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'The Next Horizon Of Games' According To Infinity Blade II's Donald Mustard

Chair Entertainment co-founder Donald Mustard charts the evolution of gameplay and narrative, and explains how Infinity Blade comes closer to that fusion than you might think.
Chair Entertainment's Donald Mustard is looking forward to the fusion of gameplay and story that will be the apex of the gaming medium. In his view we're not there yet -- not even close. Mustard has spoken to Gamasutra about how he feels that Japanese game design is often "stomping" Western game design, but he also feels that "when it comes together, it will be some Western studio doing it." His current favorite example of storytelling in games is Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. Uncharted 3 is one of the two games he's playing this fall, alongside The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. "I play Uncharted and I'm just blown away by the little stuff," says Mustard. "That attention to detail and character development is awesome in a video game. I mean, it's stuff that we take for granted in film, because we see it all the time." What kind of stuff is that? "Sophisticated character development that makes me care so much more about the gameplay," like conversations that show the relationships between characters, or shots of characters acting autonomously during scenes in character-consistent ways. "That's hugely awesome, and I desperately want to do stuff like that more in our games," says Mustard. But the problem is that "that's way hard to do, and a ton of work... it's almost demoralizing." "I want to combine that with some of the just really amazing kind of core gameplay stuff that they're doing in Zelda. I think that if you could marry that together better, that sense of difficulty and progression from the gameplay standpoint, with the narrative, then we'll get there. And that, to me -- that's the next horizon of games." Though you might not think the Infinity Blade series requires that level of detail, Mustard says that the game is actually based on a solid foundation of story and even has a story bible written by Brandon Sanderson, author of the recent Wheel of Time books, and based on the studio's own world-building. This complex story is "what I've always hoped would happen, because at the end of the day, that's what I want. I want to tell really cool stories, in really cool universes, through really cool compelling gameplay," says Mustard. "It didn't really work out on Advent Rising; we hadn't got there yet on Shadow Complex, but Infinity Blade is blowing up, and so what I'd always hoped and expected would happen has now happened. And so now it's just luckily we know what's going on."

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