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Article - 'Legacy of the Plots' by Real

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

Blurb

A look at how to make an incredible plot for your game!

Body

All you people probably have played a game that you thought was well thought out. I know I have. In fact, playing these kinds of games give you the idea of how to plan one yourself. They usually start with a basic idea of beginning and ending. What the hero starts out as and where he ends up. Now seriously, dont go into a Super Mario Bros. plot where the hero is off to save the princess from a arch villain. Cmon. Im not dissing Mario at all, but you can think of something better. Ive also seen people plot out something where they go off to avenge a loved ones death. Thats pretty good and many of those games turn out nicely done, but it needs more of an idea.
Trust me. Youll find yourself plotting something of that calibur and you find yourself in a jam. My current game isnt about avenging deaths. In fact, its not even near it. A good way to build a plot is to not even think of what the idea of the story is. I may sound crazy, but trust me. I had no idea what I was doing when making my game NightScape. I had no plot whatsoever. I started with the main character as a slave for some bad guy and I built my castle on that little brick.
To get your story going, you must run into the plot slowly, giving out much detail as you can. Dont give out boring details that will make a person press quit and not play your game til 3 weeks later. Improvise, but think smart. Dont go dumbfire on too many ideas. Plus, spreading details makes a bigger game. If you dont want a bigger game, dont go crazy with ideas. But let me jump to the point here. Start small and build on that. You get a basic beginning that suits what your needs are and work into the plot of the story.
Now I shall begin this lesson with more easier steps.

---The Worlds/Setting---

Always, ALWAYS make it your first step. It makes the game run smoother in your mind. Once getting the idea of where your world is, you can basically find what your character can do.
Medieval worlds use old weapons and no technology. Watch this cause it has advantages and disadvantages. In our present time, youll find things more simple since you can relate it on our lives. And of course, the future, where things can happen anytime, anywhere. You can mess with the future a lot more in some places than you can with others. Plus, technology rules in that time. or does it? You decide.
Then, you can have a medieval/futuristic world as I sort of do in NightScape. Youll find out why if you ever play it. You can make it so the sword is medieval yet it can blast a bullet like a gun. You may have seen such in FF8, THE GUNBLADE! Booyah! But as such, the world can have mystical creatures like dragons when you fire huge guns at it. Or a mechanical drake as seen in Chrono Trigger.
Speaking of which, time travel is an excellent way to make a game interesting. Bring your worlds into an utter land of zanniness where your gamers that play it can see their favorite times evolve into some other world. It all falls together like such.
But plainly, the setting and worlds are the first step of making a good game plot and very important to start with. If you have no idea what kind of place your chara is in and youve released your game, Im sorry to say, but you need to see a doctor. If you dont know the setting after its done, you better get checked out. But plain and simple, this is ALWAYS first!


---Type/Ratings---

You shoukd probably plan this as you plan the settings and all that.The genre of the game always helps with the settings and basis of the plot. Plan which category your game shall fall into and you shall find thinking up the plot is much simpler. Heres some categories to follow:

Comedy
Serious Action
Adventure
Romance
Simulation
Puzzle
Mix of Some

You get the idea. My game NightScape is a mix sort of. Its an adventure, but it does have comedy in some places. Not too much cause I dont want it to be a comedy. Just a little. Its good to experiment like that.
Then theres the ratings. You need to find your age group. This isnt as important as the type or settings, but it shows where the content of your game will be produced for the viewers. Is your game preschool or is it for those adult people? Heres some ratings. You probably already know them:

KA- Kids to Adults
E- Everyone
T- Teen
M- Mature
AO- Adults Only

The ratings vary on what you have in your game. My game has some swearing (hardly any, but still) so i placed it in T for Teen. It also has suggestive themes. Not sexual, but parts where violence occurs with blood (battles). If you want a younger audience, dont put swear words or violence in it (unless its for teens) and when I say violence, Im not excluding battles. Thats an RPGs way. If your looking for the older types, go for M or AO. Those are for the naughty people ;) You get the picture. Thats how the ratings work as well.


---Characters---

Kind of an everywhere step. You can add or take away the characters you think of anytime. But never begin the game without knowing your hero. Thats just crazy. But thinking of your heros background as well as his partners and the villains are the same as I said before. You can start them in a place where their history begins, but it doesnt nessesarily have to link with the main plot. They could be making a run from the guards because they are an escaped criminal. But that doesnt have to link with the plot. But Im sure a criminal past will bring up some talk in the game. But thats the characters background in which is what you need.
Then, theres always have a good villain around the bend. And it never hurt to throw in a few other guys to throw the gamer off and make them think that thats the villain when suddenly, theyre ambushed by the real thing! A twisted plot. Ah yes. Thats the good stuff. But then, you must make clues that could lead up to the main villain. And so, the gamer will find the villain and do the last battle. And just like the hero, a villain need a background. Like why hes doing what hes doing. What went wrong. And what hes doing that causes the victim so much misery. Thats a key point in the process of making an excellent villain.
If you want, you can make your hero have partners. Well, no duh, right? But whats a good companion if hes just a blank figure. You need to give him a reason for being in the quest. What the bloody ell is he doing with your hero? Get creative and think of ways for the partner to be heroic or whatever they do best.
Personality is always a factor in the line of plotting. If the characters have personality, you have a complete set of incredible charas. Personality helps with their history and future and how they will interact with everything. You dont just come up to a companion and say "Hey" and you get a reply of "Hey" back. You should make it like this:

Hero: Hey! Havent seen you around here before. Welcome to Greentree Lake!

Companion: Why, thank you, sir. Im quite happy to be here. But these bugs! They sicken me! Bleh!

Now thats the stuff. And the villain. He/she needs a personality as well. Not another person saying "You shall suffer now." Make it with feeling!

Hero: Now I have you!

Villain: I dont think so. Im smarter than I look. And I love my hair style, dont you?

Umm... yeah. You dont nessesarily have to give the villain a terrible case of bad ego, but personality hits the spot in the stomach of a gamer that craves good game. Plus, you should give the heroes a team name. Well, you dont have to. Its not gonna kill your game to have or not have one. If you play "The Legend of Dragoon", theyre called the dragoons. In FF7, theyre the Avalanche team. In my game NightScape, theyre the Warriors of Lore.
These team names would be another example of backgrounds. Why are they in this team of heroic warriors? How did they get into it? Was it destiny? Answer some of these questions if you will. I guarentee they will help.


---Names Make a Difference---

And they do! You dont usually wind up finding the heros name Charlie or something uncreative. You wanna see something that you probably have never heard of and think "Dude, that name is really awesome. I wanna give this game a thousand awards". Well, lookie here, mister. You want some good names and you gotta find em. That or think em up. Watch! Ill think up one right now. Zogadith! Simple, yes? Of course, that doesnt sound like a hero. More like a companion. But partners need names too. If your having trouble with name plotting, try thinking of their background and name them something that has that meaning to it.

Example: If they like carrots, name em Poko because that means carrots in some language I cannot recall -.-

But as said before, what kind of hero would be named Bill or Chuck or something so plain. My names not plain and hardly seen anywhere. My name is Gavin. That means White Hawk of Battle in Welsh. That may fit some character. Especially if its a warrior bird or a warrior who likes birds. If you have trouble, heres some examples of names that may get you somewhere. I just pulled them from books and a name generator I downloaded. Others I made up:

Zeke
Tai
Ili
Mallard
Ivor
Hachi
Pip
Jamilynn
Brooke
Mak
Othman
Stellan
Alma (hehe. Thats a real name its the town next to my town)
Colleen

Thats all I should really give you. I only made about four of those, but theyll get you going. I hope. But good names means good games. Though, theyre probably one of the least important parts. Still, if you just call your hero "Hero", tahts no good. Unless its a comedy-based game. Then you can use stuff like Bill, Chuck, and Charlie. And of course, Hero. Yay!

---Beginning---

Every game has a beginning, but not all games have a good one. Like a book, you must make everything sound interesting down to the first line said. In a book, the author must make the first line catch a persons fancy or else, theyll loose interest and not pay attention to that book for who knows how long. Ways to get a good beginning are to think simple with rich detail. If you have an idea of the world in the game, you have a good idea where to begin. Think of ways to start the heros life. Or if its not thehero and maybe the heros friend, do the same. Build a history for the chara as you build the plot.
Youll find it simple and difficult to figure a way to start an excellent game. You not always have to have a part of the main storyline to get the game moving, but it can be helpful to get the idea of why the chara is leaving home or why hes escaping from jail or why she quit her job. In NightScape, Zell (the hero) is a slave as I said before. Being a slave have jackshickles to do with the plot and maybe a few lines about that past is mentioned in the game, but I must say, its definately just the beginning of a grand adventure. Take a look at some games. In "The Legend of Dragoon", Dart (hes the hero) is attacked by a dragon and he fights it. Then running to his town, its burnt to a crisp. This leads into the storyline later, but the dragon part is hardly anything. Ive defeated that game. But that doesnt matter. What does matter is that not all games have a beginning that will immediatly set the chara off on a grand journey.
Pace yourself and make the game last. If you lead right to the part where the hero fights the boss, what good is that? Just picture it like this. Ive seen a lot of games start like this and end so quickly:

Hero: Hey! A gem, you guys!

Companion: Really? Cool.

Villain: You have found my gem. Now suffer!

Companion2: Aww crap. Just our luck.

Okay, maybe I exagirated there, but they seem to fly by too fast. Make it last more than 3 hours for God sakes. There are people out there that love to sit down and play a good, short game and thats cool, but you usually cant make a good storyline out a game like that. I doubt you will too. I doubt it very much. Not dissing any short games, but still, be creative and expand the way the game goes. Itll get you farther.


---Events---

A games gotta have events. If it didnt, itd just be a game about a guy walking down the road and bumping into a bad guy in which he battles. Of course, the bumping and battling would be an event. Then itd have to be a guy standing there. But thats an event as well. Then you wont make the game because making it a blank screen is an event. But not the typ of event you really need. When I say event, I mean sidequests, when you meet new characters, fighting bosses and the final baddy, and the plot! The plot, I say! Plot: Thatd be the biggest event of em all. Filled with the little plots that build me that brick castle.
Try to be creative with the sidequests. It helps if these sidequests lead to the big quest and make it more interesting. Sometimes, you have no choice, but to accomplish the sidequests. Heres an example. The heros name is... umm... lets call him Zeke. I like that name. And the companion is MaCarthur (I used that name in my first RM2K game "Circles of Power"):

Zeke: May we pass?

Toll keeper: No.

MaCarthur: And why the heck not?

Toll Keeper: Cause I said NO.

Zeke: Cmon. Theres gotta be some way we can pass.

Toll Keeper: Tell ya what. You scratch my back and I scratch yours.

Zeke: Im not touchin your back!

Toll Keeper: Figure of speech, knucklehead. I mean, you get me a glass of water, I let you pass.

Zeke: Okay. Thats a sinch.

Toll Keeper: And another thing. The water must come from the Foutain of Evil.

MaCarthur: O-kay. Still sounds... easy...

Toll Keeper: Its located in The Cave of No Return.

Zeke: OKAY! THIS IS REDICULOUS! Why do you need water from there.

Toll Keeper: (leans forward) Cause its in the game script.

Zeke: Oooohh... right, right.

You dont have to make it like that. Give the toll keeper or whoever a reason to want water from the Fountain of Evil located in the Cave of No Return. Or whatever you want. Thats what a good sidequest should make a person do. And the hero crew should have no choice, but to abide to the request. Its all simple. The hard part is thinking up the side quests.
Events should happen often in your game. This is apart of the details process. It lengthens the game to make it more of a challenge. You dont want the people to zip through it with flying colors, do you? Make some events like theres a fair in town (which lead to minigames. Read below) or you must go into the woods to find a boy who was captured by a creature and theres a big reward for its death. The creature. Not the boy. Heh. Dont even think that way!
But that example is one event that doesnt nessesarily have to lead with the main storyline. You dont HAVE to do that event, but you can. Its all fun and games til a monster looses his eye. Or even worse... you loose your eye from staring at this screen too long, reading my bloody guide to good storylines. Yeesh. Ahem... now then...


---Mini Games! Yay!---

The RPG you make maybe not be all fun and games, but minigames make it great fun! You can make a card game, Find the Queen, coin toss or whatever. RM2K has many abilities with minigames and it all depends on the coding. Im not sure about other RPG makers out there. Minigames can go with otehr types of games as well like adventure. You definately dont catch many tic tac toe games in Metal Gear Solid, I tell you what.
And Minigames are not nessesary. I think you already knew that. But tehy are great fun and make a hard days journey wind down. You could of just finished battling the Beast of Incredible Power and have the erge to sit down with some of your best buds and play backgammon while sipping a cup of jo. Well, I dont know if you can program backgammon into RM2K, but you can make a mean coin toss! Oh yeah! I have a coin minigame in NightScape. You can play it at the Alificandist Fair when you go there. Its all fun and games, my friends. All fun and games.
And Ill repeat myself. These are not that important, but theyll bring out the gaming spirit in the gamer when they just wanna take a break from the normal quests. Trust me. Youll want one.


---Conflict---

Awww crap! Were getting into the part where we start the plot up. You really need to put on a thinking cap here, boys and girls. This isnt something you can pull out of your ear, ya know. It may be one of the hardest parts of the game to think up. You really got to work at it. Dont take an idea that was thought of in 3 minutes (unless that idea is REALLY REALLY good. Heh). Trust me. There does come times when you think of an idea from planning for 3 whole minutes. I thought of a lot of my plot for NightScape in 3 whole minutes. Well, maybe around 10 minutes, but it turned out great. people complimented me on my success in a great storyline.

Person: Bravo, Gavin! Thats a fine storyline youve cooked up.

Gavin: Thanks!

Person2: Ill say. It was a great idea.

Gavin: Well, I was too.

Okay, so what if that wasnt their exact words, but they did say stuff like it. They said it was an incredible idea and they couldnt wait to play it. Still, I am good at thinkingup ideas for stories and junk. Im a writer. Not all people can do that. And if your a person taht cant, sit down and think and dont take the first idea that pops up and sounds good enough and you whip it into a game. Make sure it actually is good. Not some plain old idea like:

"A bad, bad man is about to destroy the world if he doesnt get to be King of BLAH BLAH BLAH!"

You get the picture. The idea takes time. The conflict isnt easy to think of. In fact, the planning of the conflict can be a conflict itself. The conflict can enter anywhere between the beginning and the middle of the game. The true conflict that is. Sidequest conflicts or small problems can enter anywhere really. Just as long as they are actually a conflict.
When making a conflict, figure out how this involves the hero and the villain. Also, try not to make it so the hero finds out that a certain villain is behind the evil deeds right when he learns about them. Give the problem some time to unfold. Plus, as a bonus, if you let it wind down, itll become a bigger problem and problaby cause many other conflicts along the way. Its a good idea to make the road to victory a bumpy ride. And remember, dont just throw some stuff together and call it "done!" cause I tell you one thing, mister (or miss. Ill just say reader), that kind of plot wont hold off in the end. No siree bob! Think about it.


---THE MAIN PLOT---

Alrighty. This may just be the most important part of the whole game. And this article. Why would I write an article about plots when theres no section on the main plot itself. Anyways, this should be planned out after you have the conflict in the palm of your hand. Once youve got the idea of a problem, you can piece the whole story together. Mainly the questions like "Why is the hero the one who has to go on this journey?" or "Why is the villain doing what he is doing?" will be answered here. When you have the main plot, you have the beginning and middle and some of the end. Not all of it. Not yet at least.
This is where you start thinking of how the hero gets to his destination and how the villain fails to complete his mission. How does the villain stop the hero from coming is another important part of the journey. What good is the game if you can breeze through it and say "hello" to the friendly neighbors? Ill tell you what its good for. For breezing through and saying "hello" to the friendly neighbors. That and NOTHING. So thats why you must plan this out nicely. It may not be as hard as the conflict part, but it can be a brain teaser. Watch out for this one.
Sooner or later youll have a brainfart and wind up with the rest of the game. You have the beginning, middle and the basic plot and conflict, but think it all over again and see if you can make changes to it. If its not worth the trouble, go ahead and air this game out. It may be good or it may not be good. thats how it works. Im just saying, look at the plot over and over again until you perfect it that it makes you wanna dance a happy jig... or something of the sort. Maybe just clap your hands. But plan out the plot professionally. Dont be a lazy bum, alright?


---Conclusion---

If your on this step, you should be wrapping up the plot. Pretty close to finishing up. Proud, you are? You bet! And nothins more satisfying than finsihing a game that looks like a real winner... and turns out to be one! And dont you dare end it like this:

Zeke: Dark Hanus is dead....

...

whos up for pizza?

Companions: Alright! Yeah! No mushrooms, though!

Of course, you could end it like that if its a comedy. That is a pretty funny ending. And mushrooms? Yuck! Not me. I dont want them. But still, planning out the ending and wrapping up a great game with a game finish makes all that work worth while. You dont want people thinking it was a great game til THAT ENDING where the guy dies and they do out for pizza. I mean, really. Give the people what they want. A good game with a good ending. Either that or give them pizza. Im sure theyd want that.
Ways to end a game are to show how the characters lives go after the defeat of the dark villain. Or, if the villain becomes good and lives with the heroes, show how they got along. Show how the world became happy again and the vil was fanquished.
You can even end it sadly. The hero dies or someone on the good side dies or leaves. A sad ending is always good. Like FF7s ending. Bringing a tear to the gamers eye works wonders on them. And makes them think your game is a miracle from Gods Green Earth! Try it. Its magic!


---Intro---

Youd expect this to be at the beginning of the plot article, but nope. Intros usually should stay as one of the last steps. After the storyline is planned, you can get an idea of how to start the game off. And therefore, a intro! Pretty simple once you have the plot. Its a wrap up, but an intro in the game. Crazy, right?
To make the good intro, give an event that may lead to something later in the game. For example, my friend is making a game where its intro has the Dark Emporer killing off all the royals guards (actually, I think hes killing them. I only recall him turning them to stone) and finally killing the king. This leads into the quest of the warrior in that game. It all works out thanks to planning the plot first. He did it right. He had the story already made. Since that was done, he simply thought up the intro and made it come true. See how simple it is?


---Credits---

So what if it doesnt involve the plot, but it is a special addition to a good game. You could have them at the beginning like a FF game or in the end like a Monkey Island game (funny series!). I choose it for the end. Why? I have no freakin idea. The credits should be made after the game is completed. As you go through the process of creating the game, jot down the people and companies and places you got the stuff for your game from. Then, after the game is done, place them in the credits. Smart, smart. Think wisely, my friend. Think wisely.


That pretty much concludes how to make a fabulous game plot. It may have taken a bit of time to read, but it will help. Trust me. I know. Good luck with any games you may have in production and makes sure you have an excellent plot! I bid you good day!