Webisode #002 – (Dis)harmony of Elements

By Christian on

Five months have passed since the last Webisode was released. So let’s waste no time and have fun with episode number 002 – “(Dis)harmony of Elements”! But be warned: It’s getting a bit experimental this time 🙂

“Gameplay and Story Are Exactly Like Music and Lyrics” by Kirk Hamilton:

Transcript of Webisode #002 – (Disharmony) of Elements

The story in adventure games traditionally plays a very important role. Some people even think that adventure games are the perfect medium for storytelling. While other video game genres focus on action, ability to react, dexterity or strategic planning, adventure games always have been about the story of the acting characters. Following the story, solving tricky puzzles, exploring the world and interacting with NPCs define adventure games.

Uninteresting and unnecessary stories that aren’t essential for the game itself are often grafted onto games in other genres. In adventure games, the opposite extreme can be true. The developers often emphasize the development of the story too much and the actual gameplay elements are grafted onto the story in a way that feels uninteresting and unnecessary. When story and gameplay don’t harmonise with each other, or in the worst case even compete with each other, the overall product suffers.

Too many and too complicated puzzles can cause the players to be more and more separated from the actual story. It’s especially serious when the puzzles have little or even no direct connection to the story of the game. The absolute worst case that can happen is when story and gameplay do not harmonise with each other and appear as two separate entities to the player.

Avoiding such a disharmony between story and gameplay had a high priority when the plot for our game was crafted. But what did we start with? Was the story developed first, and the game then built around it? Or did the gameplay come first, and a fitting story was conceived later? Actually, it was neither. The development of the story was strongly connected with the development of the gameplay and all elements continuously influenced one another.

When the gameplay of our game was developed, we simultaneously looked for the kind of story that would fit best. As possible plots took shape, they reversely also influenced the further development of the gameplay, as well as all other elements of the game.

In this way, all elements constantly influenced each other over the years. Acting characters gained shape, the setting became clearer and finally the cornerstones of the plot emerged. When this process eventually reached its climax after a very long time, all pieces fit together perfectly and harmonised as a greater whole. The basic cornerstones of the story were set and could finally be elaborated in greater detail.

But this was only the first step. The next challenge will be to not only tell the story to the players by showing them cut scenes, presenting them with sprawling dialogues with other characters or making them read text that explains what’s happening. The opposite should be the case. You’re only going to get to know very little of the actual story in our game, and only very indirectly. Information will be scarce. There will always be more questions asked than answers given. Instead of getting the story told, the players are supposed to use their imagination and their curiosity to sort of tell the story to themselves.

If this challenge can be successfully overcome, then an experience that was rarely seen before will await the player. Instead of following a rigid predefined story path and solving puzzles at its frayed edges, the players will find themselves in a lively world in which their curiosity, their imagination and their love of experimentation will lead them onwards.

Experiencing a story comprises of more than passively following consecutive events. You sort of have to find yourself in the story and have to have the option to help shape its course.

Giving the players this exact option, is the vision behind our game. And this vision can only be reached if all elements harmonise perfectly with each other.