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I am writing for a video game, and I have noticed that there is a gap between plot and gameplay. Most times there is a plot to a story, but it takes place either only in cutscenes or in reminders of your objectives. The gameplay is separate from the story, thus the player feels detached from the game, and has no emotional stake in the plot. Are there any ways to involve your audience to the point where they stop feeling detached from the game that they are playing?

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You might also try asking here: gamedev.stackexchange.com –  Neil Fein Nov 19 '10 at 0:22
    
What are you writing? Text or something more like a screenplay? –  David Thornley Nov 19 '10 at 0:36
    
gamedev.stackexchange.com is amazingly technical, and has very little time for subjective qualities of games, unfortuantely. –  Nick H Nov 19 '10 at 2:27
    
I am writing situations, and I'm trying to flesh them out while still maintaining the player's attention and involvement in the game. –  Nick H Nov 19 '10 at 2:27
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5 Answers 5

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The short answer: give the user a chance to affect the outcome of the story (or at least give them the impression that they have this power).

It depends a lot of the game genre. I wrote my master's thesis on immersion in computer games, and gave an analysis of Knights of the Old Republic (an excellent game with a great story by the way). Therein I found some evidence that giving people the option to choose within constraints, will give the player a deeper involvement in the story, but at the same time let you craft a story that is somewhat coherent.

This was a RPG, which is probably the most suited genre for conveying rich stories that involves the user.

Games like Starcraft (both I and II), also have a great story, but I don't feel involved in the story while actually playing. I never get the feeling that I am Raynor" running around in the battlefield. The game keeps me immersed because of damn good gameplay, and the cutscenes keeps me in because of a great story and good animations, but I never feel that my actions brings the story forward, other than that they "unlock" the next scene.

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If the game is developed well, the player should have a strong attachment to their character. The story should somehow outline what the player is to do in the next section of gameplay, rather than simply showing a video.

This message could be communicated through a character (voice or actions) or simply describing an obvious problem.

Sorry i can't explain better, but it greatly depends on the gameplay, and what type of game it is.

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You could try looking at and playing the Assassin's Creed series by Ubisoft Montreal. Amazing story + amazing graphics + amazing engine = Perfect game.

The story is truly amazing and really well written, starting on from the 2nd game. The first one was more like a tech demo, but it introduced the dual sided story and the sci-fi part of it, along with the historical story.

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I second this. The characters are very well-realized, and the transition from expository cutscenes to gameplay and back is very fluid. –  Dan J Nov 30 '10 at 5:44
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Videogame audience attracting effectiveness may be based on many things that are game-development issues. But there is one question that should be mulled over by all media industry manufacturers. I'll sound it:

Does your product attracts customers by its "mechanical" part or by its "art" part?

Now I'll explain: that mechanical part of mine can be illustrated by movie industry. There are kaboom movies, with bangs and booms on the whole screen and detailed explosions sended to your three-dimensioned eye. That's your Avatar. Let's be serious, this movie is supposed to produce emotions through great visuals, and not by a plot.

But without a plot, it's just a series of explosions, maybe even more boring than a documentary about maize cultivating. So, the plot is needed, but not so much, and it can just be adapted from another media-product. The plot is just a glue here.

But remember another movie from the same director. It contained much "explosion" part, but that part was not the leader. It just supported the big love story. The story.

And I can call both movies work of art. That's not I can say about myriads of less-talented genre films.

The game will retain the same rule. If you're doing something like Crysis, you'd better forget about plot. But if you're doing Silent Hill 2 or Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) you'd better sharpen your story.

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Tell your story through gameplay, not just through cutscenes. Include as much of the character development as you can in the gameplay animations and mechanics. Examples:

  • In an RPG, make a character's battle abilities match well with their personality. For example, a helpful, caring character might have healing abilities. Or, use this in a deeper way, allowing a character's abilities to foreshadow their eventual development.
  • Include characters' personalities in your gameplay animations. If someone's clumsy and unsure, don't make them suddenly epic in battle. A picture's worth a thousand words: awkward-looking sword swinging can define a character almost instantly.

Most importantly, though:

  • Lay out levels in a way that forces, for the sake of solving the puzzle, a character to do something. Bonus points if the "something" is traumatic and the player feels the necessity.

Check out Ico; they integrate of story and gameplay very well.

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