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Article - 'A guide to foreshadowing' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

One of the best articles we have at GW In Faust's opinion; an excellent and very in depth piece on how bets to utilise foreshadowing in your game!

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A Guide to Foreshadowing

By: Mateui

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“And as it ended, I finally knew what he was talking about, and I was surprised.”



They above quotation is something I just made up, and it has to do with foreshadowing. Fore what? Well, let me explain in detail.



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FORESHADOWING: What is it?

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Foreshadowing is defined as:

1) A sign of (something to come); indicate or suggest beforehand; prefigure; presage.



In English? Ok, basically some little noticeable, but well hidden indicator of something to come. If you don’t understand, just keep reading, and eventually you will.



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FORESHADOWING: Use in RPGs

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Foreshadowing is used a lot in novels, as well as symbolism, but that will be covered in another article. (Hint.. Hint..) Anyways, you may be wondering how to apply this into an RPG game, as it is much harder than writing a book in many aspects.



Since there exists both language, art, and sound in RPGs, foreshadowing can get hard to hide it well. Either your words or graphics will reveal it, before you want them to, so it is important to understand many basic ways to hide your tracks.



Right now, I can’t really think of a good example from a professional game so I’m not even going to try. (Feel free to find examples yourself.)



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The Language Aspect:

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A language situation in foreshadowing is the use of words to provide clues to the player. The words spoken may be simple and may seem irrelevant, but later in the game will take the story into a roller coaster of twists and turns, and if you’re successful, the player will remember the words in the beginning, and when he/she does, you have accomplished your task.



Do you want to be that smart, intelligent person who is praised by players for his/her use of subtle words that take the game to a higher degree?



I’m sure you do, so let us get started right away.



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1) The Introduction:

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The introduction is a good place to use foreshadowing as the player has no idea of the plot or story so far and is just learning about your game. Further in the game, (a couple of hours), the player is sure to forget some words spoken in the introduction. This gives you the upper hand advantage as memory is the most important factor that you will use to your liking.



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2) The Body:

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The body is the middle area of the game. The conflict is known and the main characters are on their way to solving this problem. Using foreshadowing words here is one of the most common things in RPGs. If the story here is complex, but simple at the same time, then using foreshadowing will eventually work itself out. If your story is way too complex than any use of foreshadowing will be unnoticed and players will give up on your game.



One example of a too complex, professional game where foreshadowing was totally screwed up, and the plot was hard to understand, let alone figure out was... (Hope I don’t get criticized...) Final Fantasy Tactics.



Sure, it had a great battle system, but the story was all over the place, with an over used case of people’s names, that any sign of foreshadowing was quickly forgotten.



Don’t make the same mistake. Plan your story and plot, then integrate a battle system.



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3) The Conclusion:

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You have to be daring to use foreshadowing here. No, I don’t mean the end case of foreshadowing, where something is revealed, but the start of foreshadowing, where you begin to hint at something. The reason for this, is that conclusions don’t have enough time to develop a memory loss of something, which is why most players remember conclusions the most from the games.



I believe that I have covered the language aspect well enough, so off to graphics we go!



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The Graphical Aspect:

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Graphical foreshadowing is harder to notice, in some cases, if well hidden, as the player must have a keen sense of sight and a good memory to remember. Like the language aspect, we will look how graphics fit into the foreshadowing scene in the introduction, body, and conclusion of an RPG game.



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1) The Introduction:

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If you have an opening movie-like scene, then this is a great place to include some foreshadowing. You can have a villain walking in the background, but you only see his shape and silhouette. If the player remembers this, he/she could figure out the villain before the game declares officially who he is, but regarding some NPCs and trying to match the villain shape with a person in town.



As you can see, even the most subtle foreshadow is complex in its own way, as only the most enthusiastic players will take the time to figure it out.



You may figure that since only a few devoted people will discern out your foreshadowing , what is the point in including it in the first place?



Well, you’re right about the small amount of people who figure it out, but you are missing a great aspect of foreshadowing, the appraisal.



The players who actually take the time to figure out clues by themselves will be awarding with self-gratification, and knowledge that they have ‘out-smarted’ the villain. In doing so, they will much more appreciate your game and effort, and guess what? Your game will rise in popularity. Now isn’t that enough to encourage you?



I’m glad you’re out of your foreshadowing mid-life crisis, as it is time to continue on our quest for knowledge. ;)



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2) The Body:

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The body of your game is where most of the action takes place, so why not add in a couple of graphical spoilers, as I like to call them to add to the foreshadowing effect? This is a good time to include them, as most players will be preoccupied with the action to notice some foreshadowing.



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3) The Conclusion:

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Like the language, it is hard to include some graphical foreshadowing into the conclusion. The only time that I would use it here is when you are planning a sequel for your game and are leaving the end at a cliff hanger. This is very effective as this will give the player a lot of time to think about the conclusion, and if he is smart enough, then part of the sequel will be revealed to him before it even comes out. Of course, you have to plan these things, as if they are done wrongly then you will look like a complete idiot.



Just remember, plan ahead!



Ok, we are going to enter the sound of music... (starts remembering the movie: “The Sound of Music.”)



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The Audio Aspect:

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Audio is used in foreshadowing a lot these days that we no longer notice it to a large effect. Not much can be said about it; audio foreshadowing is very quick and last maybe no longer than an hour in some cases.



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The Dramatic Effect:

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The dramatic effect is used in almost all games. It is the music in the background that sets the mood and will foreshadow an upcoming event. For example, upon entering a dungeon, the music starts to speed up and sound much like a battle theme. What does this mean? Yup, soon the party will be attacked by the villain or monster.



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The Mystery Effect:

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This is used as a simple sound that the hero must figure out to help him on his quest. For example, the hero has no recollection of his childhood but a ringing of bells. This drives the player to figure out the mysterious bell sound, and to determine how this has affected the hero’s child years.



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The Conclusion:

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Well, those were all the audio, language, and graphical, aspects I could think off. If I find anymore I may begin to write a Part II. It has been a pleasure writing this article as I just enjoy helping people. (That, and making myself appear intelligent


I hoped you also liked it, but... Wait! Don’t leave! I have a surprise! (Ohh, I’m soo smart! )



As I have talked about foreshadowing in this whole article, you may be surprised that I have foreshadowed in here! Hee, Hee, Hee.



Go all the way up to my little opening quotation. What does it say?



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“And as it ended, I finally knew what he was talking about, and I was surprised.”

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See! I foreshadowed that you would learn what foreshadowing is, and that you will be surprised that I tricked you! HaHaha!