The below images are from the first phase of Project Kingdom’s narrative design. These designs reflect conception and revision of many ambitious concepts from the start of the game’s development, some of which survived to the final design (not pictured) and some of which left.
- In this fantasy RPG, each race (elves, dwarves, etc.) will have four playable classes the player can choose from at the start of their game.
- Each class will have an individual branching story line.
- The player’s first class story will end, and then transition to a second story from a different second class, inserting the first class character in place of the second class character, as well as carrying over the first class choices.
- The choices in the first class story will determine which second class story you get transitioned to.
- Choices will affect both the far and near future of stories.
- Choices will affect both external conditions and internal/psychological conditions
After many rough drafts, the above image was produced in Twine as a finalized structure for our narrative design goals.
SCOPE: In order to keep scope reasonable, most variations on choice mechanics were limited to three as a guideline.
STORY ERASURE: The main goal of carrying over the individual choice-consequence experiences of one storyline into another storyline (we sometimes called this “character erasure”) was focused down to defining kinds of choices, and how they were folded into the game.
Big Choices are choices that affect external events (setting, plot twists, NPCs, etc). These were decided first in a playthrough to communicate to the player that choices were long-lasting and powerful. They also allow us a variable to use to further define and specify moments.
Minor Choices are another name for internal choices. These are choices about the player character’s emotional journey, which we connected both to RPG class mechanics and individual character arcs. Like other games, you could bank certain points when growing your character, but unlike other games, each point you spent on a certain skill also came with an internal change. For instance, if you continued to invest in your ability to research conspiracies, your character might grow more afraid and antisocial in their dialogue and actions.
Like many other games, both the big choice and the minor choices acted like variables to define what kind of things might happen in your end(ings). Usually there was a Big End for your Big Choice, and your Minor Choices remained more of an internal continuity, carrying on to the next class.
TRANSITION: The most unique part of this design is its ability to transfer to a new story, but keep your character (minor choices) making sense. The transitions were rough and general pieces of writing for each and every possible combination of ends/beginnings that might take place. The goal was to allow enough connection to let it make sense, but allow the player to fill out the rest. Ultimately this is about the writing working really efficiently.
Due to the Big/Minor Choice systems following strict guidelines, the first class stats are interchangeable, and can fit into any other class’s choice system. The key to this, in theory, is design big choices and minor choices in narrative moments that kind of echo each other – to summarize a much more nuanced and complicted problem.
VOICE: A stretch-goal. We wanted dialogue from your first class to still read in that voice for the second class’s dialogue. The plan was to do voice edits for each class in the other class’s voice, further cementing the character transition.