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A Game Company's Approach to Storytelling

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A Game Company's Approach to Storytelling

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby LawOfTheLand on Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:57 pm

http://www.artix.com/designNotes/post/1 ... ng-a-World

From the mad genius himself, Artix Krieger (aka Adam Bohn) comes a step-by-step treatise on how to make a story. Due to the emphasis on interactivity with the players at various steps, I felt that the roleplaying community could learn a few things from how game designers approach how they craft their plots. They're pretty much the ultimate dungeon masters!

In case the link doesn't work, prepare for copypasta. All spelling errors are left intact.

How to create a storyline (The AE Way)
We truly do our best to listen and involve the community into the creation of everything we do. It is the one thing we are universally loved for, and it is the thing that sets us apart from most other game studios. Every time we do a weekly release, your feedback determines what we do (or do not do) for the next week. I cannot count the times we changed a major plot arc because of a comment posted on the forums or Twitter. Even the artwork our artists are making are a direct result of what you say to them. Over the years it became appearant that we developed a very interactive way of developing a story with you. We will be taking this to the next level with you in AdventureQuest 3D. Here is what the part I do goes like...

Prior to doing anything, I ask a bunch of seemingly random questions about what you watch on TV, what are into, and what your favorite things are. Then, after watching/researching them we talk back and forth with the team about ideas and make a "Cool List" Which is funny, since I am pretty sure the word cool is not actually cool any more. Oddly, the cool list has not changed very much since the first one I made back in the AdventureQuest days. But the details DO change. For example... Vampires were always cool. But from Dracula, to Blade, to Twilight, to True Blood -- the details which makes them cool (or not cool) has changed a lot.

START AT THE END & CREATE A PROBLEM

There are a lot of ways to make a story, but I like use the method where you know the very end of the story first. For example when I wrote the DoomWood saga in AQWorlds, my goal was for you to learn Artix the Paladin's "dark secret" and to become better friends because of it. To do this, I needed it to end on an incredible battle where our characters teamed up and needed each other's help to overcome an otherwise unstoppable villain. I knew the villain would be undead, but we had already done Dracoliches and giant undead in the past. We needed something new, original. So I was talking to Cysero and Nulgath and the term Undead Slayer kept coming up over and over... then it hit me. Who would be a Slayer of Paladins? And the concept of the Paladin Slayer was born. But this Paladin Slayer, Vordred, was just not a killer of Holy Knights, he actually turned them into his unwilling undead servants. To make him even more of a threat, we made him immune to light based attacks to explain why no normal Paladin could even hurt him. So, we knew what the end was going to be... a showdown.

CHOOSE A LOCATION/THEME

It becomes really easy to determine a location once you know what the end is. But really nailing down your location and themes helps you flesh out your adventure. DoomWood seemed like the perfect place for this adventure because #1 It was not in AQWorlds yet #2 It was where Artix was born and #3 It already had famous locations in it that we could recreate to better tell our story. In fact, we now had an opportunity to tell the story of how a beautiful forest turned into this undead filled graveyard-forest.

CREATE A TWIST (And major Plotpoints)

One memorable twist does the trick! If you are thinking backwards it is easy to think "I know how this ends, but what would cause something to think it will end a different way? ... and how does this impact the story's beginning?" If you played pretty much anything I have written you will notice a trend of backward-ism. My favorite DragonFable moment was when you found out that you and the Evil Villain each had the wrong Dragon Eggs. He had the "good dragon" and you have the "evil dragon destined to destory the world." My favorite AQWorlds quest was "Save the Dragon from the Princess." It creates an unsettling moment in your stomach when you try to rationalize what is actually going on. My favorite moment of all of TV/Anime was the original end of Neon Genesis Evengelion. It explained... NOTHING. Because my brain could not rationalize it, I just kept thinking about it over and over and over for months. I knew that the creators of the Anime had a solid plan, ran out of budget and rushed it. But their end result made me think... and thinking is good. Really good. So when writing DoomWood, I had the perfect twist. (Spoiler: Stop reading and go to next section if you have not played DoomWood Saga) I would give clues about their being a Champion of Light and the amazing powers that would be bestowed upon the Champion of Darkness if they were to slay the other. At no place in the writing did it say that Vordred was the Champion of Darkness nor did it say that Artix was the Champion of Light. But first time players all thought they cleverly figured it out and expected the end to result in them saving Artix, the Champion of light from Vordred the Champion of Darkness. People that were REALLY into the plot... felt their brains break when they discovered the truth.

CREATE THE BEGINNING (THE HOOK)

The most important part of a good story is "Why?" That is, why does the player care? Are they going to get something from it? Is there something they care about that will be hurt if they do not take action? In a massively multiplayer game it is hard to continually give the player a new, super important reason why they NEED to go on quests. So maby for an MMO the never ending quests in the middle are not as important as the main storyline. This is why a lot of games start with amnesia and trying to remember who you are, or your home town being burnt to the ground, or going to save a pretty girl. In books, TV and movies, most heroes initially do not want to undertake the adventure. Think of Spiderman's origin where he had powers but misused them until his uncle died prompting him to become a crime fighter. Or Luke from Starwars where he would not go initally go into space on the adventure with Obi Wan Kenobi until he returned home and found that the storm troopers had killed his uncle and aunt. When trying to figure out the hook for getting the player to go to DoomWood we had a lot of options. At the time we were writing the script to an animated servers for AQWorlds which was centered on the crazy off-adventures of Artix, Beleen & Cysero (Who's initials are oddly ABC). Figuring it would make sense in the future I started DoomWood with the King summoning the "Greatest Heros in the Land." Which was your character, Artix, Beleen and Cysero. It confused a lot of players, LOL. But after the King's warning that all of the Paladins in the land have been going missing, and a GIANT army of the undead is forming in DoomWood. The King pulls you aside and privately asks you stop Artix from going to DoomWood using ANY MEANS NESSASSARY but not let him know why. I thought this was awesome, because I was making a "buddy-buddy" story and the first thing you got to do was go head to head against each other in a tense confrontation.

FINAL STEP: MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG!

Time to start making art and animation! Once you get to this step, you have a solid outline for your entire adventure... just have fun making stuff up, talking about ideas with players, and creating the weekly releases that move the story along. It is not uncommon to come up with a different yet even BETTER ending as a result of player feedback. We try not to get too married to any single idea, and keep our egos out of it. We have changed the endings of a lot of stories... in the end of DoomWood for example, we had a player joking say, "OMG I am going to kill you Artix" and thought... that is a great idea for an ending! So we added an option to backstab and kill Artix. (LOL, I had so many players send me pictures of their characters stabbing me in the back on Twitter) Which, of course led to us having multiple alternative endings and one "true" ending which setup the possibility of a sequel.

In summary, the AE way to tell is a story is to go towards an end goal while making the whole whole thing up with our combined creativity. My Martial Arts Instructor always says, "You know... planes are off course 99% of the time. That's why they have all those controls. So they can continually adjust the plane to head in the right direction."

The overarching main storyline of AdventureQuest 3D is very much the same way. We know the end points. The team and I are VERY much looking forward to building this multiverse alongside you.
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LawOfTheLand
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