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[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago
Commended by BerkaZerka on 2/7/2017 3:32:20 PM

(There's no game design forum, so pitching this tent in WW)

Hey, after my first work I'm doing some reading up on making better storygames (bias towards the game side), and came across these articles. If you'd like to share good resources / discuss these, please feel free to join in. 

//General

Standard structures/patterns in Choice-Based Games

Puzzle/Challenge types possible in Storygames

Plot structures (of particular note: the formats segment)

//Lots of articles aimed towards writing shorter interlinked stories Failbetter style, but still relevant for other formats

http://www.failbettergames.com/narrative-snippets-difficulty-rewards-and-punishment/

http://www.failbettergames.com/choice-complicity-and-consequence/

http://www.failbettergames.com/echo-bazaar-narrative-structures-part-two/

http://www.failbettergames.com/echo-bazaar-narrative-structures-part-three/

http://www.failbettergames.com/points-of-light-pools-of-shadow-part-i/

http://www.failbettergames.com/points-of-light-pools-of-shadow-part-ii/

http://wiki.failbettergames.com/patterns-of-choice

http://wiki.failbettergames.com/wiki:branch-design

http://wiki.failbettergames.com/wiki:content-design-patterns

http://wiki.failbettergames.com/wiki:design-before-you-write

http://wiki.failbettergames.com/wiki:how-many-choices

//Examples

Statistics tracked in a larger game 

//External Engines

Twine - great for route mapping for CYS stories

Ink & Inform 7 two advanced yet relatively simple looking story engines

Linear rendition of the Devourer in twine (the story itself uses conditionals to enable/disable options, so this isn't a true rendition of the choices you'll have access to during a particular playthrough)

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Thank you!

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Saw this and have to say, awesome!

Thanks a heap for sharing!

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago
Some nifty resources here, thanks~

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Thanks for the support everyone, if anyone has additional design resources they'd recommend, it'd be highly appreciated. Tagging a couple of people who I suspect would know a thing or two @mizal @Steve24833 @IronPanther @EndMaster @Killa_Robot @ISentinelPenguinI @Bannerlord 

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Strange, the tagging didn't seem to work...

Anyways, here's some resources I found:

*****************************

<Story> <Game>

(Branching pathways.)

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/07/by-the-numbers-how-to-write-a-long-interactive-novel-that-doesnt-suck/

==========================

<Story> <Game>

(Create choices that match the outcome)

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2016/12/how-to-write-intentional-choices/

==========================

<Story> <Game>

(Tools.)

(Learn about other IF stories that have been produced.)

(Puzzle and location design.)

(Branching narratives and alternatives.)

(Conversation and character behavior.)

(Beta test the game yourself and have other people do it.)

(Have other people to provide encouragement.)

https://emshort.blog/how-to-play/writing-if/

==========================

<Story> <Game>

(Control vs. empathy, giving the player control of the situation versus making them feel during the situation.)

(Believability vs. playability, making the characters have their own ambitions versus making the characters easily manipulatable for story or game purposes.)

(Agency vs. plot, non-linearity versus linearity.)

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RonNewcomb/20160421/270969/Three_Solutions_to_Three_Problems_in_Interactive_Fiction.php

==========================

<Story> <Game>

(Tools for creating storygames.)

(Outlining.)

(Read or play media that is similar to the style of the story you are creating.)

(Branching out pathways.)

(Make realistic characters.)

http://networlding.com/how-to-write-interactive-fiction/

==========================

<Game>

(Character building from dice rolls.)

(Amount of player choices.)

(Creating NPCs.)

http://www.gnomestew.com/game-mastering/gming-advice/lessons-learned-from-interactive-fiction/

==========================

<Story> <Game>

(Reward the player for making clever choices.)

http://www.multiplechoicestudios.com/?p=970

==========================

<Story>

(Branching out pathways.)

(Choices changing non-player characters vs. choices not changing non-player characters.)

http://birdsbeforethestorm.net/2014/01/on-writing-interactive-fiction/

=============================

<Story> <Game>

(Lay down structure & variables.)

(Revise structure.)

(Write text.)

(Revise text.)

(Revise variables.)

(Done.)

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2015/01/writing-interactive-fiction-in-six-steps/

*****************************

More helpful resources can be found in the Emily Short blog.

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago
Thanks, there are a few nice links in there that are helpful!

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Thank you for that list, it's got me back into diving for articles. Will add a few here after I've finished another two dozen tabs or so. In the meanwhile, I'll add a list of unique games that should help designers in this field think out of the box 

  • Her Story - Database detective, you create your own story based on how you encounter the content
  • Katawa Shoujo - not for kids, play the game atleast once and then Google the route map, it's a great learning experience (the game itself is sublime as well) on branching design (both Act 1 and Rin's route in particular)
  • 80 Days - Exceptional use of IF, I think the thing has ~1Mn words, and enough variety and branching that you can play six different routes with entirely different content at every point. Also recommended, Meg Jayanth's GDC talk on the game
  • G-Senjou no Maou - Where I got my ill fated idea to use different colored text from (but believe me, this game pulled it off spectacularly). The game is a testament to why we need non-procedural games, they can pull off exceptional things when the author has complete control of the events (compared to the unpredictability of a procedurally generated system)
  • The Ace Attorney series - amusingly enough these are entirely linear visual novels if you come to think of it, they just do an exceptional job hiding that fact from you
  • Danganronpa 1 and 2 - Interesting visual novels, worth seeing how they built their puzzles (it's novel, the setting is pretty interesting too)
  • King of Dragon Pass - just got my hands on this today, interested to see the systems behind this
  • The Witcher 3 - For a lot of things, though Skellige's Most Wanted is the most relevant single example
  • Most good Bioware games have good branching. Since it's cruelly overlooked by history, I'll recommend Jade Empire here, though the Mass effect series is as of now their best work (think of all the content that had to be built that people never played. Realize for a moment that some people actually kept Kaiden alive in ME1, and he was in ME3 if you kept him alive there. An entire, fully fleshed, VA-ed and modelled character I'm guessing 80% of ME3 players didn't even know existed)
  • The Deus Ex series for different alternatives to solve a problem (and gameplay outcomes feeding story outcomes in a few cases, just see what happens if you don't take the chopper within 5 minutes of the start of Human Revolution
  • Shadow of Mordor for its nemesis system
  • Renowned Explorers: International Society for its phenomenally well built adventure system and skill check transparency
  • Undertale - beneath the cute surface, there's a very competent and nuanced event based story system running here (there's even a case for unexpected endings which should not be possible in normal gameplay, the game outright tells you something's wrong - most likely you were hacking its variables). The existence of the genocide route through player action, as well as the non-perfect route are hallmarks of good player centric design
  • The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky (I'm slightly stretching on this one) for how every single NPC has a reaction to almost every slightest state change in the game. It's a monument to the author's dedication in how reactive the NPC dialogue is to the story.

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Great thread idea and links you posted. I'm swamped with work through Sunday, but will try to gather up some resources next week. 

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Wave 2, based on Bannerlord's links I dove back in and found these. A lot of articles were very old, I had to refer to Wayback machine often. As of now, the best resources I've found in general have been (in descending order of utility): Emily Short > IFwiki = Failbetter's writings = GDC Vault > Gamasutra > Choice of Games > everything else

**************************************************************

From the makers of King of Dragon Pass, who are now working on its sequel (Six Ages), an extremely interesting article on the use of tags to guide event activation, options, and resolution. Highly recommended

http://sixages.com/blog/index.php/2016/05/scene-tags/

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Excellent article on Quality-Based Narrative, along with conversation network maps. The interesting thing to read between the lines here, is that if you look at it just right, don't the conversation maps look exactly like dungeon rooms to you?

https://emshort.blog/2016/04/12/beyond-branching-quality-based-and-salience-based-narrative-structures/

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Really solid analysis of what leads to breakdown in game development, and very helpful options on how to get over it

https://emshort.blog/2007/07/10/wip-rescue/

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Two page article from some of the industry's greatest side-quest developers about side-quests (Including thoughts from The Witcher 3, Mass Effect, and Blizzard) 

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2017/02/09/side-quest-syndrome-designing-the-road-less-travelled.aspx?PostPageIndex=1

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How to make stories engaging > By the plot, or by the mechanics

https://emshort.blog/2008/09/09/introcomp-and-hooks/

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While most of the context is lost in the PDF, do try to find the two shapes in the PDF, a good design exercise

http://gdcvault.com/play/1023095/The-Shapes-in-Your-Story

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Along with Emily's QBN, this further delves into the act of building interesting NPCs into the story

http://brasslantern.org/writers/iftheory/autonomousnpcs.html

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Ignore the title, it's a good list of free/paid resources (fonts, art) that can be used in design

https://emshort.blog/how-to-play/writing-if/my-articles/feelies-maps-cover-art/

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36 common plots, good to get ideas if you're stuck on what to include

https://web.archive.org/web/20010303040443/http://www.io.com/~jlockett/RPG/HEGGA/Stuff/frp-plots.html

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More ideas

http://www.ifwiki.org/index.php/Ideas_For_Games

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An interesting look into building stories as graphs

http://maetl.net/notes/storyboard/narrative-graph-models

**************************************************************

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 2/13/2017 2:04:09 PM

A lot of the links I'm sharing lean more towards the game than the story elements in the storygame creation process, since there's a lot of good story related resources here already. However, even a pure CYOA that's all story with no special mechanics has a degree of a "game" to it also.

The game aspect of a classic CYOA comes in the form of things like: how you reward players for their time based on decisions, with additional reading and choices. If you instantly kill them whenever they choose the "wrong" choice, this is a very unsatisfying result. It also makes it feel linear to those who replay it. One goal should be making a "loss" feel like a satisfying experience, enough so that either they'll read through it again for a better ending or at the very least they'll move on from it with a positive experience.

With that said, always go into the CYOA writing process with the assumption that the reader will only read it once and that they'll read the absolute weakest path in there. As the writer, you'll generally know which pathways you put more or less attention into, and readers will pick up on this too. You can write something amazing, and half the people wouldn't know it if it's hiding in a bunch of early death links or short side paths. You have to give a lot of attention to all pathways, to ensure that no matter where they go, they'll have an interesting experience. 

Even better, is when a person reads through it a few times and it rewards them by giving them insight into different parts of the world/character/etc the story takes place in. A common element of all the best storygames on this site is that people come out feeling satisfied no matter the pathway. Even if there's flaws, the strengths heavily outweigh them.

You can skip over most anything that mentions audio or visual design. Keep in mind though, even with text, simply how you format something is a type of visual design that can make it easier or harder to read. For example, a giant wall of text vs. small paragraphs can change the experience of the same story. Here's a few things worth reading for those who are interested and have time:

Behavioral Game Design:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131494/behavioral_game_design.php

The Elements of Player Experience:

https://uxmag.com/articles/the-elements-of-player-experience

The first hour experience: how the initial play can engage (or lose) new players [For a classic CYS, this can translate to hooking the reader on the first few pages]:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/First20Hour20-20CHIPlay20201420-20preprint2.pdf

Dimensions of Games – Pacing:

http://www.gamesprecipice.com/pacing/

Game Design Theory Applied: A Layered Rewards System:

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ToniSala/20131215/207064/Game_Design_Theory_Applied_A_Layered_Rewards_System.php

Four-step puzzle design:

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AsherEinhorn/20150528/244577/Fourstep_puzzle_design.php

4-Layers, A Narrative Design Approach:

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2014/04/4-layers-narrative-design-approach.html

Choose Fairness Over Balance:

http://www.whatgamesare.com/2013/01/choose-fairness-over-balance-game-design.html

Better Gameplay Balance: Gaming the Numbers:

http://moacube.com/blog/better-gameplay-balance-gaming-the-numbers/

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Alright, finally had time to go through all that. Thank you for the excellent links!

I agree wholeheartedly on focusing on making every path in a CYoA worthy of the player's time, even though that puts more strain on the writer. 

A few more resources I'd recommend

// Mental modeling

This was raised in one of the articles, and I'm a fan of both modeling the mind of the player (what do they understand of the game), and how you want the player to feel (narrative/emotional design). This is a list of a large number of mental frameworks that are useful in everyday life, of which I'm sure a good deal can be baked into games. I may not agree with all of them, but they're a great starting point for someone who wants to understand the concept better.
https://getpocket.com/explore/item/mental-models-i-find-repeatedly-useful-1341799552

// Leading players astray

This is a great talk on how great narrative design works to entice the player into taking the road otherwise not taken, one that would be mechanically less rewarding but experience wise far more so. Also touches on choice and consequence via design in CYoA frameworks.

http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022101/Leading-Players-Astray-80-Days

// Choice, Consequence, and Complicity

This is a classy one, check it out.
http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023346/Choice-Consequence-and

Amongst literature, I highly recommend (note none of these books are 'light' reading, they'll require a certain level of rigor in thought to appreciate)

/ Sapiens by Harari | General overview of life

/ Antifragile by Taleb | It's secretly a book about stress - read it, it'll change your views on a lot of things, and you can use stress mechanics in a much more compelling way in your games afterwards)

/ Quiet by Susan Cain | Linked to stress, this has a lot of interesting considerations for long form design, the most interesting imo being the nature of sensitivity, and how it's misclassified as introversion/extroversion

/ Thinking, fast and slow by Kahneman | The holy grail of behavioral research. I recommend this to anyone, not just game designers, though it has brilliant implications for our kind. 

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Here's an old blog that has more than a few in depth posts about designing a storygame. I'll just post this example since it's a lot to go through.

http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2012/02/what-makes-good-gamebook-part-1-story.html

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

3 months ago

Thanks for sharing. I've read his entire blog now, there was one good stand out article, others mostly covered topics already discussed above or not in enough detail to be different.

/ Options for building in consequence of failure

http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2012/10/consequences-in-gamebooks.html

/ Articles worth a glance

http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2012/02/what-makes-good-gamebook-part-two-game.html
http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2013/05/why-include-randomness.html
http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2015/11/interactivity-in-narrative-pt-2.html

Need a map?

2 months ago

Alright, for higher level stories where you're building a region, these tools will be helpful


Don Jon's Resouces

An excellent collection of resources to build fractal worlds within certain parameters, along with NPC and Store Generators. Really cool resources here, everything's free.


Campaign Creator 3 a paid resource, but may be interesting for people who want to show off their procedurally generated maps and don't have assets to add to them


For people looking for simpler maps, there should be some good mods within Civilization 4 / 5 / Beyond Earth / 6 that should also serve the purpose

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

one month ago
Another one, helpful when building modern governments (at the very least good food for thought, even if you don't agree with the proposed outcome. National Structure and Political system

[Game Design] Useful resources for designing SGs

one month ago

//Path visualization

I've not really been impressed by route visualization tools till now, and Twine becomes cumbersome after time. I came across this hidden in one of Emily Short's blogs footnotes, and it looks interesting. Sharing the link to the article and the software (it's Open Source).

Article: Working with puzzle design through state space visualization

itch.io download link