Why should I care?

I know I’ve harped on this before but playing Fallout New Vegas has brought me back to a persistent problem in RPGs: motivating the main quest. I know I’m not the first to say that FNV has a singularly un-inspiring beginning. I’ve just been shot dead in the course of doing some seemingly pointless delivery for some faceless client. By a stroke of good fortune, I’ve been brought back to life. What do I do? Of course, I should go and find the person who shot me!

Or… I could happily stay out of their way, figuring that life is cheap in a nuclear wasteland and I’ve already pushed my luck to breaking point. Who really cares about a lost poker chip anyway? Maybe I should just spend my time in this bar buying drinks and fleecing the locals at Caravan.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 1:14 am  Comments (1)  
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Books: Six Walks in the Fictional Woods

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods
Six Walks in the Fictional Woods,
by Umberto Eco.

In my recent review of Peter Rabbit I spoke about the dangers of “AI Arrogance” and the embarrassment of Narrative AI research that is done without an up-to-date understanding of narrative theory. Now I must confess that I am not as well informed in this area as I might be. I have attempted on several occasions to read some of the canonical books in this area (Booth, Genette, Brooks) and found them rather dry and hard going. Perhaps it is true of any creative discipline: there are those who are engaging authors and those who are skilled theoreticians.

Umberto Eco is the rare exception, (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2009 at 1:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Books: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter RabbitThe Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter.

I know that this may seem like an unlikely title for game designers, but I firmly believe that anyone who wants to work in the area of Narrative or Expressive AI should become intimately familiar with this story and regularly ask themselves the question “Could my storytelling system possibly produce works as richly complex as this?” I’ve found it to be a valuable exercise in humility.

Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Comments (9)  
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Alabaster: Make-your-own-adventure

alabasterI’m a bit late to the party on this, but Emily Short is attempting an interesting experiment in interactive fiction construction. Alabaster is a ‘fractured fairy tale’, retelling the story Snow White with a halloween flavour. The interesting thing about the project, however, is its mode of composition.

Published in: on November 5, 2008 at 2:45 am  Comments (1)  
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To return you must first depart

Another book that has influenced many game writers is Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (or, at least, the more readable summary The Writers Journey, by Christopher Vogler). I do not intend to review that book here, but rather respond to Michael Abbott’s recent post on The Brainy Gamer.

Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 2:01 am  Comments (11)  
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Books: Impro

Impro and
Impro for Storytellers,
by Keith Johstone

Any designer who wants to talk seriously about the possibilities of storytelling through games really ought to have some experience with improvised theatre. And if you read only one book on impro, then these two are it. Written by the father of modern Theatresports, they go well beyond the games and discuss why they were first invented and what they were designed to teach. For the teacher, they are a humbling example of how to be sensitive to the needs of your class and free your students from the fear of failure, but to the game designer they provide the most valuable thing: a shining example of the real possibility of “interactive storytelling” in all its glory, along with practical advice on how to achieve it.

Published in: on August 22, 2008 at 8:55 am  Comments (4)  
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