What makes a Game Story interesting?

Fionn23

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I'm currently building the story for my first game. To be honest, I already decided the course of the story and how it will end. But as this is my first game, I wasn't sure if the story I come up is interesting enough for the players to continue playing.

So, what makes an interesting story for you? Those elements that will make you continue playing?
 

JacSkulls

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Aside from game mechanic, Mysteries, Character Personalities, thrills, and Twists.

Mysteries is basically detective work. You can set up the dumbest MC and a really observant ally to point out the obvious when finding clues.

Character Personalities, as I've heard that many people thought these are the hardest to do, it's good to make it so Characters have different point of views and different ways of talking. "Excuse me, sir.", "Yo, Pop!", those kind of thing that differs from each others. Plus, your characters political views on things. Nothing really bad but like "I believe in being in complete control. Dictatorship is the way of life!" vs "I believe in freedom! The people should choose for themselves!". That stuff. Everyone has different opinions, after all.

Thrills, the anticipation of what's to come. Maybe there's a small scene where one of your allies spoke to the Evil Lord who promises wealth and power, yet gave no answer? Maybe this ally will betray you later on as people will think, "Nah, that person won't betray the MC." and boom! Surprise. They did. Or maybe they joined with the Evil Lord and pretended to be the bad person, only to find out they did to save the MC. So many paths with thrills.

Twists. That could be anything. The main character Lover that you worked so hard for could be the final boss of all. Or maybe the Star Wars approach where it turns out the final boss is your father.

Honestly, everyone has their preferences on stories. From Horror, Drama, Action, Fantasy, you name it. So it's not about what draws the majority for first timer but what makes you comfortable and happy to do this. So just focus on what you want to show for yourself.
 

TheAM-Dol

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So, my view on game stories takes a bit of a more old-skool approach.
The story should only be the glue to carry the game forward, but the focus should be on game play.
Unfortunately for a more traditionally built game in RPG Maker, such as a JRPG, most players seem to prefer story over mechanics.
In that case, make sure that if an option is going to be presented to the player, make sure it is an interesting choice. But interesting choices will bloat your game fast, so use them sparingly :LZSlol:

Keep some stuff a mystery and let the mystery unravel through a drip-feed rather than blowing a load at the start or end of the game. But - the hard part - don't keep so much stuff a mystery that it alienates the player from the story (you need a balance). For example, if all the player characters know what the big mysterious Oooblagoo is, but the player themself has no idea what the Ooblagoo is, then you are detrimentally alienating your player from the game (or story, doesn't matter if it's a game or a movie or a book)
A good writer can seamlessly and naturally clue the reader into what the Ooblagoo is without needing to stop and hamfistedly tell the reader, ~buuuuuut~ sometimes that's difficult to do, especially for amateur writers so if you had to pick 1 of the 2 evils: either too much exposition awkwardly told to the reader possibly taking them out of the experience, or too little exposition alienating your reader from the story and making them feel like they aren't included in the events making it tough to get invested; I would opt for option 1, because although players might lose immersion being told hamfistedly, once it is done, they understand the world and the Ooblagoo, it will be easy to regain their attention and have the rest of the story thereafter flow naturally.

edit:
cleaned some typos and clarified a few points.
 
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Kes

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A good story has multiple layers. It is not a single thread excluding all others. So you have your main story which all the characters participate it. The layers come out as you show how the story impacts in different ways on different characters. For one person it might be the fulfillment of ambition, for another it might be redemption, for another it could be self-discovery, for another how it relates to past failures, for another it's the path to romance. The possibilities are vast.

Showing those differing impacts, which will of necessity mean that backstory will be filled in, will help create a richly textured story without the need to have options which, as @TheAM-Dol warns, can lead to serious levels of bloat.

It also allows you (maybe compels you?) to have interesting reasons why the different characters join the party. 'Just because' is so unsatisfying.
 

gstv87

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if you want to know what makes a story interesting, try a go at writing a story about the losing side on a conflict.
anyone can write a winner.
 

Milennin

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For me, it's fun characters. I don't mind if the story is saving the princess from the dark lord's castle, as long as the characters involved are fun.
There's very few cases of games in which I really cared about the story. FGO might be the only game where I actively look forward to reading a new story part in, but it also has a lot of world building and character backgrounds heavily based on/inspired by mythology and real world history. That's not exactly easy to manage for a beginning or amateur writer... certainly not what I'd expect to see in an RPG Maker game.
 

Gong77

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Aside from game mechanic, Mysteries, Character Personalities, thrills, and Twists.

Mysteries is basically detective work. You can set up the dumbest MC and a really observant ally to point out the obvious when finding clues.

Character Personalities, as I've heard that many people thought these are the hardest to do, it's good to make it so Characters have different point of views and different ways of talking. "Excuse me, sir.", "Yo, Pop!", those kind of thing that differs from each others. Plus, your characters political views on things. Nothing really bad but like "I believe in being in complete control. Dictatorship is the way of life!" vs "I believe in freedom! The people should choose for themselves!". That stuff. Everyone has different opinions, after all.

Thrills, the anticipation of what's to come. Maybe there's a small scene where one of your allies spoke to the Evil Lord who promises wealth and power, yet gave no answer? Maybe this ally will betray you later on as people will think, "Nah, that person won't betray the MC." and boom! Surprise. They did. Or maybe they joined with the Evil Lord and pretended to be the bad person, only to find out they did to save the MC. So many paths with thrills.

Twists. That could be anything. The main character Lover that you worked so hard for could be the final boss of all. Or maybe the Star Wars approach where it turns out the final boss is your father.

Honestly, everyone has their preferences on stories. From Horror, Drama, Action, Fantasy, you name it. So it's not about what draws the majority for first timer but what makes you comfortable and happy to do this. So just focus on what you want to show for yourself.

Good points from JacSkulls!

Apart from that here are one that I am thinking of:

World. Make your world come alive. With a coherent, lore, mythology, culture, social norms, economic system, architecture, etc (Can also be different in different regions). Link your story plot to the world. Also, give some of the NPC:s personalities as described above. To make your word inhabited by real people.
 

dogmari

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World. Make your world come alive. With a coherent, lore, mythology, culture, social norms, economic system, architecture, etc (Can also be different in different regions). Link your story plot to the world. Also, give some of the NPC:s personalities as described above. To make your word inhabited by real people.

This. I usually enjoy the stories I consume to be within a world I can acquire most the answers. Not that it has to be apparent or exposition dumps- just enough for things to connect from one another logically and give me a sense of depth to explore as I play through your game.
 

woootbm

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For a starting writer, I'd say first get the basic fundamentals down. The problem a lot of RPG Maker games have is that they have these directionless, meandering stories with characters that are copy/pasted from a favorite anime. Just do something small and succinct. Your first story(ies) will be for you to learn how to convey character traits, how to direct attention, how to evoke emotions/opinions from your audience... how to write something that even makes sense to other people (it can be harder than it sounds!).

To that end, I might even contradict some of the posts on here: don't get hung up on a mystery. You can have twists and bumps in the road, but coming up with a legitimate mystery (one that isn't too obvious but also doesn't feel like a bamboozle) is really tough. And it's not needed to tell a basic story.

The other one is world building. I feel like every dev wants to make some kind of super interesting Elden Ring or something. Too bad. You're probably using mostly RTP, so the setting is RTP-but-with-the-names-changed. This also is not conducive toward making a shorter, more concise story.

Just do a nice little three act structure:
Act 1. Introduce setting/characters, then inciting incident (this should take up as little time as possible. Time it, and cut it down).
Act 2. The meat of the game. This ends with a "final battle" or the climax of the story (This takes up the vast majority of the game)
Act 3. Wrap up plot points/"Happily ever after" (also short)


PS. I should touch on that "favorite anime" comment since I can give an answer more like the OP was probably looking for: original story, original characters. If your game is some fan-fic or rehash of some existing property, I'm out. If it's leaning too heavy into "homage" territory, I'm out. Please come up with your own ideas :LZSbleh:
 

HumanNinjaToo

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IMO the best stories have characters that the person playing the game/reading the book/etc. can connect with. I think a lot of people connect with characters who are the underdog, because we can see ourselves as the underdog. These characters should be real in the sense that they have just as many flaws as they do strengths.

Even when you come up with relatable characters, though, you still need good writing to help merge all of your ideas together. I think a fantastic story can come across as uninteresting if the writer isn't skilled enough to put it together in an appealing way.

Overall, what keeps me hooked on a story in a game I'm playing is mystery. I want to be kept guessing at what will happen next. If I feel as though I've already got the story figured out at the beginning of the game, then I will probably move on to something more engaging. The gameplay, for me, has to be 8/10 (obviously my opinion) or better for me to continue playing a game if I think the story is uninteresting.
 

Gallas

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Brevity-

The more text used, the worse the writer. Cut every word if possible. Use character faces and music for story momentum. A game should never speak in paragraphs. A good example of this being done right is FF6.

Extremes-

Games are more like roller coaster rides than novels. Entertainment demands extremes. Pirates of the Caribbean is a ride about extremes. A game with too many extremes may risk being ridiculous, but that is preferable to being boring like every rpgmaker game out there. A good example of NPC writing is Ultima VII. The innkeeper is voluptuous and wildly flirts with you. The shipwright hacks and coughs every sentence. Extremes work.

A Reason For Player Actions-

There needs to be a reason for the player to be in this fantasy world. Is it to save the world? Is it to rescue the princess? Why are you here? Note that the best game stories give the player agency over the game world somehow.
 

Iron_Brew

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You experience a game's story through its characters. I see a lot of people focusing on "lore", and on having volume upon volume of their fantasy world's 'fascinating history' prepped out.

They can tell you the name of every king, the history of every town, the culture of every nation.

But, frankly, if the characters interacting with that fascinating world are dull then your audience aren't going to give a damn. The story can be as interesting as you want it to be, but if your characters are dull, uninteresting or (maybe most damning of all) not believable, why would anyone care?

The best stories are seen through the eyes of the people living them. That's the secret sauce!
 

Tortletalk

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In my experience, writing a good story comes down to 3 major aspects, which while different, should have some overlap in your story so that they flow naturally into one another. These aspects are:

Intrigue-
What others are calling mystery, I call this (although, a mystery can work for Intrigue too). Ultimately, this is a hint of the unknown, a question posed to the player: 'What is the truth of this?'.
You can tease them with clues and maybe they'll figure it out on their own and feel smart, or you can have a big heavy hitting scene where the truth is revealed, or you can have an ending remain ambiguous and left for the player to ponder.
On a smaller level, you could have intrigue about parts of the world, where the character knows nothing about it and learns about the cultures and people as they go (FFX), you could have intrigue about a character, why do they act a certain way or say something unusual? (FF7).

Intrigue comes from the human desire to know the unknown. In short, put lots of unknown in your story. Let the player make it known.

Suspense-
Suspense gives a sense of urgency and drive to what's going on in a story. It is born from intrigue and usually comes from a reveal that shakes up the smooth flow of a story.
Has the undefeated hero warrior suddenly turned evil?
Has the murderer finally been revealed, and is about to strike again?
Is the woman he loves heading to the airport, about to leave his life forever?

Suspense comes from introducing a lurking danger or time-limited aspect that must be dealt with immediately, either because it is the true goal, or because it is obstacle barring progress on the journey. Ultimately, it defines the stakes you will need to create:

Drama-
Drama is the thing that people remember most about a story, and is where all the real action happens. It is born from the results of former intrigue and suspense, to be an emotional payoff through conflict.

In our examples before, this is when the other characters confront the hero who turned evil, and try to convince them to repent for their actions. (Star Wars)
This is when the lead investigator confronts the serial killer holding a knife to their child's throat.
This is when our hero catches up to his true love at the airport and seeks to convince her to stay, despite what he did.

Drama comes from the release of everything that has occured before. This can be an emotional climax of huge stakes, or as simple as a verbal argument from two differing opinions, but drama should always stem from something that the reader/player has encountered in the story before.

All of these aspects lead into the biggest key for keeping people gripped with your game: Immersion. Fortunately, in a videogame you also get a few ways to aid player immersion thanks to having visuals, sound effects, music and interactivity, all of which contribute to world building. If you can build an interesting world and follow these key aspects with your story, you should be onto a winner.
 

SGHarlekin

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Interesting character and character growth. I also enjoy it very much when a game doesn't keep me from experiencing that story all day long with mindless fights and endless dungeons inbetween the story bits. (Yeah I don't like jrpgs...)
 

Darkmorve

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So many good points from everyone. I feel small jumping in on this but for me it character growth. Characters that change over time, that learn from the past. Growth doesn't necessarily have to be positive either, A small bad guy that realizes he going to have to do some really bad stuff to get what he wants and becomes the big bad guy. Growth doesn't have to happen as we play. Maybe we get some flash backs of why this character is the way they are. Some times there is no growth or change and we watch these characters make the same mistakes over and over hoping that they learn this time.
 

Kyleman

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My take:

There's a huge difference between a "good story" and a "good video game story". Writing a good story isn't that hard - really, it's mostly mechanical knowledge, learning how tension works, choosing an act structure, picking an interesting perspective, etc. The problem with a lot of creators is that they don't take the medium they're using into account.

So, from my perspective, what makes a game story interesting is how the story is using it's medium to affect the audience. How the game's mechanics connect with the world. How gameplay reflects the way characters are feeling at the moment. Nothing annoys me more than cutting the story and the gameplay into two worlds that barely connect with each other.
 

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