In the very beginning of mankind, people had already mastered the ability of storytelling, and it has been a heritage as a basic way of human understanding of the world to this day. Such as the Homer epic, which rely on word of mouth to pass the myth of the creation and the important events for future generations, providing an important material to understand the world and history (Seymour 2013). With the acceleration of the process of human civilization, the storytelling is also inherited and developed in the evolution of the media. Mankind has experienced the story telling of oral communication and the storytelling of electronic media. Now it is an era of interactive storytelling (Seymour 2013). Just as the film, the development of electronic games has also absorbed a lot of other forms of art nutrition, it has shown a strong inclusiveness both in the content and in the form. Video games, as a significant example of interactive storytelling, are deeply rooted in the traditional interactive way. As for video game storytelling, game design master Chris Crawford (2015) argues that the definition of interactive narrative is still vague, and that video games have some of the conditions of interactive narrative, but interactive storytelling are higher than electronic games, more humanistic, and more entertaining. Ernest Adams believes that the story of video games to attract players is to provide a unique emotional experience, rather than fantastic plot. This paper believes that the network storytelling and the sandbox storytelling would be the future development for the game designer.
The storytelling of video games could be divided into two categories: grand story and personal storytelling (QI, 2007). Grand storytelling refers to the macro story background of video game, such as the game characters, times, events, which fundamentally determine the game scene settings, story development, role form and the relationship between roles, in general, these are pre-set content of games Developers , the player cannot participate in the construction and development of grand storytelling. The player’s personal storytelling in the game refers to the individual storytelling that the player develops through his own game activity, and each player’s behavior in the game is very different from each other, which leads to different Plot and ending.
Grand storytelling – game background
Grand storytelling refers to the give the game a background to show its history or reality, thus giving a story telling context to make the storytelling more complete (QI, 2007). On the basis of emphasizing the truth, it pursuits the unity of authenticity and artiste of the storytelling. In the video game, the grand storytelling is mostly manifested as a complete imagination of the historical process, this imagination embodies a strong science fiction with mythological color, but still shows the reality everywhere. The structure of this world view is often done in two ways, one is to refer to the existing myths and the legend of its transformation, such as “Elder Scrolls”, the world view is very close to the teachings of Judaism, and even once severely criticized by the Jewish states. Another way is to assess the major events that may occur in the present age and enrich the relevant content through scientific means and set it as a background of the story of the game, such as the background of the “radiation” story, which background of human change after the nuclear war.
In these games, the creator for the game set up a set of time and space for the game development, on which basis to set up the scene, the role and the story, and the player in the game cannot participate to create the development of this ambitious historical background as participant, but it is always affected by its impact.
Personal storytelling- Players experience
In the grand storytelling, players can only participate in it and cannot change the game. While in the personal storytelling, player’s choice can become the decisive factor in the whole story, different characteristics of the players join the game, customize the it role to fully experience the game plot, enjoy the interactive experience brought by the game, the completely different behavior of the players fundamentally determine their choice in the game will be different, different options will generate completely different storytelling lines and ending. In addition, the player’s personal storytelling also extend to the outside of the game, impacted by the game and the reality, and ultimately formed the player’s personal storytelling.
In the game, there are three main ways of the game developers to support the player’s personal storytelling, the first way is to give more options to set the role of the player, such as different races, occupation, size, appearance, clothing features and many more. The second way is to improve and perfect the storytelling mode of the game. In the past few decades, the storytelling mode of the video game has developed a lot, from the dotted line storytelling mode to the branch storytelling mode, giving the player more options. When the player completed one level, one can choose the follow-up game line so as to obtain a different story and the outcome. The third way lies in the communication of players and the players. For example, today’s online games not only have the plot of vendetta, but also allow the players in the game to marry, giving birth, and most players tend to extended virtual emotions of the game to the outside of the game, In reality, emotional communication of the players could develop into a real relationship, and then reflected in the game for the common task, dress, couple name, etc., this personal storytelling will expand the role of the player outside the game, and then have a greater impact on the relationship of the role.
The storytelling pattern derived from linear storytelling
The transformation of the existing linear storytelling model is a commonly used method in the video game storytelling, the game designer can transform a linear story and get some non – linear storytelling patterns (Wang 2015). In the practice of game design, these non-linear storytelling models have been widely used. However, the source of this storytelling model is still a linear storytelling so it cannot fully show the interactive features of video games.
1. Dotted line storytelling mode
The simplest and effective way to construct a nonlinear storytelling would be the dotted line narrative pattern, which is used in the course of game development because of its compact story, clear semantics and efficient production (QI, 2007). In this process, the game plot break the main story of the game into a variety of events and a separate narrative paragraphs the players experienced , and use the game story, elements, mechanisms and artificial intelligence and other elements to organically combine these small events and narrative paragraphs. In this model, the event or storytelling paragraph is dotted, and the player’s interaction within the game acts like a line to link these events or paragraphs together, eventually forming a complete narrative clue.
Fig.1 Dotted line storytelling mode
In the actual operation, the process of the story are in the form of the task – through the completion of several small task to form a larger scale of task group, and several task groups are connected and ultimately form the entire contents of the story. The dialogue, picture, text, and CG animation in the process of the task could be the storytelling paragraphs mentioned above, through the dialogue, moves, selection, fighting and other interactive behavior by the player, the storytelling paragraphs could be activated one by one to get a complete story. From the point of view of the game designer, the biggest advantage of the dotted storytelling pattern is that the game designer can decompose and construct the storytelling and fully control the process of the story through the classical narrative theory, thus transmit his own messages to the Game participants to the largest extent, this model is efficient, controllable and almost applicable to all the video game type, especially the task-based game.
Of course, this pattern is not perfect, the player’s criticism to this model focused on that the game behavior and storytelling links are not close or even differentiation sometimes. Players in the game are immersed in highly excited spirit, and when the text or animation appears in the storytelling, the player can only be in a passive position and do nothing. Even if the player made a different choice in a different way to complete the task, the end of the game cannot be effected at last, which will directly produce a sense of powerlessness of the player. In general, the dotted-line storytelling model is too similar to the linear storytelling model, resulting in the lack of interactive in the game.
2. Branch storytelling pattern
In view of the weaknesses of dotted line narrative patterns in interactivity, many game companies with sufficient financial support turn to an efficient, controllable, and more interactive storytelling model, that is, the branch storytelling pattern. This mode can be called the improvement of the linear storytelling mode (Wang 2015). In the branch storytelling mode, when the player activates the next event through the interactive behavior, the choice presented in front of the player is not unique, but sets a completely different branch, allowing the player to guide the story toward a completely different direction to continue according to their own wishes. This branch is no longer confined to a single text, dialogue, CG, etc., but in the performance of multiple roles, multiple paths and multiple outcomes. In the dotted point line storytelling mode, whether it is characters or dialogue, CG presented in front of the player, they are all preset by the game developers, and the different plot of branch storytelling patterns are produced in the following two models:
1) Pre-set the branch events for players to choose. The biggest challenge for developers in this way is the increase in development costs. The plots need to be produced with the player’s growth will have multiple increase, but the player cannot experience all of these events, so developers is often very cautious choosing this model , only take a branch storytelling in some of the plot.
2) Automatically generate branch events for players to choose by calculating the task conditions need to be achieved by the player. A more direct way is to present the branch plot in front of the players, completely depriving of the player’s choice, on the surface, this mechanism cannot guarantee that the player has enough control and lead to the lack of interaction, but this deprivation is based on the player’s behavior, because the plot is almost unlimited in number the in this way, the same player can get a different story experience every time one enter into the same game . This kind of branch storytelling has a bigger difference with the traditional linear narrative, and the generation mechanism of the game plot is further deviated to the player.
Fig.2 Branch storytelling pattern
3. Parallel storytelling
The parallel storytelling model can be seen as a combination of dotted line story telling pattern and branch storytelling pattern (huang, 2011). In order to pursue the balance of storytelling and interaction of game, the developer combines a number of parallel storytelling clues together and makes them in a specific event or paragraphs and cross each other, and ultimately like the river flow into the sea, all the storytelling ultimately point to one or more ending. The biggest advantage of this approach is to give players more choice, but also to ensure the integrity of the storytelling, the most important thing is to greatly reduce the cost of development. Parallel storytelling mode is widely used in contemporary games, usually there is a series of mainline tasks as a storytelling trunk, and then set up a few shorter branch task to supplement the details of the main line, if the player cannot complete the task of the branch, it will indirectly affect the opening of the main story. This storytelling model not only gives the player the right to choose, but also control the number of events and paragraphs, greatly reducing the development costs.
However, this model also has its shortcomings, because whether the player completed the task of the branch or not, they ultimately will have to face some unavoidable events or paragraphs, and the whole story line become dotted line narrative mode on the macro level, the player will loss control of the game in this point, because in any case, some events or paragraphs will appear in front of them anyway ( huang,2011).
4. Network storytelling
Through the previous analysis we can easily see the development trend of game storytelling, more realistic, more free, more interactive storytelling would become the ultimate pursuit of contemporary video games, and with the development of digital technology, the game model only exist in the game developers will immediately become a reality, including the network storytelling mode(Wang 2015). The network storytelling mode can be seen as a derivative of the branch storytelling mode. In the dotted line storytelling mode and the branch storytelling mode, the choice made by players can only affect their own story, and cannot be a macro impact on the whole game world. While in the network storytelling, any choice the player make in the game will have a butterfly effect, not only affect the follow-up story development, but also more directly affect the game space and non-player control role. In this model, the player’s choice at the moment not only affects the storytelling paragraph of the next moment, but also has a more profound impact on the future. It is limited by the current level of artificial intelligence and rendering technology. Such a game has not been produced, but in the near future, this storytelling model will completely subvert the current game, bring more rich and innovative game experience for the players.
Sandbox game narrative pattern
Sandbox game is a branch of the simulation game, its core lies in the “free creation”, and the biggest difference from other types of games is that the sandbox game developers will not put forward a clear goal or task line for the player, only provide the players with an interactive, open virtual world and related internal rules in which players can play any role and even the creator of the game world, so as to obtain a very realistic game experience, other types of game storytelling are led by the game developers( huang,2011). While the sandbox game will give the power of create the story to the player, there is a big difference from the dotted line, branch and network storytelling mode, it is hardly a storytelling. However, with the improvement of artificial intelligence technology and new game algorithms, this model has been developed and successfully applied to a large number of commercial works, the typical representative is “Sims” and “Sim City” series.
Compared with the traditional storytelling media, the huge and open world of electronic games determines the process that players must choose to promote the game storytelling. Therefore, the storytelling of the game is the result of the combination of the developer’s pre-set and the player’s game behavior. The trade-off between the two becomes the key to the storytelling model of video games. According to the construction of different game plot, the video game finally formed the two major schools of the storytelling mode, one derived from the linear storytelling and the sandbox game storytelling, each model will be more mature with the development of the electronic technology and game concept, to provide a more diverse emotional experience for the human.