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Evolution of storytelling - Noah Falstein

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Evolution of storytelling - Noah Falstein

  1. 1. Evolution of Storytelling Noah Falstein CCO, Suddenly Social
  2. 2. My Background n  Began as a game programmer, 1980 n  16 years in companies – LArts, 3DO, DWI n  15 years freelance design worldwide in console, PC, serious games, social, mobile n  Now Suddenly Social with creators of Habitat, about 1/4 of Lucasfilm Games in 1985 © Copyright 2012 Suddenly Social
  3. 3. Evolving Stories… n  Stories and games seem to go together n  And of course in many ways they do n  But in others, they are 180 degrees apart, and can fight each other n  Understanding evolution, game design, and psychology can help us align them n  Let me demonstrate… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  4. 4. House on Fire n  Let me tell you a story… n  Is this MY story – or YOURS? n  What’s going on here? © 2012 Noah Falstein
  5. 5. Evolution of Storytelling n  Games are very old © 2012 Noah Falstein
  6. 6. Evolution of Storytelling n  Storytelling is likely even older © 2012 Noah Falstein
  7. 7. Evolution of Storytelling n  They seem to have a lot in common © 2012 Noah Falstein
  8. 8. Evolutionary Roots n  Question of human nature, behavior n  Many designers turn to psychology and evolutionary biology n  Need a theory for the hunter-gatherer society where our ancestors lived for millennia n  But it should also help explain modern entertainment in all its variety n  And of course, video games! n  Maybe help point the way forward as well © 2012 Noah Falstein
  9. 9. The Core Assumptions of Natural Funativity n  Why would early humans take play so far? n  Play as kids to learn survival, then Work/Rest as adults n  But evolution favors fittest, and neotenous genes present n  How to be more fit – use energy, must have payoff, must not be too dangerous n  Like many evo things, have multiple uses, like language n  People who didn’t experience fun were less likely to survive to become our ancestors n  Only the context has changed a bit: © 2012 Noah Falstein
  10. 10. Hunter/Gatherer, Then: © 2012 Noah Falstein
  11. 11. Hunter/Gatherer, Now: © 2012 Noah Falstein
  12. 12. Video Game Hunter? © 2012 Noah Falstein
  13. 13. Video Game Gatherer? © 2012 Noah Falstein
  14. 14. Evolution Premise n  Entertainment is all about gaining survival (and reproduction) advantages n  Stories are the first Virtual Reality n  We learn from others’ experiences n  Games are about choice and actions n  We learn by getting better at skills n  Games are Doing, Stories are Telling n  For more info google “Natural Funativity”
  15. 15. Gameplay trumps Story n  So “Show, don’t tell” becomes “Do, don’t show” n  Many great games with lots of interactivity, no story – Tetris, Bejewelled n  No great games with lots of story, no interactivity. Count ‘em. None! n  But there are fabulously successful things with no interactivity and great stories n  We call them Movies
  16. 16. Diablo II – Great Game, Lousy Story
  17. 17. But the intrinsic “storytelling” was enough
  18. 18. So is it hopeless? n  We can mix stories in games n  Stories can make games more fun n  They can intensify emotional response or enable new feelings n  They can add a new dimension to an already good game n  It’s just hard – so you should have a good reason – and a good writer!
  19. 19. Story and Gameplay n  Let’s look at good gameplay and game design and see how it can blend with good storytelling © 2012 Noah Falstein
  20. 20. Definition of a Great Game n  A great game is a series of interesting and meaningful choices made by the player in pursuit of a clear and compelling goal n  Dissecting this helped with a lot of early ideas about Natural Funativity © 2012 Noah Falstein
  21. 21. A series of … choices in pursuit of a … goal n  Must have choice, or it is not interactive n  Chris Crawford says “Verbs, not Nouns” n  I prefer “Do, don’t show” n  Must be a series of choices or it is too simple to be a game n  Must have a goal or it is a software toy n  With Sim City, The Sims or Facebook players may bring their own goals n  Storytelling supplies goals © 2012 Noah Falstein
  22. 22. Interesting and Meaningful choices n  Choices may be dull and uninteresting because it was easy to code that way n  Or it may be the reflection of a lazy designer n  Meaningful choices are perceived by the player as having significant consequences – illusion is enough n  May not have actual consequences… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  23. 23. Clear and Compelling goal n  Clear goals, because it is not fun to flounder aimlessly n  Avoid the “protagonist with amnesia” and other clichés in your story n  Compelling goals are goals that follow the concepts in Natural Funativity n  Survival is always a compelling goal n  So is romance – finding a mate © 2012 Noah Falstein
  24. 24. Structure: A series of choices n  No choice – simplest, but least interesting possible structure – this is a linear sequence or narrative © 2012 Noah Falstein
  25. 25. Evolution of gameplay n  So let’s look at how video game structure has evolved over the years, and what has been proven to work © 2012 Noah Falstein
  26. 26. A series of choices n  Meaningless choices n  Obviously fold back into same path n  Players discover this quickly n  But good for simple action game © 2012 Noah Falstein
  27. 27. A series of choices n  Infinite choices n  Quickly become unmanageable © 2012 Noah Falstein
  28. 28. A series of choices n  Choose wisely n  Kill off player with any wrong choice n  Better but frustrating © 2012 Noah Falstein
  29. 29. For example… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  30. 30. And more recently… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  31. 31. Classic game structure n  A convexity n  Starts with a single choice, widens to many choices, returns to a single choice © 2012 Noah Falstein
  32. 32. Convexity qualities n  Go from one to many to one n  Can be a level, an act, an episode n  Can be any kind of choice – geography, weapons, tools, skills, technologies, quests – or story dialog choices n  One example – exploring an island n  Another – technology build tree © 2012 Noah Falstein
  33. 33. Fractal structure n  Large scale structure repeated on medium, smaller scales, like a coastline n  In the case of convexities, each circle is not a single choice, but a convexity n  Frontierville example – To gain experience, build cabin, need tools, visit friends, tend their crops, request gift © 2012 Noah Falstein
  34. 34. A series of convexities n  Many games are chains of convexities B B B B A A A A A n  Points of limited choice (A) alternate with points of many choices (B) © 2012 Noah Falstein
  35. 35. Story Tension Diagrams © 2012 Noah Falstein
  36. 36. A series of convexities n  Many overlapping convexities in great games n  Examples include Halo, Zelda games, Civilization, Diablo II, Starcraft, Bioshock, Frontierville, many others n  Player can be starting one task or area, in the middle of another, and at the end of a third, all simultaneously © 2012 Noah Falstein
  37. 37. Why is this structure so good? n  Give the player choice but not an infinitely expanding set of choices n  Mix of some “any order” choices (B) and some in fixed order (A), blending freedom with linear storytelling n  Can be structured so players see most of the game, minimizing waste n  Can have difficulty go up in new levels © 2012 Noah Falstein
  38. 38. Psychological advantages of classic structure n  Alternating intense learning (A) with time to practice (B) is the best way to master new skills n  Gradual learning and introduction of new skills at the heart of fun game play n  “Easy to learn, difficult to master” n  Stories – series of acts, building to crisis © 2012 Noah Falstein
  39. 39. The concept of Flow n  U of C professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi n  One of his books is “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” n  Flow is a state of exhilaration, deep sense of enjoyment n  Usually when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile © 2012 Noah Falstein
  40. 40. The Flow Channel n  Start with relatively low level of challenge to match starting skill levels n  Gradually increase challenge n  Fast enough to prevent boredom n  Not so fast as to induce frustration © 2012 Noah Falstein
  41. 41. The Flow Channel Too Hard (Frustrating) Increasing Difficulty si on y Pr ogres lt eD ifficu G am Ideal Too Easy (Boring) Increasing Time (and Player Skill) © 2012 Noah Falstein
  42. 42. The Flow Channel n  Flow state is common while developing same skills noted in Natural Funativity n  Best to introduce skills one at a time, let player master them, move on to new n  This results in staggered increase in difficulty (wavy difficulty line) © 2012 Noah Falstein
  43. 43. Difficulty Increase Varies B B B B A A A A A A = Rapid Difficulty Increase, B = Slower Increase © 2012 Noah Falstein
  44. 44. Typical game mechanisms n  High difficulty increase: Boss monsters, climactic battles, quest resolutions n  Low difficulty increase: Bonus levels, new resource- and treasure-rich areas, series of easy “minion” enemies n  Overlap introduction of new skills, areas to explore, tools, enemies © 2012 Noah Falstein
  45. 45. Story Tension Diagrams © 2012 Noah Falstein
  46. 46. Conclusions n  Games, stories about evolutionary advantages n  They blend on some levels, conflict on others n  Use them in harmony and you will succeed, use them in conflict and player will feel frustrated © 2012 Noah Falstein
  47. 47. Thank You! n  Noah Falstein n  Send me a Linked In request, mention this presentation or conversation n  nfalstein on twitter, skype n  noah@suddenlysocial.net (note .NET) © Copyright 2012 Suddenly Social