Do you first decide on story or gameplay?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jonthefox, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    When you make a jRPG, do you decide on what story you want to tell, and then decide on the gameplay mechanics that would best suit that? Or do you decide on the type of gameplay experience you want the player to have, and then craft the story based on that?

    I don't think one approach is necessarily superior to the other, but I'm just curious what other people do.
     
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  2. Arithmetician

    Arithmetician Veteran Veteran

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    I've usually started with gameplay.
     
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  3. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    What I generally do is decide on one or two game mechanics I'd like to be the focus of my game. After that, I build a world around those mechanics. Why they exist, what the point of them is, etcetera.

    For example, my current game (okay, my only game) started off as a simple project. I wanted to invent a "True Choice" game where any choice you made was valid. No advantages to be had for playing good guys or bad guys. A game where the story changes in reaction to what you do in game. I wanted to prove that game designers COULD do this if they really wanted to, they just weren't because their publishers wouldn't support such a project.

    I built a world around that concept. A world that eventually turned into story. A world with rules, history, lore, physics, etcetera. The original concept began fading into the project and was no longer the main focus. I put in new things I wanted to try out. I removed the traditional reason for gaining levels. I fixed stat gains to doing quests. I removed healing classes.

    The story of this world became the reason I did all of these things. "Gaining a Level" made no sense in the story I was crafting. Healers didn't make sense either. Stats being tied to story progression and Quests was what I settled on when I removed levels.

    I took a concept, built a story around it, then built up that story so that the concept wasn't nearly as important as the world you were playing it. I've added/removed mechanics based on whether or not they went with the story at all. Or, based around whether or not I could get them to work in a satisfactory way. Generally, the story informs me of what systems and gameplay mechanics I'll be using. But, every story starts with the idea to use a single game mechanic.
     
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  4. Ms Littlefish

    Ms Littlefish Dangerously Caffeinated Global Mod

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    Bit of column A, bit of column B. The gameplay and story should have some commingling so typically I need something to complete the other.
     
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  5. AbyssalDarkness

    AbyssalDarkness Veteran Veteran

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    I think you really need to plan Mechanics/And story at the same time or sometimes you end up doing one to justify the other.

    I’m a writer (well kinda), I’m currently writing 2 stories which are well around 40,000 words both. The problems I face from writing the story then wanting to adapt them to RPG’s.

    1: What justify “X” gameplay mechanics?

    2: Player Choices, are they relevant to the story and how are they adaptable? Is there even a place for them?

    3: Random encounters or Scripted? Or no encounters at all!?

    4: Open or linear?

    Basically, after writing a whole story, I end up with the question: how will it translate into a game? Because it wasn’t thought as such in the first place.
     
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  6. Lihinel

    Lihinel Veteran Veteran

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    Gameplay, no question.
    If I wanted to focus on story I'd write a book.
     
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  7. Caitlin

    Caitlin \(=^o^=)/ Kitten shall rule the world!!! Veteran

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    I am someone who loves story and I think that you plan each separately. I mean, game play doesn't radical change from game to game with some additions from time to time. I decide what sort of game I am going to make, then, plan the story, characters and such. There is no wrong way to decide which to start first, some plan it at the same time, some plan story and others plan game play.
     
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  8. MRHAPPYFACEMAN

    MRHAPPYFACEMAN Story Writer and Plot Development Veteran

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    depends. Want to make a mediocre game or a super cool game? Also, is the game long or short?

    Your average short game usually has a deep storyline to it and no real mechanic to it, but longer games rely on cool game mechanics so the audience doesn't fall asleep on the storyteller. I personally am a fan of Storylines cause I like to see what the heck is gunna happen, but most people don't generally agree with me there.
     
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  9. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Story first. Then if it still makes a good game, make it into a game. If not, save it and use it another way. Some of my stories that would make terrible games are now part of my lore of my world instead. So they still got use, just not in the original intended way.
     
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  10. ChrAndGow

    ChrAndGow Pixel Artist Veteran

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    I prefer going for gameplay first cause this is like a skeleton for a human and every human needs one. What he becomes at the end doesn't matter.
    And to implement a story to a gameplay is easier than trying to implement gameplay to your story, cause you know what you're capable to add and you are not forced to implement this gameplay thing cause your story needs it
     
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  11. ShadowHawkDragon

    ShadowHawkDragon Veteran Veteran

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    One thing you should consider is the aim of your game.

    Are you going for an epic dungeon crawler with more focus on the dungeon/battling than the story?
    If so gameplay should be forefront.

    Do you want a tear-churning tragedy or sweat heart-warming experience which focuses on the player feeling for their characters one way or another?
    Then its story that should come first.

    While a game can work out by designing the two separately, truly good games have the two woven neatly from the start.

    Generally I take a similar approach to @Tai_MT
    I start with either the base setting/characters or the core mechanics, then with I create the other with the first in mind (so they complement each other); then I add further onto the first back to the second and so on.

    For example: my current project started with a desire to create something unrealistic and somewhat goofy. The first thing I did was create my main character and her butler then I built a basic world around them. That world started to dictate the core gameplay mechanics, which in turn began to further shape the lore and setting, which in turn further crafted the desired gameplay progression and so on, back and forth, the two in unison create the whole.
     
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  12. LxCharon

    LxCharon I'm the best hyperbole writer in the world. Veteran

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    Neither, I come up with a concept or idea I want to show. And then I write the story and come up with the mechanics to support that concept. Good games are a many legged beast that all support the central idea. Like Final Fantasy 6 the central concept is the group of heroes or party management, and you'll see the whole story, most of the major game mechanics, even the art and design support this central concept. Or the original Splinter Cell is all based around the concept of sneaking and the plot, the characters, the mechanics, the combat, all are there to support the concept of sneaking around. Another great example is the Parable of Stanley, a game about false choices in games. It's really fantastic, I suggest designers play it all the time. But the story is and the mechanics are actually interwoven together in that game, in a way the story is the mechanic and they all support and are built around false choices in video games. Even the achievements and "side quests" of that game are based around that concept.
     
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  13. Guiguimu

    Guiguimu The best revenge is massive success Veteran

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    I was actually writing a book about the story I wanted to tell. But then I realized I needed to have something interesting to go along my story, so that's when I found RPG Maker. To me, the story part comes first, then gameplay.
    But I actually already made a game out of an idea, a concept, then constructed the story and the gameplay while I was doing the game.
    I guess it depends on what you want for that specific game, what inspires you to do it.
     
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  14. L.W. Flouisa

    L.W. Flouisa NumeroHex Veteran

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    I decided on story first. I find the gameplay evolves around the story. Say I wanted to do a JRPG, if I decided I wanted to have a side view battle system. Then later decided on the plot as an afterthought it was going to be a stealth game.

    Well the battle system will stick out like a sore thumb, as the gameplay wasn't designed for that story in mind.

    This is the big thing my room mate couldn't wrap her head around. As someone who has learned the craft on RPG Maker VX (original, not Ace) I have some experience behind me for this.

    Gameplay will often not fit the story you have in mind if you're not working with some kind of engine in mind that limits the kind of story that you can have.

    A roguelike engine is going to need a different kind of story from a JRPG. Especially if you're doing text-based graphics.

    You don't want to make stealth game, or fighting game, and decide as an afterthought you want it to have this deeply intensive story. It needs to flow naturally with the game play you have in mind.

    The gameplay needs to evolve around the story.

    Because gameplay is what delivers the plot.

    Less disastrous for RPG Maker games, but it can completely derail your progress in a home built engine for Roguelikes because you built the game play to not fit the story you have in mind.

    Using an example, I knew that a game would be set in a computerized world. I knew that the MC themselves wouldn't be there inside, but rather depicted as an @ sign. This changed the nature of what I required.

    So I made it so they themselves didn't have perma-death, but rather their using name is randomly generated again for their own anonymity.

    It flowed more naturally than if I had used a pre-built engine.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
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  15. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

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    I tend to build my games out of free-floating ideas that pop into my head and evolve over time. Maybe it's a mechanic, or maybe it's a plot point, but rather than basing one off of the other I'll just shift, tweak, and re-imagine different potential plots or mechanics to work well together after the fact. In other words, I come up with stories and mechanics separately, mash them together at random, and then see which ones organically merge together into the best result. :kaopride:

    Like, I have a story I've been working on for a while, and originally imagined it as a certain mechanical system, but then that turns out to be unfeasible so I look at alternatives. "Okay, what about RPG Maker's battle system? What could I do with that? How would the story have to be tweaked to fit? Does this combination work?" Eventually, after trying various ideas I get something that (out of sheer serendipity, usually) makes some consistent thematic sense, and I start refining it. :kaojoy:
     
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  16. BrandedTales

    BrandedTales StoryTeller Veteran

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    I think both are valid depending on the kind of game you are trying to make. While there are plenty of game types where story can be tacked onto gameplay (strategy, puzzle, most action, and sims come to mind) my personal belief is that RPGs should (as a general rule) revolve around the story and at minimum be at least a 50/50 weave of the two.

    In my case, I started with story. My original goal was to make games, but there was way too much development involved. I'm more of a scripter than a hardcore coder. Having walked away from game dev, I went into novel writing. Wrote lots of short stories and then had four different novels stall around 70k words. Having found RM, I realize I can help those stories become a reality (the video game medium actually overcomes the items that made my stories stall).

    That said, we are making games now writing stories, so gameplay cannot be neglected. For one of stories, there probably won't be combat; it will be a lot of moral decisions. For another, I think adding a tactical combat system is warranted. Some require cool skill systems. Story forces innovation to make something fun and different.
     
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  17. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I have to start with a story idea. If I don't know what I want to say, how do I know how to say it? But having got the basic idea (probably the 'precipitating event' and a hazy notion of how it might end) story and game play are developed in tandem, constantly moving between one and the other. However, because for me the story is crucial, if the mechanic doesn't fit the story, then it is the mechanic which is dropped/changed. Other people will do it the other way round - it depends what, for you the developer, is the most important.
     
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  18. Gastin

    Gastin Villager Member

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    Story line always. But something you gotta watch is flow vrs. Dialogs. What i mean bu that as a player i want you to show me not tell me. If you got a bunch of dialogs im never gonna make it. So short dialogue and the rest of it get me interacting with your story. Combat is based around the story 100 percent. You gotts think that where working on suspension of disbelief. My angry, short tempered, agredsive person is hard to beleive is a healer. Its not that its not possible but it would be more difficult.
     
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  19. Andronius

    Andronius Apprentice Veteran

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    This is actually such a good question!:kaohi: I wish I had found this thread a long time ago, because the issue is so important and everyone new to RPG maker should read it, to avoid later tragedies while working on their first projects.

    So my short answer would be: Story and Mechanics are interwoven together and should support each other for the best experience; logically storyline goes first in the devs head, since all the game mechanics and experience should serve that storyline (one can tell when a story has been 'improvised' just out of the blue while developing a game, and that can be very annoying), but Database and mechanics should be the first thing to work out on the editor. That would be my heartfelt advice for a newbie, and I'd wish someone gave me that same advice when I was just starting to learn MV.

    :kaoswt: When I first learnt about RPG Maker (relatively recently) I was so excited that I immediately started to draw maps and write tons of dialogues for NPC's and such (so, Storyline, which was already in my head for years), but working in that frentic disorganized way, it was not long before I realized my database was a mess, the skill-system was unbalanced, and many things of the like (because in that excitement I didn't give enough attention to planning, foundation, gameplay mechanics, formulae, database). :kaosigh:

    So, if I could travel in time to give myself some advice BEFORE drawing even the first map, it would be to think first in the game mechanics (i.e. foundation, previous layout, formulae, skill-learning system, iconset, tilesets, plugins, etc) and only when all the resources, assets, music, graphics, plugins, database, abilities, formulae and everything else has been already perfectly organized, only then start drawing the maps, dialogue, story. Because any change/mistake will take soooo much time to correct. At least that's my experience as a noob: making the game up as one goes along, without previous planning, will eventually lead to TEARS AND DESPAIR due to the double-work and huge amounts of time invested in just correcting and re-doing all that was not planned ahead.

    Basically, my experience in regard to this question is summarized by @Yanfly here:

    http://yanfly.moe/2017/01/07/comic-lets-make-a-game/
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
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  20. Dr. Delibird

    Dr. Delibird Veteran Veteran

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    Story elements that I like tend to spark new ideas for new projects, however gameplay between most of my games is 90% the same as each other sooooo yeah XD
     
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