Postmortems that dissect design and process have their place, but what about the idea of a narrative "postpartum" to help evaluate the success of storytelling in games?
In a new Gamasutra feature
, veteran game writer Rafael Chandler (Cipher Complex, MAG: Massive Action Game
) introduces just such a concept, designed to help developers glean lessons on storytelling and improve it going forward.
Chandler advocates collecting feedback data from both professional reviews and community commentators like blogs and message boards -- even if it's hard to receive:
The combination of nerd rage and a well-placed bon mot can do much to demoralize a team, particularly after the rigors of crunch mode have exacted their toll on the team. Keep it focused, keep it positive. After all, if the voice acting was really all that bad, chances are everyone knows it already.
Teams should meet to discuss the feedback and answer some key questions about the work they've done:
* How was the story received?
* Did the cinematics achieve the intended goals?
* Were the characters well-received?
* Did the players understand the story?
* Was there any kind of emotional response to the game's narrative content?
* How did the players enjoy the voice acting?
* What was the response to the dialogue?
* Did the cinematics propel the story forward?
Not all of these questions will be applicable, depending on the type of game that was developed, but this is a decent starting point.
The narrative postpartum can be used to help identify key lessons and pinpoint where missteps may have been made:
Often, during development, lines of dialogue must be cut because of design changes, necessitating the use of alternate lines, which are often more generic or vague (to make them more utilitarian during those hectic last days of production).
For example, the line "We need to attack the wizard! He's casting a spell on us!" would be obviated if the wizard were removed from the game (which could be the result of a design decision, or of the character artist being unable to complete the character model in time, or of some other factor). If the wizard were replaced with a group of trolls, then in an ideal situation, there would be an alternate line that specifically referenced those trolls.
But in all likelihood, no such alternate was recorded, because the writer couldn't foresee those changes when the screenplay was written. Instead, it's more likely that a generic line like "Attack!" was written. So -- were enough alternates created?
For more details on the benefits, applications and takeaway of this new method of post-production analysis, you can read the full Gamasutra feature
(no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).