interactive storytelling for video games chapter 10: open-ended stories

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Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 10: Open-Ended Stories. Josiah Lebowitz Chris Klug. What is an open-ended story?. Open-ended stories are somewhat similar to highly complex branching path stories but are far more player-driven. They often star generic player created heroes. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Interactive Storytelling for Video GamesChapter 10: Open-Ended StoriesJosiah LebowitzChris Klug

  • What is an open-ended story?Open-ended stories are somewhat similar to highly complex branching path stories but are far more player-driven.They often star generic player created heroes.The focus is more on the setting than the main plot.The player typically has multiple ways to approach every quest and can undertake most quests in any order he chooses.Decision points tend to be far less obvious than in branching path stories and are based more on the players actions and play style than his response to specific prompts.

  • Fallout 3Released by Bethesda in 2008 (PS3, 360, PC).Gives the player a massive well realized post-apocalyptic world to explore.Features a wide variety of optional quests and interesting NPCs.Uses a fairly simple good and evil scale based on the players actions and dialogue choices.

  • Creating Open-Ended StoriesOpen-ended stories are complex and difficult to createThey require massive amounts of decision points and minor and moderate branches.Open-ended stories need multiple versions of most conversations to reflect how good, evil, smart, etc the hero is.Because the writer has little control over the heros appearance and personality or the structure and pacing of the story, its generally best to keep the main plot simple.The focus is primarily on creating a detailed world filled with interesting characters for the player to interact with.

  • The Main PlotDue to the large amount of optional content, and the difficulties of creating an engaging and well structured plot in highly player-driven forms of storytelling, open-ended stories tend to have rather short and simple main plots.Most writing time will need to be devoted to the setting and optional content rather than the main plot.Its extremely difficult to ensure that open-ended stories have any kind of even pacing so just try to keep the main plot itself smoothly paced.Make sure the player can easily get back to the main plot if he gets side-tracked or screws something up.

  • The BranchesBranching in open-ended stories is often handled automatically based on the players actions in game (how nice he is, whether he favors weapons or magic, etc).Open-ended stories often have a set of minor or moderate branches for nearly every quest.Major branches are less common and often dont appear until late in the main plot.

  • The DistractionsDistractions are optional quests and tasks the player can undertake that have no real baring on the main plot.Open-ended stories need an enormous number of distractions to keep players busy. Distractions are a chance to flesh out the backstory of the setting and NPCs.Distractions should tie heavily into the setting and who the character is supposed to be. Nico from Grand Theft Auto 4, for example, can steal cars, go on dates, and drive a taxi while the hero of Fallout 3 can hunt mutants and collect rare items that survived the war.

  • Fable IIReleased by Lionhead Studios and Microsoft in 2008 (360).Gives the player free rein to explore the world of Albion and interact with its inhabitants.The player can invest in real-estate, marry, raise a family, and kill most NPCs, among other things.The good and evil system is extremely easy to exploit.For better or worse, it puts the player squarely in control of the story.

  • The Strengths of Open-Ended StoriesThey provide the player with an enormous amount of freedom.They encourage the creation of large dynamic settings.Theres still a main plot which the player can follow or ignore as he sees fit.The player can, in most cases, shape and customize the hero to his liking.Numerous distractions provide a considerable amount of gameplay.

  • Grand Theft Auto 4Released by Rockstar in 2008 (360, PS3, PC).Set in a large and vibrant city.Features a well defined hero and deep main plot (unusual in open-ended stories).Contains a large number of optional tasks which fit perfectly with the character and setting.

  • The Weaknesses of Open-Ended StoriesMain plots are generally short and simple.Generic heroes lack depth and personality.As with multiple-ending and branching path stories, shocking and emotional story scenes lose much of their impact when the player knows he can always change things.Its easy for players to turn to accidentally turn the story down an undesirable branch.In some games, its easy to lose track of or even derail the main plot.Theyre difficult and expensive to create.

  • The Elder Scrolls III: MorrowindReleased by Bethesda in 2002 (Xbox, PC).Turns the player loose in a massive world with a rich history.Features an enormous amount of optional tasks.Every NPC in the game can be killed.Its very easy to lose track of the main plot.Its possible to break virtually any quest (the main plot included), rendering them impossible to complete.

  • Things to ConsiderList several games youve played which use open-ended stories.Pick two of the games from your list and create simple outlines of their main plots. Compare them to the main plots of games using other storytelling styles. What differences do you see in their length and structure?Do one or both of those games use a morality system? If so, how does the heros morality affect the rest of the game? How easy is it to change the heros moral alignment?Pick one of the two games. Do you think the use of an open-ended story structure significantly enhanced or detracted from the games main plot? Explain your reasoning.Do you think the use of an open-ended story structure significantly enhanced or detracted from the games world and setting? Explain your reasoning.