Story ideas..

esmeco
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Post: #1
I'm planning to make an adventure,but now came to a part where I'm lacking ideas to continue developing the story for my game.It's about a pirate and his captain,who after looting an enemy pirate ship,he sees himself unintentionally breaking the PMOC(Pirates Manual of Conduct) and getting marroned on a desert island.That's basicly the intro.I'm now on the 1st part of the game where his goal is getting out of the island and cleaning up his name.He found a hut on the inside of the island habited by an old man who carves pirate ships on wood,and I want him to have something to do to help the character to exit the island but I can't figure out what to do now.I'm really lacking ideas,so any ideas are welcomed.
Thanks in advance!
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Post: #2
There are some similar themes in the Monkey Island games, if you've played any of them- that's definitely a classic series.

The most obvious idea is just have the character build a boat- the old guy tells you what parts to get, you go grab them and eventually you have a boat and sail away (or like some games where now you have to do some sort of boating game with your new boat.)
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Post: #3
Watch the sinbad movies of yesteryear, those have plenty of plot items to play with.
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Post: #4
I think I saw this game, Jonny Depp was the pirate.

What you need to do is search the Internet for Pirate stories. Combine some ideas to form your own. Also watch Papillon.

Cheers

Carlos A. Camacho,
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Post: #5
Carlos Camacho Wrote:I think I saw this game, Jonny Depp was the pirate.

Pirates of the Caribbean.
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Post: #6
I'd like to see a pirate game where you go from swabbie to Captain, by earning your way up the ranks, or killing whoever's above you.

And I really, really want to be able to make people walk the plank.

BTW, there's a goldmine here for story and design ideas: CLEEK

Justin Ficarrotta
http://www.justinfic.com
"It is better to be The Man than to work for The Man." - Alexander Seropian
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DoG
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Post: #7
And then there is "Sid Meyer's Pirates"
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rossum
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Post: #8
Yeah monkey island ruled, and there are tons of pirate movies to go on. I think maybe incorporate some of the reality of the real pirate era instead of just hollywood plots for puzzles and challenges. Like how crude things were and how much they really didn't know back then, things really were a puzzle and a challenge. Few reliable maps, no real knowledge of currents or trade winds, They didn't figure out longitude until the early 1800's. Maybe some puzzles could be the pirate figureing out where the hell he is or where to go, maybe through observations, i.e. noticing bird flight patterns or finding a rudimentary map made by local people's like the polynesians made by weaving palms in a certain pattern, or drawings on the walls of a volcano of mythological figures representing near by islands that have resources you lack to build a boat like a resin from a tree that seals the boat seems, maybe you ride a dolphin over to it. Maybe there is a reef with and old shipwreck on it you can scavenge a few parts for trade or materials. Hope maybe that will help you get some ideas, i love pirate stories and wish there were more games with them.
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Post: #9
I think you should pick an overarching story arc. For example, what rule does he break with the pirate's code of conduct, and did he have a good reason to? The lessons of the adventure could either reinforce the code of conduct, or make the character a stronger person when he rejects the code once and for all and replaces it with his own code. You could take it either way. Then the puzzle solution to getting the old man off the island becomes part of something larger.

For example, if the only way off is to show compassion and not leave without the old man (who is he? An old pirate who also broke a rule?) does the code of conduct say that pirates should be heartless or does it say they should help a fellow pirate? Either way, after a series of such puzzles the game can pull all of these lessons together- the pirate has following the code throughout (sometimes in subtle ways, you don't want to shove it down the player's throat) and this leads to his salvation, or, the pirate has built a crew of his own by acting out of conscience and in effect having his own personal code, gathering pirates like the old man that were failed by the old code.

Maybe this isn't quite what you were asking for, but having a theme will probably give you ideas for other events and puzzles throughout the game.

As for the old man, perhaps the main character can suggest to him that he could carve a lifesize boat instead of models. The man gets excited and says he can build it except he needs the main character to fetch him the following "ingredients" (classic adventure game ploy.) If the adventure is humorous, have him ask for some complex ingredients to make a waterproof wood glue, and after trials and tribulations the pirate fails to get them... but finds a box of nails instead.

This is all just brainstorming, but maybe it'll give you an idea.

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Quillbit
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Post: #10
Right now, unless you have more that you haven't told us, you don't have a story -- you have a concept. (High concept pitch: "Okay, it's like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' meets 'My Dinner With Andre,' plus the action scenes from 'Aliens.' It's a winner, trust me!")

What you need to do is sit down and ask yourself some questions: Who are your characters? What are their conflicts? How is the conflict played out (e.g, the three-act structure)?

For example, you might decide that your main characters are a young but dashing pirate, Sean (your main character); his captain, Fain (your antagonist); and the beautiful daughter of Port Antigua's colonial governor, Bonnie. Sean has romanced Bonnie, but when the governor discovers their love, he strikes a deal with Fain to have Sean killed off. During a boarding action against an American merchant ship (this takes place in the late 1700s, when America, France and Britain fought a low-level naval war for control of the ocean), Fain strikes Sean and sends him plunging into the ocean. But this act of treachery fails -- Sean wakes up clinging to a spar of driftwood near a desert island.

Meanwhile, Fain heads back to Port Antigua to tell the governor of his success. Little does the governor know that Fain intends to get close to the governor, kill him, take Bonnie for himself, and claim dominion over Port Antigua in the name of France. Sean must escape the island, return to Port Antigua, rescue Bonnie, and stop Fain and the French armada from taking over the colony of the Crown.

Now you have a set of characters whose conflicts drive the story. You need to ask yourself how the main character changes through the story. Sean might be a dashing but ultimately rather callow young man who ended up on the high seas for the romance of piracy, eager to escape the everyday life of a bookbinder that awaited him at home. But when he discovers Fain's treachery, he finds that he has to take responsibility for the lives of others. A young man who lived only for himself now must risk, and possibly give, his life for the woman he loves and the freedom of his countrymen. This is a natural character arc for a story such as this.

Next, you have to set up a story structure at both the act and scene levels. Let's play around with this. At the beginning, we're introduced to Sean, his relationship with Bonnie, the fact that he's a pirate on Fain's ship, and the conspiracy between Fain and the governor. Next, Sean wakes up on the desert island and has to figure out how to escape. (Is there an old man on the island? Perhaps he has a sad story of being accosted by pirates and thrown from their ship. Perhaps the old man might not be as helpful if he knew Sean was a pirate....) After being attacked by native fauna and a local tribe of cannibals, Sean discovers that there's a cove on the other side of the island used by a rival pirate crew to hide treasure and resupply their ship. He fights/sneaks/cons his way onto the ship and uses it to escape the island. Free at last! But as he approaches Port Antigua, he hears cannon fire and sees bursts of flame rising above the port city. Fain is seizing the city for himself ....

Sean has escaped his first predicament but then, as they say, the twist flops: he's in a worse situation than before. Now he must sneak onto the island to find out what's going on. But when he arrives, he finds his old crewmates -- they've been imprisoned by Fain himself! It turns out that Fain is actually a disgraced French captain who is trying to regain his good name by invading a British colony. French troops have already landed, and are putting those British who resist to the sword. And, they tell him, Fain has taken the governor's daughter prisoner. Filled with rage, Sean leaves his crewmates in chains and battles his way up the streets of the city, and arrives at the Governor's House.

To his surprise, Fain greets him at the gates. Sean was only a means to an end, he explains, no hard feelings, c'est la guerre, non? Perhaps Sean would like to join the French cause -- after all, his young amoure awaits in the highest room of the mansion. Sean hesitates, but Fain's ebullient cheer (and the many soldiers backing him up) win him over. Fain sends a detail of soldiers to take Sean to the armory below the Governor's House, where he can arm himself and help fight the British. As Sean and his escort walk through the dungeons of the mansion, British citizens, many wounded and dying, implore the young pirate to help them. Overcome by shame and rage, Sean turns on the French soldiers and slaughters them, then arms himself and begins the fight against the French garrison and Fain himself.

You could take a story structure like the above and break it into discrete scenes (fighting to board the rival pirates' ship, dueling with Fain on the parapet above the ocean, and so on). Each scene has to have some core desire to push the main character along, just as each act has its own set of drivers (get off the island, rescue Bonnie, save the city from Fain and the French). As long as the player understands what his overall goals are, and the reason he's fighting through a particular scene, the plot is intrinsic to the game. It's only when the player realizes that he has no idea why he's killing the Frozzbazz Invadercon/trying to get to the Mountain of Misarchy/hiding underneath a cardboard box while Professor Koipond readies his Death Ray-O-Matic that the plot becomes an actual hinderance to the gameplay.

I've rattled on long enough about this -- hopefully this will give you some structure for developing your plot ideas. Good luck!
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Post: #11
Great answer, Quillbit.

I'm going to quibble a bit here. Understand that I may not know what I'm talking about... What strikes me, aside from the fact that you have a deep understanding of how to build a story, is that your suggested story would not be out of place as a movie or novel, but would be incredibly complex for a computer game. I'm mentally comparing it to classic adventures such as Monkey Island and The Last Express (which has the deepest story of any adventure game I've played.)

There are books about this but I haven't read any. So I'm just guessing, but some reasons why a computer game might not be able to support such an elaborate story:
- the player is the decision maker, and they themselves don't change much during the course of the story even if the main character is supposed to
- complex relationships/exposition are more easily conveyed to a passive audience via dialog and description rather than to one that expects to be DOING something
- decisions points in computer games are supposed to be interactive. In your story Sean has some major life-changing decisions to make about who he is and what he stands for. The decisions are interesting because you aren't sure which way he will jump, as he is conflicted. But the player doesn't really share in that- unless you are beyond cutting edge and are willing to double or triple your game's content, the player doesn't really have the option to make such big decisions. If he chooses "wrong" then (typically) the game ends or quickly nudges the player back into line.

It thus seems to me that most computer games give the players choices about HOW to do things, but not much choice in their motivations or WHAT they do. Similarly, the player-controlled character may mature a bit but usually don't change that much over the course of the story. They acheive goals, solve mysteries, learn about the other characters, mirroring the player who is doing the same.

So to the original questioner I would say, Quillbit's answer is fantastically useful, but if you pulled off a computer game that had such a complex story it would be unheard of!

Quillbit, if you are still reading this, do you recommend any books on the topic of developing story and characters? Ideally for computer games, but you've got me curious for even a general introduction to the topic.

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Post: #12
I think the story is excellent, and so long as you allowed the player to make several choices and had good story branchs it would be an excellent interactive story.

I'm thinking of the old Wing Commander mission tree. Each mission successful/failure moved you a long a hugh branching story.

One of the projects which is still stuck in my mind is not so much a RPG, but a NPC interaction framework. Similar to Ultima 7. With set script options and how each NPC can have flags tripped by actions / script selections.

I think some really interesting story / scripts could come from Quillbit and it is something which people working on RPG should think about.

Justin "LordFire" Baldock
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Post: #13
After a little more thought I've decided that the overall complexity of Quillbit's story isn't actually the problem I was wrestling with. I think what I was actually trying to wrap my brain around was the problem of creating gamplay using such a story, which is a separate problem.

When mapping a story into a computer game, movie, tv series, or whatever, some of the details might become backstory that might not even be explicitly part of the game/movie/etc. The details leak in in subtle ways and makes the world more real and the characters consistent.

I think my comments about the difficulties with handling the main character Sean are valid. Not saying it can't be handled, but it does suggest that once you have a great story you may still have the problem when translating it into gameplay. Some stories may not suit the gameplay you are after, and vice versa.

For the Sean example, assuming you wanted to make a standard computer adventure game out of it, perhaps the game would make Sean's motivation clear to the player, thus telling the player what the next goal is, rather than trying to motivate the player to make the "right" decision. Or maybe Sean isn't the player-controlled character. Or what many games do is they put the player's life-changing decision at the end so that the game doesn't have to have a lot of branching content in the middle. Another classic approach is to let the player choose, but they mostly end up fighting the same battles afterwards, just for different reasons...

So I guess my thinking (for the next day at least!) is to agree even more with Quillbit and treat the gameplay issues as separate.

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Quillbit
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Post: #14
Matt, I have to agree with you -- you flagged the grevious error I made in my previous post. I didn't ask what the technical aspects of the gameplay were, and built a story without reference to how the game would play. The result? Perhaps an interesting plot, but not necessarily one that would work with the intended gametype. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. (That's Latin for "Twinkie Denial Condition.")

I don't think that games cannot, or should not, include the major themes of a typical plot (conflict, growth, and a more-or-less three act structure), but it's true that some of the most interesting don't have anything like a usual plot. (Think Marathon, which plays out like an Umberto Eco with fusion guns, or Halo, where the main character has a rather attenuated personality at best.) But you can also develop a complex plot within the confines of a very linear game, as in the popular XBox title Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. In that game, the protagonist has a very strong personality and undergoes significant growth, but the player has essentially no choice in how to play the game.

Perhaps we should begin by hauling back our assumptions and starting with the simple question: Why have a plot at all? After all, some of the best games (Pong, Pac-Man, Galaga) don't have plots, and many provide little more than the flimsiest of pretexts to go out and kill enemy sprites. (The height of absurdity is probably the mid-'90s shmup "Revolution X" which, if I recall correctly, posited a totalitarian future of Nazi skateboarders from which horror only Aerosmith could save us.)

There are three reasons, I think, to have a plot in a game:

1. You want to tell a specific story. Write a book or a screenplay. There are better ways to tell a story than a video game -- you'll have more control (unless you write a screenplay -- kiss your plot goodbye), it'll take a lot less time, and you won't be forced to work twenty-five hour days in eight day weeks to do it. Remember Enter the Matrix? Ten hours of plot in an eleven-hour game.

2. You need a plausible reason for the player to kill things. Here's your most common reason for writing a game plot: "We have a really cool engine and Bob just cooked up these awesome zombie alien Marine models. Let's make a game!" Better than (1), but, let's face facts, if you've already developed the game without a plot, you're not going to get much of a player investment in what's happening. Sometimes really good character design in the gameplay can mask a plot that's been bolted on to an existing design, but the cracks show through eventually.

3. You want to involve the player in your gameplay. Now we're cooking with plasma. The plot exists to drive the player on through the gameplay. Without the curiosity and anticipation a story brings, the player doesn't have incentive to power through the parts of a game he or she would otherwise stall out on. (The plot was the only thing that got me through the Library level on Halo -- otherwise sheer boredom would have won out.) The plot also provides the hook to get into the game and the reward at the end -- nothing's worse than the "A WINNER IS YOU!" ending after fifteen hours of gameplay.

I would suggest that developing the plot within the gameplay means using an iterative process -- a kind of Extreme Scriptwriting. You begin with the gameplay mechanics, the "hook" for the player. Frequently, this is going to be a fairly simple and broad set of technical specifications, e.g.:
Quote:The game will use a landscape engine (tesselated tristrips built from consecutively-loaded heightmaps), rendered in 3-D. The game is played as a tactical shooter mixing third-person movement and first-person aiming, with an emphasis on using cover and tactics. Both friendly and enemy units move and attack using a hierarchical AI based on Marine Corps AI research. Pathfinding, essentially two-dimensional, is accomplished using weight maps and object tags.
With those first requirements, specific plots will suggest themselves and others will be forced to bow out. The above specification is obviously well-suited for a military theme such as Aliens or Black Hawk Down, but Return to Monkey Island isn't going to fly. With that, a basic plot can be worked out, which will in turn influence the game design. Improvements on gameplay and mechanics will then influence how the plot develops itself, and so on. Ideally, you end up with a game in which the plot and gameplay seem to flow perfectly together, giving the player the feel of being immersed in an alternate world that demands his or her constant attention.

(Edit: I forgot to mention the following degenerate conditions: puzzle games like Tetris; sports games like Pong and Madden 2005; retro video games like Galaga; simulation games like SimCity and Shadow President; and too-much-plot-not-enough-play games like the worst of the 1990s FMV crowd and Chris Crawford's brilliant but ill-fated Erasmatron. Actually, that's quite a lot of stuff to forget, innit?)

As for developing the story, I'd recommend Robert McKee's Story and the excellent resources for scriptwriters at WordPlay as a beginning. These are very good scriptwriters -- not great artists by any means, but writers with an excellent sense of how to build a story for the screen. Their value extends beyond story and into design -- I think if more game designers read McKee's chapters on how to write a scene, E3 would be a happier place. Even the guys at Penny Arcade would complain less.

Just a few concepts late at night -- I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on them. The story (as opposed to design and development) seems to be something that is largely overlooked in the dev community.
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Post: #15
Jeez Quilbit, you've posted a lot of quality stuff there. I think I'll have to read that again.

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