Creating A Compelling Story Line in Multiplayer Heavy Games

Hmm…. think, think… How do we tell a compelling story in our multiplayer only game?

     Hey there travelers! Doctor Bambi here, back with another nugget of info to get those nerd juices flowing. With the new generation of consoles settling into their rightful place upon our tv stands, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on two of the biggest titles to hit next gen platforms and one common complaint shared between them both. The titles are Titanfall and Destiny. The complaint? Story line.

     First thing I’d like to say is that if you haven’t played either of these games, go do it. They are awesome and totally worth your time. BUT, if you were to go parooz the internetz for the reviewz, you’d find most people complaining about the shoehorned or impersonal story. So, how do you tell a compelling story in a game designed specifically for multiplayer?

     Titanfall tried to answer this question by creating the multiplayer mode Campaign. You’d get a short cut scene before each match began and then during the match, the characters would chime in with dialogue attempting to make you care about the moment to moment events. Of course it didn’t work… at all. When I’m wallrunning hundreds of feet in the air about to rodeo a titan and headshot that sniper off the roof, my last concern is the gabber that’s coming in over my radio. It’s like going to a movie and someone pulling out their phone and start gossiping about last night’s pottery class. It’s just super annoying. The dialogue should reflect the situation. Call of Duty has done this well for quite some time. Tell me pertinent information, like when there’s a sniper nearby or if a titan is about to crush my body like a rollie pollie. By forcing that story content into the heated gameplay, you make it near impossible for me to pay attention and I stop caring.

     Destiny does the same thing too. It tries to give you crucial information to the plot when you’re mowing down waves of enemies. This is not the time nor place. Plot moments that are epic in scale need a place for the player to really sit down and take in that moment.

     If you think back to half-life, when there was something of great importance that pushed the plot along, the game would essentially confine you to a small space where there was no threat of attack. This gave you the freedom to pay attention to the story unfolding before you.

     But of course these are multiplayer games, and when you’re with your friends, you’re less likely to be paying attention to the story anyway. Perhaps a truly multiplayer game like titanfall doesn’t need a campaign in the standard sense of the word. You have a gathering of real people, nothing will ever be more compelling than other humans. Give them the ability to make the story their own. Perhaps when you enter campaign mode, you are paired with a collection of people. There’s an area where you can all talk and get to know one another, make it personal, give this sense of being part of a team about to embark on something incredibly dangerous. Then have a branching path depending on whether you loose or win certain matches. Let the environment give a basic framework of the story, but let the system and the players discover their own unique moment to moment story along the way.

     More and more we are seeing the power balance between player and developer level out. In this new space where computing power holds few limits on our imaginations, game design cannot be constrained by factors taken for granted just a few years ago. With more time, developers will start to take better advantage of our connected world and build compelling content around that space. When we do get it right, it’s going to be awesome.

     Here’s to the future and what we make of it. Stay save travelers.

Is Dead Space 3 a Love Letter to the Future of the Dead Space Franchise

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So I’ve recently finished up the third installment in the Dead Space franchise and have to say I am quite surprised. So there I was trudging along through dark, dank hallways doing my dead space thing. When all of a sudden something incredible happened. Dead Space let me choose in which order to attack certain key objectives. It opened up the world and said okay here’s your little box, go out and do whatever in your little box. And of course this little box was in a zero grav environment revolving round the frigid Tau Volantis. Scattered with bits of fallen SCAF vessels. A Catacomb in a vacuum, overrun by morbidly mutated necromorphs. It’s also a section where co-op is available. There’s something very fun about exploring such an incredibly realized reality with one of your close friends, not sure how you’re going to survive this tragic situation. By far one of the most impactful moments I had in the game. From this stemmed a stream of thoughts that made me very excited about the future implications of this franchise.

The love letter is one of the purest forms of hope and love. A promissory note of all the great things that will come once time has had its chance to pass. What is Dead Space 3 possibly professing to us? I would say Visceral is at a threshold and just beyond is something quite spectacular. That moment in the game where I had my little box and I could play the game my way. I want more of that. I want to explore the Dead Space world on my terms and I want to experience this with my friends. With the next generation of consoles comes new game design opportunities. Already we see this burgeoning sudo single player/ multiplayer experience in games like Destiny. Dead Space could very much take advantage of this system and give you the chance to explore the world on an incredibly personal level.

But what kind of implications would this have on the horror elements of Dead Space? It’s quite clear at the moment that Visceral has headed more toward action than horror, but opening up the game could actually allow Dead Space to head back to its roots. One of the main reasons Dead Space was such a scary experience was due to the usg ishimura feeling so realistic. Even though the experience was linear, you were free to travel to where ever on the ship you wanted to go at just about any time. It becomes scary when the familiar changes on you. When what you believe is safe becomes very much the opposite. Dead Space did this constantly, having you traverse the same areas multiple times and watching those environments change over time. Having an open environment gives that sense of exploration and fear of the unknown back to the player.

This is certainly just a big opinion, but what does it make you think? Would you like an open world Dead Space? Would the open world setting destroy what you find so great about Dead Space? Curious to hear people’s thoughts if you find this.