Entry Fourteen – Research presentation

How can game mechanics be used to create immersive narratives in games?

Abstract

This project explores the use of games mechanics to create narrative which immerse the player in the experience of the game.

What defines the game experience?

Rather than the system the mechanics exist in or the plot the game follows games are defined by the experiences they give to the player and this project will examine how to create the sense that the player is the driving force behind the game and how to use this to its fullest potential.

Introduction

“Interactivity stimulates as many of the five senses as possible: Hearing, seeing, touching, and in some cases of virtual environments, smelling. (No one seems to have figured out how to simulate the fifth sense, taste.) In other words, the experience is immersive. It catches you up in a way that passive media never could.”  (Miller, C. H. 2004  Page 58)

Interactivity in games can be described as the reciprocal nature of action and reaction between the player of the game and the system

No matter how directed events in games are it is ultimately the player’s actions in the game that should tell the story. Interactivity is one of the key elements that set videogames apart from other media, and thus is its unique strength for artistic expression.

So then is the key goal of narrative in games to take a player’s actions in game, as well as the reactions of the game’s system, and to present these as part of the game’s story and thusly fully immerse the player in the game?

Daniel Floyd is a game designer who regularly examines questions related to the games industry and discusses how games work while exploring their art through video commentary, in one video he asks “Can games express their story and themes through play as opposed to dialogue and cut scene’s?” (Daniel Floyd.  2012)

This is the use of interactivity and mechanics to tell a story, In order to answer this we must ask what role the game mechanics plays in defining narrative. What is the difference between the Narrative and the “written” story, referred to as plot hereafter, in a game? If narrative is derived from player’s actions then what role does a player’s choice have in games within a set story? How do these relate to each other to create a worthwhile experience?

Aim of project

The aim of the project is to design an action/adventure game world in order to create a rich user experience through the use of narrative and choice within the games mechanics demonstrated through a proof of concept.

It is also necessary to study and define the difference between story and narrative in games as these are two terms which are often used interchangeable within other mediums, as well as the use of mechanics as metaphor and how the presence of, or lack of, other aspects in games introduce meaning that inform the players experience.

Objectives

  • To examine and explore what gameplay mechanics are and how best to Illicit a response from game mechanics without crippling a games story.
  • To investigate and analyse the role of player choice in the creation of a gameplay experience defined by the player in existing media examples.
  • To design a Game World and to demonstrate that world through a proof of concept, or story world bible, what the game is. To create a of that game that can be readily understood as showing what it is about

Contextual review

Plots use in games

The mechanics of a game are defined by the rules of its system; these rules give the player a differing set of input per game allowing for players to participate in the events depicted in the games story.

Without proper understanding of this it can very easily create a disconnection between what a games story is and what a games mechanics are, making for a sabotaging narrative as the players actions, and the mechanics they control, must naturally guide the player without overtly constraining their actions.

This means that there is a sleight of hand happening with the player as “The goal of an interactive narrative system is to immerse users in a virtual world such that they believe that they are an integral part of an unfolding story and that their actions can significantly alter the direction or outcome of the story.”  (Riedl, M. and Bulitko, V. 2013. Pp67)

As such a well told game story must present itself to the player and from its own presentation of events anticipate what action the player will take placing the next step in that space.

By creating a story where the player can easily deduce a simpler more practical way to forward the story or meet the goals of the game but the next steps to advance are not those ways you create a divide between the players agency and the games system, in short a bad game that prefers the player make it’s pre-set choices instead of leading them to the right choices.

“Clearly defined goals do not generally leave much room neither for doubts nor for contesting that particular objective.” (Frasca, Gonzalo. (2003). Pp231)

Narrative and gameplay Mechanics

A story must not build to a final action beyond which the audience cannot imagine another.” (McKee, R. 1998 pp 140)

The mechanics of the game serve to give the player input into the events of the games plot, without which the game is lacking its most fundamental aspect, the interaction between art form and audience.

By giving the player choice and control you immerse them in the experience, no longer are they bystanders, they are the main character of the story, an example of this type of immersion is In Digital Storytelling as Carolyn Handler miller tells us “In a flash, we went from being observers to being participants and began to experience los posadas in an entirely different way. Marching with the procession, we became a part of the drama, too, and fully immersed in it.”  (Miller, C. H. 2004  Page 59)

The key is to use plot to establish a set of goals and create a system of Risk and reward that challenge the player to take action to meet the goals, big or small the choices the player makes to then accomplish their plot goals becomes part of the narrative.

The active structure and how much control are given to players can differ from each game, some games use a more Linear narrative in which the progress of the story is ordered and follows an a to b to c style progression (common to action/adventure games) while some use a Non-Linear narrative with a modular set of plot goals that can be sought out at the players desire (common to Open world games).

Experience Design/Player Experience, Meaningful choice and player agency

An example of this dynamic might be found in Silent Hill, its plot can be said to be about Harry Mason’s journey through Silent Hill after his daughter disappears in a car crash, discovering the town beset by monsters after a cults failed attempt to summon their god he continues to search for his daughter.

This gives the player two goals, first a long term goal, Rescue Harry’s daughter, and the second a short term goal, stay alive with number of minor goals.

The mechanics of the game are that Harry moves slowly and is not versed in combat and so it is generally best to avoid the creatures of Silent Hill, which are faster and stronger, than him.

While a creature’s presence is telegraphed through a radio that blares noise when you are near them there is often fog in the streets and a darkness pervades the inside of buildings that obscures them meaning that it’s often a case the player hears the creatures before they see them.

Avoiding the creatures is not so simple as exploration is also important as to follow Cheryl’s, Harry’s daughter, path through silent  hill which means exploring and finding clues as well as items to help you progress through the town which brings the long term and short term goals into conflict.

The player must decide as they progress the best way forward, a map is given but often first must be found, meaning that the player can use this to navigate path past the monster to follow Cheryl and avoid the monsters but this is not always possible.

As such trying to stay alive becomes a problem as you try to find Cheryl, these goals conflict and create a dynamic the player must resolve, this is the Narrative.

There are also conflicts built into each goal themselves that the player must decide what they are going to do to resolve them, do you keep on your torchlight as you explore the various rooms and corridors making it easier to navigate and find precious ammo and Items or keep it off so the creatures can’t see but making it harder to find your way around while risking being unable to find them when the radio blare their presence?

When you have no choice but to fight do you use one of your guns to kill the creature at a distance but risk using up your sparse ammo?

Do you equip a melee weapon to conserve ammo and risk the creature getting close enough to kill you?

If you use a melee weapon do you turn on you light to see it better risking other nearby creatures joining in or have the torch off so as to fight it alone making striking it harder? [1999. Konami.]

By creating these conflicts and placing control in the players hands it shifts the game experience from scripted plot moments and uses play to deliver the story, harry saves his daughter is static and does not change but how Harry faces the horrors of silent hill is up to you and it is informed by moments created in the players use of the games mechanics that create narrative because “The game is not the experience. The game enables the experience.” [Schell, J. 2015.  Page 10]

Methodology

This project would be best served by using qualitative methodologies as it centres on user experience and through case studies and practice refine the methods by which we use game mechanics to create narrative.

Case studies

To understand how narrative is created in games I will Study Silent hill, Rouge Legacy and Loneliness as these three games that use the mechanics in there game system to create a immersive experience and will offer a chance to examine and explain how they do so.

I will break down what each game allows the player to do and how this interacts with each games plot.

With this it should become apparent what it is that creates the belief that the player is the main component of the story.

Practice

To explore these ideas the project will take a different route to a main character and have the player control the main villain of the story, by taking the player out of the heroic role and placing him in the “Bad Guy” role we shall see best to encourage the player to follow a set path when the might desire to take a different route from the plot.

This will be measured against expectation, can a player see villainous actions as a natural plot progression and can mechanics and narrative be used to convince a player to go along for the journey willingly and enjoy the experience.

Timeline

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Project framework and goals Project framework and goals Project framework and goals Blog

Misc

14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Case study: Silent Hill Case study: Silent Hill Case study: Silent Hill Case study: Silent Hill Blog

Misc

21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Case Study: Loneliness Case Study: Loneliness Case Study: Loneliness Christmas break Christmas break Christmas break
28 29 30 31
Story Bible

Literature review

Story Bible

Literature review

Story Bible

Literature review

Break

January 2016

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3
Break
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Story Bible: Lore

Case Study: Rouge Legacy

Story Bible: Lore

Case Study: Rouge Legacy

Story Bible: Lore

Case Study: Rouge Legacy

Story Bible: Lore

Dissertation planning

Story Bible: Lore

Dissertation planning

Blog

Misc task unfinished
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Story Bible: Lore

Art style research

Story Bible: Lore

Dissertation planning

Story Bible: Lore

Dissertation planning

Story Bible: Lore

Dissertation research

Blog

Misc unfinished tasks

Game Mechanics research
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Story world Bible Reflection

Dissertation

research

SWB: lore/Concept art

Dissertation research

SWB: lore/Concept art

Dissertation research

SWB: lore/Concept art

Dissertation work

Blog

Misc unfinished tasks

Game Mechanics research
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
SWB: lore/Concept art

Dissertation research

SWB: Concept art

Dissertation research

SWB: Concept art

Dissertation research

SWB: Concept art

Dissertation work

Blog

Misc tasks

Game Mechanics research

February 2016

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
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Prepare work for presentation Prepare work for presentation SWB: Mechanics

Dissertation

SWB: Mechanics

Dissertation

Blog

Misc task necessaries for project progress.

Misc tasks

Review Presentation and improve

.
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Progress presentation

Dissertation

SWB: Mechanics

Dissertation

SWB: Mechanics

Dissertation

SWB: Mechanics Blog

Misc tasks

15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Further Story world bible review Story World bible work Story World bible work

Dissertation

Plan Story boards Blog

Misc task necessaries for project progress.

Misc task necessaries for project progress.
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Plan interactive scene in game

Dissertation

Plan interactive scene in game

Dissertation

SWB: Story boards.

Dissertation

SWB: Story boards.

Dissertation

Blog

Misc task necessaries for project progress.

Misc
29
SWB: Story boards

March 2016

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
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SWB: Story boards

Disertation

SWB: Story boards

Disertation

Prepare presentation Prepare presentation Misc tasks

Blog

7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Progress presentation SWB: Story boards

Disertation

SWB: Story boards Dissertaion Blog

Misc task necessaries for project progress.

Misc
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
SWB: Story boards

Animation tests

SWB: Story boards

Animation tests

Animation Research and Production Animation Research and Production Blog

Misc task necessaries for project progress.

Dissertation
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Animation Production

Dissertation

Animation Production

Dissertation

Animation Production

Editing research

Animation Production

Editing research

Blog

Misc tasks necessaries for project progress.

28 29 30 31
Animation Production

Editing research

Animation Production

Dissertation

Animation Production

Dissertation

Animation Production

Dissertation

April 2016

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3
Blog

Misc tasks necessaries for project progress.

Misc
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Animation Production

Editing/Implementation

Animation Production

Editing/Implementation

Dissertation

Animation Editing/Implementation

Dissertation

Review progress and evaluate time to finish.

Meetings to discuss progress with tutor/s Misc

Blog

11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Blog Misc
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission Finalizing all work for submission
25 26 27 28 29 30
Setup for week 35 on 2nd may Final assemble of work for submission Final assemble of work for submission Final assemble of work for submission Honours year submission

Blog Submission

Blog

May 2015

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
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End of year presentation
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Conclusion

With this project we will discover how to use Mechanics to convey narrative as adverse to simply using plot and dialog to further a games story or ideas.

As games are by the nature centred around play and the use of interactivity this project will be useful towards game designers and narrative designers, it will help to understand how to use games to their fullest potential for player engagement and how best to use the art form to convey a story that immerse the player in the experience.

Bibliography

Schell, J. 2015. The art of game design: A book of lenses. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Joyce, L. 2015. Creating Collaborative Criteria for Agency in Interactive Narrative Game Analysis. The Computer Games Journal.4(1): pp.47-58.

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. 2004. Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Mit.

Riedl, M. and Bulitko, V. 2013. Interactive Narrative: An Intelligent Systems Approach. Ai Magazine. 34(1): pp.67-77.

McKee, R. 1998. Story: Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. York: Methuen

Bateman, C. M. 2007. Game writing: Narrative skills for videogames. 1st ed. Boston, MA: Charles River Media.

Booker, C. 2004. The seven basic plots: Why we tell stories. London: Continuum.

Miller, C. H. 2004 . Digital storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Oxford: Focal Press

Daniel Floyd.  2012.  Extra Credits. [online] Oxford: Available from:. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQJA5YjvHDU [Accessed 7 November 2014].

Frasca, Gonzalo. (2003). Simulation versus narrative. In: wolf, mark J. P. and perron, Bernard. (2003). The video game theory reader. New York, Routledge pp. 231.

Riedl, M. and Bulitko, V. 2013. Interactive Narrative: An Intelligent Systems Approach. Ai Magazine. 34(1):

References

Miller, C. H. 2004 . Digital storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Oxford: Focal Press. Pp 58

Daniel Floyd.  2012.  Extra Credits: Narrative Mechanics. [online] Oxford: Available from:. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQJA5YjvHDU [Accessed 7 November 2014].

Keiichiro Toyama. 1999. Silent Hill. Konami.

Schell, J. 2015. The art of game design: A book of lenses. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Frasca, Gonzalo. (2003). Simulation versus narrative. In: wolf, mark J. P. and perron, Bernard. (2003). The video game theory reader. New York, Routledge pp. 231.

Riedl, M. and Bulitko, V. 2013. Interactive Narrative: An Intelligent Systems Approach. Ai Magazine. 34(1): pp.67

McKee, R. 1998. Story: Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. York: Methuen pp: 140

Miller, C. H. 2004 . Digital storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment. Oxford: Focal Press. Pp 59

Random sources to be sorted and such

http://narrativedesign.org/2012/02/games-are-story-engines-interactive-narrative-design-architecture/

http://narrativedesign.org/2012/02/designing-user-experiences-game-design-as-narrative-design/

http://narrativedesign.org/2009/06/dramatic-play-towards-a-new-form/

http://narrativedesign.org/2009/02/defining-interactive-narrative-design-1/

http://narrativedesign.org/2009/01/what-is-a-master-of-narrative-design/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG1ziCvLkJ0&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5ATCznEwJx794x4RMuYNZLN&index=1

Narritive mechainics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQJA5YjvHDU&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5ATCznEwJx794x4RMuYNZLN&index=4

Extra Credits: How To Start Your Game Narrative

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22HoViH4vOU&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5ATCznEwJx794x4RMuYNZLN&index=20

The Feeling of Agency – What Makes Choice Meaningful? – Extra Credits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q7ECX5FaX0&list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5ATCznEwJx794x4RMuYNZLN&index=28

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