Interactive Storytelling for Video Games Chapter 2: A Brief History of Storytelling in Games Josiah Lebowitz Chris Klug The Early Days Early games had little to no story. Games both lacked the graphics power to display large amounts of text and the memory to store it. Donkey Kong and Dragon’s Lair were two of the earliest arcade games to feature full stories. Colossal Cave Adventure was the first computer text adventure game and one of the first games to feature a complete story. Donkey Kong Released by Nintendo in 1981 (arcade). Nintendo’s first big hit. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s first game. One of the first platforming games. The first game to tell a complete story using cutscenes. Dragon’s Lair Released by Don Bluth in 1983 (arcade). Featured movie quality animated graphics and voice acting while other games used simple sounds and sprite art. Had very limited interaction, playing much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Colossal Cave Adventure Created by William Crowther in 1976 and updated by Don Woods in 1977 (PDP-10 computer). The first text adventure game. The player must use his wits and inventory to explore a strange cave. Extremely difficult by modern standards >You are inside a barren room. The center of the room is completely empty except for some dust. Marks in the dust lead away toward the far end of the room. The only exit is the way you came in. >There is a ferocious cave bear eying you from the far end of the room! The bear is locked to the wall with a golden chain! RPGs, Adventure Games, and the Growing Importance of Stories In the late 80’s and early 90’s many games still lacked detailed stories. On PCs, adventure games (such as the King’s Quest and Monkey Island series) and American RPGs (such as the Ultima and Might and Magic series) were the most story focused genres. On consoles, Japanese RPGs (such as the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior series) were the most story focused genre. Early stories were short and simple but quickly grew in length and complexity. Point and Click Adventure Games The evolution of text adventure genre. Sierra and LucasArts created many of the most popular titles. Primarily featured conversation and inventory based puzzles. Puzzle solutions were often rather obscure. The release of Myst in 1993 greatly changed the genre. Final Fantasy IV Created by Square in 1991 and originally released in the US as Final Fantasy II (SNES). Featured many groundbreaking elements. Had one of the longest and most complex stories of its time. A bit cliché and melodramatic by modern standards, but still a fan favorite. The Cinematic Evolution of Game Stories The introduction of CDs and later DVDs in the late 90’s and early 2000’s allowed games to add more cinematic elements such as FMVs and high quality voice acting. Stories became increasingly important in console games thanks to groundbreaking games such as Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid. PC gaming became increasingly focused on FPS, RTS, and sim games, leading to a decline in story based games. However, some notable games such as Myst III, Neverwinter Nights, and Dues Ex were released during this time. Metal Gear Solid Released by Konami and Kojima Productions in 1998 (Playstation). The third game in the Metal Gear series. One of the earlier console games to contain full voice acting. Features a very mature and believable story. Game Stories Today Improved graphics technology and increased storage space have made FMVs, voice acting, and highly realistic graphics commonplace. PC and console games of all types incorporate RPG elements and deep complex stories. Games using non-linear player-driven forms of storytelling have become increasingly common. New types of games (MMOs, casual games, downloadable games, etc) let writers tell many different kinds of stories. Many games strive to tightly integrate the story and gameplay to create a more cohesive experience. The World Ends With You Released by Square Enix in 2008 (DS). Set in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Uses setting appropriate graphics, music, and gameplay systems. Character development and gameplay are tied heavily into the plot and setting. The Limits of Storytelling in Games With the power of modern PCs and consoles allow any type of story to be told in games. Some types of stories don’t lend themselves to games as easily as others. In any game, the player can only do things which the designers, programmers, etc planned for when creating the game. If the game wasn’t created with a dance option, players can’t dance. Similarly, if no bank areas were created, the player can’t go to the bank. Possible Actions in Games vs. Real Life Potential Options When Having a Conversation in Game Friendly response, threatening response, and clever response. Bribe the other man. Kill the other man. Leave. Potential Options When Having a Conversation in Real Life All “game” options. Can talk about any subject. Can take any action for or against the man. Can jump on a table and dance. Etc, etc, etc… Removing the Limits No matter how many options are put into a game, they can never compare with the range of potential actions that a person could take in real life. The only way to change this is with a near human AI that can understand the player’s actions and modify the story and game on the fly, much like a dungeon master in a tabletop RPG. While there are many differing opinions on the matter, it seems high unlikely that such an AI will be created in the near future, if ever. Things to Consider What do you consider to be several of the most important and influential games in the history of game storytelling and why? Do you think voice-overs and FMVs significantly improve the way games tell their stories? Why or why not? In what ways do you believe that game storytelling has improved over the last five years? How about the last ten years? Are there any particular aspects of game storytelling that you think still need significant improvement? What are they are how could they be improved? Do you believe a dungeon master AI would improve game storytelling? Why or why not?