Having trouble writing an ending

Discussion in 'Game Ideas and Prototypes' started by Panda_Artist, Aug 31, 2019.

  1. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    Hello everyone.

    I'm currently in development of a little RPG maker project. It's nothing particularly special just something I'm doing for fun. But I am having dillema in writing the story. Especially toward the ending.

    You see... I was hoping to write it so that every character would die before the final dungeon (sacrifices and stuff to reach their destination), and the final dungeon would be in the afterlife. Right now I am in a dillemma because a colleague of mine told me that if I want to go with this approach I should make sure to develop the characters well so that their demises would be meaningful and not in vain, but also I am stuck between downright reviving them all after they defeat the final boss (which would make sense given the context of my fictional world) or just have them reincarnate (which is also relevant to the world) Or maybe I could leave the ending a bit more open to interpretation, kind of like games like FF7?

    A little general discussion would be great.
     
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  2. xoferew

    xoferew Veteran Veteran

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    Write all the endings and let the player choose?
     
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  3. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    Sounds like an interesting idea in theory!
     
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  4. xoferew

    xoferew Veteran Veteran

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    I can imagine some people saying, "I'd like to play this game, but not if everyone dies at the end." What percentage of potential players, I have no idea. There are definitely games where I've thought, "I enjoyed it but I'm not going to replay it, knowing what's in store at the end." It depends how invested I am in the characters.

    It's okay to make your players feel sad, but not okay to make them feel cheated or disappointed, I guess. The way you portray the afterworld would make a big difference.
     
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  5. ShadowDragon

    ShadowDragon Veteran Veteran

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    or write different endings and impliment them all (if you have 5, use all 5 on different part the player can compleet)
    or as hidden, if they unlock 2 out of 5, show 2 endings ^^ if they have discoverd all, show all 5 + bonus "true ending".

    Similair in radiant historia if you know the game which has alot of alternate endings ^^
     
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  6. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @Panda_Artist General Discussion is not for feedback on individual, specific projects. It is meant for wider ranging discussion of topics in a way that is helpful for other devs besides the OP. Of course, you can use a particular game as an example, but that is all it can be.

    You have a choice. If you want this to be about your game only, I can move it to Game Ideas and Prototypes. If you are happy for it to become a general discussion about this type of endings, it can stay here. That will mean that replies might not be relevant for your needs, and that is okay. If they are not helpful, just ignore them, don't try and steer it back to your project.

    Please post to say which you would like.
     
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  7. xoferew

    xoferew Veteran Veteran

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    You wouldn't have to rewrite a ton of stuff to give alternate endings. For instance, after the final battle: "The gods have noted your courage and sacrifice. You are granted the choice: Remain here in eternal serenity, return to your lives in the mortal realm, or submit your souls to reincarnation." Then majestically roll credits over a picture depicting the ending they chose. ^_^
     
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  8. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    I understand that, please do move it to the correct board.

    I would like to make it like Metal Gear Solid. Where theere are 2 endings which differ slightly. This seems like the best way so far.
     
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  9. Black Pagan

    Black Pagan Veteran Veteran

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    How about getting them to die one by one ? That way, It feels more special. You definitely need to get them to die in different ways. Before that happens, You could perhaps make them interact with each other, Share humor, Their Backstory, Their Sad Moments and the Player needs to feel a sense of accomplishment having played that character if you are going to kill that Character, All this adds up to that Great Ending.

    You don't really have to have a Final Battle in the After-Life, Rather you could end right there and display Cut-Scenes or Images to convey the rest of the story, As the credits pass, That would seem more Realistic and Dramatic.
     
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  10. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Moving this to Game Ideas and Prototypes at the request of the OP

     
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  11. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I'm normally one of the types of people who becomes really dissatisfied with stories (books, shows, and especially video games) when characters I like are killed off. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth that they met a bad fate; that they don't get to share in the happy ending that the world earned.

    But I actually find this idea of "reincarnating" in the finale to be pretty intriguing! I think that opens up the possibility space in the audience's head - gives them a way to believe that their favorite character can partake in the world they brought about somehow, and (just as importantly) allows them to wonder what's next for the character.

    Ultimately, I think the best way to write it depends on the tone of the work (as well as what feels right in your own heart, of course). If your game is mostly heroic, upbeat, compassionate, or a power fantasy (up until the point where they go to the afterlife) - it probably makes sense to fully revive them for the ending. If the game tends toward the dark, reflective, strange, philosophical, extremely gritty, or a psychological horror - the reincarnation route could be a really good way to write the ending.

    The problem with this is that by the time you get to the third party member, the audience is already expecting every character (except perhaps the MC) to die - especially if the characters are killed off in relatively close succession (and if you don't kill them in close succession, then by definition you'll need to rob the player of the ability to play with some of the characters for a large chunk of the game).

    When the player sees it coming, not only is nearly all of the impact and shock value lost, but in most cases each death stops feeling like it has meaning. Once the audience notices there's a pattern, they will also notice whether it looks like characters are being killed off or "sacrificing" themselves just for the purpose of pushing a specific narrative forward. If they decide that this is the reason the characters they like are dying, they will reject the arc entirely.

    SPOILERS FOR MULTIPLE WORKS AHEAD IN THIS PARAGRAPH!! -> To be clear, deaths had a narrative purpose in Game of Thrones, for example, but it worked because deaths were spread throughout the entire series, and because there was no clear "pattern" to who died and when. Many likable characters saw the final scene; some unlikable characters did too. And many likable characters died. Contrast this to Tales of Symphonia, where characters die one after the other in quick succession as they try to help Lloyd out of bad situations, or - even worse - Mai-Hime, where it seemed like important, well-developed characters in the "battle royale" arc were literally throwing themselves into the grave just to get out of the way so that Mai could face off with the Big Bad. In both cases, by the time two characters were gone, the writing was on the wall for all the rest of them, and instead of feeling any kind of shock or loss, my reaction was more like "I get it. Can we just get it overwith so we can get to the part that respects my intelligence?"
     
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  12. xoferew

    xoferew Veteran Veteran

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    If you kill off characters, please keep in mind that nothing overshadows the beauty of a tragic death like the annoyance of a character dying with valuable stuff equipped that is now lost forever. ^_^
     
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  13. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    write one ending, and that'll be the ending of the story.
    not every game (or movie, or book) has to satisfy the desires (different to *expectations*) of the person experiencing it.

    if people say "I don't like this game because I invested time on the character, and they die at the end", then they clearly didn't understand the story.

    if you want to spice it a bit, make a couple of alternate endings that are triggered by *the other choices* that the player would take, which would be not in line with what the character is written to be.
    because, *the character* must be written for the story..... the character does not develop on it's own particular path as the player plays, unless it's an MMO where everyone plays whatever variation they want.

    if the character is righteous, and their story is one of righteousness and justice, then the ending should reflect that.
    if they die protecting those values because the story demands it, then the character will die, period.
    if the character is evil, and the story is about evil, and everywhere the player looks to it says that the story is about evil, and the character remains alive and still doing evil, then that's the ending, period.

    read this article, and research the topic:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero's_journey
    this is basically "Storytelling for dummies"
     
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  14. Anyone

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    Your colleague isn't exactly wrong, but you should keep in mind that the more you make your audience invested in characters, the more annoyed they will feel when the character dies. There's the particular risk of the deaths becoming a predictable pattern. If you have 5-6 characters who die, and every dungeon someone is dying, it'll feel contrived very quickly and instead of an emotional experience, the audience will feel frustrated at you, because your hand will be showing. Instead of a "Oh no, I liked that character" you'll get a "Yep, they're all gonna die, aren't they?". There's good foreshadowing and then there's immunizing the reader against emotional responses.

    But there's one key point that's kinda hanging in the air: what exactly is the experience you're going for?

    They key to a good ending is that it concludes the development of your main theme. What's your theme? What's the story about? What do you want to make your audience feel emotionally at the end? You need to know what you're aiming for if you want to figure out how to get there.
    Sacrifice is an interesting theme, but it's not easily executed. One way to go about it is to give every dungeon a minor theme, a particular conflict revolving around a specific character or set of characters that develops who they are as people, what they are aiming for and why they are ultimately willing to risk everything. Sacrifice is determined not by any absolute, but by the relative. Death is, by itself, incredibly cheap. So you need to give characters ways to decide differently, the player options do decide differently, to create a feeling of responsibility for the outcome. If people just die because there's a mandatory 1 death sentence per dungeon, that's not going to connect. And that's probably when you have to realize that a sacrifice-based story isn't about combat or action. It's about the people. So rather than dungeons or combat, you'll have to put the characters and their personality into the focus. Whether the story works or not will depend entirely on how well you craft them, and how well you work out the conflict between sacrifice & the desire live. If there's some evil guy who needs to die, and that's why they're sacrificing themselves...that won't work. Too general, to unconnected to the characters on a personal level.
     
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  15. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    One of the key words I would like to explore is Friendship, War and Sacrifice. Most of the characters are not inheriently good or evil. I am not exactly sure about a theme yet. I have been struggling about that!

    I don't mind explaining the premise to you guys.

    My game world is a planet with fairly modern technology (at least the first city in the game is a very modern 21st century metropolis) and the sun of this planet plays a very important role. There is an ancient race who were very technologically advanced (But they used magic as they could also tap into the planet's energy) believed that the sun provided life to the planet in the form of very small particals of energy that were so miniscule that the only name they had for it was "data",and the planet returned that energy to the sun. (So yeah even though they were very advanced they were still very attached to their own traditions and beliefs). One of the protagonists is one of the few remaining people belonging to this ancient race in the modern day.

    Long ago, an alien being who supposedly originated from the sun as well (I would like to leave this part up to player interpreatation) crashed into Earth and immediately started corrupting the planet and manipulating history as it saw fit in order to fulfill it's mission (corrupting the planet's life force from the inside out, a slow process which also corrupted the humans who came in contact with this being and it's malignant energy). In other words this being had complete control over the planet. This ancient race were the only ones who openly challenged this entity, as a consequence, this entiy made it so that this race was persecuted their whole lives throughout history in an attempt to eliminate them.

    So basically all wars, major genocides and other catastrophes were more or less because of this alien being who was manipulating the planet from behind the scenes, the most recent threat being a terrorist doomsday organization that is spreading terror around the world and recently one of the planet's super powers has chosen to align themselves with this organization, sparking the threat of a new worldwide conflict. You play as a group of characters who are selected to become part of a secret government organization created to combat this threat. But later they come to realise that not everything is what it seems.

    This is the basic premise of the story, but the thing is I want this story to be very character driven. All of the characters in the game have a reason to be there, and have their backstories connected in one way to another to the premise and the game's story, every character has in one way or another, been affected by the actions of this alien being, directly or indirectly.

    It would be great if I could make this story work.

    One of the characters will actually BETRAY the party halfway through the game because of diverging perspectives and how the events of the story affected them.


    BASICALLY

    I wanted the characters to go through so much stuff throughout their journey that if they die in the end and reincarnate they get a second chance to have the life they never had in their previous life. So the player also feels rewarded in that way. Just having a hard time putting this into practice
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
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  16. Anyone

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    Friendship, War and Sacrifice are already themes, if vague. To get a concrete theme you can ask your characters about their experience. For example why would one of your main character still fight for a planet where most of his species is gone? What connects him/her to these people now living instead of his? It's often good to relate your theme to the human experience, because people can empathize with that. The loneliness of living in a world devoid of most of your kind, for example. If you have the inner agency of your characters, what drives them to do things, then you're on a good path.

    You've already hinted that there are some secret revelations so maybe you've already got this covered, but I'm gonna mention it anyway:
    If the antagonist arrived long, long ago, had incredible power over the planet and could corrupt humans to serve his cause - why wasn't he successful? After all, which so much power and so much time at his disposal, it's only reasonable to assume that he would either have succeeded/failed long ago, or isn't much of a thread since he's been failing for a very, very long time.

    If characters are at the core, my suggestion is to write alternative story paths and give every character multiple different outcomes based on how the story unfolds.
    That's quite complicated, and this is a simplified example:
    Say character B is a woman whose spouse's health is rapidly failing. And she's gotta ask herself: why continue going on this journey when the person I'm fighting for might not be around after all is done? Wouldn't it be better to stay behind and take care of my loved one for as long as I can and treasure every last remaining moment?
    From that, conflict can arise and you can have direct and indirect choices.
    Direct choices are player controlled choices where the outcome is apparent when making the choice.
    E.g. you can choose to convince her to stay behind VS. convincing her to come along
    Indirect choices are choices where you're setting a certain theme up that suggests there might be consequences you cannot forsee.
    e.g. threatening her to come along -> this can cause the climate in the group to change and while initially making her follow, can eventually lead to resentment that can snowball and affect other characters

    For example: You decide to convince her to stay behind...
    BUT: there have already been a few deaths and everyone's nervous and strained and fraying at the edges. So character C is like: "No. No she won't. People have died. Our FRIENDS have died. (Turns to Character C ) You don't get to turn your back on us and go live in a little illusion while the fricking world's falling apart." ["fricking" is the censor filter at work - the original word is obviously more crass to give the right tone to that character's frustration and anger]
    -> Conflict between characters, resulting from previous decisions and the sort of "group climate" that came about from your decisions.

    The more the player feels that his decisions affect the path of the story, the more he will feel engaged and invested with the story. If there's only route A and it will always lead to the same outcome for everyone, the player will just be a passenger on the storytrain. Make him the driver.
     
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  17. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    Yes! Exactly. I want to go with this approach but I want to find a way for it to make sense, if this being is so powerful. How come this gruoup of protagonists is able to eventually defeat it in the end. Still trying to work on that one.

    Each protagonist has their own demons to face. And I wanted to draw a connection between the events transpiring them and how the characters deal with such events according to how they develop and experience the journey.
     
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  18. Anyone

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    The issue is with the two variables, power and timer. One way to solve it is to take one of them and tone it down. Maybe he didn't arrive a very long time ago but only recently? Maybe he arrived a long time ago but did not have any plans to do any harm until a short while ago? Or maybe he isn't that powerful?
    The thing with power is that it's relative. How powerful a character seems is determined by the point of view of your protagonist. Twelve year old Billy the Bully isn't gonna make you sweat. If he threatens you someone will have to scrape his ass of the wall. But to 8 year old Tom he's going to be this old, near adult who's a lot more experienced and bigger.
    The second thing with portraying a character as powerful is that it's less about how much power you ascribe to him but what he accomplishes. You can call someone an undefeatable god the entire story and the player will never really feel that it's true, because you're merely telling him. You need to show the player how the actions of the antagonist affect him and the story. All some antagonists need is clever words to turn friends into enemies and cause kingdoms to fall. They're not physically powerful or omnipotent, but they use what they can do with such skill that the effects of it ripple outward through the world.
    Take an antagonist who's clever with words and very convincing. Someone whose mind is like a serpent, always circeling around the player, looking for something to hook his teeth into. Who actually makes the player question who is right and who is wrong, and whether opposing the antagonist is actually the right thing to do. Someone who is charismatic and compelling, who can get people to look at things from his perspective. And now imagine that near the great finale, that antagonist is willing to sit down to discuss a path that won't result in a war between two factions.
    In any other story, that would be promising - except you know that he's incredibly good in convincing people to see things his way. And then, just before the last round of discussions, the antagonists asks the player for leave to discuss something with one of his companions. Can you imagine what the player is going to feel like, knowing that one of his companions is right now in one room with the one person who can convince anyone?

    So you don't need someone who is the most powerful thing in the universe and can corrupt anything, necessarily, to have a powerful and frightening antagonist.

    The other route would be to make an excuse. This is often the traditional way people in sci-fi and fantasy approach it. Yes he IS incredibly powerful, but he got hurt and for a couple millenia had to recover his powers. Stuff like that. It can kinda work, depending on the execution, but it's always a bit cheesy by nature and you need to cover that up with convincing storytelling. It's best not to spend too much time on the excuses, though, because that draws attention to them.

    Two other points: Be careful with the idea that the villian is responsible for all bad things in the world. That's usually a way to saddle all responsibility on him to make his removal really necessary but it's often not all that believeable. There's never really one evil. It's usually a lot of things coming together that lead to catastrophes, mostly selfishness or ignorance of the consequences of one's actions. The danger the antagonist represents and the necessity of his removal is determined by the perspective you create and your storytelling.
    You can write a story about a young man who intends to kill the greatest hero of all time, a guy loved by all who saves princesses and slays dragons, because he killed his sister who worked as bouncer for a criminal establishment to get enough food for herself and her brother on the table. It doesn't matter that there's an evil wizard out there who's threatening the world and that the hero is greatly needed. If you write a compelling story about the love the sister had for her brother and the things she did to allow him to survive in a dark and uncaring world, the one moment of casually dispatching his sister because she's in the way is enough for the player to justify the death of the hero.

    The second is: try to get a very clear perspective on what the antagonist tries to accomplish and the methods he uses. What's the purpose of a terrorist doomsday organization? What is he trying to accomplish with it?
    Because a terrorist organization is an organization that attempts to achieve a goal, often politically, through spreading terror. The idea is to incite fear in people's minds that will affect the decisions they make. They don't kill people because they like killing people but because they believe the fear and horror resulting from it will ensure that their opponents make decisions that will be beneficial to them.
    If he can corrupt people, why the need for fear? Does he draw some kind of supernatural power from fear? Is his ability to corrupt people limited to those who fear him?
    Or maybe his terrorist organization is only for show- something the world can rally against, except his own corrupt humans have been put into high positions where they are going to take control of the resistance that's forming, giving him and his corrupt people unprecedented power by using the justification of combating the terrorists.
    The import thing is that the decisions he makes and the methods he uses align.
    There's this danger that sometimes you run away with an idea that you fancy and that you'd like to see happening - but you don't really have it connected to the story. Happens to everyone. The key is to either link it to the story or scrap it.
    You often see bad anime where they don't understand that. They end up with organizations of justice or evil that don't really make sense and, in the way they're organized, could never even accomplish any of the things they supposedly intend to do. They're paper tigers who only exist because there's a need for an antagonist, but they don't really link into the story or the world.


    Are the protagonists travelling together and experiencing the story together or are you aiming for seperate narratives with each of the protagonists having their own story arc that's locally independent of the others but linked in the greater content? (e.g. are you switching through characters throughout the story?)
     
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  19. Panda_Artist

    Panda_Artist Humble RPG Fan Veteran

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    Sort of... there will be one to three events that transpire that will seperate the party. But all the important aspects of the story they experience it all together.

    One of the themes I'd like to explore is also the will to face one's own past. Past and Future play a role in the story, not in a time travel sense but in the sense that as I said before some of the protagonists have demons from the past that they struggle to face. I would like the events of the game (the missions the characters go through etc) to help the characters try and slowly tackle them, leading to the point where they will eventually be forced to face them due to events of the story that connect to the character's struggles directly.

    Something like that. For example

    Protag 1 was once as a child imprisioned in a facility of an enemy nation who was creating mutated monsters (There are regular monsters then there are genetically mutated ones in this game's world). He eventually escaped but had to leave a few friends behind, and this event scarred him and plaugued his mind throughout his teen and adult life. Even if he was eventually adopted into a family and led a relatively peaceful life he still suffered from the traumatic experiences of being subjected to painful experiments and having to leave his friends behind. The character takes medication that supposedly blocks his childhood memories of the facility but as a consequence he also starts to forget about his friends who he left at the facility, something which he is struggling with. Eventually in the story the party has a mission to finally shut down these facilities for good, and the protagonist must come to terms with this and return to the place that made him suffer like no other. One thing I'd like to do is have a scene where he decided to throw away his medication and decide to face his demons once and for all.
     
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  20. Anyone

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    Alright, you'll want some party dynamic then. The relationships between the characters can be sort of subplots that change the way the characters think about each other. It's often a good idea not to let them simply travel along side each other but for them to have - based on their background - different opinions on each other that affect what decisions they make and maybe create situations where the player has to make a decision. A common mistake is to make the D&D party where people just join up and then they just walk the same road. Especially the splitting and returning can be used in the context of not just external things driving them apart, but internal conflict. This doesn't have to be outright combat, but rather that who they are sometimes clashes with the ideas and attitudes of others.
    Good character subplots are basically like shooting a billard ball. You're just shooting one but it clashes against others and changes their course. It creates the feeling that the people and their personality shape the story.

    That's a good idea in concept, but it's gonna depend on the execution. Right now you've got an interesting subplot backstory, but keep in mind that the audience rarely cares about backstory. They care about the story that's visible and shapes the experience.
    So you need some things that - in the story, and perhaps even gameplay wise - let the player feel who the character is.
    How do the experiences the character had affect him outside of backstory scenes? How do they change what his actions are, what his gameplay abilities are, and what decisions are made? Or to put it another way: if you're shooting with those experiences, what other things start rolling in your story?
    Overcoming an addiction/or facing one's fear can be a powerful story arc, but for that, you need to really sell it. And this can't be done through exposition alone.
    Example: your Protag 1 finds himself in a situation where he urgently needs to do something, but the circumstances remind him of the facility (and the player has previously gotten an idea of just how messed up the facility is) and he just backs off. Just leaves. And someone dies as a result. (Doesn't have to be a party member)
    Now there's ground for conflict. Accusations, some call him a coward, he's breaking down mentally and gulping down meds on mass because he can't deal with the stress.
    In this case, we see how his experiences affect his decisions, the relationship with other characters, and we may even have gameplay consequences (e.g. character is briefly not part of the fighting force because he's just out of it).
    By having the character and his companions be affected by it in the actual story and not as exposition/flashback, it has much more substance.
    In writing, we call this showing instead of telling. Don't tell your audience what they're supposed to think or feel - make 'em.
     
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