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Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 10: Open-Ended Stories


Title: Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 1: Game Stories, Interactivity, and What Players Want Author: Josiah Lebowitz Last modified by – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 10: Open-Ended Stories

Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter
10 Open-Ended Stories
  • Josiah Lebowitz
  • Chris Klug

(No Transcript)
What is an open-ended story?
  • Open-ended stories are somewhat similar to highly
    complex branching path stories but are far more
  • They often star generic player created heroes.
  • The focus is more on the setting than the main
  • The player typically has multiple ways to
    approach every quest and can undertake most
    quests in any order he chooses.
  • Decision points tend to be far less obvious than
    in branching path stories and are based more on
    the players actions and play style than his
    response to specific prompts.

Fallout 3
  • Released by Bethesda in 2008 (PS3, 360, PC).
  • Gives the player a massive well realized
    post-apocalyptic world to explore.
  • Features a wide variety of optional quests and
    interesting NPCs.
  • Uses a fairly simple good and evil scale based on
    the players actions and dialogue choices.

Creating Open-Ended Stories
  • Open-ended stories are complex and difficult to
  • They require massive amounts of decision points
    and minor and moderate branches.
  • Open-ended stories need multiple versions of most
    conversations to reflect how good, evil, smart,
    etc the hero is.
  • Because the writer has little control over the
    heros appearance and personality or the
    structure and pacing of the story, its generally
    best to keep the main plot simple.
  • The focus is primarily on creating a detailed
    world filled with interesting characters for the
    player to interact with.

The Main Plot
  • Due to the large amount of optional content, and
    the difficulties of creating an engaging and well
    structured plot in highly player-driven forms of
    storytelling, open-ended stories tend to have
    rather short and simple main plots.
  • Most writing time will need to be devoted to the
    setting and optional content rather than the main
  • Its extremely difficult to ensure that
    open-ended stories have any kind of even pacing
    so just try to keep the main plot itself smoothly
  • Make sure the player can easily get back to the
    main plot if he gets side-tracked or screws
    something up.

The Branches
  • Branching in open-ended stories is often handled
    automatically based on the players actions in
    game (how nice he is, whether he favors weapons
    or magic, etc).
  • Open-ended stories often have a set of minor or
    moderate branches for nearly every quest.
  • Major branches are less common and often dont
    appear until late in the main plot.

The Distractions
  • Distractions are optional quests and tasks the
    player can undertake that have no real baring on
    the main plot.
  • Open-ended stories need an enormous number of
    distractions to keep players busy.
  • Distractions are a chance to flesh out the
    backstory of the setting and NPCs.
  • Distractions should tie heavily into the setting
    and who the character is supposed to be. Nico
    from Grand Theft Auto 4, for example, can steal
    cars, go on dates, and drive a taxi while the
    hero of Fallout 3 can hunt mutants and collect
    rare items that survived the war.

Fable II
  • Released by Lionhead Studios and Microsoft in
    2008 (360).
  • Gives the player free rein to explore the world
    of Albion and interact with its inhabitants.
  • The player can invest in real-estate, marry,
    raise a family, and kill most NPCs, among other
  • The good and evil system is extremely easy to
  • For better or worse, it puts the player squarely
    in control of the story.

The Strengths of Open-Ended Stories
  • They provide the player with an enormous amount
    of freedom.
  • They encourage the creation of large dynamic
  • Theres still a main plot which the player can
    follow or ignore as he sees fit.
  • The player can, in most cases, shape and
    customize the hero to his liking.
  • Numerous distractions provide a considerable
    amount of gameplay.

Grand Theft Auto 4
  • Released by Rockstar in 2008 (360, PS3, PC).
  • Set in a large and vibrant city.
  • Features a well defined hero and deep main plot
    (unusual in open-ended stories).
  • Contains a large number of optional tasks which
    fit perfectly with the character and setting.

The Weaknesses of Open-Ended Stories
  • Main plots are generally short and simple.
  • Generic heroes lack depth and personality.
  • As with multiple-ending and branching path
    stories, shocking and emotional story scenes lose
    much of their impact when the player knows he can
    always change things.
  • Its easy for players to turn to accidentally
    turn the story down an undesirable branch.
  • In some games, its easy to lose track of or even
    derail the main plot.
  • Theyre difficult and expensive to create.

The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind
  • Released by Bethesda in 2002 (Xbox, PC).
  • Turns the player loose in a massive world with a
    rich history.
  • Features an enormous amount of optional tasks.
  • Every NPC in the game can be killed.
  • Its very easy to lose track of the main plot.
  • Its possible to break virtually any quest (the
    main plot included), rendering them impossible to

Things to Consider
  • List several games youve played which use
    open-ended stories.
  • Pick two of the games from your list and create
    simple outlines of their main plots. Compare them
    to the main plots of games using other
    storytelling styles. What differences do you see
    in their length and structure?
  • Do one or both of those games use a morality
    system? If so, how does the heros morality
    affect the rest of the game? How easy is it to
    change the heros moral alignment?
  • Pick one of the two games. Do you think the use
    of an open-ended story structure significantly
    enhanced or detracted from the games main plot?
    Explain your reasoning.
  • Do you think the use of an open-ended story
    structure significantly enhanced or detracted
    from the games world and setting? Explain your