Narrative: Part 3

For anyone who hasn’t been following, we’re currently looking at narrative structures and how it applies to gaming; but more importantly, we’re looking at every aspect of story telling, fleshing it out, and helping you along your way to compiling the best tale to push through the game you’ve worked so hard to code.

In the previous instalment, we took a gander at the actual structure of a story – the series of events that happen from beginning, middle and to the end. Now we have a pretty stable idea of where our story is going to take us and what is going to happen along the way; but now we need to go a bit deeper and make sense of the world that this story takes place in.

The way the world works

The world deals with WHERE the story takes place in the game

The world you exist in is one of the biggest determining forces that shape the story of your life; it determines the people that exist in the world, the way that they speak, the history that shapes their current circumstances and the places that they visit. A story can be replicated and repeated, but as long as it takes place in a unique a world each time, the results will be completely different.

To break it down into easier parts to understand, we’ll look at the world’s geography, economy, history, politics and finally, science!

Geography

The first and most obvious aspect of the world you create is how it will look. Note that ‘world’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘planet’, but rather to the environment in which the story takes place. Basically you need to think about the physicality of everything; landscapes, cities, monuments, ruins and the like. Think water worlds, space stations, jungles, metropolitan cities filled with skyscrapers – any place that shapes the world and the characters that the story follows.

Economy

While not applicable to many games in itself, the economy is an important factor to the world (and may even serve as motivations for some story arcs). Mainly, however, this component of the world is usually reserved for the story’s placement in time (you’ll be familiar with ‘old’ setting using gold and ‘future’ settings using credits, for instance).

History

What came before the story serves as explanation for where your characters are coming from. From war-torn countries looking for revenge against oppressors of the past; to explanations for geographical features such as craters (meteorite? crashed ship?). All of these things determine where your world is at in the present.

A story world!

Politics

For those who don’t know, politics isn’t exactly Obama-esque rallying to the core; in fact, it has more to do with the people in the world and how they operate in relation to their world. In this instance, we’ll consider their appearance to be a part of that as well. How people (if they are people) look, and interact, is all determined by the aforementioned components of the world – but this in itself, impacts on the story you’re trying to tell.

Science

Contrary to popular belief, the story that you’re trying to tell doesn’t have to comply with the rules of physics as we understand them. In fact, you’re free to create a whole new set of rules if you feel like it. Breathing underwater? No problem. Shooting flames from your palms? Any day! The science of your world is up to you, but remember, the rules you create should make sense according to the world they take place in.

Now that we’ve got a brief break down of the world, let’s see how it’s applied.

The world of the Dev.Mag heroes

If you recall from the instalment, our level 3 tale of the Dev.Mag Heroes took us on a trip (via side-scrolling action) to save the world from the ‘trawls’. While we have the story in the bag, let’s have a look at the world all this is happening in.

Level 3 characteristics for World

  • Diverse locations
  • Basic economy and history
  • Populous interaction is simple
  • Generic earth-bound laws of physics with elements of fantasy

Geography

The game will take us through various settings; starting off in the park of a city, moving through the wilderness as we look for Nandraw, and to far-off castles to free Jay from the clutches of Protractor. We then step through a portal to the Ancient Lands to finally save Elder God, Mirtak. No traveling between places, as each level will just continue from the last.

Economy

We’ll be able to collect cash or coins from downed enemies to purchase new weapons or upgrade current ones.

History

As the players get closer to the end, they’ll learn of the Elder Gods and how they, and the trawls, relate to the world. It shouldn’t be very convoluted as we’re here for the action!

Politics

For all intents and purposes, we have 3 kinds of beings; humans, trawls, and the ‘gods’. All exist independently, but have now, somehow, managed to all blend into one world, creating disorder.

Science

Being similar to earth, the generic physics would apply; though we’d experience shooting fire from hands, flying apparitions and some sort of ‘magic’ in terms of the gods and their effect on the world.

Check your level!

Again, let’s look at how things would change depending on your level of narrative depth:

  • Level 1
    World? It’s not really that important. Simply put, you’re here on earth and you’re doing something around here. And in this case, that’s killing trawls!
  • Level 2
    You have a world that can be varied and complete fantasy, but there is little to no explained history, no real purpose for economy and whatever weird and wonderful acts against science go unexplained and remain that way. You’re shooting fire from your hands, but who really cares?
  • Level 4
    Your characters actually connect locations together through traveling there or linking to it via some form of map; the economy may be a driving force behind the plot or an actual goal of the game, while the people are diverse and interactive. There is also usually some logic behind the weird things you can do. The world itself is properly explained, and you understand how it came to be as it is, and have limited say in how it ends up.
  • Level 5
    Interestingly, this level of Narrative would actually allow you to have an impact on shaping the world itself, through action or inaction. The world reacts to your characters, and changes with them. Be a bad person, and people react badly – blow up towns, go where you want. As always, it’s the same as level 4, only with that added extra of putting you in the limelight.

Things to be wary of

  • It cannot be stressed enough: KEEP YOUR LEVEL IN MIND. It’s very important not to waste time with information players just won’t need.
  • Is this starting to sound clichéd to you? Good. We’re getting there.
  • Never shut down your imagination, nothing is off-limits!
  • Be practical within your genre, but don’t let it limit you. An FPS set in the My Little Pony Universe isn’t impossible, but it takes something special to pull it off…

IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT: He’s quite a character. We’ll have a look at the characters in our story; what we need to know about them, where they’re going, and why it’s important.