How important is Story?

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How important is Story?

P1 Mario
I like words.  Words words words.  Specifically, I like the way words can capture the feeling of an object, location, event.  Words also let you as a designer organize your thoughts, and, most importantly, make them specific.

But what I'm concerned with today, is how important does everyone think creating a story behind a map is?  If you do create a story for your map, how deep do you get into the details?  Can you have too much story behind a map?  Does it at least help the description?

I'm thinking about this in the context of Halo Forge maps, but if you want to share thoughts on games in general that's cool too.  We should stick to multiplayer, however, or this will get out of scope very quickly.
~Ask not why I get to be Player 1.
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Re: How important is Story?

FromCheng
IMO, story behind maps in the context of multiplayer is secondary in importance. It adds some nice depth behind it and makes it more interesting, but doesn't necessarily add substance to the map (ex. You don't need to know why you are in Valhalla to enjoy playing on it). Usually you would add story for maps when playing SP as narrative is where it is strongest in the game, where the player interacts with the environment and not other human players. For MP, its not mandatory, but it is a nice little addition if done correctly.

An example I would give is the Armored Core V maps: Marine Facility, Abandoned Facility, Executive Sector, all of them. We know exactly jack squat about them as no background info is ever given in game or even implied beyond "post-semi-apocalypse world." Ask anyone what the history behind the maps, no one will be able to tell you. To date, I've never seen or heard anyone even notice that fact, let alone complain.

"...in the world, what counts more than talent, what counts more than energy or concentration or commitment or anything else, is kindness... and the more in the world you encounter kindness...the better the world always is. And all the big words; virtue, justice, truth.... [they] are dwarfed... by the greatness of kindness." -Stephen Fry


Armored Core Legacy Dude
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Re: How important is Story?

external memory
In reply to this post by P1 Mario
Best purely aesthetic/storytelling mechanic for traditional exposition in any game ever for me has got to be Bastion; no interruption and the well-casted VO narration fades into the background if it's of no interest to you as a player. No dialog boxes to scroll through, but you can read some of that in the menus if you like.

For me, good storytelling in a game has to either be unintrusive and something that adds flavor to the experience of player control like that example, or be built from experiences unique to playing game itself, in other words, tell it in a way that a movie, a book or a comic can't- in other words, not a repetitive tasks between cutscenes.

Case study in how to do story: one of my all-time favorite games, Super Metroid, despite having great pacing and in my eyes, storytelling, fell into this tell, don't let the gamer discover, trap in the looong intro. By action-adventure game standards in 90's, anyway. This entire intro with slowly scrolling text, some animated scenes and static images, could simply have been summed up in its opening one or two robotic spoken lines: "The last metroid is in captivity; the galaxy is at peace". Then the violent woosh of the gunship heading to the space station; no exposition needed from our silent protagonist. That line would be enough to follow along, but not so much as to tell us what to expect next: that someone had come for the metroid rather than the metroid escaping, or why Samus had flown to the research station in the first place. We're catching up with her at the same time we're in her boots. Which is exactly how the rest of this phenomenal, atmospheric, genre-defining game played out.

Within the context of Halo Forge maps, me and and old forge buddy that quit halo played around with the idea of a minigame vehicular zombie game on sandtrap, where the events that set up the encounter would later be acted and filmed in a machinima, but it never really took off. The gametype and map variants we made from that, though, we talked a lot about how to tie the variants we had on different maps into an overarching story and how to make it unique (tall order for anything involving a zombie/ viral outbreak/ demon possession). It's very restricted pretty much just to what you can pull off in a map description, what variety you can squeeze out of a modular construction set in a limited number of locations in a predefined environment, and perhaps the objectives you can mess with in customs. People have still done amazing stuff, it's just more impressive I think given the limitations than the actual result itself.
EXEM
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Re: How important is Story?

P1 Mario
external memory wrote
The gametype and map variants we made from that, though, we talked a lot about how to tie the variants we had on different maps into an overarching story and how to make it it unique.

That sounds interesting, if a little time intensive lol.  Do you know if anyone has pulled something similar off successfully?

And you're absolutely right that there's a limit to what you can do with the set pieces, but at the same time, I think having a story can help you have your architecture suggest the themes behind that story.  This keeps you map with a unified theme easily, but it also gives you a bit more of a guide for shapes of buildings... methinks.
~Ask not why I get to be Player 1.
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Re: How important is Story?

SmartAlec13
In reply to this post by P1 Mario
I really like hearing THE story about how a map was made, but generally the story of a map (that is written at least) as in the lore/canon behind it isn't that great. More important is the story that you get from the feel of the map. Having a small description or story (as in the small descriptions we can use on the map files) DO help give players a direction to look in. For example, the map "Ghost Town" from Halo3 just looks like a rundown building. But the small snippet included as description talks about how it was a water-purification plant or something like that. Then you start to notice the signs on the map, the pipes or the water barrels.

 To me, the title of a map is the most important. I hate seeing maps with bad titles, and I always feel like there are such obvious or better ones.

Sword Base for example. I can't think of a better name at the moment (I did have one when Reach had just came out), and I understand its part of the story, but its just such a silly map name. Or maps where they name it after some cool sounding word that has nothing to do with the map.