Inside the Story: Insomniac Interview - IGN
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The key difference between games and movies is that in games you actually control your own destiny and make your own choices. But the way we tell game stories the player almost never makes choices that actually affect the story. I'd like to see more game stories where the story itself changes based on what you choose to do or say. In the last year Bioshock and Mass Effect have done this to some degree. I think this is the best opportunity for games to truly surpass the storytelling in movies rather than just catch up.
In screenwriting you are taught to develop the main character through a series of very difficult choices. The harder the choice, the stronger the character becomes when he chooses.
But in games the player usually doesn't have to make hard choices or the story isn't affected much as a result of the choices. I'd like to see more games where the player actually drives the story through his choices and the results — who lives, who dies, who falls in love, who goes to jail, who gets betrayed — all depend on the tough choices the player makes.
How does story fit into your development cycle?
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Does it evolve concurrently with development, is it saved for the end of the cycle when most of the gameplay is in place, or is it conceived at the beginning and treated as unchangeable? Typically the story is laid out on a level-by-level basis during pre-production, however there are no absolutes in videogame development.
Features are changed or added, levels are removed or switched The script is written while the rest of the game is in production, and can change a dozen times to suit gameplay needs. Of course, issues will pop up constantly that require rewrites, rerecording, or outright cutting; keeping up with these changes is the greatest challenge a game writer faces.
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Maybe that's why I consider a lot of what we do to be creative problem solving - working with the designers and animators to make sure everyone's on the same page. This means lots of meetings, level run-throughs, and the occasional Battle Royale using sharp sticks and rocks. Ratchet is fighting pirates now instead of cragmites? A VTOL can't fit on that area of the cliff? Okay, we'll have Hale start on foot.
Lots of these issues don't come up until midway through production, so the rewrites are constant. But in the end, it all comes together into an incredibly gratifying labor of love. What's the difference between story and gameplay? A simple answer would be that the gameplay is "How" the player gets through the events of the game and the story is "Why" the events are happening. Story has traditionally been the movies, scripted events, character dialogue, and settings that create the premise and context for the gameplay.
Games are starting to demonstrate how stories can be interactive and that the choices players make can be meaningful both internally and externally.
To use the examples Brian Hastings mentioned: In both Bioshock and Mass Effect, the player has to make morale choices which raises question about their own character. A player might ask, "Would I risk my safety for the greater good?
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The player and game both become storytellers and contribute to the "Why. Where do writers fit in the traditional structure of a development team? At Insomniac, we have a dedicated writer position for all aspects of the story from developing the overarching plotline to the menu descriptions in the user interface.
The writer works out the characters, back-stories, and plotlines with the creative director and makes sure the story and gameplay work together cohesively. Though the writer and director flesh out the broad aspects of the game, it's up to the writer to further work out the details. They write all of the dialogue including the in-game dialogue and cut scenes and work extensively with the audio group to cast voice actors and sit in on recording sessions. There are many times during a session where they will need to rewrite a piece of dialogue or provide a story context for the actors.
The writer also works with the artists to develop a direction for the character and world concepts. We have a very collaborative environment at Insomniac and by the end of the project the writer has worked with practically everyone on the team. What's one game story you admire? It's really hard to pick just one because there have been so many games that have advanced storytelling in different genres.
When I was a kid the Infocom text adventures, in particular "A Mind Forever Voyaging", were what originally made me interested in games. InStar Control 2 really blew me away with its incredibly deep, funny and addictive storyline.
Inside the Story: Insomniac Interview
Then inI played Final Fantasy 6 and it was the most incredible story experience I had ever seen in a game. In the last ten years a lot of games have greatly improved the storytelling in traditionally non-story genres. For instance, Half-Life and Bioshock both made major advances in story presentation in a genre where people often consider story to be superfluous.
Similarly, Puzzle Quest adds a story to the puzzle genre where almost nobody thought story belonged. As a medium video games are still very young. Movies spent decades learning how to tell a good story, and they're still developing new techniques every year.
Videogame developers are steadily improving their techniques and I think we're starting to see results at an accelerating pace. On the more technical side of things, Insomniac is targeting a solid frame rate of 60 fps for this title, though the builds we saw were running between 40 and 60 fps at the time. Regardless, such a high frame rate makes this game quite thrilling to watch, since there is rich graphical detail not only in the character designs, but more noticeably, within the environments.
Insomniac seems to be striving for very colorful and vibrant planets, with an equally colorful cast of characters.
Each character was planned from the ground up to sport a captivating and enticing silhouette, which should lead to inherently gripping character designs.
The developers at Insomniac commented that their experience with Resistance: Fall of Man has given them incredible insight into developing "next-generation" titles, and thus far, it shows. However, as many gamers know, Insomniac prides itself on fun and interesting weapons, and we saw quite a few at the press event. Some of the more typical weapons included the Predator Launcher - a rocket launcher with multi-lock capabilities, the Negotiator - a single-shot, highly explosive rocket launcher type weapon, and the Combustor - a futuristic take on an automatic rifle.
On the more creative side of things, we also saw the Plasma Beasts, which started as small, docile globs of goo, and transformed into raving slime creatures when an enemy approached, as well as the Buzz Blades, long-range bladed discs that whirl about in a veritable frenzy.
But even if those don't satisfy your hunger for insanity: We were also privileged to see a new weapon called the Death Springs, a group of slinky minions that seek out enemies, of their own slinky-will, and destroy them in a flurry of slow-moving metal.