Spector urges game creators to 'level up' storytelling

Spector urges game creators to 'level up' storytelling
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

May 13th 2013 at 1:02PM

Epic Mickey dev is also doubtful that the indie scene is impacting the mainstream

Game designer Warren Spector has urged game creators to “level up” their storytelling in games.

As reported by Gamasutra at the Inventing the Future of Gaming symposium, Spector said that more need to be done to create cohesive stories in games that don’t compromise gameplay.

He wasn’t immediately critical of today’s games, but said, “there’s more we can do and that refining what we already do, while nice, will get us a whole lot further”.

Spector also singling out the indie scene as an area he’s doubt of in terms of its impact on the mainstream. While he thinks “terrific” work is being don’t, he said “they’re not changing the mainstream of gaming and I'm not sure they will.”

An important thing designer must keep in mind, he said, is that games are unlike other media because “your story is exposed through the exploration of space.”

Had four pieces of advice for designers to take note of in order to make story in games more effective:

Games have the power to transport players to other worlds, such as becoming Gordan Freeman in Half-Life 2 or Link in Zelda, he said.

Game should immerse player in those worlds: “We are at our best when we remove obstacles to the belief that you are experiencing what you are experiencing in the world that we create.

“We are the only medium that demands user participation and the only medium that can respond to that input.”

And, he added, repetition is central to what games are, so it must be “All other media are made up of that single moment, the non-repeated moment. We are different. We offer players game systems that they can exploit over and over again. Repetition is kind of what we do.”

Games should aspire to offer each player a unique experience, he proposed.

“If, at the end of this game, every player has the same experiences, go back and think,” Spector said he tells his designers.

“This does not mean [players are] telling their own story soup-to-nuts. Players are exceptionally good at 'I did this, and then this, and that happened,' but they're not real good at narrative arc: Here's why this and this are important.”

Among his other suggestions for improving storytelling in games was a need to build worlds, not sets, and introducing AI director, such as a more advanced version of that seen in Left 4 Dead, to games that would response to players actions.