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Thoughts about storytelling in Chapters and adventure games

storytelling art plot scriptwriting

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#1 Breezewind


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Posted 28 October 2014 - 23:42

This is a post about some thoughts that surfaced while I was having my first playthrough of Chapters book one and while replaying The Longest Journey. It is maybe a post about videogames as artistic medium. I have education in film & drama and have been playing games since early 90s. It's pretty obvious to say the medium has changed much during this time.


When watching movies or playing games with epic storyline, I wonder – how on earth will the storyteller finish the story and weave all the bits and pieces together? So that the end will make perfect sense and that all the promises of epicness will be fulfilled?


One example of this kind of expectations not being met, I dare to say, was Mass Effect's ending. After I finished the game (all three of them during several years) I was little perplexed and disappointed. But after watching some player-made videos which explained the ending, I was mindblown. After seeing the video, all the small elements and hints in the game world made the story whole, led to the final conclusion and the script felt like a work of a genius. So I was puzzled, what the hell went wrong?

I feel that Dreamfall + TLJ storyline has something in common; it spans over even longer production timespan (years in real time) and sophisticated plot with metaphysical elements. In my mind the greatest challenge for Mass Effect story was the episodic structure, video game medium and the expectations that come with it. Maybe it could be said that adventure gaming and maybe also adventure gamers are somewhat different than FPS ones. The expectations differ. And so does technology that's in use.


Now if I compare storytelling in TLJ to Dreamfall Chapters (or any adventure games from similar timeframe), emphasis in these games has moved from text to graphics. The amount of conversation in these games has been in decline while they've become more visual. This for sure has consequences in how the game world and story is perceived and experienced. And what grabs our attention.


I noticed too that while playing the last installment of Mass Effect after several years had passed after playing the second, I had already forgotten most of what had happened earlier and the nuances for sure. When you have a storyline that spans through many sequels and five years of waiting, it might have unintentional consequences in the end. 


I'd like to hear your thoughts about this and I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here :). People are most comfortable with something familiar and if you reach out for something different and exceptional, how do you fill their expectations?

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#2 Pixeldream


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Posted 29 October 2014 - 19:00

I guess it all comes down to wether or not the story was complete in the writer's mind from the get go. That's one concern I had with the episodic nature of DFC. Maybe they're just making everything up as they go along, although I'm quite sure that isn't the case with Ragnar.

#3 urzagc13


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Posted 29 October 2014 - 19:24

They have the main story (and big secrets like the identity of Lady Alvane or the Prophet) written down many years ago. However, I'm certain that the vast majority of NPCs in Book 1 were only thought after actual work began on that Book. And Ragnar has admitted that they've done major rewrites during Dreamfall: Chapters development, though again I assume that this doesn't pertain to the very "core" of the story. They definitely know the ending point (that's why there are prophecies - and narrators talking from a future perspective- in this universe also, that's not very easy if you're making it up as you go, you may find yourself backed into a corner).

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