[Story Development] Basics

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[Story Development] Basics

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:48 am

Hello guys. I've always wanted to discuss and practice with you guys in the realm of story development and storytelling. So, I've begun writing stuff on photoshop. Some form of random thoughts, that could become source of a collection of knowledge we may get together regarding the topic.

This is an image file, quite big, and maybe some issues with the handwriting. Anyway, this points out a few about story and development. Also one storytelling note. It closes with a sort of dissection of SC:Survivors ep1: The Gathering, and some notes.

I'm hoping this could help, even as it is not structured for proper flow of thought. And I'm hoping you guys could join in.

Image

more:

Image

part 3

Image

part 4: Characters

I hope there are no presuppositions. I've chosen the example so that we can see how things can be further developed. You'll notice points here that are not told through the campaign submission, some haven't even been noticed until now. This means the story could have been fuller with these things told through the campaign, and that it takes quite some time to develop a complete story. So, I hope this can both encourage and aid you in your quest to develop your stories further, and keep the pressure out the window. :)

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Last edited by GnaReffotsirk on Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Lavarinth » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:42 pm

I took a class specifically on story development, I've explained this all to Maglok, but I'll share what remnants I have from that class when I get home and look through my files. Some of it may be of use. There was also a book which really helps explain the archetypes and process of any story.. I'll see if I can remember the name of it.
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Re: Story Development

Postby tipereth » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:50 pm

Read The Illiad, The Odyssey, and Oedipus Rex, or at least abridged versions thereof. That's pretty much the basis of storytelling right there.

EDIT: Orpheus is good too.


I try to keep in mind that I know exactly what's going on behind the scenes, and the audience doesn't. It's easy to forget. Bear in mind that I know next to nothing about story DEVELOPMENT, I just think of shit and roll with it. Storytelling is more fun, anyway.
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Re: Story Development

Postby IskatuMesk » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:45 pm

I feel the best approach to storytelling and writing is to avoid classes and the "common way" as much as possible, writing only what you feel personally is best. I deal only with really grand scale original writing though, I don't do fanfic or that kind of stuff, so I don't have to worry about conforming to some existing style.
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Re: Story Development

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:31 pm

Lavarinth wrote:I took a class specifically on story development, I've explained this all to Maglok, but I'll share what remnants I have from that class when I get home and look through my files. Some of it may be of use. There was also a book which really helps explain the archetypes and process of any story.. I'll see if I can remember the name of it.


I hope you find it. A digest would be nice, you know, to keep things as tight and simple as possible. I've had education on this matter as well, but for others to go through the same process may not be a good thing. After all, not everyone is really up for hard-core story stuff, right?

tipereth wrote:Read The Illiad, The Odyssey, and Oedipus Rex, or at least abridged versions thereof. That's pretty much the basis of storytelling right there.

EDIT: Orpheus is good too.


I try to keep in mind that I know exactly what's going on behind the scenes, and the audience doesn't. It's easy to forget. Bear in mind that I know next to nothing about story DEVELOPMENT, I just think of shit and roll with it. Storytelling is more fun, anyway.


The thing though is these stuff are archaic. Too old and too highly respected that they tend to lock you back. I do believe everyone has the capacity to tell a story. We do it everyday, we see it everyday. Plot and events are everywhere, theme though is another thing, right? So, a much more modern approach would be nice, IMO. Plus it allows the learner to question and doubt, thereby improving his own skills as he/she creates them. (big question mark)

IskatuMesk wrote:I feel the best approach to storytelling and writing is to avoid classes and the "common way" as much as possible, writing only what you feel personally is best. I deal only with really grand scale original writing though, I don't do fanfic or that kind of stuff, so I don't have to worry about conforming to some existing style.


There is no escape. I know, there are a lot of ways to tell a story. There are different genres, like what is pointed out above: mystery, where both characters and the audience doesn't know something. But there is a way to convey thought much clearer. But, as you point out, it depends on the author and his target audience and how he/she would interest them.

It's all subjective, but there is always some way to tell something. For advanced writers, of course, following strict rules aren't necessary, since they tend to adhere to a certain way they like to expose their storypoints.

Wouldn't you agree?

Besides, anyone can stack over as many events they want and end up having a pretty aimless story.

Hammer the thought down though if it's wrong. I was told this to be true, and seems quite true in some cases.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Maglok » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:08 am

You shouldn't just look to 'older' writing I agree. It'd like to nominate Dante's Divine Comedy though (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), very good old stuff. For newer work, check Corwin or Straczinsky.

I also never write that much of an outline on paper, it get's chaotic real fast (for me). :)

Every writer does it differently. That's what makes it so awesome.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:58 am

Maglok wrote:You shouldn't just look to 'older' writing I agree. It'd like to nominate Dante's Divine Comedy though (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), very good old stuff. For newer work, check Corwin or Straczinsky.

I also never write that much of an outline on paper, it get's chaotic real fast (for me). :)

Every writer does it differently. That's what makes it so awesome.


Very interesting topic.  I agree, there's maybe a thousand different approaches.  For me, the most important ingredient in a story has always been 'conflict'.  Without conflict, there's nothing. 

Of course, we shouldn't exaggerate the importance of these things in relation to creating campaigns or anything.  Blizzard and its creative fans have proven a hundred times over that anything can be a reason for a big battle.

Like Desler said somewhere else, the bad thing about writing for an RTS game is that you have to have some form of battle in it, on a regular basis.  Everything has to result in violence of some sort.  Otherwise, nothing happens. 

In general, for campaigns and other playable fanmade material, I'd say that conflict is a must.  A bad person or persons, a good person (or half-good) and immediate results/consequences of the player's actions (of course, intended by the writer).  Have that scenario repeated a few times, changing the scenery, changing the specific people involved, turning things around and you have a decent campaign story.

Archaic writing has little to do with it, other than it may provide some inspiration for names or whatever. :p :D

Cool topic!

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Re: Story Development

Postby Maglok » Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:07 am

Be sure to define conflict as more then battle. Conflict can also be about love for example. There is a conflict if a guy likes a girl but doesnt ask her out. Now that's less appropriate to a RTS, but still.

I know that for the project with Lavvz I am spending quite some time on characterization. With options like dialogue trees we might also be able to get away with more backstory and character relations.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:32 am

Maglok wrote:Be sure to define conflict as more then battle. Conflict can also be about love for example. There is a conflict if a guy likes a girl but doesnt ask her out. Now that's less appropriate to a RTS, but still.

I know that for the project with Lavvz I am spending quite some time on characterization. With options like dialogue trees we might also be able to get away with more backstory and character relations.


Well, I didn't say conflict was limited to just 'battle' , I said every story needs conflict of some kind. Those were two different paragraphs. I mentioned 'battle' later on because I was attempting to relate this subject to RTS campaigns and I said that 'conflict' and 'battle' are two things that in RTS oftentimes grow into one, so RTS games by definition aren't comparable to other stories.

Also, characterization is important in campaigns, but I think you should always keep in mind that you're making an add-on for a relatively flat videogame with flat characters. The main characters in Starcraft are still about as deep as a puddle and I wouldn't have them any other way. Too much information or drawn-out dialogues and you'll lose half the people you're trying to reach.

Edit:
That project you and Lav are talking about... I'm getting really curious because you're being so secretive about it.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Maglok » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:01 am

I know you didn't say just battle. I am just trying to clarify my point of view on conflict.

Characterization is still very important, even more so with SC2 then with SC1. Take Mengsk in SC1. First he seemed a bit sleazy, then he turned into a serious ass and that did drive the characters. The relationship Kerrigan->Raynor is also very strong.

I do agree with letting players not get bored. Some tricks I use to get to that: I use voice overs of chars discussing things while the player gets to play. I also tend to chop up the story in several segments. A simple example would illustrate this best: Some chars meet somewhere. They talk about stuff and one mentions 'So there I was', we fade and play through what the character is talking about. I also like to throw people in the dark. Just give them units, a hero and not a lot of clue what is going on.

A mistake I used to make a lot is wanting to tell to much of the story right away. There is time for that, put in some gameplay segments first.

That said there are still always campaigns that are story-heavy or gameplay-heavy. We are personally going for a story-heavy. Lavvz being an animator, me being a hobbyist writer, we like it that way.

You shouldn't be all that curious. We basically don't want to get hype going when SC2 is not even out yet. We are just prepping, like Des is prepping, Oracle is prepping, etc. The constant iterations over the story at the moment are something we cant really do once we start making the episodes. In that writing for SC is not like writing a novel, in that you can't go back to change something once it releases. I thus like to meticulously plan out my story.
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Re: Story Development

Postby Legion » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:17 am

Maglok wrote:
A mistake I used to make a lot is wanting to tell to much of the story right away. There is time for that, put in some gameplay segments first.



Big fucking trueism. :D

I know, man, voice overs always attract people's attention.  What I meant was stories that don't seem realistic anymore, stories that are way too much for just a campaign. 

Mengsk is one of my favorites and so is Raynor, but I'm a little afraid they're going to Warcraftize or Diablocate Starcraft.  I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but I kinda like undeveloped universes.  In Warcraft 2, you had Uther Lightbringer or Grom Hellscream.  Brainfarts for sure, but I liked having these mysterious weirdos around.  Now they all have their own backstory and intricate relationships to everyone else.  Same with the Horadrim.  They were badass people you didn't know anything about...

I'm a whiner, I know.

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Re: Story Development

Postby Maglok » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:22 am

I tend to go for peeling the onion style storytelling. At the start you just don't know anything about anyone. The further the story progresses the more you find out. YET, with my writing you tend to not find out everything even if it is finished. All plot points will be finished of course, but 'Just what is the story of those guys?' might be something I don't explain to KEEP them mysterious.
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Re: Story Development

Postby tipereth » Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:08 am

The unfortunate side effect of that technique is that it can amount to deus ex machina in the eyes of the audience.

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Re: Story Development

Postby thebrowncloud » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:15 am

Mysterious characters are a very useful tool, but only if you are planning on doing a sequel. If you end up including a character that is really badass and mysterious, your audience instantly wants more. If they know you aren't going to give them more, they instantly think the campaign is unedeveloped in some aspects. Fans have a thirst for knowledge when it comes to the stories they like; If you plan to include stones unturned but you won't turn them over, you might as well not include them at all.

IMO, the most important aspects in a story are the broad topics characters plot development. I'd say that characters are 60% of it and the plot is 40%. The reason being that, if you look at what blizzard does, the reason why people like their games is more because of the characters and their backgrounds than because of the story. A characters behavior is much more intriguing to the viewer than the actions. Take the first terran campaign for example: Arcturus' efforts to destroy the Confederacy are completely overshadowed by his personality. IMO, the event of him betraying Kerrigan on New Gettysberg is the key moment in telling the player who he is. As soon as that happened, everything else along the way seemed so little and miniscule. Even his decision to save Duke and bring him to the SoK was a powerful event that defined him as who he is. Each of the campaigns has moments like that; moments where a character's actions completely takes the spotlight and everything else gets almost completely belittled because of how powerful the moment is. In fact, you could argue that most characters have a similar moment, but there is one single event in each campaign that stands out above the rest.
Episode I: Mengsk's betrayal of Kerrigan
Episode II: Kerrigan's releasing of her full powers on the Amerigo
Episode III: Tassadar surrendering to the Conclave after being appalled by the bloodshed of his own people
Episode IV: Aldaris' rebellion and attempts to expose Kerrigan himself
Episode V: DuGalle realizing, after he had Stukov killed, that his trust was misplaced and he betrayed his friend
Episode VI: Zeratul's killing of Raszagal to release her from Kerrigan's control

Notice that all of these (except Kerrigan releasing her powers on the Amerigo) happen right before the final mission and finale of the story of each campaign. These moments define the aspects at the core of each character. Think of the rest of what they show you almost as a mask. It's only when these events happen that the mask comes off and you see what makes these characters who they are. After these moments, you never really look at the characters the same way again.

But characters and their motives are nothing without a good story. The story is part of what defines the characters as well. It shows their goals, their fears, and their downfalls. I personally believe that stories, in reality, are actually tools used to give characters more emphasis and meaning. Sure, stories are the basis of your writing, but how you integrate the characters into it makes all the difference. Think about Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars for a moment. They're story is a decent start, but their characters suck so much and are so tow dimensional that you lose interest. You can't relate yourself to the story if the characters are replaceable.

Sorry if I'm stating the obvious some here, but that's how I see it.  :-\
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Re: Story Development

Postby IskatuMesk » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:47 am

Maglok wrote:I know that for the project with Lavvz I am spending quite some time on characterization. With options like dialogue trees we might also be able to get away with more backstory and character relations.


Baldur's Gate and company come to mind. With the whole "briefing room" slash starmap thing you'll have to play with, I don't see why you can't take advantage of that and make elements beyond the typical elements found in an ingame mission.

Also my comments on storywriting were for the most part about writing actual novels and not campaign stuff. I haven't made a campaign of significant enough scale to actually challenge my storytelling yet, it's something I'd like to do in the future.

For the one major campaign I was working on, codenamed Eternity Mark II, I was focusing largely on the relationships of characters and used the world as a backdrop to that. For example, in map 3, you defend a large city from about 6-7 different armies along with two computer allies. But the primary focus of this map, portrayed through cinematics and dialog, is the until-then unrevealed past between your protagonist and one of the antagonists you face in the battle. After that you were to be given the viewpoint of that antagonist and introduced to his personal quest through a side mission as he ravages a countryside in search of some artifact. So on so forth.

Again it's something I never got the chance to really test my capabilities with and see if it was a good idea or not.
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