Sponsored By

Story Writing Concepts

The story is a critical aspect of any game project. It is often neglected and the player does not enjoy that aspect of the game. This article brings some of the basics of story writing into light to help teams write the story that they envision.

Stanley Handschuh, Blogger

September 16, 2013

5 Min Read

    Designing a game can be a daunting challenge for any project team. It is important that each stage is properly researched and documented prior to the actual development of the final product. However, there are several aspects to games that mostly deal with game play but the one area that most games fail to engage players is the story. This is the underlying plot that should compel the player to get to the end. Sometimes the story is very simple while in other cases it can be a complex and multilayered epic. A game’s story should not be an epic like “War and Peace” nor should it be as simple as a 400 word essay.

    There are authors in the market that do nothing but write the storyline for games however any starting project needs to be written by the authors of the game. This is because they know what they want but may not know how to write it for the player. In any literary work it is important to understand the basics of what is involved in storytelling. There are a few key factors to any story such as the narrator, the main characters, supporting characters, main plot and subplots. These are a few of the areas that need to be developed but by focusing on them the rest of the story should fill out easily. But to do this it is important to understand what each contributes to the story and how they interact with each other.

    Thing that needs to be done in any story is to define a few baselines. These will include how the story will be told and what the underlying story is. The first is done by the narrator. The narrator is any objective observer that can fill in the gaps within the story that need to be outlined. Some things that the narrator will explain to the audience might be descriptions of settings, people, items or places. This is typically done through tooltips, help menus, loading screens or other areas where the player has time to read. The text needs to be well formatted and written because the player is either going to read it quickly or spend a lot of time reading it. In either case they expect it to be thought out because they could be staring at it for several minutes for cases like a loading screen.

    The next important aspect in a game is the main characters. These are typically the characters that the player is going to be playing throughout the game. It is not always the case because the major villain or constant support characters could be main characters as well. Regardless of who the character is it is important that as much detail about them is written prior to developing the full story. Some of the information will be written during the plot lines however backstory and other unimportant information can be written in advance. This provides the personality, likes, dislikes, reasons and goals of that particular character. The majority of this information will not be revealed to the player but it provides the bulk of the information the writers need to write the full story.

    Then there are the supporting characters. These characters are typically shallow and have minimal detail. They are often written as necessary to fill out the story as the player progresses. Sometimes they will be reoccurring during a section of the story but afterword they may never show up again. This is perfectly fine because a diverse character base provides different interactions for the player to feed from and learn about.

    Other the characters the only part of the story that matters is the story’s main plot. This is the actual reason the main characters are where they are and are doing what they are doing. The main plot is also the driving force within the story. If the main story is told poorly or is executed improperly then the player will lose interest in the game. However, if it is done correctly and properly then the player will keep playing until the end of the game just to know how it ends.

    The final area that keeps the player moving is the subplots. These are side stories that can be either required or optional for the player. The main plotline is often very short when written out by itself. However, the subplots and side stories are what will keep the player engaged. That is because these are shorter stories, like chapters from a book, that keep the main plot moving while allowing the player to experience the world the author is trying to develop and immerse the reader in.

    But how should the story be told? Well that is up to the developer. This is because it can be told through text, which most games are. But it could also be done through voice which is becoming more popular in modern games. Some games may have only a few voice actors while others could have hundreds. The way in which the story is told is important to the player. In recent years Massive Multiplayer Online Games [MMOG] have done everything from text only though full voice in every dialog in the game. Some players like to hear the entire story while others want just the basics. The amount of story and how it is going to be told is up to the developers. However, be sure that when telling a long and complex story there is the option for the player to skip it. This is because some players may play the game multiple times and do not want to read it again or wait for the dialog to finish.

    This will help start the game story author in the right direction however there is a lot more to telling a story then just the simple “go kill this for me”. If the story is properly written the same mission types can be done constantly throughout the game but the player will not feel like they are grinding the same mission constantly. Story makes the game enjoyable just as much as gameplay.

 Character Development
 Quests and Story Arcs, Part 4
 Story Design Basics
 Story Development


Read more about:

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like