Story to Fit


It's great the way the gameplay has come together, recently, and the past week I've been working hard on refining the story. Story is more of a moving target than it seems like it should be; I suppose there are good reasons for it.

Recently I read Wuthering Heights. Really an amazing novel, incredibly "real" characters and situations that unfold both painfully and yet with a certain brutal logic that makes it seem all too inevitable. I think a novel like that must be either

i.) conceived in the author's mind, through repeated contemplation of it, so that it falls into place before written OR

ii.) structured carefully OR

iii.) allowed to flow organically from a set of initial conditions OR

iv.) something else

I really couldn't guess which! But for my case, there is a certain flexibility required for fitting a story into a game, and fitting a game around a story. Certainly, the initial "set up" for Texas has not changed much, but what happens is that as the game is implemented, my idea for what the story should be drifts from the original conception (which tends to be a bit fuzzy in the first place) and details need to be filled in to the existing conception which tend to change fundamentals as well.

So for instance, the initial set up involves an alternate reality Texas world. But the map layout ends up dictating somehow the real world through interlink of portals. This in turn gives a higher importance and nonlinearity to the real world, which changes the setup slightly. This change is solved through some natural-feeling inspiration (see i. above) and also to fit some of the structured gameplay elements (see ii.). This in turn introduces new plot holes which have to be filled in.

What this means is that the specifics of the story have to be worked around the reality of the game. This is similar to the use of setting in a novel; elements which exist in one part of the novel need to exist later on, or be accounted for. If we suddenly introduce church down the road for a scene at the end of the novel, then it would be conspicuously absent from the early part. There needs to be a sense of "reality" to a novel's setting. In a game, that reality is even more concrete.

I've said about a million times that I prefer the plot and story to follow the setting. Setting should at the very least "seem" to be bigger than the story or even the game itself. With Texas, this is what's happened, to be sure! What's interesting to me is how as the specifics of the story are constructed, the setting itself becomes that much more interesting and believable.

2008-11-28


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