Exponential Storytelling

A friend commented the other day on how hard it must be to get a good storyline going in games. Because, by interaction, the player can change the story and create an alternative ending. This means that the writers then have to create not just one great story to play through but numerous ones. Of course in such games as Call of Duty the developers decided that freedom of choice wasn't going to be a feature of their games so the player can only play through one story. Replayability is a pretty big thing nowadays with players expecting to get a lot out of their games, and if there is only one way to play through the game then the player won't feel much incentive to play.

In my earlier years (It makes me sound much older) I played Neopets, and Neopets had this one game which I think was called Adventure Generator. In this 'game' you were able to write your own 'Choose Your Own Adventure' type story. Other players could read your story and vote on it. Not too surprisingly, the most popular stories were simple 'take care of this obscenely cute neopet' stories which all sounded and ended the same. However, I was not deterred, I went crazy because I loved to write stories at the time and began. Some time later I came out and admired my handiwork. Originally I had planned to make an epic story with a crazily good ending by the time I thought I had achieved that I realized that the person reading it would probably lose interest, because it would be like reading a book; having no impact on the story whatsoever. The truth was that the story would get exponentially more complicated the more decisions you gave the reader. And the same is certainly true for most games.

Gamers praised Crysis for having a sandbox type layout, where you were generally free to complete your mission however way you wish, but that sort of choice is easy. No matter how you kill the guy, you are still killing the guy, giving you no real choice or freedom. So lets encourage those games which give you real options in impacting upon the story. Its incredibly hard to create a great storyline that branches out into equally good resolutions with the player driving the story forward. So for those games that try and fail in this regard lets give them full points for effort, and for those games that succeed, well, give the devs your money and enjoy truly great gaming.


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