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Article - 'What the Audience wants in a storyline' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

An article on how to write entertaining plotlines for your gaming audience

Body

Everyone loves a good storyline...except for those people who don't love a good storyline. Still, for those who want the good storyline, they expect certain things, mostly they expect the unexpected.

Perhaps the best way to give the audience the unexpected is to start with a cliche` storyline. It could begin with the hero having his girlfriend or father or whatever kidnapped, and as he's searching for him or her, he finds out a very dark secret about something else; his past, the world's past, or his searchee's past. It could turn out that his girlfriend was a demon summoned from hell or something, and the kidnappers are actually trying to save the hero or the world. From that point, you should try to make the rest of the story as original as possible.

If a story is too linear, like Final Fantasy X, there is very little surprise involved. FFX began with everyone trying to defeat Sin, the end was Sin was defeated. Everyone expected that. However, before and after Sin died, many things happened that were barely related to the storyline. The problem was that FFX had few side quests and the beginning and the end had far too much to do with each other.

Now look and Final Fantasy VII. It began with a story about Cloud in a group trying to save the world, then ended with Cloud avenging the deaths of countless lives. The point I'm trying to make is to keep the storyline from being really linear.

Besides linearness, a story also needs realism to it. Every important character (and I mean EVERY character) needs some sort of background. This background may or may not have anything to do with the storyline, but as long as its somewhat interesting, you'll get points for the storyline.

When you're creating a storyline, you're creating much more than that. You're creating an entire Universe that exists on your computer. Considering a lot of things have happened in the real Universe, a lot of things should happen in yours. You can do whatever you want with it. Physics, science, literature, history, art, anything can change. You are playing God and Fate as you're making a storyline. You determine who lives, who dies, and who saves or destroys your universe. Remember, you need to leave out as many holes as possible.

Considering this is another universe, people are going to want to see some things they would never see in this one. Most importantly, supernatural elements need to be involved. This can include magic, incredible strength, or anything out of the norm. People want to live out another person's life, if only for a short while. As long as they are living that life, they want to see some cool stuff.

However, you'll want to give people something to relate to. Making this universe completely different isn't necessarily a good thing. You can still have the game take place on Earth, but remember that it has to relate to things that are happening in the real world today. Otherwise, why bother making it take place on Earth? Think of problems that we have today; religion, lack of food, war, or whatever sucks in life. In your storyline, include some problems we have, have had, or will have in real life. A lot of stuff has happened on Earth, so there are plenty of ideas to steal.

Creating this universe should use the full potential of your mind. Any theories or ideas you have that would make people think make an incredible impact in the storyline. The audience loves to see new things, even if they have no effect on the gameplay. If you watch Star Trek, you'll see that every episode expresses one or two theories and extends it as far as possible. Millions of people love the show, so obviously it works.

In other words, the beginning of your game doesn't have to be awesome. It helps to keep people interested, but it shouldn't be as interesting as the end of the game. Include backgrounds into the storyline, and again, make this storyline into an entire universe.