Up Course Introduction Strategy vs. Tactics Syllabus Your Current Grade Extra Credit Ideas Course Project Info 1: Adv. Philosophy 2: Victory, Unit, World 3: Military Matters 4: Seq. & Economic 5: Level, Rule, Test 6: Tech & Special 7: Random, Dip., & AI 8: Character & Focus 9: Human Elements 10: Reality Checks 11: Project Due

Principles of Game Design

Week 8: Character, Story, and Plot in Game Design; Cutting for Focus

In this lesson you'll learn about character, story, and plot in game designs to add verisimilitude [and if you don't know that word, look it up], player immersion, and tell the story that the game designer is trying to tell. You'll learn about the degrees of character, story, and plot used in games and the story elements that comprise good writing. Finally, you'll learn that less is more - that cutting, squeezing, and trimming are vital for keeping a game design in focus and how to achieve that.

The link below is the homework assignment due at the beginning of the next class session.

Homework: Week 8

Required Reading:

These links feature the supplemental material that you are responsible for knowing before the final exam (that takes place at the beginning of Week 11). Be sure to click on every link in this section!

Article: It Builds Character: Character Development Techniques in Games by Rafael Chandler

Character development in and of itself isn't going to make your gameplay any better, but it will create a more satisfying experience because you're furnishing a more well-developed context, a more immersive world for the player to explore. Be sure to read up on the use of Tarot cards as a free-association tool for game character development!

Optional Reading:

These supplemental link are worth investigating for more information on the subject. Adding evocative character, story, and plot to games is a highly prized design achievement worthy of your time to study further.

Article: Building Character: An Analysis of Character Creation by Steve Meretzky

For both the writer and artist, industry sage Steve Meretzky takes you step-by-step through the process of character creation in games.

Sample Book Chapter: Character Traits (1.0MB) by Lee Sheldon

This was part of my research for this week's lesson. You may want to read this entire chapter from Lee Sheldon's wonder book, Character Development and Storytelling for Games, by Lee Sheldon, from Course Technology PTR. To find out more about this book or to order it, click here.

Article: Player Character Concepts by Harvey Smith

This extremely rich article explores the concept of character as it relates to a computer game, focusing on characters that represent the player (player-characters), rather than characters driven by AI or scripts (non-player-characters). It's a real treasure!

Article: Adapting the Tools of Drama to Interactive Storytelling by Randy Littlejohn

"How do we graft a story to our action game?" Story means linear...right? The whole idea of a story is opposed to the idea of interactivity…right? The basic concern is "How do we make an effective interactive story?" So what does effective mean in terms of interactive storytelling? There are two basic ingredients. These are intuitive interface design and compelling stories. In this article, which is a nice capsulated summary of this entire course unit, Randy Littlejohn address one of the two ingredients, the development of compelling interactive storytelling.

Article: Four Ways to Use Symbols to Add Emotional Depth to Games by David Freeman

This is a long article, but it's a solid payout. Using symbols as an emotional 'deepening' tool is a Hollywood classic idea that deserves its place in games.

Book Excerpt: A Theory of Game Design: What Games Aren't by Raph Koster

People tend to dress up game systems with some fiction. Designers put artwork on them that is suggestive of some real world context. But does this make a game a story? This excerpt from Raph Koster's excellent book is well worth your time to read.

Article: Dramatic Novelty in Games and Stories by Ernest Adams

To provide true dramatic novelty, a videogame designer must abstain from two of the tools in our traditional gameplay toolbox, repetitious play and randomness. Can that work?

Article: Three Problems for Interactive Storytellers by Ernest Adams

Amnesia, internal consistency, and narrative flow are the bugaboos of interactive storytelling, and Grand Game Design Pooh-Bah Ernest Adams explains why.

Article: Techniques of Written Storytelling Applied to Game Design by Jeff Noyle

It's been said many times, and that's because it's obvious: game design must strive to become more emotionally involving, and the best way to achieve this is to create resonant characters. It's obvious, but it's only half the story. The characters whom we seek to fill with emotional depth are the non-player characters (NPCs). In games, we have another class of characters: player characters.

Article: Games, Storytelling and Breaking the String by Greg Costikyan

A rich article full of history and analysis about how games and stories can, in theory, work together by cooperative use of the restraints posed by both.

Article: Implementing Stories in Massively Multiplayer Games by Chris Klug

Our very lives are structured in three acts --youth, middle age, and old age -- and we see all the events in our lives as narratives. If the players will create their own drama, why bother trying to tell stories in massively multiplayer games? Why not just make a sandbox and let people play?

Article: Weaving the Threads: Storytelling in City of Heroes by Sean Fish

Telling a story in a massively multiplayer game raises different challenges than those posed by a single player game. Learn how Cryptic Studios looked at things in a different way when it came to creating City Of Heroes.

Book Review: Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling reviewed by Brad Kane

Chris Crawford is a very interesting author and speaker, so his book on Interactive Storytelling is one you will want to know more about acquiring for your library if you wish to pursue this avenue of game development further. This review, in and of itself, is enlightening!

Article: Building Character by Toby Gard

This is another fine article on the subject of building characters for games. Note his discussion of the "halo effect." That might be an interesting consideration for your future game projects!

Bibliography: General Course References

Lab Game Examined This Week:

This is the game that we played and analyzed in class this week. If you want more information about it, see the links below:

Hasbro's The Lord of the Rings game features everyone playing cooperatively against Sauron (i.e., to defeat "the system").THE LORD OF THE RINGS represents something a bit different. Utilizing a novel game engine where character, story, and plot all unfold in a reasonably true-to-Tolkein fashion, The Lord of the Rings is one of those rare boardgames where the players must work together cooperatively to win. Dripping with dramatic tension at every turn, the game ratchets up the pressure right from the beginning and seldom lets up.

If you'd like to see a special expanded version of the rules, click here. There are also published expansion sets that you can examine if you click here.


Hasbro's The Lord of the Rings game box back.Here's some information on it from BoardgameGeek.com::

Lord of the Rings is a co-operative game where the object is to destroy the Ring while surviving the corrupting influence of Sauron. Each player plays one of the Hobbits in the fellowship, each of which has a unique power. The game is played on a number of boards: the Master board indicates both the physical progress of the fellowship across Middle Earth and the corrupting influence of Sauron on the hobbits, and a number of scenario boards which detail the events and adventures of particular locations. Progression across the boards is determined by playing cards (many of which represent the characters and items of Middle Earth), and the effects of corruption are represented by a special die. The game is lost if the ring-bearer is overcome by Sauron, or won if the ring is destroyed by throwing it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom.


Where can you get thIs game?

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