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Seeking hints and tips on story design

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X3M
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For an RTS single player mod.
I am creating a new story.

The story is limited to the 3 races that the game comes with. Each race has factions too.

I was just wondering where I could find some very good pointers that I didn't think about yet. Regarding story telling.

For now I work with main characters. Since this pushes the story forward to great extent.

The story contains very dark humour.

Is this in the right category?

DarkDream
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Some Links on Design of Narrative

Interesting article on BGG that addresses narrative/story design.

Hellboy the board game that is currently on Kickstarter has a very interesting way of controlling the narrative though use of a "Case Deck."

Other board games that have a story telling type narrative are:

Fallout
Robinson Crusoe

Maybe this should help you out.

--DarkDream

let-off studios
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Centered Around Plot or Character?

A couple places I recommend you have a look. Not sure how deep you want to go into the writer's rabbit hole, but even a casual skim of these articles will likely be helpful to you.

First: The three questions that will solve every problem you have. These seem most effective with a character-centered story.

1. What would this character naturally do in this situation?

2. How can I make things worse?

3. How can I end this in a way that's unexpected and inevitable?

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/writi...

Second: The magic formula for great story ideas.

Character + Situation x Obstacles = Ending

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/craft-techn...

He explains this approach in a YouTube video as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsBLF32GppY

Failing that, come up with some ideas here: the Random Creative Idea Generator. I usually go there for ideas when I want to make a video game (I do video game jams throughout the year).

http://ideagenerator.creativitygames.net/

X3M
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Yes

These links give me a great start to re-evaluate what I have so far. Thank you both.

I must have several introductions. But I am more certain now, what characters I need.

At least 1 character per race. But these characters will create factions that will rebel against the main faction due to reasons.

Getting to work now.

Mosker
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Addressing one component:

I'm unsure whether you are more concerned with the story (background) or telling (matching thematic--sorry, Lew--elements with mechanics.)

Focusing on the former, it's appropriate today (as I write in PST) to give props to space opera, where races are more or less interchangeable (c.f.: Larry Niven's Ringworld's rishathra ).

That said, as you develop races and characters, it might help to start with biology as that could lead to different goals, needs, and hierarchies among your characters. (For example, consider replication by fission, where if one leader is killed there are plenty more identical ones, or a faction where differentiation is at a premium. If players can throw wrenches into each other's social structures....)

X3M
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Why a story?

My main objective of having a story with characters is:
A reason to go to war.

Or else the game would be a repetitive rehearsal of the same event. Slightly being adjusted by the fact that things progress.

Progress is an effect, and it needs a cause.

While the main story might sound childish and often stupid. It helps making reasons for the next act.
But it also helps making a reason for certain missions that the player will do.

A mission should not be a simple matter of focus on certain units specialities. As always, reasons are what I need.

Please keep in mind, this is not for a board game, but a mod for an existing RTS pc game. Henceforth the "am I in the right place?".

***

For now.

Every character that I have thought of so far has one or multiple characteristics:
- Ridiculous stupid/a lesser form: being used (or even let it happen knowingly).
- Pretentious/has one or multiple hidden agenda's.
- Being an outcast.
- Being extremely efficient.
- Being very violent, which is a norm in half of the cultures in this story.

The main character "You", has the first 4. Even if they are not obvious at first.

It sounds strange, but somehow I need a main character for the story to follow. Sometimes I can side track "what is happening right now, elsewhere?".

Would there even be room for a second main character? How would I do this?

let-off studios
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Continuing the Plot

X3M wrote:
Would there even be room for a second main character? How would I do this?
There are several video games that shift main characters in the midst or during the final act. One that comes to mind is L.A. Noir, whose main character follows a story arc that has him eventually removed from the police force. The final act is carried out by a fellow detective.

Though I've not read any, or have seen any episodes, apparently Game of Thrones kills off characters left and right, while the rest of the world continues. It's not foreign.

If your character's story arc comes to an end before the resolution of the tension in your plot, then keep it going. If there's something left to tell that brings your story to a fitting solution, then I suggest you persist no matter how many corpses you leave in your wake. :)

X3M
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Plenty of story to tell now.

But now the missions that I have to make. They feel more like WORK now. Main reason is that to keep the story together, some missions are needed.

Also, I don't want the story to take up too much time in the mission itself. But more in the briefings. That way, impatient people like me can skip them.

My main problem remains that I have 3 races. That all 3 need to build up bit by bit. This requires me to hop between 2 stories that should connect later on. I am not much of a fan of these kind of stories. I rather start with one story. And then branch. However, right now, I start with one story. And then start another one a couple of missions later.

For now, I have the characters done etc.
But the real story, I am building up through the missions. Would it be better to just make the story first, then the missions that fit this story?

let-off studios
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Options

I think you've answered your own question: make the story, then build the missions that fit that story.

I suggest something like a "storyboard," which is kind of like an outline that focuses on visuals. You can forego the storyboard approach all together and simply work with an outline, and each of the three races is its own main topic, and missions are described within each of those.

In any way you approach it, yeah, it's gonna be a lot of work. But the good news is that once the story is plotted out, you can rearrange the missions as you see fit within the overarching campaign. Here are a couple thoughts on that:

Organize by Theme: Introduce a new mechanic? Maybe all the missions related to that mechanic and how its explored should be grouped together, or in sequence related to relative challenge.

Organize by Story Arc: You can keep the separate stories in their own volumes, and tell the game's story in three separate arcs.

Organize by Plot Point: Is there a significant series of events in your story, that affect each of the different races in dramatic ways? Then maybe you want to organize your story around the different races' approach to each of those events, and fill in the story between them. This allows players to abandon a lot of the story and simply focus on the scenario and its elements, regardless of the race they choose to play.

Maybe if you choose one of these approaches, it will reduce your feelings about it being a lot of work. But I suggest you pick one, and roll with it, once the story is plotted out.

Jay103
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X3M wrote:But now the

X3M wrote:
But now the missions that I have to make. They feel more like WORK now.

My main problem remains that I have 3 races. That all 3 need to build up bit by bit... I am not much of a fan of these kind of stories.

Why do you need three races so badly that you're stuck building a game that isn't really the thing you enjoy?

X3M
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Some good advice kicked me a long way now :)

let-off studios wrote:

Organize by Theme: Introduce a new mechanic? Maybe all the missions related to that mechanic and how its explored should be grouped together, or in sequence related to relative challenge.

This is the purpose of the entire single player campaign. To learn the mechanics of each race and each unit.

let-off studios wrote:

Organize by Story Arc: You can keep the separate stories in their own volumes, and tell the game's story in three separate arcs.

I think this is my best bet to go with. So, it is not 1 to 2 missions and then go to another race. But more so of around 6 missions. I think the arc's are going to be 3x3.
3 Arc's with each 3 sub arc's.
I worked out a lot at the moment. I might post the story summary here once done. I have about 2/3th in simple words done.
Each race will have a sub arc per main arc.

Match set up
There are 49 possible set ups. However, some match set ups will never happen. I will try to get them all 49. But if I fail that, the last will not be needed any way. It will not make the missions complicated. But more fun. Especially when I manage to keep good control on the story line.

The set ups go like this:
Human vs Human
Human vs Cyborg
Human vs Human and Cyborg
Human vs Bio
etc.

There are 7 combinations. And 7 enemy combinations.
Of course, all vs all will be used in the last mission.

If I go with 49 and some double match up's. Then I can easily reach 60 missions. Especially in the beginning, some match ups are double. Some missions will be very short too. And perhaps, some match ups can take place in the same mission. Reducing the number of missions to less then 49.

One of the arc's is a good example for this. One lone Human survivor that is an old friend of the MC. Finds a rail gun. And starts gathering the parts. The last combinations that are unused by playing only humans, make good work to have in only 1 map. I simply need to cluster them. Having 3 combinations of set ups in just 1 mission.

3 Main arc's.
Each 3 sub arc's.
I feel that I am making something here.

let-off studios wrote:

Maybe if you choose one of these approaches, it will reduce your feelings about it being a lot of work. But I suggest you pick one, and roll with it, once the story is plotted out.

Yes, this way helps a lot. Thank you.
Next stop is making sure, what new units are introduced. But the story really needs some work first, still.
The missions themselves will be more fun to make, since everything will become clearer to me.

Jay103 wrote:
X3M wrote:
But now the missions that I have to make. They feel more like WORK now.

My main problem remains that I have 3 races. That all 3 need to build up bit by bit... I am not much of a fan of these kind of stories.

Why do you need three races so badly that you're stuck building a game that isn't really the thing you enjoy?


The multi-player contains 3 races. I like new players to learn all 3.
3 races is not the problem here. I had trouble making the story and making sure the player learns the 3 races. At first, I had a lot of missions that where chaotic placed in the story line.

But I am getting there, step by step.

Jay103
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Ah, okay, so it's more like

Ah, okay, so it's more like an extended tutorial.

My whole board game is sort of an extended tutorial :). This may not be answering your exact question, but I think it'll get there by the end :)

Make a list (or three lists) of the mechanics you need to teach. Order them from most basic and fundamental to most specific. Some of them will be shared between races, and some will have pre-requisites in other mechanics.

Like "building a building" and "upgrading a building" and "recruiting a worker" and "attacking" are probably shared.

So then figure out the order you want to introduce things, based on that list. I had "use potions" and "level 2 spells" and things like that on my list before I had a single bit of plot worked out.

Then, for some of the mechanics, bits of story kind of write themselves. Like, I needed the players to find advanced weapons. Not randomly, but in a big cache. So why was there a cache of weapons? Well, someone COLLECTED some weapons and cached them. Who? Well, I have an innkeeper. Where would he have cached them that the players could find them? In his (extended) basement. Why would the players be there? Because he asked them to look there. Why did he need help? Because he lost control of the basement.. to some spiders, and sure why not goblins too. He broke through into some goblin tunnels. The goblins have control of his stuff now. Some goblins are spell-casters (something else I wanted to introduce), and the spiders can do two attacks at once and have a "web" special effect (another thing to introduce).

This became a three-level story arc of getting through the basement, finding the weapons (which they keep as a reward), clearing the goblins and spiders, and getting back out. It started with, "the players need to find new weapons".

In your case, I'm not quite sure what you need to teach, but I think that's the best place to start, because it also puts the game design before the plot.

Also, don't feel the need to go A B C A B C A B C with your races. Teaching will be easier if you go more like A A B B to start off, and it will let you tell whatever your story is more coherently too.

X3M
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The answer is: YES!

The things that I need to teach players.

The rps combat mechanics. It is totally different than the vanilla game. Thats it.... but there are a lot of changes.

And every race has their own size too.

A good example is the mission where the player can choose between tanks and reavers. And has some anti air. Tanks do 36 dmg and as artillery 48 dmg. Reavers always 48 damage. There are 0 and 24 armored units. Easy to say that it is 12 dmg or 24 dmg. 100 and 200 percent.

Bombers are slow but harmfull against armored units. However tanks can drive away fast. That is a lesson for the player in that mission.

Another mission is that artillery mode sucks against flexible opponents (bunker with deployable marines). But is good against stationary defences.

Air units are a different story too. Some strong units in the vanilla game are only good against ground. And not even all. Armor is a very important factor in the game. That is what players need to learn. For all 3 races.

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