Screenplays for video games
altered by the player, or selected in a meaningful non-linear fashion
via gameplay, are no different than traditional screenplays. As the
first screenplays did not veer too far from stage plays, with minimal
sets, and high caliber, sometimes over-the-top, characters. So to the
game screenplay is still akin to the screenplays of film. Example 1
(below) is from my first game screenplay for “Company of Heroes:
Example 1: Game Screenplay Cinematic Sequences
are not found in its predecessors. First and foremost are the
non-linear activities associated with modern gameplay. While
multiplayer games do not have a linear scope or one that tends to focus
on storytelling, single player modes or games, tend to have a linear
story which is parsed and delivered between non-linear gameplay
segments. For just such segments I created a header for nonlinear
gameplay segments, to indicate that what the reader is looking at is
not a predictable segment, in at least the notion that the player can
choose to do any number of things to resolve a particular problem, be
it combative or otherwise.
Example 2: Game Screenplay Gameplay Sequences
The example above consists of 3 gameplay segments and
acts as a simple indicator that the player has to solve the problems
described prior to advancing through the game. It gives the play
designer room to create memorable moments within this non-linear
segment, while allowing them the luxury of knowing what action the
gameplay segment is to transition from and to.
Part 3: Non-linear dialog and action
and dialog variation, are vital to an interactive system. While
screenplays for films may offer alternate lines (known as Alts)
intelligent game systems might select a different state for an
non-player character (NPC) depending on variable player actions.
Alternate lines can provide a rich texture for replay-ability and
suspension of disbelief.
Example 3: Game Screenplay Gameplay Sequences
While certainly not a prescription for all game writing situations, I
find the solutions presented above as adequate to meet the needs of
writing for mature AAA-titles. Moving forward I truly believe we as an
industry need such standardization to create compelling game story
experiences. I invite all game writers, novice and expert alike to join
me in creating this new and exciting format.
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