QB Accelerator Special Report
  Dude, Where's my story?

A QBXL Special Report

    QBXL Extra
It has been said that every man has a story to tell. In QB games, that's no different. From the nearly non existant plots in Puzzle games to the simplistic plots in some QBRPGs, to the elabourate and multilayered plots in other QBRPGs, Nearly every game has a story to tell. The question we tackle today is not a question of plot development in the strictest sense. Instead, we investigate ways to effectively communicate a plot to the audience in ways that endear the audience. Among all the plots in QB and abroad, few people try to understand the subtle art of storytelling itself, and sometimes the most skillfully crafted masterpiece of story can be bogged down in the telling, destroying the experience for the player.

Almost all aspects of the story can be cut into two broad categories, interactive and non-interactive. The vast majority of plots in QB are designed around non-interactive cutscenes almost exclusively, and often as an excuse to head into dungeons to beat up people. This is in part because that is the part of most games which players(and therefore aspiring game developers) see and understand most readily, but interactive segments, such as those used in Ped Xing, can make an otherwise bland world composed of "cutscene hunting" into a world integrated into it's story, with a life and a purpose. This could lead to segments of gameplay which are integral to the plot, but it could also lead to other ends. The choice there is up to you. Not all interactive segments nessessarily need to have a complex scripting system. A segment where the player can explore an enemy building looking for clues(and finding MORE THAN ONE, otherwise it's just a dungeon), then makes a decision based on those clues(and they don't need to have all the clues to decide) would be an enveloping piece of gameplay, which could firmly merge the gameworld and the plot(an important thing to do, because in many games, a great plot feels tacked on as an excuse to throw a puzzle or a dungeon at you, whereas in this case, the puzzle would be integral to the plot, alleviating "you said all that just to say 'go to the dungeion'?! syndrome).

We asked some random people from the street about their favourite scenes from movies as research for this article. Here are their artful and witty responses:

Remember Jackass where that guy got sprayed by like 6 skunks, and everybody was throwing up all over the place? That ROCKED!.


Dude. The Matrix rocked. All of it.


Hey dude, I liked that one kung fu movie where the one guy tore the other dudes heart out!

As you now understand, if the general public ran the movie industry, it would be even more shallow and soulless than it is now.

No matter which category your gamescenes fall into, it's critical to speak not soley through cutscenes or game segments alone, but with visual language. Characters who can do more than walk in four directions have historically been more popular than characters who didn't. Characters in both Final Fantasy 6 and Chronotrigger, two of the most popular RPGs ever, have this ability, and it's put to good use, punctuating otherwise drab moments with the mannerisms and actions of characters beyond facing up or down. Furthermore, the visual language of the setting can speak volumes just as the text or body language can. Imagine a paticularly depressing scene happening on a windswept cliff overlooking the night sky, then imagine the same scene in a dreary dungeon deep in the bowels of the earth. Depending on which feeling you're trying to invoke, one setting would undoubtedly suit your needs, while the other would invoke a feeling which would be inappropriate to the moment.

Just as setting and body language can tell a story or betray your story based on it's appropriateness or the mood you'd like to set, the words your characters speak, and more specifically, how they say them, can define their personallities just as much as what they wear or what they're saying. The best way I can demonstrate this is with an example. When writing Quest for a King, I wrote the meaning of the sentences first, then rewrote them again in a way more suited to the characters manner of speaking. Xan, for instance, being destined to become King, speaks in flowery sentences, and his words carry a grand ettiquite and poetic flair to them. Here's an example; Originally, one line in Quest for a King read "Hi! I'm Xan. I was told that you might be able to help me to seal the farbtontier!". Obviously, this isn't very flowery or poetic. Here though, is the rewrite of that line, which had Xan speaking in a very Xan-like way; "Greetings. I am Xan. I am on a quest to seal the farbtontier which ravage our world and our race. I was told you could aid me.". While longer, it conveys much more information about the character, and a little more about the world he's in. This is no prince speaking like a ten year old boy, this is a man destined to become King, speaking as nobility might speak on the eve of their greatest triumph.

Finally, always remember that there is more than one way to tell a story. For example, While in Quest for a King I have chosen to rely entirely on NPC interactions to describe the world, in Nietzsche I chose a narrative almost completely devoid of both NPC interactions and even actual talking, to good effect. Always remember that just because a commercial game does something in a certain way, doesn't mean you have to follow. Innovative ways of delivering the story are bound to be noticed, and their unique nature is bound to draw in more than one player who would have otherwise ignored your story.

--SJ Zero may be french, with all the hidden meaning crap in this article!
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