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I'm developing an idea for a story in a video game which I'm going to design and program. I've already got a good idea, however, I'm having a hard time developing it to where it can be long and entertaining while not boring to the player later on. What is the best way to do this, and how do I know it will not bore the player?

The game will be a choice based story game where you decide the majority of what happens in the game, the game's target audience is around 16 or 17.

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    It might help if you offer insight about the kind of game this is going to become and who will be the prime targeting group. I expect other qualities of an character and a story if this is about an adventure (point and click), action adventure (tomb raider), rpg (like nwn or diablo), or a shooter (which doesn't need a story after all, at least thats what the publishers do assume) or even a strategy game. And it will differ if you target children or grownups or lonely nerds. – Confused Merlin Aug 31 '16 at 9:33
  • Do you want to focus on story or game play? It is a bit challenging to develop games which has both aspect. I suggest you focus on one of them. So you won't get overwhelmed by your idea. cheers – Saber Alex Aug 31 '16 at 16:20
  • @Confused Merlin The game will be a choice based story game where you decide the majority of what happens in the game, the game's target audience is around 16 or 17. – Nexus Prime Sep 1 '16 at 0:02
  • I think there is a gamedesing stack exchange around here somewhere, where you might get better help. Over here people will be able to help you if you did reach a plot point that is hard to handle, but in general they can't help with game design – Confused Merlin Sep 2 '16 at 5:25
  • @Cyn Out of interest; why was the "Thanks" edited out? It was only a single word that did not detract from the question in any way? – Weckar E. Sep 6 '19 at 16:20
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So, a choise based story game...

The first thing that came to my mind was 80 days from inklestudios, which is - as one can guess from the name - something that's based on the famous book from Jules Verne.

It got a pretty art work which is... coherent (hope that's the correct word), a fitting but non interrupting music and sound environment and... well, here is not the place for a review, but you can grab it from steam or as app (steam version should be more rich in terms of features).

There are many other games around on steam, like that one with the boat and underground London where you die (way too much for my taste), so go ahead and get first-hand experiences about how others did make narrative games.

But don't make the mistake and assume that a good story is all a game needs. Well... way too many games do have a lame story but still sell, because as a type of media games can compensate for bad story by fine looks or other stuff. World of tanks offers no story after all (except for the wrong history) but draws in too many gamers. At the other side, adventures these days lack a huge audience, because the new generation of consumers cannot think and is overwhelmed with controls that require more than one button to press *sigh*.


But how to draw in a gamer using nothing but a story? I still keep on wondering if it would be a better idea to just offer a huge load of example games and tell how they are good in terms of story, but... I think this isn't the right way of doing it. At least not here.

So explain how to produce a well-written piece of a story may not be my strong point at this moment (yet...); there are others which are better in that. But I know my way around game design and will try to offer some advice.

Living world - whatever the story is about, if the world it unfolds in does not respond in a way noticeable, it will lose much of its charm. Like in many RPGs where you can rob the entire town of their valuables without anyone caring. It will be hard to keep track of what caused what, but it needs to be clear why stuff happens in the way it does when this was caused by something the player did earlier. That's something pen and paper masters usually are pretty good at, but nothing you need to take care about inside a book... no, wrong, you don't need to keep track all the possible outcomes, just one, which is way more easy.

colourful NPCs - the not protagonists in stories usually fall a bit flat, because not everyone needs a deep backstory to appear for a brief moment inside a book. But in a game, chances are good the player will encounter some uninteresting background-NPCs over and over again... if they do not have a purpose to fulfill, but can be interacted with, you will confuse the living daylight out of your players. By the way, the living world applies to them too, even if it's just them talking about what the player did like they heard it from someone else. Even more, you can use company-cubes... eh NPCs to push the player in the correct direction by dropping hints about what will happen if things are done this way or that way.

keep your artwork in line - huh, nothing about the story (again)? Yes, because the background is where much of the story will unfold. You do not need lines of text to describe something you can just paint. Such graphical pieces of story will be able to transport messages and everything you would need to describe using way too many words by just being there. They can add Color to your NPCs and Life to you World. When you crash a huge UFO and it does not appear in the scenes a player would expect it, it will be rather strange. At the other side, you can tell the story by adding military around it and never waste a single moment of game flow by having the player need to read about this happen.

the Skyrim/Oblivion Variant of Storytelling You can use most of Bethesda's games for this, but they just put a burned down house right in the middle of nowhere and a smoked note about "add this and this and DONT ADD THIS". Finish. No text, no telling needed; a curious player will go try out for himself what happens if you combine these things. And if he blow up himself... well, what did he expect to happen?

Don't punish! Most important for every game I think - if your player didn't do something the way you want, do not punish him hours of game later. If you need an artifact to continue six levels laters, but that artifact was hidden somewhere in the first level, and the game cannot continue because of that... that's bad game design. And it will be the dead of every game.


Okay... I need to keep it short this time, so these should be sufficient. Last but not least: What the others did say is pretty important for the general storyline.

  • have a character with a believable motivation
  • switch between high tension and relaxation like in a good act
  • have the world being believable
  • and never leave the house without your towel
  • oh and don't insert forced (stupid) events... yes, I look at you Mass Effect

Never mind the last one. But one last piece of advice still remains:

Reward your player - while the story can be lame, you need to reward your player for processing in the game. That is how to keep him motivated. Collectables where used for this, more skills and so on. The player must feel that he moves in the right direction and notice that good process is being made. Sadly, a good story is just secondary to this.

Aaaaand... I'm afraid that isn't even Writing.StackExchange territory any more. Still, I have to repeat: game design and keeping the gamer encouraged isn't done using a story alone. Its a collage of all the media game offers.

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  • Wow, such detail. Thank you so much! – Nexus Prime Sep 1 '16 at 16:27
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A good, story based video game really has to immerse the player in the world and make them want to play further.

Before you worry about your story, develop a character that people will care about otherwise it won't matter how fantastic the story is, people won't play it. In terms of video games, you can easily look at the likes of The Last of Us. I care about Joel and Ellie and that makes some of the events that happen in the game much more emotional for me and, I presume, other players.

Also, I've read books (since this is the writers forum) whereby the writer has created a beautiful world full of scenery and wonderful buildings that were well described and well thought out but the main character was as dull as anything and I simply couldn't read a lot further.

The other thing is that there are times when a well developed character will simply refuse to do something you're trying to get them to do and to force them to do so will only ruin the player's sense of disbelief.

After the main and any other characters your story may need, you then go for story development. There are a number of ways of doing this but the three act structure is tried and tested and works for all stories. How many bumps in the road your character(s) hit on the way remains up to you.

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I suggest that you read some materials on story structure. Actually if you prefer there are lots of videos on You tube too. You should also check how to build your character to an interesting level - this is very important for the story. Then check out what is a plot and the difference between story and plot. Then you could check out the role of the surrounding environment to the plot and he story telling. Also check out some important writing principles like "Show, don't tell." etc. Sorry this s a broad answer but your question is broad too.

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It sounds like your game is essentially a "choose your own" adventure game. I would play through several games of that type (choiceofgames.com has a goodly supply of these) and analyze several of them. The issue with this type of writing is that it isn't just one story in a linear direction, you have to have the story for a number of different branches and what ifs. Again, the gamedesign stack may have words of wisdom on this. I think you'll find you have to have a very good organization to what you are doing in order to map out the different pathways that your reader/player can take.

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