Nowadays, fresh IPs for not just games but also movies and series are pretty much expected to take place in story worlds, showing multiple narratives from diverse characters – often morally grey and complex – to yield more entertainment and effect from the investment in developing that IP. I would argue that since the early 2000’s, but especially in the past decade during which games like Dungeons and Dragons have become more popular than ever, worldbuilding has become a serious pastime of professionals and amateurs alike. Worlds that belong to the Assassin’s Creed series and Warcraft continuously expand, so that players can consume them endlessly.
This is the first article of a four-part series that shows how networks and sociology (and more specifically, theories on the sociology of art) can be applied as a worldbuilding method that yields meaningful and dynamic worlds. These articles support my GDC2021 talk ‘Connected Worlds: Building Dynamic Storyworlds Using Network Theory‘ by offering more details, substantiation and calculations behind the mechanisms.
As I’ve described in the first part of this blog series, I had just began building my first prototype for Alderthe: The Card Game. And, like any half-decent game designer knows, you better test early. So I slapped together some factions, wrote info on a bunch of cropped post-it notes, and found a willing victim to play against: fellow Game Baker Tony Fial of Sfinx Games.
Soon, I’d have a better understanding of what worked, and what definitely didn’t.
I hastily created an Orc and a Human faction, based on my preliminary ideas on how these factions would function in the greater picture. Humans focus on coastal units and mounted combat. Orcs ravage and pillage, and gain control over the opposing units’ actions.
This is not a Post Mortem. In my spare time, I design and develop my personal card game project called Alderthe. That’s why I’m calling this series of articles a Vivisection: cutting into a living organism to see how (well) it functions.
Please don’t do an image search for ‘vivisection’ – Photo by Shane Aldendorff via Pexels.com
In this first entry of the series, I’m going to give some background concerning the setting. It has very little to do with the game mechanics or any of the design, but I suppose it does serve as some context for the rest of the series. For those among you who appreciate mythology or fantasy lore, you may find it interesting. Just don’t expect any strong narrative design insights from this text.
Myths and legends of old are stories that were created at some point in time, whether they contain a kernel of truth or not. They are usually intended to convey some moral or life lesson to the audience. Be loyal to your king. Respect nature. Don’t cry wolf. Stuff like that.
They originate in times of oral traditions, meaning that the stories were passed down diachronically (from generation to generation) or synchronically (from storyteller to storyteller).
This is an abstract of the talk I did at the Indie Gameleon festival on September 15, 2015; supplemented by material from a lecture I give to students.
When you’re building your game, of course you’re going to want to have a story included, right? You know how much people love game stories – not to mention all the memorable stories you personally enjoyed in your favourite game. So let’s add some story to your game!
Actually, let’s not.
Plants vs. Zombies has a story, but does anyone care?
You might not expect to hear this coming from a guy who writes stories for games, but I don’t want developers to blindly implement stories in their games. What I desire, is that we produce smarter stories, not more.