1111
Steve Introduction:
Hi folks,
Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. You may be wondering why there are two of us on
t...
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[CLICK TO START JON BIO]
JONATHON
Jon’s Bio
Contract Writer and Narrative Designer for social and mobile games
[CLICK...
3333
STEVE SLIDE
This is the game Jon and I made together, Indiana Jones Adventure World. Of course, Jon and
I did everyth...
44
STEVE SLIDE
Indiana Jones Adventure World was made by Zynga Boston, a studio of Zynga (Zynga is
everywhere!)
We had lot...
5555
STEVE SLIDE
What Game Did We Make?
●Indiana Jones Adventure World is:
● A game on Facebook
● Using handcrafted isomet...
6666
JONATHON STARTS
Although you’re going to hear a talk about narrative for social games, this is not about writing
copy...
7777
STEVE
Today we’ll be focusing on narrative design. We done did some narrative.
JONATHON
We’ll be viewing the game as ...
8888
STEVE SLIDE
This is also a recollection of the personal journey we took, Jon & Steve, writer and designer
working tog...
9999
STEVE SLIDE
Episode 1: The Show Must Go On
What we did is a little bit interesting.
What we did was hard.
What are th...
10101010
Jon: Morning Steve. I, uh, took a look at your Library map, and there’s no Library of
Alexandria in it.
Steve: Wh...
11111111
JON: (Radio Announcer Voice) “What will happen to our intrepid designer and writer?! Will
they solve the problem ...
12121212
STEVE SLIDE
The social game industry has a number of buzzwords.
Let’s recap that one sentence.
The reason we have...
13131313
JONATHON SLIDE
Our Challenge is to hold the audience’s attention.
[CLICK]
We know that the social game audience g...
14141414
STEVE SLIDE
If your audience won’t remember chapter 2, how can you tell them chapter 3?
Serve them sliders!
Make ...
15151515
STEVE SLIDE
If your audience won’t remember chapter 2, how can you tell them chapter 3?
Serve them sliders!
Make ...
16161616
- Steve: For our next release, we need to do a map set in a tomb in Egypt.
- Jon: So, what are we trying to recov...
17171717
JONATHON SLIDE
By keeping it simple during early idea sessions – like the one we just demonstrated – led us to
a ...
18181818
STEVE SLIDE
Yes and no.
We were indeed working on a live game. This means that…
Changes are Immediate
Feedback ca...
19191919
STEVE STARTS
Of course not. We built upon Zynga’s prior success.
Treasure Isle introduced map-based gameplay and ...
20202020
JON SLIDE
Story! It had a strong engaging beginning moment and first act. You play a role, a character who
has ar...
21212121
JON SLIDE
You receive a letter from your newly married spouse asking that you clear the land and build a
homestea...
22222222
JON CONTINUES
Our gameplay and story evolved out of these. We also took advantage of their systems and started
wi...
23232323
STEVE SLIDE
In this episode
We learned a few things about telling stories on a live social game.
JONATHON NEXT SL...
24242424
JONATHON SLIDE
Which leads us to our story IP, which was a perfect match for our innovative direction.
However… f...
25252525
STEVE SLIDE
Zynga Boston knew it wanted to build an Adventure game, so we sought to understand what
made a great ...
26262626
STEVE SLIDE
BUT, an adventure game without Indiana Jones isn’t nearly as good as one with Indiana Jones
And we ar...
27272727
JONATHON SLIDE
That’s me!
And I found out it’s an awesome opportunity to work on a story IP for a social game bec...
28282828
STEVE SLIDE
This gave us a great playground for narrative.
Case in point – Indiana Jones has always strongly asso...
29292929
STEVE SLIDE
This is our bridge between the movies and the game – you meet Forrestal who is someone who
is dead by...
30303030
JONATHON SLIDE
… Sallah was in Egypt. We learned quickly that fans respond to the iconic – so we delivered
to fan...
31313131
STEVE SLIDE
They gave us creative freedom
They asked us to respect the franchise, and we complied
Both sides were...
32323232
STEVE SLIDE
[CLICKFEST]
JONATHON NEXT SLIDE
32
33333333
JONATHON SLIDE
Moving on to How We Did What We Did…
Point being, we know that much of this is elementary and basi...
34343434
JONATHON SLIDE
And so we went back to the source and found the soul of the IP.
We explored the entire canon inclu...
353535
JONATHON SLIDE
What did this mean for making content?
In particular I studied comic, movie, and radio serials such ...
36363636
STEVE SLIDE
What does the Source Material mean for making content?
Well, I am about Metaphor
CROW = (Character, R...
37373737
JONATHON SLIDE
Jon: I always say, “What is the object? Because we need a goal for the dramatic conflict.”
Steve: ...
38383838
STEVE SLIDE START
Steve: The player is the most important figure – it’s just good game design! If you’re not the
...
39393939
JONATHON SLIDE
So what should the player/hero and Indiana Jones experience? FORMULA
We learned that in order to r...
40404040
STEVE SLIDE
We’re still making a game
We follow a taxonomy of data structure that plays really well into storytel...
41414141
STEVE SLIDE
●Quest Tasks (Solve Crystal Skull Puzzles)
●In order to…
●Quests per Map (Release the Eagle Warriors)...
42424242
JONATHON SLIDE
As those core gameplay elements were used as story components for a narrative experience, we
found...
43434343
JONATHON SLIDE
This connective tissue also offered us opportunities to provide the player with hints about what
t...
44444444
JONATHON SLIDE
It’s important to note that this connective tissue is stuff that’s not necessary to read or follow...
45454545
JONATHON SLIDE
So once we combined the complex core gameplay system with planned moments of
storytelling events, ...
46464646
STEVE: So, we treated the player as a hero fighting the good fight alongside Indiana Jones
JON: And we encountere...
47474747
STEVE SLIDE
“Let’s talk about what its like for a writer and a designer to work together positively.”
STEVE NEXT ...
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STEVE SLIDE
•We explored many forms of chaptering, episodic forms, and even mini-stories
•In the end, we had one ...
49494949
STEVE SLIDE
Original game “Quest” was developed to have a different narrative need
40 maps with self-contained st...
50505050
JONATHON SLIDE
•Someone to oversee and hold the big picture
•Someone to edit everyone
• You can’t edit your own t...
51515151
JONATHON SLIDE
We quickly evolved from one-off stories to a connected series of related maps with interesting
dec...
52525252
STEVE SLIDE
This conversation leads to a player decision in which they can choose to give the Mask of the
Hunter ...
53535353
STEVE SLIDE
I would argue yes, and we tried other experiments as well
•We knew that text engages the audience, to...
54545454
STEVE SLIDE
Text has its own gameplay
Text can be collectible!
STEVE NEXT SLIDE
55555555
STEVE SLIDE
Calendar of the Sun was written and blocked out for Indiana Jones
We wanted to do the license proud.
...
56565656
STEVE SLIDE
Our first big engagement with the whole IP was in this map series – we asked if we could use
Forresta...
57575757
STEVE SLIDE
We know the year, 1934. How do we use this?
Warriors of the Sky: a young, sane Harold Oxley
Oxley: a ...
58585858
STEVE BEGINS
Bad Guys used to be a vague concept of “Mercenaries”
Bad Guys = Brotherhood of the Eclipse
JON: Too ...
59595959
JONATHON SLIDE
EGYPT
Perfect storm of anticipation, gameplay, story, and IP
Our most ambitious story attempt!
We ...
60606060
JONATHON STARTS SLIDE
JON: Hey Steve, it’s been an hour since we realized the Library of Alexandria map won’t loo...
61616161
JON: Yes, so Indy is right that it’s a tomb, and not the original Library of Alexandria
STEVE: But Sallah is righ...
62626262
STEVE START SLIDE
STEVE: Good game design = large aspirational goals and small incremental achievements, big
carr...
63636363
JONATHON SLIDE
Egypt was ambitious for the size of our design team
Split into 2 content teams, leapfrogging over ...
64646464
STEVE SLIDE
Re-focused our content cadence based on what we have learned
This “two week plan” benefited the desig...
65656565
STEVE SLIDE
Zynga desired solid narrative, and it was deemed important to the game and the design
process.
Once t...
66666666
TWO WEEKS IN THE LIFE…
OF INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE WORLD
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STEVE NEXT SLIDE
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STEVE SLIDE
TUESDAY: “Develop the Pitch” - designers, free from all constraints, what story to tell, what
gamepla...
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STEVE SLIDE
Friday to Tuesday was the easy time if you like to build maps, which many of us do – it was
kind of r...
70707070
71717171
STEVE STARTS SLIDE
On Wednesday, designers would write the rough draft for the text with some help from the
write...
72727272
73737373
STEVE SLIDE
On Monday, QA owns our maps, and our text – the writer is doing final preparations for
exporting for ...
74747474
STEVE SLIDE
Of course this is an example of the ideal schedule we developed, and of course we glossed
over a lot ...
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STEVE SLIDE
[CLICKFEST]
STEVE NEXT SLIDE
75
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STEVE TAKES IT HOME
In our first episode we discussed the realities of regularly shipping content in a live game,...
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In episode 2 we talked about how we transitioned from Quest to Indiana Jones, the advantage
in social games of ha...
78787878
Episode 3 was about our personal take on story, how narrative text and narrative map design
meshed quite nicely, ...
79797979
For Episode 4 we talked about some of the narrative strategies we tried, and the lessons they
taught us.
[CLICK]
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Finally, in Episode 5 we showed how the schedule and structure we arrived at worked for us,
and how regular conte...
81818181
STEVE SLIDE
of 81

Narrative for Social Games

Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Published in: Entertainment & Humor      Design      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Narrative for Social Games

  • 1. 1111 Steve Introduction: Hi folks, Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. You may be wondering why there are two of us on this stage. It’s a little known fact that GDCO has a height requirement for its speakers, so Jon and I joined forces to meet that requirement. However, we will need you help… if you happen to see any GDC staff out there, give us a signal so I can climb on Jon’s shoulders. That said, my name is Steve Williams, senior game designer from Zynga Boston. JON: And I’m Jon Myers, game writer on the project. [CLICK] JONATHON NEXT
  • 2. 2222 [CLICK TO START JON BIO] JONATHON Jon’s Bio Contract Writer and Narrative Designer for social and mobile games [CLICK TO START STEVE BIO] STEVE Steve’s Bio I’m a former science teacher who decided to make MMOs. Through my career I’ve gained a bit of experience working with IPs. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 2
  • 3. 3333 STEVE SLIDE This is the game Jon and I made together, Indiana Jones Adventure World. Of course, Jon and I did everything ourselves. JON: EVERYTHING. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 3
  • 4. 44 STEVE SLIDE Indiana Jones Adventure World was made by Zynga Boston, a studio of Zynga (Zynga is everywhere!) We had lots of help making this game a success. JON: But to give specific credit where credit is due, these people also had a huge influence on narrative for our game. STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 5. 5555 STEVE SLIDE What Game Did We Make? ●Indiana Jones Adventure World is: ● A game on Facebook ● Using handcrafted isometric Map-based gameboards ● Light RPG elements ● United with a powerful IP ● Map releases are episodic stories JONATHON START NEXT SLIDE
  • 6. 6666 JONATHON STARTS Although you’re going to hear a talk about narrative for social games, this is not about writing copy for a social game. STEVE TAKES OVER Likewise, our Lead Designer talked about the design of core gameplay elsewhere. [CLICK] STEVE START NEXT SLIDE
  • 7. 7777 STEVE Today we’ll be focusing on narrative design. We done did some narrative. JONATHON We’ll be viewing the game as an episodic story framework for delivering weekly serial content to a playing audience STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 8. 8888 STEVE SLIDE This is also a recollection of the personal journey we took, Jon & Steve, writer and designer working together on a live game, building trust, accomplishing goals, running into challenges and encountering breakthroughs Because we are episodic in our content, we went episodic in our presentation. PAUSE Here are our main points, beginning with… STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 9. 9999 STEVE SLIDE Episode 1: The Show Must Go On What we did is a little bit interesting. What we did was hard. What are the stakes when Jon and I would walk into work each day? [PUT HATS ON] JONATHON STARTS NEXT SLIDE
  • 10. 10101010 Jon: Morning Steve. I, uh, took a look at your Library map, and there’s no Library of Alexandria in it. Steve: What? Let me go talk to art. Jon Announcer Voice: Steve returns 5 minutes later Steve: Okay, we don’t get to have a Library of Alexandria. Jon: The map is called the Library of Alexandria! Steve: Well now the library is inside a tomb. Jon: It’s Friday, I don’t think we’ll have this ready to release on Tuesday as planned. Steve: The reason we have this cadence is that our metrics have shown that our retention is best during the workweek – off-schedule releases are something we should totally avoid! Jon: Can we at least push this map to Thursday rather than Tuesday to gain time to solve this issue so the narrative makes sense? Steve: The closer we get to the weekend, the smaller our potential audience for this release. We need to figure this out now. The show must go on! Jon: Okay, give me an hour to think of how this can all fit together with our story and then we’ll meet to pow-wow this. Good luck! Steve: Good luck! 10
  • 11. 11111111 JON: (Radio Announcer Voice) “What will happen to our intrepid designer and writer?! Will they solve the problem in time to ship? Stay Tuned, Adventure Fans!” [HATS OFF] STEVE COUGHS – Ok, back to the presentation. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 11
  • 12. 12121212 STEVE SLIDE The social game industry has a number of buzzwords. Let’s recap that one sentence. The reason we have this cadence is that our metrics have shown that our DAU (and with it) retention is best during the workweek – off-schedule releases are totally something we should avoid! JONATHON So what does this mean for narrative? 12
  • 13. 13131313 JONATHON SLIDE Our Challenge is to hold the audience’s attention. [CLICK] We know that the social game audience generally plays games with… ● Low per-session time investment (which means we don’t have a lot of room for subtlety) ● There can also be a significant variation in the time gap between sessions ● This is a challenge for both narrative and gameplay! STEVE NEXT SLIDE 13
  • 14. 14141414 STEVE SLIDE If your audience won’t remember chapter 2, how can you tell them chapter 3? Serve them sliders! Make those extremely brief session times short and sweet! And repeat information as often as you can to keep from losing your audience. JON: Along those lines, longer form stories are tough sells. We had to keep it simple. [PUT HATS ON] STEVE STARTS NEXT SLIDE 14
  • 15. 15151515 STEVE SLIDE If your audience won’t remember chapter 2, how can you tell them chapter 3? Serve them sliders! Make those extremely brief session times short and sweet! And repeat information as often as you can to keep from losing your audience. JON: Along those lines, longer form stories are tough sells. We had to keep it simple. [PUT HATS ON] STEVE STARTS NEXT SLIDE 15
  • 16. 16161616 - Steve: For our next release, we need to do a map set in a tomb in Egypt. - Jon: So, what are we trying to recover? - Steve: The Loincloth of Anubis? - Jon: But what does it do and why do we need to get it? - Steve: I don’t know, the wearer is said to master the power of love? - Jon: Okay, then the Man w/ the Silver Eye wants it to seduce Prof. Allen’s daughter? - Steve: I don’t know, that could lead to direct confrontation, maybe... - Jon: I got it, can’t do that or go there, let’s keep it simpler. - Steve: What’s the simplest thing? Money motivation? - Jon: The Man w/ the Silver Eye wants it to cash in and beat the Adventure Society/Indy - but we get to the tomb, find out the tomb holds members of an ancient harem, we encounter mysterious powers? - Steve: What if it’s simply the Pharoah’s Loincloth that contains the “family jewels.” - Jon: Yes! Here’s the story: 1) The Man with the Silver Eye, 2) Wants the family jewels contained in the Pharaoh’s Loincloth, so 3) player/Indy must travel to the Harem’s Tomb to get it first, or else 4) Silver Eye might sire an army, according to prophesied legend. - Steve: Oh, and it belongs in a museum! [REMOVE HATS] JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 16
  • 17. 17171717 JONATHON SLIDE By keeping it simple during early idea sessions – like the one we just demonstrated – led us to a strong storytelling formula. [CLICK] Go to the thematic place. [CLICK] Get the powerful or mystical thing. [CLICK] Deal with the Looming Antagonist. [CLICK] Or else… what? Where is the peril and danger? What is lost if the hero does not succeed? So, did arriving at a storytelling formula make it easier? [CLICK] STEVE NEXT SLIDE 17
  • 18. 18181818 STEVE SLIDE Yes and no. We were indeed working on a live game. This means that… Changes are Immediate Feedback can be incorporated later. Sometimes you ship it and make corrections after. Pause to… Analyze the audience Analyze the process Paying attention to audience response upon release is a part of the process. “How did that come off? Did the audience get it?” WAS THIS THE FIRST ZYNGA GAME TO DO THIS? STEVE NEXT SLIDE 18
  • 19. 19191919 STEVE STARTS Of course not. We built upon Zynga’s prior success. Treasure Isle introduced map-based gameplay and a sense of exploration But [CLICK] FrontierVille provided... JON NEXT 19
  • 20. 20202020 JON SLIDE Story! It had a strong engaging beginning moment and first act. You play a role, a character who has arrived at the frontier. [CLICK] JON CONTINUES 20
  • 21. 21212121 JON SLIDE You receive a letter from your newly married spouse asking that you clear the land and build a homestead. He or she will not come to the frontier until your tasks are complete. The social game audience felt something for their character in a way they hadn’t before. This technique became worthy of emulation by other titles. [CLICK] JON CONTINUES 21
  • 22. 22222222 JON CONTINUES Our gameplay and story evolved out of these. We also took advantage of their systems and started with their techniques. Indiana Jones Adventure World we attempted to take all this further, to build around the player other characters in conflict with problems. This enabled the presentation of dramatic premises one after the other. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 22
  • 23. 23232323 STEVE SLIDE In this episode We learned a few things about telling stories on a live social game. JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 23
  • 24. 24242424 JONATHON SLIDE Which leads us to our story IP, which was a perfect match for our innovative direction. However… first let’s rewind… [MAKE DOODILY SOUND] STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 25. 25252525 STEVE SLIDE Zynga Boston knew it wanted to build an Adventure game, so we sought to understand what made a great adventure. We knew Indiana Jones was an important voice for the concept of adventure narratives, so we worked hard to understand what he represented. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 25
  • 26. 26262626 STEVE SLIDE BUT, an adventure game without Indiana Jones isn’t nearly as good as one with Indiana Jones And we are huge Indiana Jones fans at Zynga Boston (Hence my fedora). And thus we partnered with LucasArts to produce an Indiana Jones branded adventure game. Using that famous IP drove the need for better narrative What we needed was someone who could think about the IP and the story all the time. What we needed was a full time writer. [CLICK] JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 26
  • 27. 27272727 JONATHON SLIDE That’s me! And I found out it’s an awesome opportunity to work on a story IP for a social game because there is less exposition necessary. The players already know the world and the background, they come ready to engage with what they know. This helps, because building a world and characters in a social game is difficult. The space for text is extremely limited. So we had to determine where our game existed in Indy’s lifespan… We chose 1934, directly before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. [CLICK] STEVE NEXT SLIDE 27
  • 28. 28282828 STEVE SLIDE This gave us a great playground for narrative. Case in point – Indiana Jones has always strongly associated characters with specific locations. We’re in Mesoamerica, so we introduced Forrestal. Why? Because that’s where we saw him in the movies. [CLICK] STEVE CONTINUES 28
  • 29. 29292929 STEVE SLIDE This is our bridge between the movies and the game – you meet Forrestal who is someone who is dead by the time the movie begins. We placed the other Indy characters in their locations: Marion in Tibet, Oxley in Peru, and… [CLICK] JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 29
  • 30. 30303030 JONATHON SLIDE … Sallah was in Egypt. We learned quickly that fans respond to the iconic – so we delivered to fans what they wanted, and let them play the content how they like. STEVE: We found that players choose levels to play based on characters they want to interact with. We’re a social game: You can jump around in our game’s chronology as much as you like, we don’t have a linear story but a series of stories that we encourage you to replay. JON: Well wait, we did release these stories in a linear fashion, chronologically. They did sometimes build upon each other, even if predominantly episodic. STEVE: Ah, but the player get to go back and forth in these releases and play them in any order they desire. For instance, I really really like the character of Oxley, so I want to play the maps he’s on often. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 30
  • 31. 31313131 STEVE SLIDE They gave us creative freedom They asked us to respect the franchise, and we complied Both sides were excited to work with one another And it paid off. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 31
  • 32. 32323232 STEVE SLIDE [CLICKFEST] JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 32
  • 33. 33333333 JONATHON SLIDE Moving on to How We Did What We Did… Point being, we know that much of this is elementary and basic. But the context and applications are unique. We didn't have a guidebook for social game narrative. We had to figure it out as we went... like Indy. JONATHON NEXT SLIDE
  • 34. 34343434 JONATHON SLIDE And so we went back to the source and found the soul of the IP. We explored the entire canon including the Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan story transcripts that would result in the Raiders of the Lost Ark screenplay. It’s there that we discovered that the primary influence for this genre was Saturday Matinee Serials. JONATHON NEXT SLIDE! 34
  • 35. 353535 JONATHON SLIDE What did this mean for making content? In particular I studied comic, movie, and radio serials such as Flash Gordon. Flash Gordon in particular contains satisfying, simple story moments that held the audience’s attention through weekly time gaps and successfully ran for decades. Another technique I used was David Mamet’s notion of drama = Who wants what? Why do they want it? Why now? (as opposed to later) Or else what? What happens if they don’t get it? 35
  • 36. 36363636 STEVE SLIDE What does the Source Material mean for making content? Well, I am about Metaphor CROW = (Character, Relationship, Objective, Where) Babylon 5 = episodic content JON NEXT SLIDE 36
  • 37. 37373737 JONATHON SLIDE Jon: I always say, “What is the object? Because we need a goal for the dramatic conflict.” Steve: To which I reply, “What is the outcome, what’s going to change by the end of this story.” Jon: Which one is the most important? Jon and Steve: The object!/The outcome! Jon: And... who or what is the looming threat? STEVE SLIDE NEXT 37
  • 38. 38383838 STEVE SLIDE START Steve: The player is the most important figure – it’s just good game design! If you’re not the hero, why would you play? Jon: But the IP is about Indiana Jones, he has to be the hero for the fans! So this is a typical problem with IPs. Steve: Because of course the player is the hero. Indy just is helping out. Jon: And we use Indy’s friends a lot as helpers. Steve: But also make sure Indy is never weak, just really… busy. Because seriously, that guy’s schedule is full if you look at the canon! Jon: Well, the player and Indy really need to be on equal footing. Steve: To drive the aspiration of adventuring, we made Indy and the player equal. Jon: Indy is someone the player can work alongside. You’re both adventurers on the same team! JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 38
  • 39. 39393939 JONATHON SLIDE So what should the player/hero and Indiana Jones experience? FORMULA We learned that in order to release serialized content properly we needed a formula. It quickly became important to produce weekly releases of short stories in content chains of 3-4 maps. Each map in a chain is a complete event with objectives and tasks for the player to complete. Each map is also an “act” or segment of a larger story in the full chain of the total content release As you can see here by this highly advanced, scientifically empirical, and super technical document – jotted down during a meeting – This enabled us to focus in on three act structure: First map is always the beginning/problem, Second and/or third map is a middle with new complications The final map is an end with resolution to the story. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 39
  • 40. 40404040 STEVE SLIDE We’re still making a game We follow a taxonomy of data structure that plays really well into storytelling for this game. Location – Peru Map Chain: Warriors of the Sky Map: Eyrie of the Generals Quests on Map: Release the Eagle Warriors Quest Task: Solve Crystal Skull Puzzles STEVE NEXT SLIDE 40
  • 41. 41414141 STEVE SLIDE ●Quest Tasks (Solve Crystal Skull Puzzles) ●In order to… ●Quests per Map (Release the Eagle Warriors) ●In order to… ●Map (Eyrie of the Generals) ●In the map chain… ●Map Chain (Warriors of the Sky) ●Within… ●Location (Peru) JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 41
  • 42. 42424242 JONATHON SLIDE As those core gameplay elements were used as story components for a narrative experience, we found it was also important to fill in gaps with what we call connective tissue. This is our favorite term and we argue about who first used this. Connective tissue includes all the non-essential story delivery components of display text. For example, what you see here is our use of letters in order to setup or establish the storyline with a prologue of sorts. In our introduction of Marcus Brody, we began with him stranded on an island, having lost his way at sea, with the player needing to travel and save him. Naturally, this comes to the player by way of a message in a bottle that arrives at their base camp. Likewise, we built anticipation for the arrival of Indiana Jones with a series of letters that set the stage for the player to search for the Calendar of the Sun with him. 42
  • 43. 43434343 JONATHON SLIDE This connective tissue also offered us opportunities to provide the player with hints about what to do next, non-player character motivations, reminders of what they’re after and why it’s fictionally important to do what they’re being asked to do by the game. We were able to work in iconic phrases and moments with Indy, like the obligatory “Why’d it have to be snakes!” line. JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 43
  • 44. 44444444 JONATHON SLIDE It’s important to note that this connective tissue is stuff that’s not necessary to read or follow along with in order to play the game or complete the required tasks. It’s entirely opt-in. Someone can ignore it if they like to get on with the gameplay. Finally, these little moments of display text also functioned as transitions. The player begins each map presented with a Journal page that appears during the loading screen. On the other end, newspaper headlines concluded a map, often with a congratulation but also offering a forward momentum to the objectives of the next map. JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 44
  • 45. 45454545 JONATHON SLIDE So once we combined the complex core gameplay system with planned moments of storytelling events, the chained maps in each weekly release provided tight, classic storytelling arcs. The three map release became our ideal for telling a simple story with a beginning, middle and end in three chained maps. When releasing chains of four maps, it was more difficult to keep the player on track, but it also provided a better opportunity for exploring character. With for parts to a story it’s easier to show character change, like we did with Oxley in Warriors of the Sky. Anything more was a risk. But we’ll get to that in a moment. STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 46. 46464646 STEVE: So, we treated the player as a hero fighting the good fight alongside Indiana Jones JON: And we encountered a temptation to ignore adventure genre story tropes as merely cliches or stereotypes. But we realized these archetypal elements are what makes these stories popular and successful, so we embraced them. STEVE: In the same way, we learned that mapping the formula to the gameplay system afforded us a consistent structure we could rely on. Though there’s a tendency to avoid formula in order to stay fresh and innovative, in a live game, this can mean unpredictable quality. What each designer came to find was that by accepting certain strictures they were able and the writer was able to make it the formula work in unique and interesting ways. JON: By trusting and using the components – and filling in the gaps where necessary with writing that supported gameplay while reminding players of the narrative track… We did what we did. STEVE NEXT SLIDE 46
  • 47. 47474747 STEVE SLIDE “Let’s talk about what its like for a writer and a designer to work together positively.” STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 48. 48484848 STEVE SLIDE •We explored many forms of chaptering, episodic forms, and even mini-stories •In the end, we had one chapter for release at launch intended for at least a month of gameplay •All these things have been done in gaming for years, but NOT in social gaming in an interactive narrative format •Lessons from Social Gaming, from MMOs, from RPGs, synthesized together STEVE NEXT SLIDE 48
  • 49. 49494949 STEVE SLIDE Original game “Quest” was developed to have a different narrative need 40 maps with self-contained storylines 1 chapter of chained narrative story this didn't work right, we needed small chains of connected stories As mentioned before what we needed was a writer JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 49
  • 50. 50505050 JONATHON SLIDE •Someone to oversee and hold the big picture •Someone to edit everyone • You can’t edit your own text! – Steve •Someone to champion characters and story formula within gameplay •Someone to chronicle the individual stories •Someone to build our narrative voice JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 50
  • 51. 51515151 JONATHON SLIDE We quickly evolved from one-off stories to a connected series of related maps with interesting decisions in each. The first time we released a chained set of maps with story was the four-part series of Halloween seasonal content. It was a tale of dark ritual and the possession of villagers that led the player from a graveyard down into caverns and a volcano. Next, in a set of three maps involving poachers we began to work on exploring non-player character change in a release. The character Trip attempts to woo Emily Balderdash by playing the hero and taking credit for the tasks the player completes. It established that character’s egoism, Emily’s empathy for animals, and introduced an on-again off-again potential romance. We then went on to a distinctly titled release of chained content in four maps, which included for the first time some of our first ideas for innovation: Mask of the Hunter STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 52. 52525252 STEVE SLIDE This conversation leads to a player decision in which they can choose to give the Mask of the Hunter to one of two npcs on the map. Multiple endings to the map chain based on player choice. The obvious question was asked, is this amount of effort worthwhile for our game and this genre STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 53. 53535353 STEVE SLIDE I would argue yes, and we tried other experiments as well •We knew that text engages the audience, too – let's see if they get it. •We built an acrostic puzzle and hid the pieces of it within a map. •Naturally, it only took players only a few hours from release to solve it. •The pieces of the puzzle spelled out the name of the map series, “MASK OF THE HUNTER.” STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 54. 54545454 STEVE SLIDE Text has its own gameplay Text can be collectible! STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 55. 55555555 STEVE SLIDE Calendar of the Sun was written and blocked out for Indiana Jones We wanted to do the license proud. If players ever get bored seeing Indy, we failed Continued… STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 56. 56565656 STEVE SLIDE Our first big engagement with the whole IP was in this map series – we asked if we could use Forrestal, a character that movie-goers will remember as the nasty corpse Indy finds in a temple. LucasArts loved the idea, and we wrote him in as a minor villain. STEVE START NEXT SLIDE
  • 57. 57575757 STEVE SLIDE We know the year, 1934. How do we use this? Warriors of the Sky: a young, sane Harold Oxley Oxley: a tale of the birth of obsession But we were missing something uniquely part of the Indiana Jones mythos A LOOMING ANTAGONIST STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 58. 58585858 STEVE BEGINS Bad Guys used to be a vague concept of “Mercenaries” Bad Guys = Brotherhood of the Eclipse JON: Too vague a threat, we need a face on our opposition STEVE: It must be 1930’s serial, mysterious, unambiguous: Man with the Silver Eye How do we introduce this villain: Forrestal was a known minor villain, and we used him to point to our new character, the big villain. Forrestal also introduced our main story drive: “What was the villain up to?” “Where was this Man with the Silver Eye headed next?” JONATHON NEXT SLIDE
  • 59. 59595959 JONATHON SLIDE EGYPT Perfect storm of anticipation, gameplay, story, and IP Our most ambitious story attempt! We had plenty of time to do it right Too big to try again on our cadence Story and setting = hugely popular This surfaced the problem of sustained engagement in a story because we had three weeks of content with the same connected story STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 60. 60606060 JONATHON STARTS SLIDE JON: Hey Steve, it’s been an hour since we realized the Library of Alexandria map won’t look like the Library of Alexandria, how about this – we go with the fact that it’s not really a library… STEVE: I really want to burn down a library. JON: Hold on, though, Indy and Sallah argue over the same issue – is it really a library or not? – during the previous map. STEVE: If it’s a tomb, this means the original library was moved here… [CLICK] BOTH CONTINUE NEXT SLIDE
  • 61. 61616161 JON: Yes, so Indy is right that it’s a tomb, and not the original Library of Alexandria STEVE: But Sallah is right because it houses scrolls from the ancient library…. Let’s burn it down! But, why would the villain burn it down…? Because… JON: … he is trying to hide the location of the map that leads to the final treasure JONATHON So we turned it into conflict and make the issue relevant to the story At the end of the prior map, set up an argument between Sallah and Indy about what this place is – even foreshadow it in the early Indy letters – make it an event with suspense for discovery - something the players will tune in next week to find out. STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 62. 62626262 STEVE START SLIDE STEVE: Good game design = large aspirational goals and small incremental achievements, big carrots, little carrots JON: Just the same way that good dramatic story = major dramatic goal and small mini-goals STEVE: Rescoping the narrative design: •From • 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 = 9 •To • Letters and incident = Sallah's captured by MWTSE • (1,2,3) → 4 = Library, Map, Crook & Flail • (5, 6, 7) → 8 = Sphinx Entrance, use key, learn why • (9) = Inside the Sphinx, final moment, recover object JONATHON NEXT SLIDE
  • 63. 63636363 JONATHON SLIDE Egypt was ambitious for the size of our design team Split into 2 content teams, leapfrogging over each other to release Each team also had one designer handle narrative consistency with the writer STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 64. 64646464 STEVE SLIDE Re-focused our content cadence based on what we have learned This “two week plan” benefited the designers in many ways, but really cemented the role of the writer in the process at all important points NOTE: NOT THERE ARE NOT NINE MAPS IN THIS RELEASE. STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 65. 65656565 STEVE SLIDE Zynga desired solid narrative, and it was deemed important to the game and the design process. Once the writer and the designers collaborated, we took risks and tried new things. This paid off, but we learned the limits of our team. What was it like to stay on cadence every week, at all costs? [CLICKFEST] JONATHON NEXT SLIDE 65
  • 66. 66666666 TWO WEEKS IN THE LIFE… OF INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE WORLD
  • 67. 67676767 STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 68. 68686868 STEVE SLIDE TUESDAY: “Develop the Pitch” - designers, free from all constraints, what story to tell, what gameplay to develop, oh crap what’s in the pitch, it’s seldom “what story do you want to tell,” but “what level are you going to design,” It IS important to allow the level designer to determine the ground and the gameplay (tileset) before we get deep into story. WEDNESDAY – Creatives Presentation - “Present the Pitch” other designers only – including the writer which allowed a round of feedback and iteration on the pitch before… THURSDAY - All Presentation - PM would put in business goals, Art would bid and suggest changes - Design and story must be essentially complete before this step! Or... that’s the ideal condition. Sometime we just had to roll with the punches. JONATHON TAKE OVER Meanwhile, I am working on release content for the other pod... During high level concept work for one pod -- specific text work for the other pod for release – Both T-minus two weeks and T- minus one week at the same time! STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 69. 69696969 STEVE SLIDE Friday to Tuesday was the easy time if you like to build maps, which many of us do – it was kind of relaxing after the pitch time. The writer may pop I with suggestions based on research he did, but generally this was the designer’s time to work alone and nail the map
  • 70. 70707070
  • 71. 71717171 STEVE STARTS SLIDE On Wednesday, designers would write the rough draft for the text with some help from the writer, meanwhile the map is travelling through art for the art pass and through code if there is new gameplay on the map. JONATHON TAKE OVER Writer - preparatory, set up rough draft text in spreadsheet tool Thursday - First/early text pass by writer, designer does other stuff, available for writer when needed On Friday we continue with a Consistency Text Pass to ensure that the implementation of changes is correct across all maps. At this point I am also preparing spreadsheets to send this text to Lucas for approval “Steve: The stress is mounting…” STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 72. 72727272
  • 73. 73737373 STEVE SLIDE On Monday, QA owns our maps, and our text – the writer is doing final preparations for exporting for localization. QA will have been banging on these maps since last week, but now we’re in their hands. On Tuesday… release? Or, you know, maybe on Wednesday for larger releases and during tricky new systems. STEVE NEXT SLIDE
  • 74. 74747474 STEVE SLIDE Of course this is an example of the ideal schedule we developed, and of course we glossed over a lot of other steps that aren’t relevant to narrative design. If there are problems we often found ourselves able to piggyback on smaller releases we had scheduled, and this also is when we start monitoring both the Community and the metrics for how the release fared. With this ideal schedule we showed time and again the union of good game design, good business goals, and good writing produced our best content.
  • 75. 75757575 STEVE SLIDE [CLICKFEST] STEVE NEXT SLIDE 75
  • 76. 76767676 STEVE TAKES IT HOME In our first episode we discussed the realities of regularly shipping content in a live game, how we served up sliders of content with simple storytelling moments. [CLICK]
  • 77. 77777777 In episode 2 we talked about how we transitioned from Quest to Indiana Jones, the advantage in social games of having a ready-made IP, and the delights of working with our IP partners at LucasArts. [CLICK]
  • 78. 78787878 Episode 3 was about our personal take on story, how narrative text and narrative map design meshed quite nicely, and the use of connective tissue to make it hang together. [CLICK]
  • 79. 79797979 For Episode 4 we talked about some of the narrative strategies we tried, and the lessons they taught us. [CLICK]
  • 80. 80808080 Finally, in Episode 5 we showed how the schedule and structure we arrived at worked for us, and how regular content releases worked in our studio. [CLICK]
  • 81. 81818181 STEVE SLIDE

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