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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 Backgroundn  Began as a game programmer, 1980n  16 years in companies – LArts, 3DO, DWIn  15 years freelance design worldwide in console, PC, serious games, social, mobilen  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 togethern  And of course in many ways they don  But in others, they are 180 degrees apart, and can fight each othern  Understanding evolution, game design, and psychology can help us align themn  Let me demonstrate… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  4. 4. House on Firen  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 Storytellingn  Games are very old © 2012 Noah Falstein
  6. 6. Evolution of Storytellingn  Storytelling is likely even older © 2012 Noah Falstein
  7. 7. Evolution of Storytellingn  They seem to have a lot in common © 2012 Noah Falstein
  8. 8. Evolutionary Rootsn  Question of human nature, behavior n  Many designers turn to psychology and evolutionary biologyn  Need a theory for the hunter-gatherer society where our ancestors lived for millennian  But it should also help explain modern entertainment in all its varietyn  And of course, video games!n  Maybe help point the way forward as well © 2012 Noah Falstein
  9. 9. The Core Assumptions ofNatural Funativityn  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 languagen  People who didn’t experience fun were less likely to survive to become our ancestorsn  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 Premisen  Entertainment is all about gaining survival (and reproduction) advantagesn  Stories are the first Virtual Realityn  We learn from others’ experiencesn  Games are about choice and actionsn  We learn by getting better at skillsn  Games are Doing, Stories are Tellingn  For more info google “Natural Funativity”
  15. 15. Gameplay trumps Storyn  So “Show, don’t tell” becomes “Do, don’t show”n  Many great games with lots of interactivity, no story – Tetris, Bejewelledn  No great games with lots of story, no interactivity. Count ‘em. None!n  But there are fabulously successful things with no interactivity and great storiesn  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 gamesn  Stories can make games more funn  They can intensify emotional response or enable new feelingsn  They can add a new dimension to an already good gamen  It’s just hard – so you should have a good reason – and a good writer!
  19. 19. Story and Gameplayn  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 Gamen  A great game is a series of interesting and meaningful choices made by the player in pursuit of a clear and compelling goaln  Dissecting this helped with a lot of early ideas about Natural Funativity © 2012 Noah Falstein
  21. 21. A series of … choices inpursuit of a … goaln  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 gamen  Must have a goal or it is a software toyn  With Sim City, The Sims or Facebook players may bring their own goalsn  Storytelling supplies goals © 2012 Noah Falstein
  22. 22. Interesting and Meaningfulchoicesn  Choices may be dull and uninteresting because it was easy to code that wayn  Or it may be the reflection of a lazy designern  Meaningful choices are perceived by the player as having significant consequences – illusion is enoughn  May not have actual consequences… © 2012 Noah Falstein
  23. 23. Clear and Compelling goaln  Clear goals, because it is not fun to flounder aimlesslyn  Avoid the “protagonist with amnesia” and other clichés in your storyn  Compelling goals are goals that follow the concepts in Natural Funativityn  Survival is always a compelling goaln  So is romance – finding a mate © 2012 Noah Falstein
  24. 24. Structure: A series of choicesn  No choice – simplest, but least interesting possible structure – this is a linear sequence or narrative © 2012 Noah Falstein
  25. 25. Evolution of gameplayn  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 choicesn  Meaningless choicesn  Obviously fold back into same pathn  Players discover this quicklyn  But good for simple action game © 2012 Noah Falstein
  27. 27. A series of choicesn  Infinite choicesn  Quickly become unmanageable © 2012 Noah Falstein
  28. 28. A series of choicesn  Choose wiselyn  Kill off player with any wrong choicen  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 structuren  A convexityn  Starts with a single choice, widens to many choices, returns to a single choice © 2012 Noah Falstein
  32. 32. Convexity qualitiesn  Go from one to many to onen  Can be a level, an act, an episoden  Can be any kind of choice – geography, weapons, tools, skills, technologies, quests – or story dialog choicesn  One example – exploring an islandn  Another – technology build tree © 2012 Noah Falstein
  33. 33. Fractal structuren  Large scale structure repeated on medium, smaller scales, like a coastlinen  In the case of convexities, each circle is not a single choice, but a convexityn  Frontierville example – To gain experience, build cabin, need tools, visit friends, tend their crops, request gift © 2012 Noah Falstein
  34. 34. A series of convexitiesn  Many games are chains of convexities B B B B A A A A An  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 convexitiesn  Many overlapping convexities in great gamesn  Examples include Halo, Zelda games, Civilization, Diablo II, Starcraft, Bioshock, Frontierville, many othersn  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 choicesn  Mix of some “any order” choices (B) and some in fixed order (A), blending freedom with linear storytellingn  Can be structured so players see most of the game, minimizing wasten  Can have difficulty go up in new levels © 2012 Noah Falstein
  38. 38. Psychological advantages ofclassic structuren  Alternating intense learning (A) with time to practice (B) is the best way to master new skillsn  Gradual learning and introduction of new skills at the heart of fun game playn  “Easy to learn, difficult to master”n  Stories – series of acts, building to crisis © 2012 Noah Falstein
  39. 39. The concept of Flown  U of C professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyin  One of his books is “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”n  Flow is a state of exhilaration, deep sense of enjoymentn  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 Channeln  Start with relatively low level of challenge to match starting skill levelsn  Gradually increase challengen  Fast enough to prevent boredomn  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 Channeln  Flow state is common while developing same skills noted in Natural Funativityn  Best to introduce skills one at a time, let player master them, move on to newn  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 mechanismsn  High difficulty increase: Boss monsters, climactic battles, quest resolutionsn  Low difficulty increase: Bonus levels, new resource- and treasure-rich areas, series of easy “minion” enemiesn  Overlap introduction of new skills, areas to explore, tools, enemies © 2012 Noah Falstein
  45. 45. Story Tension Diagrams © 2012 Noah Falstein
  46. 46. Conclusionsn  Games, stories about evolutionary advantagesn  They blend on some levels, conflict on othersn  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 Falsteinn  Send me a Linked In request, mention this presentation or conversationn  nfalstein on twitter, skypen (note .NET) © Copyright 2012 Suddenly Social