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Luk

Putting the "Story" in Vintage Story

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Hello Vintarians!

I'm Luke, the lead story writer for Vintage Story. For anybody who is confused: Yes, Vintage Story is going to have a narrative aspect. It hasn't been implemented yet, but I'm excited to say that we've added a little excerpt to the website so that players may get a taste of what's to come. 

https://www.vintagestory.at/story-excerpt.html/

Let me know what you think about it! And if you have any suggestions, critiques, or stories of your own, please feel free to post them here! I'll be stopping in here and there to talk with anyone who's interested.

Edited by Luk
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So it's an allegory of the game I take it?  The dream and awaking is the player starting the game? It's a little light on details, but if it's serving to illustrate a general story arc, I supposed it needs to be to some degree?  Stories of our own could be a more personalized version, with details specific to our own gameplay experience?  Or are you looking for stories that explain some aspects in more detail, or just kind of seeing what people come up with? 

I have some technical comments I'll spoiler below. 
 

Spoiler

I noticed in the last three paragraphs, it starts: " The people gathered around her, fearful and lost again at the thought of her leave-taking. They think they will have to...".  You switch from past tense "gathered"  to present tense "They think" and continue in present tense from there.  I wonder if you want to switch tenses after deal is made?  It seems like a more logical and dramatic inflection point to me.  That or start with "gathers" so the whole section is present-tense?  But I'm no English major by any means.

Also "pulls the morning into the sky" seems odd.  I'd think "pulls the sun" or "conjures the morning" or "brings the morning".  Pulls just seems extremely object-oriented to me. 

 

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Thanks for the feedback, redram. I'm not really looking for any stories in particular. I'd just like to give players the option to share whatever they'd like to share here. We almost always have at least one story to share from any game experience, whether it's the time you got a pentakill or the time you lost all your items in lava. I'd like this to be an avenue for people to share things that they've found exciting. And if anybody wants to make a more fictional story, I think that sounds great too. A game like Vintage Story is all about creativity, right?

With your technical comments, could you tell me what is the most prevalent thing in your head as you read that passage? I have reasons for the format, but rather than defend myself I think it would be better to hear what made you prefer one decision over another in this case.

As for whether it is an allegory or not, I'll leave that up to you to decide.

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Ok, community story area, that makes sense.

As for my thoughts while reading the passage, it's just the technical side of me, which notices details like tense switches sometimes.  And I wasn't sure of the reason for that particular spot.   The switch to present tense overall is fine.  It puts in my mind, the sense that the storyteller is leaning in toward his audience, perhaps whispering, or perhaps a more hurried pace.  And then in the fine paragraph where it goes back to past tense, he's now backed away again, and is speaking broadly and louder, again to his audience and beyond.

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Hi Luke, I intentionally took some time to carefully think about the story approach that you presented so far.

You asked for suggestions and critiques and I try to give a useful feedback, knowing this might probably fail (in german we say "Ratschläge sind auch Schläge").

After reading the story approach I asked myself: what is needed as a narrative aspect for a survival sandbox game? Simply explain the starting point and give a goal. Leave room but provide a source of inspiration.

The best storylines are simple, heavily inspired by already existing stories and myths

  • get back your lost whatever (honor, family, kingdom, paradise, knowledge, power, ...)
  • search and/or destroy a nasty whatever (item, enemy, ...)

Especially the survival genre has its popular archetypes

My humble opinion is:

  • keep it simple
  • steal from the best
  • better not inventing a new mythology (the popular existing ones are probably better)

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On 3/6/2017 at 5:21 AM, skol said:

better not inventing a new mythology (the popular existing ones are probably better)

May I suggest Norse? Norse mythology has been having a resurgence recently but most thing still seem to be taking Greco-roman influences.

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On 8.3.2017 at 0:10 AM, Jdbener said:

May I suggest ... <whatever>

Only because you referenced my suggestion:

  • my suggestion was not targeted at focussing and limiting the game to whatever specific mythology.
  • my suggestion was the opposite: don't bother about mythology (unless you are a mastermind like tolkien of course :D)
  • instead: just leave it open and vague, but maybe steal elements, when you really need such elements in the story
  • look in the real world: there is no one mythology to rule them all, there is a mix of beliefs, cultures, mythological elements
  • a  game world with one ruling true mythology would be boring, because it might kill your imagination
  • or it would repel some players because they want to play a game, not forced to think about a specific mythology
  • only subtle mythological elements are needed to create a mystical aura, because mythology is about facing the unknown and unnamed.
  • but this reduced elements need to grant players the full freedom of interpretation and imagination of the unknown and unnamed
  • so its only the players personal interpretation and imagination to name the open and vague elements (some alphabetical examples):
  • african, atztec, babylonian, buddhistic, celtic, christian, egyptian, greek, hindu, hopi, islamic, jewish, norse, oriental, pagan, slavic, sumeric ...
  • the unnamed element should resemble a common archetype, the rest is only in your personal mind

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Hey guys, thanks for the suggestions. I'll keep it in mind, skol. Emergent narrative is definitely something to strive for in a sandbox/survival game such as Vintage Story. However, I would say that achieving that emergent narrative does require a good foundation for players to build off of. And that's what we're striving for. I just want to give players something to work with. From what you've said, I think this foundation may include more information than you'd prefer, but I've found that making a narrative foundation too bare bones can result in a complete oversight of story in a game. Players tend to forget the briefly mentioned quest or backstory and focus entirely on gameplay. At the very least, I would like to provide players with another facet of Vintage Story for their enjoyment, should they be interested in it.

Edit: Maybe I should emphasize that a little more. The story will be entirely optional, so if a player tends to feel restricted by narrative in games, they're free to avoid it entirely.

Edited by Luk
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Greetings...

Luk- for what it is worth, I think it is a good beginning!  Not discounting what the others have offered, but I think what you have come up with so far is a good starting place.  Personally I like a good story that hides just out of sight in the background of the game.  Those who choose to search it out find a deeper side to the game, and (hopefully) find rewards as they seek out the deeper lore hiding out there somewhere... Treasure, dungeons, magic- nothing overpowered, but special little bonuses for those who choose to engage in that part of the game or for those who accidentally happen to come across some of those things while trying to ignore the story.  I imagine all of this lore will exist in small pieces found in books that show up in the game at random?

Also, as I read over what you have written, it sounds like the nights are supposed to be fearsome things!  I envision the drifters already in game, wraiths, ghouls and other creepy crawlers that nightmares are made of, all slithering out of some other dimension held at bay only by the light of day.  Or perhaps the daytime and our world are the anomaly?  Light and life springing out of the darkness, and the darkness is always trying to reclaim it?  Begs a story of a way to enter into another dimension of shadow- a realm of constant darkness where the evil dwells, which seeps into our world during the dark of night.  One who is brave and fearsome enough to venture into that realm would face great challenges and death... and perhaps find great power as well??  A way even to hold the darkness at bay around his dwelling in our world??? 

If one can come to understand the darkness, perhaps one can learn to control it as well...

 

Edited by Thalius
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Hey Thalius, glad you liked it! I think we're mostly on the same page about this, so I hope you explore more of what the story has to offer when we get it live in the game. A lot of my inspiration for the narrative design of this story comes from games like Dark Souls and Morrowind. Games with incredible stories that aren't force fed to the player. They're hidden under the surface, waiting for curious players to go digging for them. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), both of those games and Vintage Story involve a lot of searching underground.

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Foundations are important things, and the opening story would be a kind of cornerstone upon and against which all other "stones" in the story are placed to construct the whole. 

SO...  Setting some perimeters in my thinking based on what you shared. Let me know if I am off on any of this.......

-We are looking at our world emerging from the darkness in the time before our grandparent's age. 

  • Implication is that it is new, but enough people have come before us that there is knowledge that has been gained that we can seek out from our ancestors who were the first in this new world, ancestors that were the first to struggle against the darkness.
  • I assume these bits of wisdom will be found in "lore" hidden in the game.  Many games do books or scrolls-  I had the idea that perhaps there are pages scattered through the world; lore that was lost that can be collected and reassembled to an original manuscript?  Perhaps manuscripts can be found with pages missing?

-A reference to a "protector light" that went dim.

  • Implication is that there was light at some point before the darkness, a light that was meant to protect.  What?  Who?  Mankind? Who put it there? And Bearfirth witnessed the failing of the light and the darkness that then consumed everything.

-She survived the dark, and in spite of the despair and hopelessness around her she dared to dream of light and life, and her dreams sprang into reality around her as she slept. (A minor point- in your story at that point you say: "One day...", but there was only darkness.  Day implies light, but there was none. I envision one long, endless, merciless, all consuming night.)  But the darkness came for her at the end of that day, and she fled into the earth- and found a being with the power to give her, in the face of all hopelessness,  the strength to oppose the evil in the darkness.  A madness, you called it, and I think that was great. ;)

I'm drawing a few conclusions in my next comments based on this part of the story-

  • There is a conflict between the light and the dark.  Conflict may be too strong a word, but there is a tension, at the least, and the darkness wants to consume the light.  (That is the nature of darkness, after all..)  The darkness may be simply a force of nature with no will of it's own, but evil has made it it's home, as evil always prefers to dwell in the dark, and those beings want into our world as well, our realm. (Dimension sounds to Mine-crafty).
  • There are beings that tried to keep the darkness from consuming our world, but they failed.  Their power failed, for one reason or another, and their protector light died, and the darkness came for us... and for them as well.  For them light was life, and they could no longer hold back the darkness.  Their time was coming to an end.
  • One of our ancestors persevered in the darkness, however: Bearfirth, the first of us.  The beings saw this, saw her heart and her stubborn courage and took compassion on her, and with the last of their power they made a decision- rather than trying to delay their inevitable passing, they took what remained of their power and merged it with her spirit, and in their dying gave up the last of their power to pushed back the dark one last time- and made her the keeper of the light, her and all of mankind who would listen to what she would be shown.
  • In her flight from the darkness that first night she encountered the last of the beings; I would guess not an accident, the being found her in her flight from the darkness. she called it a god, and she was given knowledge, and a gift, a madness that would give her the strength to oppose the darkness in the face of all odds.
  • And so she returned to the surface, and fought the darkness, and the evil in it, and called out across the land to the others that she knew were hiding in the hidden places of this world.  When they came to her she taught them, and in their fellowship together she passed onto them what she had been given.  They called her the Keeper of the Sun, and she was- but so were they all now.  In their striving against the darkness the day would always find them... as long as they persevered.

------

What I feel is left from all of that is that our world is one where there is a tension between the light and the dark, almost as if there had been a great conflict between powerful forces that are gone now, and we find ourselves living in the midst of the consequences of their struggle.  The beings of light- the "gods" are gone, we hold the light now.  The darkness is a force of nature with no will of it's own, but creatures and beings who love the night thrive in the darkness as we thrive in the light.  They use the darkness to their advantage and shun the day.  If it had not been for the gift that Bearfirth had been given, then the evil and the darkness would have our world for themselves as well.  Instead they have us to contend with, and the darkness is held at bay. 

In this story there never will be an end to the conflict, and so there is never really a conclusion to the game- and with a game like this one there should not be.  There is only the struggle against the dark, and the better we learn and develop our skills, the better we can oppose the darkness and the evil that lives in it.  If a way were to be found where one can enter into the realm of eternal shadow, who knows what knowledge could be found to better aid our struggle against the dark in our own world?

And here is a crazy thought- If our will and our influence is strong enough in the realm of darkness, will we bring the light there as well...?  I could imagine a realm of unending shadow, with no day.  With enough time there, however, and after accomplishing some objectives, a new day begins to dawn.  Brief at first, but which lengthens as we begin to conquer parts of it- clear dungeons, defeat boss-type enemies, colonize a percentage of it, etc...  The larger our "footprint" the longer the day becomes...

None of this would be known early on in the game.  The player would have to pursue the story- its implications, rumors of lore and lost knowledge and such and piece it all together.

Just some thoughts....

Edited by Thalius
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Ahh, I like the way you think. Like I mentioned earlier, we want to leave a lot of this story for the players to solve. So I don't think I should mention whether you're off or on with your deductions. Things should become clearer as we add more story elements to the game, but part of the reason why we created this thread was for players to create theories and discuss the story hints and themes! So if anybody else agrees or disagrees with Thalius' thoughts, please throw your ideas out there! That being said, I really enjoy hearing what everyone has to say about our first story. We plan to have another one released for the website soon.

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On 9.4.2017 at 2:58 AM, Luk said:

 We plan to have another one released for the website soon.

Luk, I read the new excerpt and I really like it. :D

You painted a credible picture how a player character could fit into the world setting and you created sufficient space for imagination that demands to be filled by identification.

I especially love how you introduced the concept, that the player character will always return - sometimes after a longer period, sometimes after a shorter period. :x

This raises a question that has been on my mind for a long time: Is it possible that (in story mode) a certain amount of game time will pass between death and resurrection? In the way that maybe my fields are abandoned, my house started to fall apart ... I know that the Wurm sandbox game  has this concept but I didn't tried it, yet.

For me it would it could be a really cool option, if the time of decay between death and resurrection could be modified by the level of difficulty and the length of life you "lived" before your death (the longer the life, the longer the delay). Maybe you can get the option to "pay" for a faster resurrection (e.g. with experience). Another parameter is the place of resurrection: nearby your home (spawn point) or nearby your grave (or maybe a place in between like a temple or shrine that you visited). Maybe after resurrection you are somehow "cursed" like a ghost and forced to bury your own corps (or fulfill another quest in the ghost world) to order find peace and became free to return to your home. Or to "pay" for skipping the "ghost" quest.

So much fun ... :x

 

 

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Hey skol, I'm glad you liked it! 

You bring up an interesting idea. We've talked about the potential consequences of death with other players before, but as far as I know, the development team hasn't come to a conclusion yet. This would be worth bringing up for sure. So I'm assuming the player wouldn't have to sit through the time pass, right? That would be really boring to just see a black screen for thirty minutes (unless there was something else they could do in the meantime). 

The resurrection idea sounds cool, too! Reminds me of running around looking for my corpse in World of Warcraft. 

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You're right, the player should by no means sit around and wait. I think this could be solved in different ways. He could have a short trip to a specific ethereal dimension (maybe after longer lifespan with lots of experience, or shall we call it "karma" ;) - the ethereal dimension could reflect your lifespan experience in a way that you could call it your personal heaven or hell depending on the gameplay that happened before). Or he could awake in a kind of "spectator mode", only able to interact with specific items he has to find to fulfill his resurrection quest. The world around him would be in a "time lapse" mode in order to compute the time-based decay.

For a short "lifespan" and a short "resurrection delay" the world change should be minimal and could be neglected. This means daytime could be switched, let's say to midnight and the character awakens in this "in between" state in order to find and bury its own corps in order to became fully resurrected and free to continue normal gameplay.

The really good thing: For all cases, the story mode provides the option to implement the ethereal episode (even the short ones) as a textual summary to explain an uncertain amount of time passed (and implicitly the random changes in the world): decay damage of unmaintained player structures suffered in the meantime. Or empty chests whose "looted" items can be found in the (new spawned) village nearby. Or your old manor that has been extended to a castle and occupied by a clan of well-armed strangers ...

That's the great thing with a story gives you a good immersion but leaves room for imagination - it boost up the ideas. :)

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