Posts Tagged ‘video games’

Continuing my exploration of how writers can build their literary skills by playing games, we come to the storytelling part of role-playing games. Especially with video games, it might not seem that there’s a narrative at all. The surface appearance is that players race around shooting or stabbing everything, grabbing loot or gear dropped by fallen opponents, and so forth.

However, in the really good games, there’s a lot of writing. It just takes a more hidden form.

The basis of the game will always be some kind of story that could come straight out of a novel. (Usually in a genre such as fantasy, horror or SF, but sometimes historical, spy or detective fiction.) This core conflict can be specific and personal, such as in Control, where a paranormal investigator searches for her missing brother. The scope can also be broad and epic, as in Dragon Age, where an army of darkspawn are about to descent on civilized lands.

The conflict can also be very dispersed and open to the player’s interpretation. For instance, in Skyrim, the character is falsely imprisoned and faces execution, until a dragon attacks the town and he or she escapes. In other games, such as Fallout, the player survives some sort of apocalypse and has the task of building a completely new life in the aftermath.

Based on the core conflict, the player moves into a plot of some sort. Some games are very tightly scripted, following a path that clearly shows the author(s)’ intentions and philosophy. In others, you have a world to explore and lots of options about where you go and what you do. You might only encounter bandits who want to kill you, or you might join a guild that gives missions. Players can also meet characters who tell you about their lives and become stalwart comrades. There frequently are romance options to reflect how close the friendship of player and companion becomes.

Although it might seem the player can make choices that change the outcome of the game, every bit of it still follows a script. In addition to the fun of playing the games, writers can learn a lot by observing how the game uses dialogue, setting and action to build this sense of connection and belonging to the game world. I personally have deep admiration for any writer who can create the detailed and complex dialog wheels of a great role-playing game.

Tabletop role-playing has a much different structure. I’ll get into that more on Saturday.

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One aspect of gaming that can be very useful for writers is statistics. Various games have different ways of quantifying things, but all of them make you think about your characters in a practical way. What, exactly, are these people capable of?

For instance, if “intelligence” is a characteristic, measured on a scale from 1 to 20, where does your character fall? Are they an 9, about average intelligence, or are they a 21 that exceeds normal bounds? This can have a lot to do with how they relate to the rest of the cast. And, let’s be honest, 90% of storytelling is not about the world-building or the plot, but about relationships between characters.

Anyway, there are also ways to specify what skills and powers your character has. Especially if you have a team working together, you want to have a balance of abilities between them. Even if it’s a group, like a squad of soldiers with common training, one of them might be the radio operator and one of them might handle a heavier weapon.

Come to that, what about their gear? Does anyone have a special magical or technological item that sets them apart? Thinking in terms of game stats can help you get a handle on what the characters can realistically do. (I know, we’re all SF and fantasy writers, so what’s realistic can be a bit slippery.)

This isn’t something I do myself, but one of my friends had to write a complex battle scene with multiple characters on several sides. She helped herself visualize the scene by creating the characters and playing out the battle in her favorite role-playing system.

There’s more to say about this, so check back with me next Wednesday.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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My final strategy for naming a dragon character is to combine descriptive elements that apply to it. Some will be physical attributes such as wings, talons or claws, scales, etc. Others will imply power and fierceness, or a connection with natural forces.

This is the technique I use in naming my dragons for Flight Rising, the online game I play along with my daughter. The leaders of my lair are Skystorm and Silvermoon, with others such as Shearwing, Leaf In Stream, Poison Wind or Cloud Tiger. When I breed them, I like to combine the parents’ names, so Skystorm and Leaf In Stream clutched out Leaf In Sky. Poison Wind and Ashenclaw yielded Ashenflow, Ashtalon, and Poison Frost.

From this, you can probably tell that Flight Rising has taken over our lives. Quinn and I trade dragons and share advice, even though we belong to different clans. If you enjoy browser games and dragons, and you’re open to your life being taken over, the next enrollment period will be in mid-October.

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I was really excited when one of the kids in my math group mentioned this video game. It’s based on the How to Train Your Dragon movies and web episodes. Fans can play as a Viking with their very own dragon. They go on quests and such, and it sounds like tons of fun. Check it out here.

Unfortunately for me, my system won’t run it. Download and installation went fine, but there was an endless loadup for individual sessions. I had to give up. Which, I guess, is a lesson to me that specifications matter and I need more RAM or more bandwidth to make this work.

Even so, it does sound like a really fun game that’s appropriate for the under-twelve age group. If you remember the movies, you know the characters are fairly over-the-top. The dragons are very colorful and have a quirky, fun design to them.

If any of you have suitable systems to play The School of Dragons, I’d love to get some player reviews.

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This is a video game that has been out for a few years, but it’s new to me. (I always buy games a few years later; it saves money, plus if I get stuck, I can find hints online.) Dragon’s Dogma a fantasy adventure released by Capcom in 2012. The original game is in Japanese, and you can see this in small ways, such as characters who bow or make “namaste” hands when greeting each other. The theme song also contains cultural references such as the wind pushing someone toward their destiny, which are typical for anime song lyrics.

The setup in this game is that a simple fisherman or woman is working in their village when suddenly a dragon swoops down to wreak havoc. After a cut scene, in which the fisher person has his or her heart cut out and swallowed by the dragon, that person awakens and proceeds on their journey as “Arisen,” a warrior with magical powers. They soon discover a race of humanlike-but-not-quite-human Pawns, fearless and loyal, who can be enlisted in a quest to regain the Arisen’s heart.

The dragon character is called Grigori, and he’s everything you could want in a dragon. Huge, red, winged, fiery breath. At the same time, he’s a bit… not boring, but just what you’d expect. The only surprise is that Grigori is quite talkative. When you fight him, he supplies a constant monologue about how puny you are, how superior he is, and his philosophy that humans should accept their inevitable demise. This chatter, again, is typical for battles in anime, where foes often spend as much time debating philosophy as they do crossing swords. I guess this could be the “dogma” referred to in the game’s title.

Come back Tuesday, and I’ll tell you more about actual gameplay.

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