How to make serious interesting?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Nirwanda, May 14, 2016.

  1. Nirwanda

    Nirwanda Procrastimancer Veteran

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    I've downloaded MV yesterday and after seeing the tileset and playing with the character generator, I felt compelled to try and make a small game I've wanted to make for a while. The story would be about a detective exploring a haunted house and it would be more serious in nature than my previous games. But the more I try to write dialogue, the more I notice it feels stilted and soulles, it doesn't come as naturally as writing a silly powerpuff girls reference like I've done before.


    So I wonder... Am I approaching the subject in the wrong way? Maybe being serious is just not my thing or I'm overthinking things too much because I'm out of my confort zone. Of course you don't have to answer my existential questions. What I wanted is to hear your opinion on what gives the "spark", the "interest" to serious dialogue. How to make a character come alive without any silly antics or pop culture references.


    I'd love to hear your opinions!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
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  2. Nikoback

    Nikoback Amateur Game Designer @ Nikoback Games Veteran

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    You might be a bit overlooking on what makes darker tones in games work. So if you've seen other, more monotone games, you notice that they often set their tone from the get-go and definitely do their best to sell the player into the world they're creating. This isn't just dialogue either, you want to make sure the visuals can also do a decent job telling it's own story or creating a darker atmosphere.


    And Yes, writing dialogue for a more serious and darker game is definitely different from a light-hearted adventure, but that doesn't mean everything has to be all Doom and Gloom. You should take what worked from your past games, and if it was the cultural and pop references, then you can totally implement those in the game if you want to give the house a kind of belonging to a character (For example, maybe you'll see some room that references something that the character supposedly likes).
     
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  3. Euphony

    Euphony Veteran Veteran

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    Don't try to make anything 100% serious. Even serious stories about war and disaster and death still have moments of lightheartedness. It's just like real life--even though the world is full of danger and hardship, it's dotted with beautiful moments that make all the crazy stuff worth braving. The characters in your world can struggle with serious issues while still having fun. Use the serious stuff to drive them together and form bonds.


    P.S. Item and skill descriptions provide a nice outlet for the lighthearted stuff. They're separate from the main narrative, so they allow a little more freedom. Still, I would try to stay away from pop culture references unless the setting is strictly modern. Even then I would be cautious because they can be immersion-breaking.
     
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  4. Frogboy

    Frogboy I'm not weak to fire Veteran

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    With a story of this tone, you'll probably want to reveal the character's thoughts as well as their words and make it obvious which is which.  There's a classic sub-genre dedicated to these types of stories because it works.  If you're not familiar with Film Noir, research it and pull out the elements that you think would work for your game.
     
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  5. Nirwanda

    Nirwanda Procrastimancer Veteran

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    @NikobackHmmm You're right, I shouldn't ignore "what works". Thanks :)


    @EuphonyYeah, I'll try to mix and match, still it feels like I'm writing the same thing I always write hen I start adding humor. But you're right I shouldn't shy away from it.


    BTW, I used pop culture references as an example, besides when I do use them, I try to be subtle about it most of the times. Like naming an ice elemental hammer Rekoteh (she was a girl in a snowy town in FF: the 4 heroes of light) or naming the knights in a town after FF9's Knights of Pluto.


    @FrogboyYou're right! I didn't even think about film noir when creating the character but that might add some flavour to him.
     
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  6. Saboera

    Saboera Veteran Veteran

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    Since your character is a detective, I was about to say exactly the same thing as Frogboy, reveal what's going on in the character's mind.


    He's a detective analyzing things in a haunted house, how can that be boring if you go in his head and reveal what he is thinking.
     
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  7. LightningLord2

    LightningLord2 Psionic Bird Thrower Veteran

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    As said above, just like you should let your whimsical narratives have a bit more serious moments to develop character or move the plot forward, serious narratives should have more light hearted moments to engage the player and make the setting and characters more relatable.


    What can also work is hooking the player with a mystery to solve (make sure you actually do solve it at the end) and thoughtful plot developments, particularly ones that involve a conflict that does not have a "right" side.
     
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  8. RishigangiX

    RishigangiX Professional Procrastinator Veteran

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    Before you try handling a new genre that you are not familiar with, it is best to get yourself acquainted with the styles, presentations, dialogues and story progressions methods used in that type of game. Try out a few games of that genre, doesn't necessarily have to be an RPG Maker game.
    Also, humour is not a bad thing to have in any game or story, it always adds to the player's involvement with the story as long as the flavour used in your humour goes along with the type of characters you are introducing and with the overall feel of the game.
     
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  9. JessieK

    JessieK Veteran Veteran

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    On top of what a few people have said, something that is often missed is the art style.


    You see you can have all the serious writing, story elements and monologues you want, if your game looks like this:

    [​IMG]



    People are going to have issues taking what you're talking about seriously, now I'm not saying its impossible for a game with a colourful art style to also be serious it's just much much harder, if this is your first time trying to tell a serious story, muddy or muted colours help create that tone before a single word has even been spoken to the player (Think Silent hill and Dark souls)  
     
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  10. Missile

    Missile Veteran Veteran

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    A lot of extremely successful works don't do this, though. Dark Souls, for example. Zelda (and especially FF9) bounce moods back and forth to give each one weight, but Souls games don't. Souls games are extremely one-note when it comes to emotions - and it's not  a bad thing.


    You could try a "geometric" approach like others have said - taking a step into seriousness from whimsy, then eventually meeting full seriousness in a future project when you've got more experience spreading out towards it more. There's a very good RM game called Linus that handles seriousness fairly well, but in general it'd be good to consume that kind of content. Exploring other content helps give you more insight than creating in a vacuum, and expands your mental library/toolbox which will help you a lot long-term.
     
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  11. Nirwanda

    Nirwanda Procrastimancer Veteran

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    Thanks for all the advice everyone. I have too much on my plate right now and probably won't be continuing the game, but your opinions are all extremely valuable and I will take them to heart for future projects.
     
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