horrible at naming things I have yet to name the game or the setting.

Lore

The planet Earth has been around for about 4.54 billion years and humanity has been said to have originated about 200,000 years ago while reaching our behavioural modernity around 50,000 years ago.  Imagine a fantasy world where humans are not the only intelligent species around.  For the sake of this game, imagine a large province.

This province is populated by several races, some intelligent and some… not.  It has varying terrain like mountains, thick forests, dessert plateaus, large plains, swampy mangroves and tropical jungles.

  • Humans (60 year lifespan average)(Live in large cities around the plains):  The baby race.  Said to have evolved from monkey’s, humans still have similar characteristics to their primal counterparts.   The have only been around for a few thousand years but they are a nuisance to every other race.  They have short lifespans however their growth in one lifetime is huge.  They are very intelligent, being able to create massive structures and tools using the planet as their resource.  Humans have the physical capability to become great warriors and rouges.  Their intellect allows them to create objects that allow them to manipulate matter giving them artificial magical powers.
  • Dwarfs (200 years+)(Live in the Mountains): Dwarfs are very durable creatures.  It is said they had evolved from moles.  Dwarfs are very short creatures and great at operating in minimal sunlight.  They have great eyesight and smell.  Dwarfs are best known for their metal work.  They live and operate near mountainous terrain allowing them to gain easy access to minerals.  Dwarfs create large and intricate tunnels around the land to trade with other races.  They are rarely seen outside the mountains in the daylight.  Dwarfs make formidable warriors because of their metalwork and powerful bodies.
  • Light Elves (Over a 1000 years/Immortal)(Live in a floating city that hovers over the province): Light elves are the most unfriendly of the humanoid races.  They are a very powerful and mystical race that are able to channel energies unknown to other races.  This allows them to create unbelievable inventions and create different forms of matter.  Light elves have been rumoured to have evolved from butterflies which is why each light elf can fly.  Light elves are very independent creatures that despise humans and other races.  Light elves make powerful mages and healers because of  their mystical powers
  • Dark Elves (100 years+)(Forest): Dark elves are a race created by a cross breed between light elves and humans.  They were banished from the Light Elf world and settled in the forest where they created a small community.  They have a mix of the mystical Elf power but their human blood makes them mortal.  Due to the cross breed they have also lost the ability to fly, but in return they gain immense strength.

Those are the humanoid races.  Next come the more beast like races.

  • Orcs (200+ years)(Dessert): Orcs are huge red beasts that terrorise the province.  They live in a giant Pit in the dessert in the harshest conditions.  They are very primal in nature and only elect a leader by his power.  They venture into the jungles to scout for food. They are a mix of Alligators and Rhinos.
  • Trolls (100+ years)(Swamps):  Trolls are an aquatic race.  They are a more intelligent race then the Orcs, however they are still very primal.  They live in an underwater city surrounded by swampy mangroves.  Trolls look like a mix of Salamanders and Toads.
  • Goblins (50+ years)(Jungles): Goblins are tiny Orcs.  What they lack in strength they make up for in numbers.  Goblins outnumber every race put together and more. They lack a community and a leader, instead they live in packs atop the jungle trees.  Goblins are tiny and scrawny versions of Orcs.
Aside from those races, the world will be populated by other fantasy creatures that the player will be fighting with or teaming up with in the story.

The other main creature that will be in the game are dragons.  Unlike other games, dragons will not be some evil beings that must be slain.   Instead, these dragons are guardians.  Not much is known about these dragons and the only race that knows much informations about them are the Light Elves.  Dragons are elemental guardians that keep the balance of nature flowing.

  • Fire dragon: In charge of the land and swims in the molten lava underneath the earth.  It maintains the flow of lava to while preventing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
  • Wind dragon: Lives in the sky maintaining the weather.  It controls the flow of wind preventing whirlwinds and weather storms.
  • Water dragon: Maintains the sea current and prevents flash floods.
  • Earth dragon: Lives in the surface maintaining the forests and mountains.  The Earth dragon keeps the mountains full of minerals and the ecosystem healthy.
  • Light and Dark dragon.  These are ethereal dragons that watch over the province.  They are similar to the Yin/Yang where one is positive and the other is negative.  The Light dragon believes in the goodness of creatures while the Dark dragon believes that every creature is evil.
The purpose of the dragons is to maintain the balance.  When a creature upsets the balance the dragons fight and argue creating bad weather and all sorts of disasters.  Once the dragons fighting is over, they take action.  This normally means the full destruction of the race that is causing the imbalance.  Many years ago there were different races and creatures, and they were ultimately defeated by a genocide from the dragons.

Theme/Conflict

The mains underlying theme of the game should be global warming.  What I am going for with this game is to create a controversial plot that is different depending on how you play it.  The player will be able to start the game while playing with any race and he is influenced by the NPC’s to create a decision.  Rather then the Paragon and Renegade system in Mass Effect or the Fallout Karma system.  This system doesn’t have a bad or good scale.  Your actions are biased by the race you play.

  • Human: If you start out as a human, you will see that humans have no regard for the planet.  They have a military monarchy that governs their society.  There are also several guilds in the town that work independently from the royal military.  There are mercenaries, wizards, priests, and thief guilds.  Once your human character is built, you will have a choice to join an independent guild where you are free to do as you please under the teachings on that guild, or to join the royal army.  The royal army is a strict place where you will grow to be a powerful warrior with a lot of power but you will be focused on the betterment and growth of humanity.
  • Dwarf: Dwarves are hard workers.  As a Dwarf you have a choice to either become a noble blacksmith, miner or to join the Dwarven army.  Dwarves believe in nature and only taking what they need.  While their community has a similar monarchy like the humans, they are much more friendly to other races.  They do not wish to dominate, but to trade and be friendly with the other races.
  • Light Elves: To other races they are snobby and evil.  However they are only being protective of their planet.  They believe in taking and using the minimal amount of resources, and everything must be recycled and reused.  They see the other races as wasteful and greedy.  Elves are a very religious society and because of it they have insane magical powers.  They specialise in all forms of magic from destruction to healing.
  • Dark Elves:  They are a nomadic race that move around the forest living in-tune with nature.  Whatever they take they give back and try to follow the same standards as the Light Elves.  They do not wish to advance and evolve with technology like the Humans, but instead they wish to live their lives.  Dark Elves love to party, sing and dance.  They are a very timid and passive race.  However each Dark Elf has immense potential to be great warriors and mages.
  • Orcs: Their goal is to prove their power.  They will fight anyone and anything.  They are a very barbaric race where a mans battle strength is his life.  The women Orcs handle all the day-to-day jobs while the men go out to prove their strength and bring food.
  • Trolls:  Trolls value power, however they are a more organised race.  They don’t have much conflict with other races, as long as they don’t enter their territory.  Trolls are a very independent race that lack the intelligence to advance as quick as the humanoid race, but are not as barbaric as the orcs
  • Goblins: They are treated as the Orc’s “bitch” workers.  They work for the Orcs doing crappy tasks in exchange for protection and scraps of food.  The other goblins live in the forest constantly fighting with the Dark Elves.

Story

I am sure that I am confusing the reader as to what the game is.  For now I have set up the setting and the races as well as their personalities.  The point of the game is to play as one of these races experiencing different viewpoints in the same story.  The story will have similar ‘choke points’ but the outcome will vary leading to a different fallout.

The main story is that you play as one of the many races in this province.  You begin to work your way up to someone of value.  By completing sidequests and building your player character to a decent warrior.  Later on you find out that the Humans are advancing and trying to take over some more territory.  They begin to create alliances with other races to negotiate a peaceful outcome.  Depending on the players actions, they will either maintain a good relationship with the humans, or cause a war.

The war is interrupted by the entrance of several angry dragons.  These dragons are angry at the races for abusing the natural resources at a rate faster then it can grow back.  Depending on the outcome, your race with side with the dragons or fight them.

Once that choke point is completed the race will either be fighting with the dragons for the destruction of the incompetent race or be fighting for their survival.

This game is essentially a giant war game where you build allegiances or enemies.  As a player you can also defect from your race to join the other side.  If you are a Human in the mercenary guild and you have become its master, you are in total control over that guild.  If the Royal army declares war on the Light Elves you may side with the Elves and fight alongside them.

I feel that this makes the game more unique offering several different outcomes every time the player plays the game.  In the end the player can live in peace with the other races, but be in constant fear of the dragons, or the player can kill the dragons and survive without ethereal judgement but at the cost of random disasters.

Gameplay

I would like the game to play out like an action RPG similar to the ‘Tales of’ games.  When you see an enemy you either fight them in real time with a party of 3 other characters or get teleported to a battlefield where you fight a mix of enemies.

Final Notes

I have not focused to much on the gameplay because I feel that if I were to build this game I would not have the resources to create all the art assets myself.  Instead I would create a 2D sprite game to test out how the story and decisions work while playing around with the battle system.

Thank you for reading
– Moose.