This is an assignment that we had to do early in our final term to start brainstorming what we planned to do for our thesis and game due at the end of the academic year. I’m posting this here to demonstrate the evolution of my thinking as I continued to do research on modern storytelling techniques. I started off with a very different idea (that you can see some elements of) before working with a few other groups as a project manager and narrative consultant while researching and settling on what my final project would eventually become. More on that in the posts to follow.
I started this MA with the intention of approaching storytelling in games from a writer’s perspective, and have learned that my strengths (and those of the medium) are in delivering narrative through playful interaction and unique mechanics. From recalling fragmented memories in virtual reality by physically assembling them in Normal for Norman? to the social and vulnerable shared experiences in Pilgrims and the Musical Playground to meaningful choice in Richmond Station, I have managed to explore storytelling with games in several different ways. My final project will be an opportunity to build upon the skills I have developed during these other projects, while also being an opportunity to try something new as well.
- To explore and articulate the unique methods in which games (and other interactive media) tell stories
- To examine the relationship between a player and their avatar to understand how these methods can affect pre-existing notions of storytelling and how they might be augmented or changed through the use of games
– An interactive theatre piece (no more than 20 minutes long) that considers audience interaction to drive the narrative at decision points. This would be more branching narrative than improvisational.
– A point and click adventure game made in Adventure Game Studio. This could also be extended to include an actor as the player in game and presented as a theatrical piece and would be more improvisational.
– The mountain idea I had from the first term, where the player is pursuing personal enlightenment through a series of progressively less complicated environments, (ie 3D to 2D to text to abstract art). This does not necessarily need to be a mountain, but would be set in an environment that encourages steady progression. The idea would be that in order to progress, the player must leave things behind (or let them go) in a play upon the gaming trope of collecting power-ups to progress.
– And my left field idea would be a top-down Zelda style adventure game because I really want to make one of those.
Strategies and Milestones
There are four game engines that I am considering using for my final creative work: Unity, Game Maker, RPG Maker MV, and Adventure Game Studio. My hope is to spend at least a week in May experimenting with each to determine which game engine would best suit the game that I decide to make. Currently, I am leaning towards using Unity for it’s universal nature, and ease of making several different types of environments easily. I have been learning to use the Ink plugins by Inkle for integrating branching narratives into Unity, and that will be where I start with Technical Prototyping.
My plan during the early stages of brainstorming and development is to read at least one book or academic article per week, and/or play through at least one game that demonstrates the techniques that I am hoping to develop. For my first week, I’m currently reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and planning to play through The Last Day of June.
Some of the books that I have lined up for research are: Players Making Decisions, Play Matters, Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know About Narrative Techniques, How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Twisty Little Passages, The Medium is the Massage, The Art of Failure, and more.
Some of the games that I am planning on playing (or re-playing for research) are: Tacoma, Sunset, Everything, That Dragon Cancer, Old Man’s Journey, Oxenfree, Night in the Woods, Fragments of Him, Kentucky Route Zero, The Uber Game, Papers Please, Life is Strange, Subsurface Circular, Reigns, The Beginner’s Guide, The Stanley Parable, The Red Strings Club, and more.
Finalization of Project Details
I hope to have a more concrete idea of the product that I plan to develop as a creative piece by the end of May, and a functional prototype of the game completed by the end of June. Once I have a better idea of whether I will be working as part of a team or by myself, and how my research informs the project, I will revisit these milestones and create a new timeline for development.
While I will continue to research the relationship between game and audience through storytelling during the last few months of development, the plan is to have most of the research written for my dissertation by mid-July. Once that has been completed, the remaining time would be used to demonstrate the results of my research with the game that I will be making and document the process (and how and why it is relevant to my research) in the final 2 and a half months.