Sometimes I talk to people about common narrative game structures like the ones in…

and they get worried because they want to see something that looks like a Hollywood three-act structure.
Of course it has a lot of variants, but I'm talking about something that looks loosely like Diagram showing a three act plot
Status quo, inciting incident, our protagonist discovers a need to take action, the first few attempts go wrong, the protagonist undergoes some important change or realisation, final attempt succeeds.

B plot, call to adventure, etc., added depending on your particular flavour.
However! A lot of standard game branching structures are designed so they do produce roughly that narrative flow for the player, especially if you consider reloaded games.

Take your gauntlet, a linear game with potential early deaths. Diagram of a fairly linear storyline with occasional death s
Though it looks like a straight line, the player's experience of that story will likely be to try something, die, go back, try the other path (or fight that same challenge more successfully), and succeed. Gauntlet diagram structure coloured to match up with the thr
It is at least potentially duplicating that structure where the protagonist has to fail and retry.
At the same time, the gauntlet can leave part of the change outside the story.

Often it's the _player's_ retry and the _player's_ learning that cause progress. The protagonist doesn't necessarily experience those things.

So it's not always ideal for telling a character story.
Loop and grow structures can do the same, perhaps more reliably. Now maybe the player encounters a version of the challenge multiple times, learning new things each time. (See: run after run after run of Hades.) Diagram of a plot where the player cycles through repeated e
With a little variation, the Loop and Grow can give you a tragedy format where each time the player encounters that challenge, their situation has degraded and they're more likely to fail. This is the format we used for Animal Farm.
A branch and bottleneck, meanwhile, can give you variant mid-story twists or complications to overcome, so now we're asking the player not "do you succeed/fail" but "how and why do you fail the first couple times?"

That can mean more character development within gameplay. Diagram of a plot that branches and then rejoins several tim
Perhaps you are now thinking "I don't see how the Time Cave structure helps with this":

Yeah, the Time Cave's whole aesthetic is that it's an unsystemic mess Diagram of a structure that branches and rebranches and neve

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More from @emshort

31 Dec 20
I retweeted this yesterday, and it's a great thread.

I've been thinking about it more since, as well as the methods I use to try to proof against the problems that I know are almost definitely going to turn up despite my best efforts.
a few things I find helpful (not by any means a complete list):

- document design intent. even when working alone, but especially when working with a team, it's easy to add a feature, discover in testing that the feature isn't working, and then get hung up on fixing the feature
...when in fact a good part of the time it's worth asking "is this actually even doing the thing it was spec'd to do? what were we trying to solve with that? is the 'fixed' version of this feature actually going to do what it was supposed to, initially?"
Read 7 tweets
29 Jul 20
Thread on what it really means to look for marginalised contributors in your spaces.
The applications of this go far beyond publishing.

Over the years I've done a lot of work at the boundaries of different communities, as an editor, curator, competition judge, advisor for industry conferences and program committee member for academic ones, as a hiring manager.
And in that time I've radically reformed what I think that kind of role is about.

Yes, I do care about "maintaining standards", when those standards are about allowing in people who treat others well, and removing those who do not.

But beyond that?
Read 13 tweets
4 Jun 20
0/ Tracking down racist bugs in our own programming - a thread.
1/ Some years ago I read studies that progressive college professors were more responsive to white male students and least responsive to women of colour.
2/ When I looked at my own pattern, I found I also tended to respond fastest and devote most time to email requests from white men. Gross! I'd never consciously chosen this. Where did it come from?
Read 16 tweets
18 Nov 19
A thread about narrative states.

Suppose we have a dating sim where outcome is decided by the player's relationship stats to three characters, and the player has loads of chances to increase relationship with any/all of them. It can be tricky to reason about the design of this.
However, suppose we calculate percentage of interest in each character: darcy_percentage = darcy_likes / (darcy_likes + wickham_likes + collins_likes .

Now we can chart this on a ternary plot. (… ) Three suitors, four story outcomes. Triangular chart of dating outcomes.
Immediately this chart shows us where the player might get confused/frustrated about why they got the outcome they did -- because there are some points of really abrupt state transition. Another triangular graph with challenging state spaces identified.
Read 15 tweets
24 Sep 19
Thinking a lot lately about virtue as skill.

- doing the right thing is a matter of judgment, courage and habit, not just meaning well
- moral courage can be cultivated; you're not limited to current supply
- it is helpful to have thought about hard issues before facing them

I struggle to resist certain types of emotional pressure or manipulation. Usually, the only negative consequence is that I tire myself out responding to emotively-phrased requests.
But when the consequences are more serious, I have to find ways to say no even when it feels _really bad_ to do so. Until I have stronger habits here, I get through "difficult no" conversations using methods that may seem downright remedial.
Read 13 tweets
24 Jul 19
I think a lot about what good citizens we could be in a world with UBI, how much time we'd have to participate in politics. What schools would be like if more adults had time to spend with the young. What scholarship would be like if more people had time to be mature learners
all the best stuff I've done ("best" = "demonstrably useful to others," "made someone's life better," "was IMO good art") was motivated by something other than money, even if I happened also to be compensated for it.

and I think I'm not at all unusual in that regard
also, we currently need a lot of brainpower focused on how to save ourselves. get our collective decision-making systems to reflect the best of our values, unpack supremacy and avoid making the planet fully uninhabitable

there's a *lot* of citizening needed right now
Read 4 tweets

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