BarCampBrighton and Stories and Games

Adrian Hon from Six to Start talks about Games and Stories

  • Creative Director at Six to Start, make ARGs, but not what I’m going to talk about it
  • ARGs are games that use multiple media or media in interesting ways to tell a story. Email, twitter, newspapers, IM, GPS etc.
  •  What I want to talk about is stories. A lot of the work I have been doing recently has been about telling stories in different ways.
  • Interactive stories, a few ways of doing it.

    • story as reward. Told through cut scenes, no way to influence. no resemblance to actual gameplay. It’s the last thing you do as a game developer.   A lot of people play the game to get to the fun video. They are trying to hire writers to make these better, put still not brilliant. These are stories on rails. Like a book, completely linear.
    • story as experience. The story is told by gameplay, eg half-life. No cut-scenes..or rather cut-scenes integrated into game.   Story has to be written right from the start – mission design and level design are all tied in. Still on rails.
    • branching narrative. Choose Your Own Adventure. Gives an illusion of choice – often 2 choices, story line joins later.   Involves creating wasted content. Sometimes not subtle..really annoying.
    • PseudoAI. you can completely influence the story within certain parameters. Only example is Facade at the moment.   It got a lot of buzz. Natural language processing and AI, or an enormous amount of scripting (which Facade actually does). It 3-4 years and only lasts 15 minutes. Still a maze just more complex.   Don’t see it happening for a long while, until get really good AI.
    •  make your own story. No set narrative, but maybe a setting. eg Civilisation, the Sims. Sort of cheating.   Civ has a huge community, A lot of players write stories about their game.  A lot of people talk that this is the ultimate way of doing stories in games, The stories can be better than anything pre-written, in a book etc but normally they are not. The design may not be that good or oyu may not be that imaginative.   Requires great games design and not for everyone.
    • DM/PM – somewhat set narrative. D&D, ARGS. you know you are going to hit certain plot points.  There’s a human controlling the story in real time.  You have a group of players, people are guiding the story according to the actions of the players.  An issue is that it requires real-time response. Not really re-playable or scalable for personal experience.  It is sort of on rails.  Somewhere in between writing a game and improv. A different sort of skill set.
  • With Penguin Books, they wanted to do a ARG, but not right for them – budget etc. I as looking at how you could design stories that aren’t games or CYOA, still on rails. But still interactive. We tell Stories. A different way of telling stories.  New ways of tellign stories that are only possible using the internet.  Six different authors and stories and 6 different ways of telling them, Some people have already started doing this…email mysteries.   It is not enough to have a really good idea or even to have a really good story, the writing has to be be really great. You need a story, good design and very well designed interaction and presentation. A graphic novel or a book have had years to be designed.   Working out a way to tell stories online that are still linear, with the authors is something that we are excited it.  One of the first one we are doing is based around Google Maps.  Follow the movements around the places.  I was worried it may be really gimmicky. We worked really hard with Charles Cumming, about where is he, what can he see, what is he thinking about. We animate the map.   Don’t think we have it perfect but we have some cool things.  The last story we are doing with Mohsin Hamid is another I’m really excited.  We are playing around with improvisation on writing.
  • Q: how did the authors react?  One of them found them difficult to deal with, another was really easy, the first thing written was wrong and would not work…we had to rewrite but it was cool. Another was really receptive to feedback.  We’ll just have to see. In general they have been very good to work with. We know how to do the design, they know how to do the writing.

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