Plot is the chain of events, linked by cause and effect, that create your story.

For these purposes, you must consider how the PC’s actions, the player’s decisions, and outside (game) forces transform one moment into the next.

Plot is the experience of the player going through the game flow. Game flow is the succession of plot-nodes, and how they are programmed to lead one into the other. Game flow is progress through the structure of plot.


A moment in the story is a plot node. It’s a set of game-states which the user can fluidly switch amongst, *reversibly*. If you can move south, and then back north, and the game is in the same state as if you had never moved, you’ve stayed in the same moment.

(In a sense, this is never true, because the move counter is always going forward, and therefore the player can never truly recover an old game state, except by UNDO. But let’s not go there.)

Moments are connected to each other by gates: unreversible moves. You generally use gating to drive the plot forward.

Within a moment, the player explores. The usual practice is to make the gates puzzles, the solution to which ends one moment and begins the next. Therefore, the exploration the player does within a moment *must* inform him where the game is: what puzzle he must pay attention to and how he will solve it.

In very dull games, one moment is nearly identical to the next: we solve puzzles to open doors to get into an unadorned one-room shed, for example, wherein we find a single item that will allow us to solve some other puzzle.

So, there are two different issues here: the puzzle can be interesting or boring, and the moment can be interesting or boring. What, then, are the characteristics of boring or interesting moments?

Boring moments have too little happening. There is only one focus of attention, easily understood. They are the same as previous moments, or they have only one difference from previous moments: they have the same map, the same items, the same (or nearly similar) goals, and the same characters — and those characters are doing the same things and have the same attitudes, are in the same states and have the same conversations as before.

Now, the more boring a moment is — the less it stimulates the player; the more similar it is to previous moments — the less exploration the player will need to do and the easier you must make the gate to pass on to the next moment.

The more interesting a moment is, the newer it will be and therefore the more exploration the player will need to do. Therefore, the more difficult the gate to the next moment can be.

Every moment in the game must have a specific purpose. It should pace the plot properly, moving the story more slowly when the player is collecting information and moving the story more quickly when the player must act on his information. It should have an identifiable emotional signal, and likewise be paced by the difficulty or ease of the gate to suit the complexity and change of that emotion.

Published on March 20, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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