Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Branching story technique #2: Use Actions, Direct Quotes, and Intentions

Branching stories are simple sims where players make a series of decisions to shape and advance a story. I have found ten surprisingly easy and effective "little" techniques to make them much richer.

Here is the second: Mix up the player options between actions (such as "go upstairs" vs. "go into the living room"), direct quotes, and the surprisingly useful "intention" statement.  In the intention statement, I give the user the intention of the various statements they might make, not the actual words.  For example, the top example is a (boring) direct quote, while the second example is about intention.

The intention statements (such as on the bottom) has many advantages.
  • First, they are much faster and easier to author.  They take out time-consuming and often low-value wordsmithing.   
  • Second, they avoid a situation where the wrong tone takes the player out of the moment, thinking "I would never say it that way."  In most cases, the exact wording of the statement made is not the learning objective.  But where it is, use it.
  • Third, they can take away a tipping off of what the "right" or "better" answer is.  For example, the right piece of dialogue for the situation above may be "Sorry, but I am not allowed to use company vehicles for personal trips" (or whatever), but that would obviously defeat the moment of decision.
I got into the habit of using brackets to indicate to the player when they were expressing intentions rather than direct quotes.

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