October 04, 2004

Story-Driven Videogames

Story-Driven Videogames

Normally, when one thinks of videogames, they have the idea of sitting in front of the television on a Sony Play Station or a Nintendo Game Cube. However, the history of videogames has changed drastically (moving from an actual console to a computer), and although not popularized until the 1970s, videogames have continued to evolve not only in character development but also in their storylines.

Some enthusiasts believe that games should stay strictly that, forms of simple competition to entertain audiences. Yet, instead of implying rules, many developers are looking for other ways to make the players want to invest more of their time into the game.

For example, in Interactive Fiction, the player is able to “talk” to the computer, and progress throughout the game as if they were actually the character. Instead of dismissing story lines (that are often thought to only pertain to children’s tales), Interactive Fiction embraced this and in turn, brings us to the explanation of narratives and characters.

Narrative Storylines

In narrative storylines, characters can be the single-most important aspect. With that, videogames should stray from creating a clichéd character, unless the point of the game is to parody a previous piece of work. Tim Schafer, creator of PC games such as Full Throttle, believes that people want a “hero” or someone that is the “coolest” to define a great character.

Histories of characters should also be taken into consideration, and while it may be entirely too time consuming to create a past for each, it is essential for the player to feel as if they know the character. Not only may this help the players to recognize their likes and dislikes, but it also aids in connecting each character within the story.

Adventure Games

Adventure games are not:
• role-playing games that involve action
• 3D action/adventure games (Tomb Raider)
• side-scroller action games (Mario)
• puzzle games (Tetris)

There are three types of characteristics to Adventure games, the narrative, the puzzle, and the exploration.

The Narrative

Already planned, the storyline unfolds one step at a time. Each storyline may vary, from comedic tales (The Secret Of Monkey Island) to murder mysteries (Gabriel Knight). Also, as films and novels do, narratives of story-driven videogames may vary in setting, scope, and tone.

Puzzles

There are four different types of puzzles that are used in Adventure Games.

Inventory Puzzles-found in most graphic adventures (ex: in The Curse Of Monkey Island the player has to use an inventory of items in order to overcome an obstacle)

Dialogue-based Puzzles-interaction with characters in order to receive clues, directions, or even to persuade others to help within your cause

Environmental Puzzles-analyze surroundings in the game (often players might have to alter this)

Non-contextual puzzles-usually has no relevance to the game’s narrative (ex: game of chess or a jigsaw puzzle)

Exploration

Exploration is required in all Adventure games to some degree. As we’ve seen in our Interactive Fiction games, we often have to type in commands such as “GO NORTH” in order to navigate our player through the game. However, in modern adventures, the player may able to simply click above the spot where they would like to go.

Types Of Adventure Games

There are generally two types of Adventure games:
• First person exploration adventures
• Traditional graphic adventures

The first person exploration adventures tend to run into non-contextual puzzles, often mathematical in nature. There aren’t many characters to talk to in this genre of adventure.

Traditional graphic adventures focus on character interaction and narrative, and although in the beginning it is stated that Adventure games are not of the above, they may mix genres such as role-playing and may have action sequences incorporated into them.

In Conclusion

Of course, this is not the entire spectrum of Adventure games. There are thousands of sites and forums dedicated to story-driven videogames.

If you’re interested, try visiting these sites that Dr. Jerz has provided me, and most of the information that I obtained during this research was from the wonderful site Adventure Gamers.

More Links

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/if/adams/index.html
http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~malcolmr/ifiction.html
http://www.jesperjuul.dk/text/DAC%20Paper%201998.html
http://www.detnews.com/2004/technology/0402/14/technology-63790.htm
http://www.gamespot.com/features/6106009/p-6.html
http://archive.gamespy.com/gdc2004/schafer/

Posted by RachelKaylor at October 4, 2004 03:20 AM
Comments

hey Rachel! I thought you did a great job with your presentation!

Posted by: moira at October 4, 2004 03:34 PM

Yeah, you did a great job on the presentation, Rachel.

I've loved adventure games since I was really little, and I think you were pretty inclusive in your descriptions. I can think of a few games to fit in practically every category that you described.

I am growing more and more annoyed with the way that adventure games, especially roleplaying games, are focusing upon the obsessively "cool" characters that you described, though. It seems like more and more of the characters from my favorite game series are becoming stereotypical; a good example is the Final Fantasy phenomenon. FF7, 8, and 9 all seemed to include main characters that were stressed as having "superhuman" skills right from the start; not to mention, the main characters from FF7 and 8 were so ridiculously similar that it seemed to me that FF8 was merely an extension of FF7--it even included the same emphasis on a "technologically enhanced" world.

I prefer games in which the main characters could be considered weak at the beginning and in the process of learning throughout the course of the entire game. It seems so artificial if you have a character that never makes mistakes, even towards the end of a game.

Anyways, .

Posted by: ChrisU at October 10, 2004 02:31 AM

Agh, that was the end of my post, sorry. Clicked the wrong button.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 10, 2004 02:32 AM
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