How do we ensure that great design can happen at our studios? How can we design envionments that allow designers to thrive? What can we learn from the ways other creative industries approach these problems? Can we borrow from ideation and traditional design, from writers rooms, from ad agencies?
Third time’s a charm…
Let’s choose a real-world problem that can be solved through game design or game creation, and actually solve it. We have some of the most brilliant designers out there in one place, let’s use that brain power to fix something that’s broken that falls directly within our shared expertise.
I recently got posed an interesting design challenge: how would you design a game specifically to help players heal after the loss of a loved one?
There is plenty of literature in psychology about stages of grief, normal vs. pathological grief, and how the commonalities and differences in how loss affects people, and there are some games that deal with the topic in various ways, but to my knowledge there’s no easily-digestible set of best practices for dealing with themes of death and loss. So, let’s make one.
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.
I mean, it’s obvious, right? Eventually we will all have to become game designer designers.
Procedural content creation is all well and good, but what would it take to build a non-human designer that can design an entire game?
What atoms, rules, models, systems, and methods will we need?
What can be done today? Prototyped this weekend?
What do we see as the road ahead in machine-assisted game design?
Join me in embracing our future of automated creativity!