August 17, 2012 3:00 AM | Staff
In his incredibly animated talk at GDC Europe on Wednesday, Frictional Games co-founder Thomas Grip (Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Penumbra) discussed horror and storytelling in games, explaining his personal theory of what's vital in telling game stories.
His prime thesis is that in games, "story is not just the plot." In fact, regarding what's important in interactive storytelling, Grip postulated: "We want the player to play through the story, not just sit through it."
In a complex talk, Grip suggested that similar games separated by 20 years like Uncharted and Another World have, in the end, relatively similar types of gameplay and storytelling combined.
In that case, both titles have things like running, followed by jumping and cutscenes -- Grip argued: "This is weird... why haven't we advanced?" He suggests: "The main culprit is how most of these games are designed."
Using his own games as examples, Grip expressed his thesis: "Tell stories where you play all the way through the games, not just the bits where the designers tell you to."
Overall, Grip is definitely an explicit game story minimalist -- he suggests that the key to success is to keep systems simple, and rely on the player's imagination. And multiple game design elements will enhance the story and coherence of the universe.
In particular, a couple of those game design elements include the concept of a consistent world ("what you do somewhere should work somewhere else"), and that of "agreeable outcome" (buttons doing perhaps not exactly what the player wanted to do, but doing something that feels right to them). Designers should also avoid failsafes -- "herding" players into particular didactic cutscenes and other forced explanations.
Grip concluded of his passions: "Don't try to beat the game, try to live the game" -- and said that Frictional Games is "trying to push this as far as we possibly can" with its next, as-yet-unannounced game.
[Simon Carless wrote this article, which appeared originally on Gamasutra.]