We all know the basic tension between Narrative (the story the game developer tells the player) and Ludo-narrative (the story the player creates while using our game). Everyone talks about ludo-narrative dissonance, but this is not about that.
We all assume that Narrative in games is supported by lots of writing, while Ludo-narrative is supported by gameplay and emergent events. Recent experience shows me that’s not really accurate. In fact, I’ve seen lots of Ludo-narrative that’s cleverly supported by pre-written text.
Over 20 years ago, the Jagged Alliance games had lots of small chunks of writing that focused on the relationships between your hirelings.
The Fallout series has writing that supports major and minor game decisions.
Motorsport Manager has lots of small chunks of writing that support game events, and help the player contextualize them, especially regarding the drivers and mechanics you’ve hired for your racing team.
Out There and FTL have lots of text event trees that help define the game.
These examples show us that ludonarrative can be and is supported by writing. But while there’s lots of writing about writing for videogames, I haven’t found any resources that address this sort of short-form writing. Tree-structure-dialog writing IS well documented, and there is some overlap, but not enough.
Let’s discuss short-form writing designed to support the ludo-narrative, and assemble some best-practices.
Recommend looking at the progression of games from Mousechief (Witch’s Yarn, Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, 7 Grand Steps) – you could probably describe the entire history of the studio as a quest to perfect the scripted ludonarrative.
Interested in this topic as it relates to multi-player games.
Some relation to a topic we discussed a couple years ago. https://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ph15/ph15r3.htm
What Inkle is doing with Heaven’s Vault is incredibly relevant here: