The trees on this seaside bluff arched like ribs, sheltering an old house that overlooked the North Atlantic. I drove through the rain and my tires slipped and spun through the mud. I eventually made it past the gate and up the long driveway to the house. It seemed much larger in the distance but from the front steps looked like a miniature victorian mansion. From the driveway I could see down the bluff and to the rocky beach below, stretching out into the rain in both directions. The long lines of rolling waves were interrupted only by a rock just below the house that stretched into the waves.
Games have two different kinds of narratives: Explicit and Emergent. Explicit Narrative is the story that the game tells to the player, and Emergent Narrative is the story the player creates for themselves as they play the game.
Perhaps the most noticeable game featuring Emergent Play is Minecraft, which sold to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars. Since then, Sandbox and Survival games have taken off, generating countless titles, almost all of which are Early Access, only a few of which will ever see completion.
Any time you get your player to say: “I Did ______ in [Insert Game Name]” then you have created Emergent Play [EP].
How do you get your player to put themselves in the place of their avatar? How do you encourage them to make decisions and create their own Narrative?
A few months ago I started working on the Narrative Design for a game called Eons Lost, currently in development by 3 Halves Games. Though Narrative Design was not initially an area of writing I gave much consideration, it ended up taking over my brain, and I want to share with you my methodology in approaching it.
Interactive Narrative is a consistent pattern of Objective and Reward.
The following diagrams are the first element in the methodology I am using to design the narrative of Eons Lost. I started with the basics: How do you organize Interactive Narrative?
1918, Fall, Belgium Front, Edie
The little one insisted on giving us nicknames, but I told him that if he insisted on calling me Nan one more time I’d punch his stomach right through his anus. Then the Priest came out with an eyebrow gushing like a mountain spring for getting in a bar fight with a gunner from the next outpost over. I told him a Chaplain shouldn’t fight, and he told me to go fuck myself. The big one spent this time saying nothing, looking out into the darkness with his Springfield’s scope for a German light to shoot. My husband would have loved these people, which is the only thing that kept me from hating them.
War is boring and tiring. Two months to this foxhole and Seven days in it so far. The big one has fired 23 shots so far and is unsure if any have hit. The little one cheers him on, “24 Germans!” to which the big one says, “Why 24? I’ve only fired 23 shots” and the little one says, “Yeah, but one of them got two.” “How do you know that?” “Math”.
They carry on like that while the priest drinks from a flask and I write.
I don’t know much about them yet and haven’t bothered to remember their names. I know when they look at me all they see is a small woman with a Machete on her back and a trench knife in her boot. None of them have made a move on me, but I suspect the priest will break first.
[Chapter 6, for those who want it]
In a city as large as this there are AA meetings every night of the week spread between the campuses and churches and community centers. Somehow I found myself at one of those, still holding onto Kraden’s death threats. It was close to dark and I had been driving around looking for a nice quiet bar to have a nice quiet scotch in while I waited for the first round of blood tests to come in. I don’t know why I walked in here but I took advantage of the coffee at the side of the room and sat as far from the stage as possible. I started flipping through the threats.
12 letters. 5 of them had long essays, innocuous little phrases like “Someone should kill you” or “one day you will get whats coming”. These would barely trip our radar, and were likely overactive retirees who were angry that Kraden had had no plan to open the factories back up. a few more were postcards with a picture of Kraden or his family and crosshairs painted over. These are more serious, but too vague to be actionable. I kept flipping through. One of these is not like the others: Long angry letters, implied threats, and one crumpled sheet of waterlogged notebook paper that said, “What happened to Icarus. I want to meet her” It didn’t sound like a death threat, but why was it treated like one by Kraden. I was just examining the return envelope when I realized it had gone quiet.
“Can you hear me back there? Would you like to come and introduce yourself?”
I didn’t look at who had spoken, I just mumbled some excuse and looked at my wrist like it had a watch on it then left quickly.
I sat in my car. The handwriting looked similar to the pad, but was smoother. The letter itself had been crumpled and smoothed flat many times, probably by Kraden. Most of the letters only showed the wear and tear of the postal service, but this one was special.
I started my drive back to the precinct, stopping in a liquor store to grab a bottle of whiskey. This much coffee in me and I’d need some sleep.
I got back, checked on the blood test and was thrown out of the lab by Julian. I then went and grabbed the pad from forensics. I came back up to the office, set my whiskey on the desk and sat down
Side by side the two looked similar. I would send them off to get analyzed anyways, but I was certain of the link. The pad was shakier, but that made sense. Whoever wrote it pulled someone apart limb from limb afterwards. They wouldn’t have been calm
I leaned back and the next thing I knew it was morning.
In October, 1946, a small group of scientists rode a jeep out into the desert to where a V2 Rocket had come crashing down from the edge of space. On any other day they would have been examining the wreckage, taking notes, all work to develop an American missile that was more accurate and more deadly than the German V2.
But today was different. Today what they wanted was a small roll of undeveloped film in an iron box designed to survive a 62 mile fall. In that box was the first picture taken from space.