Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Narrative, Part 2

So now I'm thinking, why does a game have to follow the traditional story points of a book or movie, for it to be "narrative? " Books and movies NEED to be linear, that's how they've been presented traditionally, and it makes a certain logical sense because that plays to the traditional strengths of those mediums.

However, there have been cases where people have tried to play against those strengths; mess around with linear time, for example, or not bother following a full story arc of a character, and instead follow a shared object that each character carries, and we only get a partial story of each character.

Anyway, I don't thinks that games in general provide as a strength a good, strong, linear story arc that we've all come to have pressed into our collective noggins. In a desperate attempt to make video games "more movie-like," they have lost some amount of interactivity. Maybe, games should try to play more to their strengths.

Below I present a concept I've thought about back and forth for a while now. Sadly, I am now giving this up as the backbone for a future GDS design, but oh well, I think it would be tough to convey this in 800 words anyway.

You are some guy travelling around in space, visiting planets. You start with a rating of 5 on a scale of 0 (hated) to 10 (loved) from each planet. "Leaders" of each planet give you various missions to complete. However, based on completing missions, your ratings can go up and down across multiple planets somehow.

For example, having mission of "Take my daughter to wed the Prince of Altennes (some planet name I just creatively invented)" would naturally increase your rating of both these planets. However, what if you decided to alternatively deliver the Princess to the Dark Lord of the planet Zingobah, the arch-enemy of these two planets. Surely, your rating with Zingobah would increase greatly, while your rating for the first two planets would decrease. In fact, I believe that the King of the planet who's daughter you just gave way would be VERRRRY displeased.

Or, how about another approach, which I think in board game terms would be very do-able. Again, this involves doing missions across planets. But, when arriving at a planet, you could either just take a required element ("Altennes needs a health serum for an outbreak of deadly Oyxbox Flu") from there that is needed elsewhere. This would drop your rating with that planet. Or you could somehow create a built-in trading mechanic, possible requiring some currency, or other items to get that item. This would make it harder to complete the mission, but your rating would go up with the planet that had the serum.

At the start of this game, the grand over-lord of the universe will name his successor based on how well all of the planets love all the players. However, as the game proceeds, his rating of the best player slowly changes from "how well loved a player is" to "how many missions did he complete." The game would end with some way of percentaging between two factors.

Players now have to decide and balance how well they are trying to treat planets with how badly they want to complete missions while screwing the planets over. I think it would be an interesting game. It's replayable and I think to a lesser extent, it FEELS narrative; stealing goods from planets instead of trading for them can create some awful bad blooded relationships with the game. Mission cards and items can be added at will to freshen it up. Granted, I don't think it follows the traditional story-line approach that people think of when they say the magic word, "narrative."

Again, I ask, maybe we are all looking at this the wrong way.


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