In February, afterwards about 18 years of cerebration and autograph about alternate storytelling (as able-bodied as a acceptable abounding added topics), I accustomed a Ph.D. in that accountable from the University of Teesside in the UK. My apriorism is alleged Resolutions to Some Problems in Alternate Storytelling, and it’s a attendant and assay of the affidavit and lectures I’ve accustomed over the years. In this month’s column, I’m activity to abridge a few of my conclusions. (If you appetite to apprehend the accomplished thing, which covers a lot added than this cavalcade does, you can download it here.)
One abnegation afore I start: my apriorism alone covers single-player, avatar-based belief in which the amateur contributes accomplishments to the contest of the story. It doesn’t abode multiplayer storytelling, non-avatar-based amateur (like The Sims), or changeless hypertext in which the reader’s alone addition is to accept what to apprehend next.
My assignment began aback in 1995, back I gave a address at the Bold Developers’ Conference alleged “The Challenge of the Alternate Movie.” Alternate movies were the latest hip abstraction at the time, accepting taken off afterward the apparatus of the CD-ROM. The appellation of the address was meant to allurement in bodies who were aflame by the idea, but I assured that the “challenge of the alternate movie” is to accomplish a appropriate video d admitting the actuality that the business administration will assert on slapping this brainless characterization on it.
In the advance of the lecture, I alien some of the key problems that face any alternate storyteller. A few years after I declared them afresh in “Three Problems for Alternate Storytellers,” an aboriginal Designer’s Notebook column. I alleged them the Botheration of Amnesia, the Botheration of Internal Consistency, and the Botheration of Anecdotal Flow.
I assured that these problems were axiological to the attributes of the alternate average and couldn’t be resolved, alone lived with. But in the years back then, I acquired a bigger compassionate of them, and I did in actuality dness them, at atomic to my own satisfaction.
We’ll alpha with the easiest one.
This is the acclaimed actuality that the amateur enters the d apple with amnesia: she doesn’t apperceive who she is, area she is, or what she is declared to do there. In the d industry, we accord with this rather poorly. The ancient bartering computer amateur appropriate the amateur to to apprehend a manual; after we devised tutorial levels, continued anecdotal passages (Okami), or continued critical speeches from coach characters (Planescape: Torment).
In the affliction case of all, we accord the amateur an avatar who is absolutely said to be adversity from absent-mindedness — I accede this to be a Twinkie Denial Condition because it’s such a abominable solution.
Eventually I came to apprehend that this isn’t absolutely an awkward problem, and it isn’t by any agency absolute to video games. All belief accept to acquaint their admirers to the ambience and characters. Movies sometimes use aperture narration, abnormally if the area is unfamiliar; you can see it from Casablanca to Star Wars to The Fellowship of the Ring.
In TV shows, area time is tight, characters will acquisition a acumen to use anniversary others’ names in the aboriginal dialog. Establishing shots acquaint us area the appearance is set by including a acclaimed battleground (the Golden Gate Bridge, Sydney Opera House) or, in beneath accustomed places, a attending at a alley assurance that includes the town’s name.
Skilled writers can acquaint the amateur to a abode and a casting of characters subtly, in such a way that annihilation that she hears or sees seems unnatural. Of course, amateur accept an added botheration that the adumbrative media don’t accept to accord with: we accept to advise the amateur to use the controls, too; but there are bigger and worse means to do it.
Any d in which the avatar has a accurate profession — football player, soldier, ballerina — can accommodate a training affected or convenance allowance that both belongs in the d apple and brings the amateur up to acceleration after risking anything. Take a attending at my cavalcade “Eight Means to Accomplish a Bad Tutorial” for added discussion.
In the end I assured that it’s artlessly a catechism of craftsmanship. The Botheration of Absent-mindedness can be apparent by any competent writer. Amateur accept added time than TV or movies to acquaint their world, so there’s no alibi for accomplishing it badly.
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