A narrative playthrough for a game world design

2020-08-20

The assignment for week 4 for CalArts’ World Design for Video Games asks us to imagine ourselves in our game world, to build on the visual style and concept of our world and to bring it together with a narrative playthrough.

To write a narrative playthrough, imagine yourself as a player in your world. The playthrough leads your character to an initial goal in the game. Focus your playthrough on just a small section of your world, but it can be any part of the game.

While the focus here should be on the environment of the game and how your player/character will navigate through it, in your description you must include:

  • an action you take in that world (opening a door, getting a key, etc)
  • a resident of the world you encounter (NPC, enemy, creature, etc)
  • and one object or item. The player needs to interact with the item in some way.

Write about what the player sees and does each step of the way. The idea here is vivid description of the world, the task at hand and the goal.

The game

Go and recap (see the two links in the intro) the visual style and concept I made for this game. As a reminder, I’m thinking of making a game similar to Jones in the fast lane currently code-named SuperMe.

My submission

It’s 1920, in The City, a grid of gray buildings in Art Deco style. The dodgy parts of town have factories and run-down buildings. You just arrived here, with plans to succeed and make it big.

You move into your apartment, a little shoebox in the rough part of town. It’s all you can afford right now. The carpet is worn and smells of old cigarettes. It’s night and you’re tired, but the first thing you do is pick the local newspaper up off the floor amongst all the other spam that has been pushed through the letter box recently, and you flip over to the classifieds section. Your first mission: to find a job. You circle “milkshake operator” as it seems like to only thing you’re qualified for.

In the morning there is a bang on the door, and it wakes you up. You open the door, and you meet your landlord face-to-face for the first time. A stout greasy man with a booming voice asking you if you’re settling in nicely, but not waiting for an answer. He says your cheque for the deposit and first month’s rent bounced, and you have to cough it up right there, right now, or you’re out on the street. There goes two thirds of your savings, right off the bat. He leaves, and you look at the clock. Your first interview starts in 10 minutes, and if you don’t leave right now, you’ll be late. Oh, and you have to remember to buy an alarm clock…

Art Deco City

Conclusion

(This doesn’t go into the submission.) Writing narrative playthroughs are fun. (Well, I find writing fun!) It really helps solidifying some of the gameplay ideas you have in your head. Even if not all of it makes it into the game, it lends your character and world a sense of identity. Maybe lore. It will certainly help to refer to narrative playthroughs when you actually build the game, to remind you of the character’s world and challenges, the mood, etc.

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