Keys to Success Development Diary - Log #2
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Does the game inspire the creator? Or is the game inspired by the creator?
I suppose the logical answer is: “Of course the game is inspired by the creator! Without the creator, you know.. there will be no game!” Well, technically true. I can’t argue with that. But can’t it work the other way around as well? Have you ever thought of that?
But I believe that in both cases, it affects powerfully the way the game is shaped in the end. If a game inspires you, it’ll bring out the best in you. You’ll find yourself working on it creatively, with so much hunger for work. Largely it depends on the way you’re adding to it and trying to make it grow. If it stops inspiring you, then you’re doing it wrong. Stop, backtrack to where that started and start again. This sums up the core of the game design process in my opinion. For Keys to Success (K2S for short), the backtracking showed me that a story is a necessity. The game design outline had been laid out (core mechanics and some game elements), yet for the setting and the environment one had to first think of the story.
Stories in general have a certain structure, called “The 3-Act Structure”, where the devised plot is divided into three main acts.
- Act 1: Setup
Mainly introduction to the characters, world setting and rules. It ends with the Inciting Incident – an event that sets off the conflict between the hero and the villain.
- Act 2: Confrontation
The action rises in this act, and ends with the final conflict occurring
- Act 3: Resolution
The conflict resolves
Following the 3-Act structure, the story for K2S started to take shape. However, before laying down the whole story you need to write a spine first; a very short or brief description of the story (sometimes it’s called logline). If one can’t make a spine for his story, then he’s not getting the whole picture or something is missing. Taking K2S as an example, the spine should be: You, the main character, is desperate to find Success and is gathering the clues to it – the Keys to Success. As he progresses, he finds out more about the aspects to winning it back. A spine shouldn’t exceed 2 or 3 sentences.
The next step is writing the story’s synopsis; a full summary of the story and its events that follow the 3-Act structure. According to Dariush Derakhshani, there are 8 questions that your video game story synopsis need to answer.
- Where are we?
- Who are we following?
- Who or what force is opposed to the protagonist?
- What do these characters want to accomplish?
- What’s the conflict and why does it exist?
- How does the action rise?
- What’s the final crisis?
- How does the story resolve?
It’s important to remember that a video game is not a movie. While stories are one of the many reasons we love games, it’s still a game to be played not to be watched.
Following those 8 questions, one would start to think of his game story deeper. Bring a sheet of paper down and try it on whichever movie or game you like as a practice before applying it on your game. Let’s try it with K2S.
Where are we?
We’re in another reality, where values are personified and objectified.
Who are we following?
You - the main character - while he’s trying to find his partner and best friend, Success, who suddenly left him.
Who or what force is opposed to the protagonist?
The main antagonists are You’s fears and doubts, who block his way. There’re also people who try to bring him down or force him to lose his way and focus.
What do these characters want to accomplish?
You wants to find Success, so he starts looking for the clues aka the keys to it.
What’s the conflict and why does it exist?
The conflict started when You started to brag about all the powers he has got, and how invincible he was. Annoyed by his outrageous attitude, Success finally decides to abandon You, and leaves him powerless and weak. You soon realizes his fault, and starts seeking Success one more time to seek redemption.
How does the action rise?
While You is looking for Success, he’s faced with challenges and fights. He has to face his fears and defeat his doubts and negativities. He also needs to help characters whom he meet on his way, and defeat others who want to bring him down. As he progresses, he starts gaining new powers and abilities, and that gives him more strength.
What’s the final crisis?
The final crisis starts when You find Time, an old man who’s neither a friend nor an enemy, refuses to show him the way to Success because You has yet to prove himself worthy.
How does the story resolve?
As You learns to manage and control time, he’s led to encounter the last key. As it leads him to his long lost friend and they’re reunited again, the end becomes the beginning. While You has got his redemption and became good friends with Success again, he’ll once more fall into the darkness of power lust, leading the cycle on and on because it really never ends.
The answers get more and more detailed for bigger, more story-driven games with plot twists and lots of environments and characters. But in the end, they all should follow the basic rules of story writing. This step requires someone who’s interested in stories, plot and character development; someone who likes story-driven games, movies or reading novels. Reading a lot and writing a lot is very vital in this stage, and it requires a lot of patience if the ideas are just not flowing.
Of course, this doesn’t end here; this is just a synopsis or a summary for the story. But it’s important to get it right so that you could build up on it. Next step is characters and character briefs, which we’ll be able to discuss how they’re made and how we’ve implemented that in K2S in the next log!
So, does your game inspire you? Or is the game inspired by you? :) Feel free to leave your comment about it!
~ Nourhan ElSherief