The Little Guy

The Little Guy
Scratchware Auteurs

Patrick Dugan | 9 May 2006 12:03
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PD: Like pop.

GC: Or symphonic music. There is a narrative in the sense that there is change over time, but it's not "story" per se. There are many games that integrate story very effectively; there are many games where story is irrelevant. To me, the search for the interactive narrative game is one of those things that people have bashed their head against the wall about since the beginning of computer games - and if you want to bash your head against that wall, that's great. Sooner or later someone will break through the wall, but me, I'll go do something else.

CB: Keita Takahashi has been just an enormous influence for me, and that other guy from the same publisher, his name escapes me, Tuori Iwatani, the Pac-Man guy, his talk was fantastic. I didn't fully take on board what he was saying until some time afterwards. He spent ages talking about escalators, and I was like, "Why is this Japanese game designer talking about escalators?" But the point he was getting across is: When someone comes to an escalator, they know what to do with it. There is no learning barrier in using an escalator. It's a fluid experience.

SS: Shiguero Miyamoto said the same thing about a Rubik's Cube. From a designer's perspective, you get a cube in your hands and you know you want to line up the squares. It's self-explanatory. That's the philosophy behind a lot of Japanese games and they know how to do that stuff, so ...

JC: I've got something that might help you guys: One I night I had dream with a very unique, dramatic story about four vampires. (Group laughter) It was like a movie, there was a lot of depth that actually reflects on the society. I wanted to share this with my friends, so I woke up and sat down to write something. The first thing that came to mind was screenplay format - that was obvious. Then I think, "I'm a game designer, can I communicate this in a game better than in a film?" I tried to figure out how to enhance the story in a way that film can't, but I couldn't figure it out. You can do a story so easily with just a pen and some paper, or with a book or a film, but when you come to games, you get stuck. Most designers just tell a story like a film and have gameplay in between.

GC: Actually, I would recommend you look at what are called "Narrativist" paper RPGs. There are a number that are designed to create experiences that shape into a story for people. The way they do that is constrain the narrative arc so the shape of the story remains the same, but they allow people enormous freedom of action within that. It's kind of the opposite of a traditional tabletop RPG, where players can go off in any direction but moment to moment they have to roll a die to see if they can do what they do. Instead, they can do whatever they want, moment to moment, but the narrative arc is pushing you. It's weird, bizarre. ... I don't know how you would do it in a digital environment.

CB: Maybe in a moderated massively multiplayer context. It you look at the strengths of tabletop roleplaying, a lot of the strengths seem to come from allowing one person to take control on the understanding that their role of being in control is a cooperative one with the entire group. MMOGs don't really tap into that potential successfully.

PD: I think, with massively multiplayer, you have all these unpredictable people and the complexity goes up rather than down, though I'd like to see someone approach the problem from that angle.

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