Monday, June 14, 2010

Intriguing the Player

The best games tell a story. And the best stories are those that keep you asking for more, where you're desperate to find out what happens next and perhaps a little sad when you get to the end simply because the story's done and there's no more to read.
"And then Ron and Hermione just got married, what a crock."

This week we'll be intriguing and enticing, we'll be talking about games that hook the player in to their world. These are the games that succeed in bringing a world to life.

Capturing your player and drawing them into your world isn't an easy thing to teach. Many people already spend a great deal of their time trying to work out how to teach others how to write a good story. I'm not going to throw my hat into that ring just yet.

Start hard with stream-of-consciousness, then two
quick metaphors to the left and an irony uppercut.

What I can do is tell you why a good narrative is a pre-requisite for a great game and an excellent teaching tool. A good story makes your game memorable, dramatic and interesting without being repetitive and there's never the lack of momentum that haunts lesser games. Games with great stories never run out of steam.

But be careful! A great story alone will not save a game if the game doesn't know how to tell that story. There's been a number of games with great stories, and depending on who you ask this either made them fantastic or fantastically boring. Personally, I love a good story, and for that reason I've excused many games such as Alan Wake, Max Payne and Half-Life 2 when gameplay gets in the way of a good story.

And of course we can't talk about stories in games without looking at my personal favourite: the Metal Gear franchise, and particularly Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

North American cover art

The brainchild of video game wunderkind and wierdo Hideo Kojima, the Metal Gear series tells the story of rogue secret agent Solid Snake. I've picked MGS2 partly because it wasn't well received by fans when it attempted to take the franchise is a new direction and partly because I'll never forget the time when playing this game late one night, my character got a call on his military comm-phone from his Commanding Officer telling me to turn off my PlayStation and to stop playing the game. I'd gotten so into the story that it came as a shock when his commander called and literally told me to stop playing. It was a confronting moment, but that's what MGS is all about. And no, I'm not going to tell you why. You're just going to have to play the game yourself, but trust me it's worth it.

If you want moments where you're not sure if you're playing a game at all, all brilliantly written into an immersive story, I highly recommend Metal Gear Solid. If you want to come back next week we'll have another piping hot blog post. Next week's focus we're going to sneak a peek inside a real game designer as they work. Thanks for stopping by, see you all again next week.

Stay tuned!


No comments:

Post a Comment