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eastgate2
19th Dec 2003, 06:55 AM
For Better Narrative and Fictional Ideas

Hello All Mod Makers!

I am a linguist and screenplay consultant. I've always been interested in Unreal Engine Games and the Unreal Universe as we know it:)

I've been perusing mods all the time since Unreal1 days and woefully fail to see originality in terms of narration and script writing.

Anybody interested in polishing their mods for linguistic presentation, dialogues and regarding creative “writing”, drop me a line, I’ll be happy if I can be help.

To be honest, I'm sick of the notion that most games/mod concepts drive from two motion pictures in the last decade: Alien series for Science Fictions setting and plots and Saving Private Ryan for WW2 Shooters.

For some little fun, a short, quick “don’t/do”s List:

1) Please don’t start your science fiction concept with the line “it’s the year 2034,2046,2078,2019 etc.etc”...Stanley Kubrick (Or shall I say Arthur Clarke), one of the most respected filmmakers in the history of cinema anticipated that we’d travel to Jupiter by the year 2001, but for the last 2 year, I’ve not heard of such a thing. Design your future world first, then give it a date...

2) Please Please, no more “Something goes wrong in the lab...” premise. All the lab technicians are not stupid and they don’t have to always execute experiments resulting in the creation of evil monsters.

3) There has been thousands of war since the beginning of mankind other than World War 2.

4) Less is More. Your Npc’s should speak less; they don’t have to explain the whole story all at once. When we are in trouble, we speak in exclamations, not in proper, grammatically correct sentences. Hence not “I need you go down sector B and open the door by entering the pass-code XXXX and please bring me the nodes” but instead “I need the God damn nodes now!”

5) Terrorists are cool to shoot at but enemies with solid, menacing and clever motivations are harder to neutralize therefore more rewarding. So please state briefly “why” they have to take hostages/bomb the place etc....

6) You need a hero with a motivation and you need an enemy with a motivation. First work on that hard, the rest will follow. Reaching the “next level trigger” or getting the ultra-rocket is not a motivation; it’s a medium.

7) There are more creative blocks/obstacles than keys/passwords. The greatest, most common and yet working cinematic conflict is to choose between love and death. Emotional and mental blocks are more intriguing than “triggering a blocked door” no matter how complex your level design is, may it be full of dispatchers.

8) Reversal of Fortune: I, the player, have to change through the gameplay/narration experience. This is not intended for single player games only. Running to flag and returning back to base with the flag is a CHANGE. We all love CTF levels with alternate routes. Give us changes that is “Gradual” and “Full of Surprises.”

9) Nobody is alone, even Robinson Crusoe. We need mentors to help us in our quest. However, they don’t have to be human characters all the time. Vehicles, turrets help us in multi-player games. Why not super-ai computers?

10) And finally please read fiction; don’t just download pdf’s. Know that your idea is already written 50 years ago; don’t feel frustrated to discover that since there’s no new story under the sun. Just evolve!

Email: eastgate2@yahoo.com

Mychaeel
19th Dec 2003, 07:48 AM
That's an interesting read. I wish some of the professional game developers would heed that advice too... :)

[SAS]Solid Snake
19th Dec 2003, 04:15 PM
Well eastgate2 that is an interesting read. The current novel I am working on gets away at most of the 'usual' mod ideas. It's tragedy unfortunately so their isn't a real sense of a 'win' in some sense, as in the story never ends with everything back to normal because, well, anyone who goes through the same ordeal as the hero wold never be able to return to normal.

Most people making mods like to use none of the above because most of the time it is too easy to become cheesy, an over glorified death scene of an NPC or extreme situations of an easy ending (Everything just clicks into place if you put that item over there) but using stereotypical situations it is easier for them to making cool looking scenes or jsut say to mappers "Just go wild and make it look cool".

Final, stories are hard things to make. Even harder are making stories completely original with no source of inspiration. My game novel is definately not original, but it's different enough from the sourced stories to be unique at least. However it's already taken me many a years to develop this story from the original concept and as most mods are usually completed in a year or so ... there just is not enough time to make a decent story + mod at the same time. Us mod developers are restricted to time a lot, once the game has passed it's hype and the next new game is out we shift to the new game most of the time. Only a few remain with the older engine. UT2004 mods are already starting to appear, soon the question will be, how many of our favourite UT2003 will be shifted (Although they wouldn't need to be since UT2003 mods are bckwards compatiable) ... only time will tell.

JonAzz
19th Dec 2003, 10:07 PM
Would a mod idea with the following be semi origanal?

someone goes back in time to alter history, and gives like guns to the romans or something. your sent back in time to stop him/them. your get there before they do but either your in the wrong place/you where captured/your got drunk, slept in and by the time you got to where the other group was arriving there gone to reak havik. you get stuck and are part of the rebels or some other oppisition. you then complete your task (somehow and what ever it was) and you go back home to find that all is hell and htats how it would end i guess....

hmmm kinda like planet of the apes and something else i can't think of right now :rolleyes:



btw nice read eastgate :)

eastgate2
20th Dec 2003, 06:21 AM
As long as the motivation of the hero is original; it's a really cool idea!!!
99% of the time when adventure calls for the hero, he/she is first reluctant. Then somehow he/she is driven more into it.

It's a cliche but we all love it when the hero first replies to his/her Boss's order unwillingly "Buff!!!just another boring assignment"...But later on we all see that this "assignment" turns out to be a challenging duty unlike his/her past experiences.

[SAS]Solid Snake
20th Dec 2003, 10:40 PM
Remember that stories are always great under the eyes of the creator, so it's just a personal thing. You either love a story or hate a story.

Midnight Falcon
4th Apr 2004, 10:48 PM
Hi all! I'm also a writer, as well as having experience in acting and directing. Eastegate, some great thoughts here - I hope you don't mind if I pitch in with some of my own thoughts as well.

1) Please don’t start your science fiction concept with the line “it’s the year 2034,2046,2078,2019 etc.etc”...Stanley Kubrick (Or shall I say Arthur Clarke), one of the most respected filmmakers in the history of cinema anticipated that we’d travel to Jupiter by the year 2001, but for the last 2 year, I’ve not heard of such a thing. Design your future world first, then give it a date...

Most people don't even care about dates, they only care about 'near future', 'distant future' or 'a long time ago in a galaxy far away'. If you provide specific dates or future histories, you automatically challenge some people to point out all of the faults in your ideas (and trust me, they will find them). If you have a very clever, well-thought-out backstory, put it somewhere where the player can find it if they want to, but don't force it upon them.

2) Please Please, no more “Something goes wrong in the lab...” premise. All the lab technicians are not stupid and they don’t have to always execute experiments resulting in the creation of evil monsters.

And please no more "Oops, somebody opened the gates to hell" or "Somebody is breeding some kind of super-soldier" premises.

3) There has been thousands of war since the beginning of mankind other than World War 2.

And don't forget the rich opportunities available through 'alternate history' scenarios. Eg: What if Napolean won Waterloo? What if the Russian Revolution happened two years earlier? What if Japan surrendered before the first atmoic bombs were dropped?

5) Terrorists are cool to shoot at but enemies with solid, menacing and clever motivations are harder to neutralize therefore more rewarding. So please state briefly “why” they have to take hostages/bomb the place etc....

Remember that villains almost never think of themselves as being evil. If you look at groups through history who have committed terrible atrocities (The Nazis, Crusaders, Spanish Inquisition etc.) they all believed that they were the good guys. Complex villains are far more interesting than cackling madmen. Eg: Darth Vader

And my additions:
11) Player's want an in-game avatar they can relate to. Most of us aren't cigar-munching, smack-talking marines - and many of us don't want to be. In general, the less the player-character says, the easier it is for the player to be immersed with the situation.

12) Never punish the player for a decision that you forced them to make via a cutscene or scripted event.

13) Study history. There's a precedent for almost everything.

14) Games are interactive experiences. If you want to put in a 10-minute cutscene or fifty lines of dialogue with nothing happening, then maybe you'd be better of working in Film or TV.


I too am available for work on stories/dialoge etc. Email: david@davidcsimon.com

[SAS]Solid Snake
5th Apr 2004, 03:46 AM
In general, the less the player-character says, the easier it is for the player to be immersed with the situation.It does depend sometimes. For example, in my own script, the main character is quite well defined (as in personality is well defined) so what I make the main character say is what the character would say anyways rather than what the player says. However, to prevent linearity what I decided would be best was rather than allow the player to become the main character, the player decides what the main character does in his usual manner. The choice up to the players but how the main character deals with the choice the player choose is up to the main character. Of course with strong script, a game can never become truly too fredoomized as such, since diverging from the script would break the sense of immersion that a player has (Characters doing strange things or acts which they wouldn't normally do). Thus my central character and the other NPC's all talk a lot, but not in the sense of making wise-cracking remarks after he gibs something [ala Duke3D] but rather thoughts to himself ... ...

12)I agree on that one. Making an instant death penalty on choice is a bad, bad mistake because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Of course saying this, some bad choices are obvious and deserve death (jumping into a pool of acid) but for ones which seem pretty ordinary, probably not a good idea.

14)It depends I think. Cutscenes are there to move story along, or to reveal more of the story to you. Having millions of tiny cutscenes that are less than a minute long such as [MGS2 did] is also very annoying, as it breaks up gameplay a lot.

Dalai
5th Apr 2004, 05:10 AM
Some nice ideas here, but not ones easily applied to mods. To create a decent story driven game, you need a lot of custom content, which means setting a bunch of mappers/modellers to work. For the writer's creative vision to be effective, you'll need him to have authority over the maps and events that happen, else you'll end up with a mish-mash of random ideas that don't fit together properly. Given that the mappers/modellers are not getting paid, to have a writer give them orders about what to make and what to get rid of, is a sure way to make them lose motivation. Most mappers enjoy thinking up ideas for their maps, not just sitting down like a polygon placing machine and taking orders.

You'd need a well disciplined team for this to work. :)

[SAS]Solid Snake
5th Apr 2004, 10:41 PM
Yes that is true, the best way to make a mod is with a close knit set of friends who don't mind to work together and receive positive/negative critisicism. I usually find friends who actually live near me or living in my flat to help out to make a game.

Sam_The_Man
20th Apr 2004, 08:08 AM
12) Never punish the player for a decision that you forced them to make via a cutscene or scripted event.

To be a bit more specific: don't have the player captured and all his weapons lost. The worst example of this is probably Half-Life, where you walk into a room, the lights go out, and a bunch of marines apparently rush down and kick you into unconsciousness, despite the fact that you have a flashlight and a number of very large guns, then dump you in a crusher full of easily climbable crates minus your weapons. This is stupid.

Almost as stupid as the prison of Wrong in Ultima IX: Ascension, where, if you get too close to a guard, you will be instantly transported to a prison cell minus your equipment. Luckily, there's a secret door that leads out, because health and safety regulations require every medieval prison cell to have a secret door marked by an obvious disjoint in the walls in case of fire. Better still, if you get 'captured' again, you get teleported back into the exact same cell you just escaped from.

(N.B: I don't consider this as stupid as Half-Life because you can at least kill the guards before they capture you.)

Taking away all the player's equipment isn't necessarily a bad plot device, though I know some hate it under any circumstances, but there are better ways to do it. Having the player confronted by a huge amount of weaponry and allowing him to fight but inevitably die, as in Deus Ex if you choose to go through the subway, for example. Or going back to base and voluntarily handing in your guns (e.g. Max Payne 2).

[Judge]Snake
28th Jun 2004, 10:32 PM
On the contrary, sometimes plot twists like this are needed to make the story interesting, because just face it, some players are going to be too good to be 'captured' or whatever on their own, and it really makes the player worry more when there is a big plot twist and suddenly say, their character is in a room full of enemies with only a handgun, and must escape. While I think this is necessary in games, it shouldn't be too harsh, because if it was the majority of casual players would get fed up and walk away from the game.

In my opinion if you were to implement something like this, a plot twist, don't make the player face unbelieveable odds so it turns into an arcade game where they spend hours or weeks trying to figure out how to beat the darn thing. I always thought it was interesting in first person shooters, from James Bond games to Half Life, there were always surprises delivered in-game that created a minor plot twist and gave you a boost of adrenaline. For instance in Half-Life or the like, you would be fighting a bunch of aliens or whatnot and suddenly a helicopter drops marines into the fray, who start busting heads left and right. At this point in games, usually some NPC would say something like "Quick, we'll go this way! We'll have to use the ventillation system to make our way to the other side of the access corridor, lets just hope no one notices us!". At this point the player is really sweating. They have come all this way, and just before they were finished this routine level, something disrupts everything, and they have to quickly conform to the new objective. The player is exhilarated by the event, but not angered, because they have a chance to win if they do it right, and there was no unfair change that occured which game them a disadvantage they didn't totally deserve.

This is just for fps games though. Lots of times a kind of unfair disadvantage is a welcome challenge to players in platform games like Banjo-Kazooie, or whatever. It's really up to what kind of game you want, a Quake style "Line up the zombies and mow em down" game or a "Think fast or your toast" kind of game.

I could go on, but it would probably result in me getting my hands amputated :p

Crusty_Ass
1st Oct 2004, 06:59 PM
Some comments to make...

I'm greatly in favor of good, innovative story concepts, but a few caveats should be mentioned to put everything in perspective.
4) Less is More
NPC's should indeed not explain everything, but I think NPC's should be interactvie enough to make their explanation 'optional', i.e. you either shoot them in the head and get on with the killing, or you listen to them and/or escort them to trigger/console/whatever. If they die for some reason, you should have an arguably more difficult alternative way of progressing through the game.
Interactivity and alternatives are much more interesting than the 'less is more' approach.
Personally, I always like it when voice acting NPC's are doing fun things. They can add considerably to the atmosphere of the game.
Just think of all the thugs' conversations in FarCry and No One Lives Forever. Those are fun. And a game should always be fun.

5) Terrorists are cool to shoot at but enemies with solid, menacing and clever motivations are harder to neutralize therefore more rewarding. So please state briefly “why” they have to take hostages/bomb the place etc....
This point is quite difficult if you take your own words literally. On the one hand you say 'less is more' and on the other hand you expect game/mod designers to inform the player.
Make up your mind; it's often either one or the other.

The greatest, most common and yet working cinematic conflict is to choose between love and death.
Well, perhaps the audience is a little bit different. I mean, you also have action movies without any love/hate/death aspect to them, and they are far more like the FPS-genre than the movies you mention. That doesn't mean that it can't or shouldn't be done, just that it's not exactly the perfect analogy.
8) Reversal of Fortune: I, the player, have to change through the gameplay/narration experience.
I have no problem whatsoever seeing that happen in Alien/WWII type scenario's. All you have to do is create a gung-ho rookie and change him into a cynical war veteran at the end, or alternatively into a idealistic worlld-improver.
9) Good point, is currently underused in the genre, although Serious Sam had a Netricsa computer for example. But it could be both more and better done.

It's tragedy unfortunately so their isn't a real sense of a 'win' in some sense, as in the story never ends with everything back to normal because, well, anyone who goes through the same ordeal as the hero wold never be able to return to normal.
There's nothing that prevents a Mod designer from having alternative endings.
Not only a win or lose scenario, but also scenario's that would be like 'be continued...' scenarios or indeed, the 'everything back to normal without win or lose scenario'. Trouble is most gamedesigners think too linear.

Most people don't even care about dates, they only care about 'near future', 'distant future' or 'a long time ago in a galaxy far away'. If you provide specific dates or future histories, you automatically challenge some people to point out all of the faults in your ideas (and trust me, they will find them). If you have a very clever, well-thought-out backstory, put it somewhere where the player can find it if they want to, but don't force it upon them.
I agree completely.

14) Games are interactive experiences. If you want to put in a 10-minute cutscene or fifty lines of dialogue with nothing happening, then maybe you'd be better of working in Film or TV.
I personally don't like cutscenes a lot, unless they look really good and load quickly. Both Half-Life and Unreal (1) had no cutscenes of any kind and were both absolutely revolutionary games. Try to keep the story as much as possible out of cutscenes.

In general, the less the player-character says, the easier it is for the player to be immersed with the situation.
It really depends a whole lot on the voice acting. I really liked NOLF and Farcry, both of which have that stuff. I also really liked some of the stuff in Unreal 2. I do not consider it distracting and I think it's probably very personal if you like it or not.
Ideally, you'd make oneliners and such optional.
The worst example of this is probably Half-Life
I agree that it was disruptive, but still the game as a whole is fantastic. I hardly consider it the worst example of ANYTHING.
XIII has a similar situation, but it is a bit more logical and integrated into the story.

To me, ultimately the story is not the most important thing. The most important thing is gameplay. Games should be fun. If you want to make a story, write one. I agree that a good story can really add to the game, but let's face it: Usually the story is just an excuse to have a cool-looking game, walk around in wonderfully crafted worlds and environments, and shoot all sorts of monsters, vermin, devils and other baddies by the dozens. There's nothing wrong with that. Gameplay is the key. Atmosphere is the next big thing, which is created by both level design and story. In the end, perhaps story most pivotal function is to create continuity in the game. For example, I found Unreal 2 too much made up of loose missions tied together with the 'artifact' story. The missions were good (not great) but the story was mediocre. With really good level design I would have minded far less, but unfortunately Unreal 2 had far better textures than levels.

I'm currently creating a co-op game design concept; one that focusses primarily on co-op play inside a story, and single play. To me non-linearity is not an option, but instead I'm thinking in the realm of alternative endings, and alternative optional missions (sub-plots).

Dark[NSF]
19th Nov 2004, 08:55 AM
maybe if an evil scientist in a terrorist ridden country accidently opened a portal to D-Day.. and you play as an american soldier shooting terrorists AND nazis all in one mod.


The sarcasm bleeds through every letter in than idea.

Nagstaku
2nd May 2005, 11:06 PM
sorry i didn't read the replies,, but BRAVO. i agree with 99% of what you were saying.

Adraeus
28th May 2005, 02:19 AM
']maybe if an evil scientist in a terrorist ridden country accidently opened a portal to D-Day.. and you play as an american soldier shooting terrorists AND nazis all in one mod.
That sounds like the high concept for Reign of Militias, Dark. ;) j/k

RoyT
13th Jun 2005, 06:46 AM
Oeh, I also agree, and there are very much fine idea's here.

also I'd like to mention:

Dont create Counter-Strike clone 1039859018
(one exception: please some1 create a cs that is a bit more realistic, has bullets that actually hit, and has players that are nice to each other :D)

Also, it might be a good idea to use an existing story for your mod, but one of a great book, or TV-serie/movie, although ALWAYS! ask the creator if you may, and don't clone games like: ooh let's make CS for UT or something like that, I think that's kind a lame.

Cheers

Brood
9th Jul 2005, 11:13 PM
Well I have a mod I am currently writing for, it will be for UT2007...

http://forums.beyondunreal.com/forumdisplay.php?f=132

Starts off in the back seat of a humvee winding its way through the Congo Basin, you are a scout in the UNCFSF (read the link for more specific details). Your orders are to move to Waypoint Charlie, there you will recieve futher details. The mission is classified to such an extent, that your team does not even know what their objective is and will not find out until they are deep within enemy territory.

The humvee reaches a blocked road, so the team decides to leg it the rest of the way. The player is walking along the narrow road, suddenly, the deserted humvee takes a hit from an RPG and the player and team are ambushed. Once the player's health reaches 0, fade to black, fade back to the game. The player is sitting in a dark, cold, concrete cell somewhere, a man comes in, he is an APF Officer. You are questioned, beaten and left for dead.

Here is the odd human element, the officer slams the door behind him but it does not jam shut, here is your chance. After some sneaking the player escapes out into the dense jungle of the Congo Basin.

So in summary...
player is captured and his team are killed while on duty in the Congo Basin. Someone had leaked information to the enemy, the player is presumed dead and forgotten. Six months later he escapes to seek revenge on those who did him wrong. Soon the player will find himself fighting even his allies to uncover the disturbing truth behind their mission.

Timeline
Summarised Version
Dates DO matter in this game.
2010
- February, German company "Ost Designs" (OstDes) shows its new VTOL range.
- November, OstDes VTOLs are militarised, US and Britain sign contracts, US and Britain both recieve 10,000 new OstDes VTOL aircraft.
2011
- Missionaries across Africa are slaughtered by an unknown force calling themselves the APF (African People's Force). Motivation is suspected to be the removal of western presence in Africa.
- French special forces in Africa move to defend Westerners.
2012
- Military firearm companies enter a new arms race, developing new age weapons.
- UN talks on safety of aid workers in Africa begin.
- June 2012, Civil war breaks out in the Congo, quickly spreading through Africa.
- End of 2012, 40,000 Africans dead, 200 Aid workers dead.
2013
- UN establishes a "Control Force" (UNCF) Mostly US, already present European Peacekeepers are deemed part of the UNCF as well.
- US UNCF force consists of 30,000 troops as of August 2013.
- US reporter states that another Vietnam War is brewing, anti-war protesters respond.
- UNCF forms a Special Ops devision, UNCFSF is formed.
2014
- Australia and Britain send their SAS and SASR forces, Australia also sends combat engineers to become part of the UNCF force.
- Aid workers are pulled out of Africa until it is deemed safe for them to return again.
- November 2014, UNCF force consists of 700,000 troops from around the globe.
- November 2014, APF force said to be in the millions.
2015
- March, war is declared by the APF, the UNCF answers, US President states that it is not a war, but instead a peacekeeping mission.
- November, After suffering many losses, the UNCF troops are "regeared" for the new age with new technologies.
- UNCF form new force known as the FA (Future Applications) force (UNCFFA). The UNCFFA use the latest weaponry brought onto the battlefield as a result of the new arms race.
- Odd creatures are reported, troops are talking ghosts, but scientists say they are merely gorillas.

- Christmas Day 2015, While on classified duty, 7 men of the UNCFSF are killed. Another is missing presumed dead.
- All records of the classified mission and the men involved are destroyed...