AuthorTopic: What makes a good plot  (Read 6496 times)

Offline TheSilentRoomate

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What makes a good plot

on: June 09, 2010, 10:41:17 pm
So i've been working on an exploration platformer for some time and I've got pretty much everything in the engine and the only thing standing between me and finishing the game is a plot line. I've been a really big fan of the mother series' plot lines, mainly mother 3 whose ending was sad enough to make me cry haha. So i was wondering what everybody likes in a plot line and how you go about creating one?

Offline Bieber boy

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #1 on: June 09, 2010, 10:55:23 pm
Draw inspiration from games like Halo which offer extraordinarily unique plot lines and characters. The more violence the better, and make sure it's easy to follow so your audience doesn't get lost.
God made everything out of nothing, but everything still shows through.
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Offline TheSilentRoomate

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #2 on: June 09, 2010, 11:12:10 pm
Draw inspiration from games like Halo which offer extraordinarily unique plot lines and characters. The more violence the better, and make sure it's easy to follow so your audience doesn't get lost.
really? I didn't find halo's plot to be all that interesting, yeah easy to follow is always important haha
ps theres gonna be one less lonely girl

Offline Gil

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #3 on: June 10, 2010, 12:57:37 am
I think I explained this in a previous thread, but story progression is one of my pet peeves.

The following rule applies to almost anything in life: "You can't appreciate the grand, without having known the mundane". If you have giants in your game, you have to include regular sized people or they aren't giants. If you want your music to sound very bombastic, do it right after a quiet moment.

Like with art, everything is about contrast.

How to apply this on stories? You will never have a grand finale if the beginning wasn't small. Comics tend to start out from the superhero's appartment. If we see Superman in costume on page one, you'll never get the same scale of emotion as when you have him tear his clothes to reveal the costume in the middle act. In terms of games, start of small. Start in a village, with nothing out of the ordinary. Start in a blissful world. Let the player see the world as it is, before you rip it to shreds. Let that blissful part linger for just too long, get the player bored, lulled into false security. Make the entry into the game sudden.

Lots of games find these parts hard to use as a starter. It's too slow and doesn't suck the player in right away. They remedy this by starting with an action scene, maybe even unrelated to the main character. After that, the game goes to the small village. The small village can be anything, but it's the environment that best exemplifies the main character. For Superman, it's the newspaper office, for Frodo it's the shire, for Chrono Trigger it's the town square, for Naruto it's the village, etc. It can also be a person, for Luke Skywalker, it's Ben Kenobi for example.

You can always come back to this location when you feel you need a breather. It's the safe haven to which the character can return. In the final act, it's also the best place to blow up if you want some drama.

These quiet parts are what gives the scale. The bigger the contrast, the bigger the drama.

Offline TheSilentRoomate

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #4 on: June 10, 2010, 01:43:40 am
Wow thanks that post was really good!
Do you think i should start the game off with a mundane start and then bring something in? Is it worth boring the player with the begining and risk losing their interest, or should i go with what most people do and have the action prelude thing? Or maybe just a little mysterious thing (could just be a shadow flying over or something pretty small) to catch the players attention in the slow beginning?

Offline zeid

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #5 on: June 10, 2010, 01:44:16 am
Personally I think what Gil is talking about is a little to generic for my taste.  Not to say it isn't a good approach or hasn't been done well.

But to contrast it I recall a game where you wake up in a morgue, to the surprise of those around you, (Can't recall what the game was called though) needles to say that was a pretty dramatic and memorable way to start a game.  It also leaves a lot of questions, why where you in the morgue, did someone try and kill you?  Why the hell weren't you still dead?  In another game you had to begin by hiding a dead body, also leaving the player with a lot of questions that can be uncovered as the game progresses.  Why am I hiding this body, did I kill this person?  Why would I want to kill this person?  Why don't I know anything up until this point?  I think it's not a bad approach.  Think of the way Lost was structured, they used this formula over and over (I would argue too much) so that there was always a question the viewer was left wanting answered.

I'm no expert on plots, but I don't suggest looking at the triple A games for clever story structure.  They are very generic and tend to all follow the same kinds of formuala.  That said finding a good plot to follow in an interactive game is fairly difficult.

I also have to say I usually feel a little insulted by the way triple A games go about forshadowing and such, it's usually so obvious what's about to happen.  This being combined with interactivity is just frustrating; think how many times you have said to yourself, "Oh man, I know that guy's about to batray me, why the hell wont the game let me do anything about it."  In a movie or book it just makes you feel like the character is a dumb ass, in a game it forces you to be that dumb ass.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 01:51:07 am by zeid »
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Offline Darien

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #6 on: June 10, 2010, 04:53:53 am
I agree that Gil's suggestions seem a little typical.  I would suggest that you don't look to other games for plot ideas.  The turning your hometown upside down thing has been done to death, and although games like Mother 3 find ways to do it in new or interesting ways, I think it's worth considering other options.

It might be worthwhile to not bother establishing the status quo at the beginning of the game, especially if you already are thinking of it as 'boring'.  For instance, The Grapes of Wrath starts with Tom Joad coming back from prison and finding his family kicked out of their home and packing to go west.  We don't need to see them working in the fields to get an idea of what their life is like.  The Odyssey starts with Odysseus away from home after fighting in a long war--I'm not too familiar with the poem myself but I don't think Homer felt the need to show Odysseus holding hands with his wife so we know what he is trying to get back to.  The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a critically acclaimed American novel published in the past few years, starts well after some sort of civilization ending war/tragedy.

I think for starters you ought to think about what your main character or characters motivations are.  Again I would advise against the typical video game epic motivation: save the world.  The Grapes of Wrath, the Odyssey, and The Road are epic narratives or modeled after epics, but the primary character motivations are pretty small in proportion to the world.  The Joads are trying to survive/keep the family together, the father and son in the Road are trying to get someplace that might have a better climate/food/good people (more accurately, it is the father's goal to get his son to some place that isn't so dismal).  And in the Odyssey, perhaps the most important epic in Western literature, Odysseus is simply trying to get home so his wife doesn't marry another man.  Now, there are elements in each story that have grand proportions--the Joads are in the midst of the Great Depression, the father and son are in a dismal post-apocalyptic America, and Odysseus is constantly facing challenges from the gods, but what drives each story is a motivation that is self concerned and deeply personal.

I didn't pick these stories as examples because I like them, but that I think journey stories are good for illustrating the spark of a plot, especially for a platforming game, which inherently suggests travel and action.  I don't think your game would have to be 'epic' at all, but you ought to consider why your protagonist is platforming to where he is platforming and what that means to him.

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #7 on: June 10, 2010, 06:52:44 am
I like stories that are about movement.  Who moved where, and for what reason?  Also, how did the characters deal with the interruptions in their plans?  Did they accept their circumstances and give up, or did they do what had to be done and keep moving?
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Offline crab2selout.png

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #8 on: June 10, 2010, 09:21:22 am
The following rule applies to almost anything in life: "You can't appreciate the grand, without having known the mundane". If you have giants in your game, you have to include regular sized people or they aren't giants. If you want your music to sound very bombastic, do it right after a quiet moment.

Like with art, everything is about contrast.

How to apply this on stories? You will never have a grand finale if the beginning wasn't small. Comics tend to start out from the superhero's appartment. If we see Superman in costume on page one, you'll never get the same scale of emotion as when you have him tear his clothes to reveal the costume in the middle act. In terms of games, start of small. Start in a village, with nothing out of the ordinary. Start in a blissful world. Let the player see the world as it is, before you rip it to shreds. Let that blissful part linger for just too long, get the player bored, lulled into false security. Make the entry into the game sudden.

So true when I think about it. People always make fun of hte fact that most stories or games would end if the end bad guy had just sent his elite soldiers after hte hero first instead of sending progressively stronger soldiers that merely serve to prepare the hero for the fight coming afterwards. But it's this progression that makes you realise how powerful the badguy was in the first place. How can you understand how repressive a worldwide emperor is without experiencing the tyranny of his country, state, and local employs?

Offline NaCl

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #9 on: June 10, 2010, 10:22:25 am
Some very good points and insights made, I feel. All I will add is that I feel a simple story can work well in a game. Stories can definitely be complex, but they don't need to be. Sometimes a simpler story benefits the game. Many of my favorite games have simple stories, with simple yet powerful motivations. Ocarina of Time comes to mind; beat the bad guy, save the princess, restore balance to the world, with smaller goals stringing you along. Shadow of the Colossus, kill the big guys to bring your love back to life. Some games like Super Metroid and Doom have absolutely minimal story, and having a more elaborate one may not even make them better.

Offline CrazyMLC

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #10 on: June 10, 2010, 04:00:16 pm
No plot is original.
Any plot can be broken down into a basic idea.

For example, Final Fantasy X can be sompressed down to:
Boy saves girl. (SPOILERS: Tidus saves Yuna from death.)

You can do this to any plot, and I think someone discovered that there are only about 32 plots you can have.
The trick is to customize your characters, setting, and other factors to make it original.

Just a little diagram I made (prepare for English flashbacks):



One thing I can say about plot:
Characters are extremely important.

You could have the most interesting plot ever. If your character is a stickman that never talks and has no personality, you don't really give a damn if he saves the world, gets his girl, accomplishes his dreams, or anything else. He's just a grey blob.

This is called character development.
In the movie UP, (spoilers) you are shown a man fall in love with a girl, which takes only ten minutes in the movie. Then, she dies. You care, you're sad. It has a major impact on you.

What's the secret?
Sympathy.

Make the character a sympathetic figure. The character fails his test? You've been through that, you understand, you feel sorry for him.
To continue my example, in UP, you grow attached to the wife because she is a lovable figure. She has personality at the beginning of the movie, she seemed like an actual person, with wants, needs, love. That breaks the ice. Then (spoilers) you see her get married to the husband. You feel happy for her and him, they have found love. They spend good times together, and renovate the house they met each other in. But then, you see her in a clinic, with baby diagrams. She's sitting there, disappointed, and you assume the worst. It breaks your heart. You see her decline over the years; previously she had beat her husband up the hill, but now she struggles. Then, she simply dies. You see the husband, depressed, sitting at the church.

It's a simple plot, you follow a couple through their ups and downs, but you feel so attached to the characters that it matters to you when she dies.

Basically, almost any plot can work as long as you have good character development. (Of course, good plot always helps.)

My tip for making characters: Give them at least three adjectives and three goals, then name them.

Adjectives are self explanitory, but let me explain motivations and goals. Your hero probably ends up saving save area, be it a town, a city, a nation, or the world. But why? Is he patriotic? Is he a strong supporter of justice?
Still, even with strong virtues to combat the problem, it should seem out of hand. Why go through such lengths?

Most games choose love.

Love is a powerful emotion. It is driving.
Perhaps the Villian needs your childhood sweetheart to complete his evil plans?
This is what drives a hero to save the world.

PS: the Protagonist's goals and the Antagonist's goals should be at an impass, the Protagonist and the Antagonist should not be able to both achieve their goals. There needs to be a conflict.

Kind, Brave, Funny.
Marry Lily.
Become a great comedian.
Explore.
Protagonist: Phil.

Beautiful, Delicate, Dramatic.
Marry Phil.
Become an actor.
Succeed in life.
Girl: Lily

Crazy, Evil, Hyper.
Rule the world.
Get rich.
Get a girl.
Antagonist: Sean


Then, come up with some sort of plot.

Peaceful.
Sean steals Lily and destroys town.
Phil survives.
Everyone Phil loved was taken away from him.
Phil sets out to free Lily.
Phil finds magic sword.
Phil finds Sean.
Phil and Sean fight.
Phil wins.
Phil and Lily escape the breaking tower.
They live happily ever after.


Now you have a basic plot. Hopefully you can do better than I did. :P
Now, interject helper players, AKA new additions to the party, new quests, etc.

(then just write the script)



PS: I'm not an expert, so take everything for a grain of salt.  :)
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 04:29:20 pm by CrazyMLC »

Offline TheSilentRoomate

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #11 on: June 13, 2010, 02:03:46 pm
Wow! thanks everyone for so many really helpful posts!
I think I'm going to go with what Gil said, starting with small and then going to big because i think if i started the game off in the middle of something it would be really hard to keep the game at that pace or make it better.
And I'll start mapping out some characters, do you find games better with less or more characters?

Offline CrazyMLC

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Re: What makes a good plot

Reply #12 on: June 13, 2010, 02:43:22 pm
Quality over quantity.