Whether or not a high level narrative frame is imposed over game play, most game play in interactive 3D games occurs at a level where the very high number of possible combinations of actions, positions and interactions makes it completely inappropriate to map out branching interaction possibilities at the level of the design of game moves. Interactions and their consequences between paired types of actions can be specified, using, for example, payoff matrices. But in the simulation of a continuous game space where players can choose moves for interacting with other player characters or NPCs, the details of interaction are far too great to consider other than at the level of the pair-wise interactions of moves that are highly combinable in sequences. This amounts to the design of game characters encapsulating interaction potential in their available potential moves, constituting a character- (and game object-) level object-oriented approach to interaction design.
From a story perspective, this amounts to the adoption of object-oriented story construction methodologies (see ), in which game objects (including characters) encapsulate their own potential for the construction of interesting story material. What represents interesting story material depends upon the play experience preferences of the player. As noted above, game moves represent a performance repertoire of in-game player character performance primitives. Combat-oriented games, for example, provide player moves for actions such as moving the player character within the game world, exchanging, selecting and deselecting weapons, aiming and choosing opponents, and actually striking opponents (depending upon the game; for MMORPGs, where time delays exclude fine timing, the move is to initiate combat, with each blow typically being executed autonomously). Combat moves fit into a conception of interaction conforming strongly with the formal structure of a game. Combat moves are nevertheless performance moves that can also constitute player performance primitives for manifesting the lowest level of interactively selected detail in the game experience regarded as an unfolding story. Since the character encapsulates it’s movement capacity, this is at least conceptually a variant of object-oriented story construction. For strongly combat-oriented games, however, a small number of types of moves are performed in very high density, that is, repeatedly at very short time intervals and for very long periods of time. This results in the game-intensive form of combat confrontations (each enemy defeated is one game bout won) dominating the player’s experience of play. Performance of the game moves (in patterns or repetitive gameplay gestalts) consumes most or all of the player’s attention, leaving little sense of higher level story or character development. This combat orientation means that levelling and increasing combat capability are the most relevant aspect of character development; any other elements of characterisation or story then fade into the background, and the details of higher level narrative contexts are frequently forgotten (as argued in more detail in Lindley, , ).
The solution to the difficulty of remembering a high level narrative context during highly repetitive game play may lie in good design of the methods by which the narrative context is presented, such as frequent use of cut scenes well integrated into an overall rhythmic pattern of game play. The problem of repetitive game play being more game-like than story-like is of a very different nature. This is, in fact, not a problem for the gamist, and the well designed narrative framing may not be a problem for the gamist/gamer who likes the occasional break (often designed as a reward for achievement in the game), resting for a while in the audience-oriented story role of the viewer of a cut scene. It is, however, a problem for players having the story orientations of performer and immersionist, since repetitive game play (typified by combat games) does not provide a sense of dramatically significant character or story development within the detailed interaction mechanics of play.
Object-oriented storytelling implemented at the character level can use linear or branching narrative (or narrative-like) structures to model character development over time within the control model of a character. This is a weaker sense of narrative than the use of a high level narrative form covering the interactions of many game characters and events. However, it is a way of structuring the development over time of the psyche, beliefs, affective states and behaviours of a character. This can be referred to as the creation of inner narrative models. This concept is closer to the concept of narrative developed by Louchart and Aylet , but provides a more specific advanced plan for character development. Progress along the inner narrative model can be a function of game world and character interactions, thus helping to shape the history of the game world in general but not necessarily leading to any specific overall and high level pattern of development (eg. narrative) at the world level.
A final point about object-oriented storytelling is that it can be applied at the world story level without being encapsulated within character models. An example of this is to use plot controllers that create specific transformations in the world and characters. A specific plot point is represented by a set of conditions marking its activation and a set of rules for transforming world and character states. An example may be a “falling in love” plot point controller, activated by a world action. This could, for example, be triggered by having a character look at a portrait of another character, triggering the plot controller which then implements changes to the character control system, making it easier to move closer to the loved one and harder to move away. A set of plot controllers might or might not have internal dependencies, representing a plan for longer term story development. But an important aspect of this concept is that plot controllers are not necessarily activated but function loosely in the world to make interesting things happen under specific circumstances. This can also be used as a strategy for creating inner narratives from a more object-oriented perspective.
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