Non Narrative story design

DrumheldDrumheld REGISTERED Posts: 5
edited December 2013 in Design
I am really pulling for this to be done correctly. I would really like to see a system that is designed around engaging the player on multiple avenues of exploration, incentivizing all aspects of a game of this nature in order to more organically propose conflict in the players decision. These avenues include npc community development and fostering (player investment being key to the flourishing or demise of non player driven communities) which could tie into the companion system.

I would love to see an aspect of that system designed around archival and publishing of that user generated narrative. Some elements I've heard described had to do with the commoditization of within a player economy of that narrative experience and archival versions of adventures and gameplay experiences, even entire player narratives would be an engaging way of minutely injecting other players stories into what I'm hoping will feel like a single player experience.

I think the key to implementing this properly is isolation. Player exploration, development of resource and game culture (unique structures, artifacts, lore central "happenings") the fostering of community, the trade between communities, the impetus to seed new areas and explore narrative elements that will become unique (and precious in the sense of narrative commoditization) to individuals is all a direct response to either demanding or needing to eliminate a feeling of isolation from other players/communities/game elements.

I hope to continue this conversation...
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Comments

  • screightcascreightca REGISTERED Posts: 11 Seed
    All great ideas, and I definately believe the idea of making people explore and nurture new relationships is vital to a satifying game in the long run. Unfortunatly I think the majority of players, who are likley still in highschool, are already bypassing the isolation factor of RPGs by surcomventing the ingame communication systems using skype and other social media. They are not interested in playing the game without being able to group up with their friends from real life, which copletly defeats the roal playing aspect of these games.
  • mcmanusaurmcmanusaur REGISTERED Posts: 141
    This was an interesting read and I think I agree with a lot of what you've said, but the one part I disagree with is this:
    player investment being key to the flourishing or demise of non player driven communities
    It's a common notion that everything in a game should be about the player and their character, and while player agency is definitely important this often results in scenarios where players are the only agents, and NPCs aren't agents in and of themselves. I think that this is a bad thing, and- at least for the purposes of emergent narrative- it's good for the state of the world (and therefore the "story") to be able to move along with or without the player's input. In my opinion, too many games elevate the player to a status of godlike agency, and for me that ultimately proves detrimental to immersion. While I understand the appeal of wish fulfillment power trips, and how games are poised to provide this outlet, there are already enough such games in my opinion.
  • DrumheldDrumheld REGISTERED Posts: 5
    My misunderstanding might be chalked up to my ignorance of the companion system NK has planned. I pictured the podlings as the natives of this environment and it was up to the player to coordinate and bring them together.
    screightca wrote:
    and NPCs aren't agents in and of themselves. I think that this is a bad thing, and- at least for the purposes of emergent narrative- it's good for the state of the world (and therefore the "story") to be able to move along with or without the player's input.

    Some of my most satisfying and narrated moments in minecraft have been finding a village and growing it into a metropolis. This doesn't necessarily mean that the power lays in the hands of the player entirely. I'd imagine many players dong the same thing, as well as player built towns. But I agree when you say that investing NPC's with agency contributes to a much richer story experience. I would hope these kinds of communities could grow on their own, I didn't mean to imply otherwise. The emphasis of that point was more on world building as an avenue for player specialization or focus, just as adventuring, or exploring the companion system to its fullest could be other avenues of player specialization.
    mcmanusaur wrote:
    In my opinion, too many games elevate the player to a status of godlike agency, and for me that ultimately proves detrimental to immersion.

    While hopefully there will always be challenges to the achieved level of player development (which is necessary for the isolation factor, as well as those challenges being ratcheted up to threaten appropriate levels of value for the player), I really can't help but think that in this kind of game, godlike agency is an inevitable factor of player development, at least in the short term and at the beginning of the exploration of the kind of experiment they are trying to achieve. I think limits to that kind of player growth will have to be developed after it has been reached to balance it properly.

    I'd like to hear what you think could prevent the degradation of nonnarrative story development if that kind of power/influence level is reached.
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  • mcmanusaurmcmanusaur REGISTERED Posts: 141
    Drumheld wrote:
    Some of my most satisfying and narrated moments in minecraft have been finding a village and growing it into a metropolis. This doesn't necessarily mean that the power lays in the hands of the player entirely. I'd imagine many players dong the same thing, as well as player built towns. But I agree when you say that investing NPC's with agency contributes to a much richer story experience. I would hope these kinds of communities could grow on their own, I didn't mean to imply otherwise. The emphasis of that point was more on world building as an avenue for player specialization or focus, just as adventuring, or exploring the companion system to its fullest could be other avenues of player specialization.
    As someone with an avid interest in worldbuilding myself, I can agree with this. And to clarify what I think NPC agency would add, having towns that are dynamically built up or gradually abandoned by NPCs would add a real sense of evolving history in the world. That said, it should be interactive, and the player should be able to have some effect on this process, but it should be in a way more profound than in Minecraft (in which you can simply destroy the blocks that make up the buildings in NPC villages without any fear of repercussions).
    While hopefully there will always be challenges to the achieved level of player development (which is necessary for the isolation factor, as well as those challenges being ratcheted up to threaten appropriate levels of value for the player), I really can't help but think that in this kind of game, godlike agency is an inevitable factor of player development, at least in the short term and at the beginning of the exploration of the kind of experiment they are trying to achieve. I think limits to that kind of player growth will have to be developed after it has been reached to balance it properly.

    I'd like to hear what you think could prevent the degradation of nonnarrative story development if that kind of power/influence level is reached.
    While a sandbox game does seemingly facilitate godlike agency in the manner you appear to be suggesting, I think that this is detrimental to a game with survival aspects. For a rich and intense survival experience, I believe it is crucial that the player feels vulnerable, and thus there are two competing forces in TUG when it comes to player agency.

    In a voxel-based game, a lot of the discrepancy in agency between players and NPCs tends to result from the fact that players can freely modify the map/place blocks but the AI cannot. Obviously it is very difficult to implement a system to correct this, so I'm not sure whether this is a viable option. At the minimum NPCs must have some sense of ownership over their homes/settlements, and they should not tolerate the player destroying them block-by-block right in front of their eyes.

    Ultimately, I think that having competing sources of agency in the world is the only way that a game may continue to progress in a manner interesting to the player; otherwise, the player will fiddle around with the game's creative aspects (which can of course be quite fun in and of themselves, but don't really represent a "game") and eventually get bored. Further possibilities for limiting the player's agency in the "endgame" would include themes of cyclic progression, and the inclusion of environmental forces and issues as I have discussed in that other thread you've replied to.
  • DrumheldDrumheld REGISTERED Posts: 5
    mcmanusaur wrote:
    That said, it should be interactive, and the player should be able to have some effect on this process, but it should be in a way more profound than in Minecraft (in which you can simply destroy the blocks that make up the buildings in NPC villages without any fear of repercussions).

    Investing communities with agency as well as the individuals would help this. Permissions to engage in construction within the community for adding dwellings or resources (I'm thinking along the lines of Golems and other such things when I talk about resources), as well as permissions from the individual NPC's to engage in construction of their property. That kind of system of ownership helps out ideas of anti-griefing as well as establishing player business like Inn's and shops, where attributing certain areas with specific properties for engagement would be necessary.
    mcmanusaur wrote:
    Further possibilities for limiting the player's agency in the "endgame" would include themes of cyclic progression, and the inclusion of environmental forces and issues as I have discussed in that other thread you've replied to.

    I think of the godlike agency of a fully developed (germinated? lol) seed would have reached a point of resource exploitation and have a working understanding of the games mechanics to be unencumbered by those kinds of environmental forces. To me, those seem like an introductory through mid-game barrier to progress. I would like to suggest, within your idea of cyclical progression, that "publishing" a completed seed into a story that could be used in the narrative economy I suggested earlier would be a solution to having players want to continue using seeds that have reached their full potential or who's play is boring?
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  • mcmanusaurmcmanusaur REGISTERED Posts: 141
    Drumheld wrote:
    Investing communities with agency as well as the individuals would help this. Permissions to engage in construction within the community for adding dwellings or resources (I'm thinking along the lines of Golems and other such things when I talk about resources), as well as permissions from the individual NPC's to engage in construction of their property. That kind of system of ownership helps out ideas of anti-griefing as well as establishing player business like Inn's and shops, where attributing certain areas with specific properties for engagement would be necessary.
    Indeed. Hopefully NK doesn't feel like this kind of NPC complexity and agency is beyond the scope of the game (there have been little details in this regard as far as I know).
    I think of the godlike agency of a fully developed (germinated? lol) seed would have reached a point of resource exploitation and have a working understanding of the games mechanics to be unencumbered by those kinds of environmental forces. To me, those seem like an introductory through mid-game barrier to progress. I would like to suggest, within your idea of cyclical progression, that "publishing" a completed seed into a story that could be used in the narrative economy I suggested earlier would be a solution to having players want to continue using seeds that have reached their full potential or who's play is boring?
    Well, I would consider it a late-game barrier to progress, since my idea of the early-game is a time where survival is the most pressing concern (I think it's somewhat inevitable the urgency of survival will diminish over time as the player gains more resources). Presumably a player's actions wouldn't have an appreciable effect on the natural environment until a certain threshold of activity has been reached, and this threshold could conceivably be modulated for balance purposes.

    If animal species start to go extinct in a certain region due to excessive hunting or fields become depleted of nutrients due to lack of crop rotation or if deforestation occurs, this provides an extra set of concerns to the player once they thought they progressed to a secure state of existence. Of course the player will eventually overcome/learn to game these mechanics just like with the rest, but at least this extends the longevity of having interesting challenges in the gameplay.

    Additionally, if the game's climate naturally changes over time (desertification, forests spreading, wildfires, floods, mini "ice ages" or global warming, volcanic eruptions, possibly other natural disasters) this forces the player to continue to adapt and possibly prevents them from just staying and hoarding resources in one place. I think enduring these changes and possibly having to move around seeking good climate would successfully address any delusions of godlike agency the player might develop and extend the replay value as well.
  • JoeJoe REGISTERED Posts: 264 Seed
    Regarding NPC villages, it would be fun if small event could change what happens to a village, like a domino effect. You put a random rock on a road, or even dig a hole, then a supply wagon from the village breaks its wheel because of this, therefore the wagon-man gets held up and killed by bandits and the contents of the wagon stolen. Unknown to the bandits, they stole a precious, ancient item that was to be given as a wedding gift to the village next door's leader's daughter as a peace token. This in turn causes the leader of the neighboring village to get angry and wage war against the first village. He gathers his armies to ransack the village, heading out towards the village on the same road that the cart was on. But, as he is marching with his armies, he trips and falls on the very rock (or hole) that you put on the road, and dies. His armies lose morale quickly and start to retreat back toward their own village, but run into the bandits. They then kill the bandits, as they are an army, and find a strange, precious, ancient artifact in the bandits' loot-bag. They take this artifact and, because it is the now deceased village leader's daughter's wedding, they give it to her as a token of their loyalty.

    Little did they know.

    (Not inspired by this)
  • mosesoperandimosesoperandi REGISTERED Posts: 22 Developer
    I'm just going to say that I'm really enjoying reading this thread. We're definitely going to take our time on this aspect of gameplay, and by take our time I mean that this is a great example of a system (or set of systems) where the only way to get it right is to try implementing some mechanics and seeing what you all do with them, and then making changes and tweaks and implementing new mechanics.

    Meanwhile, keep this thread going! I can assure you that we're very interested to hear about some of the communities ideas about what they want to see in "non narrative" story design, or what I would more likely refer to as game mechanics that support powerful emergent narratives that aren't designer written stories.
  • SigilSigil REGISTERED Posts: 678 Developer
    There seem to be some interesting ideas about npcs here, And I have to disagree with the idea that they will hold any real importance to the players story. You're looking at the Podlings as people with back stories and personalities, where as my impression of them is they are basically robots. Their totem is a tool used to control them. same with the golems. They are work horses and sentries for the players.

    The Seeds are the real villagers. We will be forced to create a society that functions, or be loners in the wild. I think the most interesting part of the game to come will be trying to build a city, run by many hands, often offline, and defend it and maintain order. How will it work? How will laws be enforced.

    I think a big part of the science in this is studying how we create order when they don't give us any arbitrary rules to protect us.

    I have a theory about a tiered system of walls. outsiders, market, citizens, leadership, all facilitated by automated doors, traps, defenses and podling workers or shopkeepers and golem guards. This would require intricate mutual value in working together as well as the potential for a functional economy to trade and pay players to oversee golem soldiers.

    Also a town bell. I may need to make a mod here.
  • mcmanusaurmcmanusaur REGISTERED Posts: 141
    I'm just going to say that I'm really enjoying reading this thread. We're definitely going to take our time on this aspect of gameplay, and by take our time I mean that this is a great example of a system (or set of systems) where the only way to get it right is to try implementing some mechanics and seeing what you all do with them, and then making changes and tweaks and implementing new mechanics.

    Meanwhile, keep this thread going! I can assure you that we're very interested to hear about some of the communities ideas about what they want to see in "non narrative" story design, or what I would more likely refer to as game mechanics that support powerful emergent narratives that aren't designer written stories.

    Great to hear! Emergent systems that give rise to player-constructed narratives are probably my personal favorite thing in gaming at the moment, and I'm more than happy to attempt to keep this thread going. I would actually make a somewhat strange comparison to open-ended strategy games (about the psychology of which I plan to be writing an article on Gamasutra soon). While this isn't exactly about constructing emergent narrative in the first place, I think the following point is very relevant to maintaining it.

    As a history geek, Europa Universalis IV is my current strategy game of choice, and basically it's like Total War without the admittedly cool battles, and with a little bit more nuance and historicity in their place. The thing I noticed about EU4 (which is almost entirely reliant on the player to construct their own narratives) is that the relevance of the game's risk-reward structure is inversely proportional to the player investment (which ostensibly increases over time as you construct a progressively more detailed internal narrative). A consequence of this is that the game is quite challenging and risky (even frustrating as much of the "risk" relies on random chance) in the early stages (which, on account of the fact that you haven't become invested in the game yet, causes a lot of save-scumming and rage-quitting), and then it tends to become somewhat tedious once you reach a certain critical mass beyond which no other competing agent can threaten you (then it feels like there is no real risk involved).

    In fact, I think people can relate to this problem in many other genres, including Minecraft (which seems really risky in the early stages but gradually falls into a grind for resources). For the intent of creating an emergent narrative and other general purposes as well, ideally this trajectory would be reversed; the early stages of the game should be somewhat less risky, and the risk should gradually mount up as you have more to lose. Indeed, the player has greater ability to handle setbacks and incorporate them into their narrative once they have achieved a baseline level of investment in the game, as opposed to expecting them to endure early setbacks when they have every incentive to save-scum or start over.

    Giving the player the tools to construct a narrative in the first place is another matter entirely, but it's just as important to make sure that the risk-reward structure facilitates a conducive-to-greater-investment and lasting internal narrative.
  • SinnonSinnon REGISTERED Posts: 383 Seed
    *Looks around*
    "Amm.... Sup man." [Says with a nervous voice.]
    Sintiacutetulo-1-1.png
    Enlist your faction in Seekers Order, sub-groups or alliances are not problem with the enlisting, since we are a not a clan, just a UN sistem of organization.
  • mcmanusaurmcmanusaur REGISTERED Posts: 141
    Oh look, it's that thread I killed with my TL;DR...
  • SinnonSinnon REGISTERED Posts: 383 Seed
    mcmanusaur wrote:
    Oh look, it's that thread I killed with my TL;DR...

    What's TL;DR man?
    Sintiacutetulo-1-1.png
    Enlist your faction in Seekers Order, sub-groups or alliances are not problem with the enlisting, since we are a not a clan, just a UN sistem of organization.
  • erian_7erian_7 REGISTERED Posts: 195
    Too long; didn't read. Basically, the person is anticipating that a post will have so much text, many people won't bother to read it. A sad commentary on our growing inability as humans to, apparently, take in written communication and respond in kind...
    Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly With Your God
  • WingidonWingidon REGISTERED Posts: 1,128 Seed
    erian_7 wrote:
    Too long; didn't read. Basically, the person is anticipating that a post will have so much text, many people won't bother to read it. A sad commentary on our growing inability as humans to, apparently, take in written communication and respond in kind...
    Our minds (or time) cannot sometimes afford to assimilate these without a brain pain
  • erian_7erian_7 REGISTERED Posts: 195
    Yeah, probably relevant to the discussion of story design. Too often I found folks no longer want to invest the time in one thing, because they are spreading there time across (too) many things. I'm probably just old, but I'd rather do a few things well than many things in mediocrity.
    Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly With Your God
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