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  • Book Extract - Creating Games: Mechanics, Content, and Technology

    - Morgan McGuire and Odest Chadwicke Jenkins

  • 5.8 Plot Graphs

    Create a flow chart to show the player's progression through the game. In a plot-driven video game with a strong narrative, this serves as the nonlinear map of the narrative. Figures 5.2 and 5.3 show plot diagrams for Ultima VII as drawn by player Urpo Lankinen. [2] Annotate your graph to show narrative arcs and different physical regions within which the player travels. For a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the progression graph essentially is the game; all that is missing is the flavor text (which, in that case, comprises all of the text that the player sees!).

    Figure 5.2: Plot graph for the main quest in Ultima VII.

    Figure 5.3: Detail from the progression graph for the main quest in Ultima VII.

    For a game that lacks a strong narrative (e.g., an emergent instead of progressive game), the progression graph indicates the major stages through which gameplay changes occur. Strategy games like Civilization typically see an escalation of risk and power throughout the game that can be shown here.

    In a board game, the progression graph describes the setup and the states of the game. Most modern board games have several phases to each turn that can be clearly delineated on the turn progression graph. An example is shown in Figure 5.4 for RoboRally, a board game in which players "program" robots with cards and then have them fight on the factory floor.

    Figure 5.4: Progression graph for play in the board game RoboRally.

    5.8.1 Storyboards

    For games with cutscenes and cinematics, label those scenes in the plot graph and provide additional material in the form of storyboards and scripts describing the scenes. See Don Bluth's The Art of Storyboard [Bluth and Goldman 04] for a good graphic introduction to these.

    5.9 Art Direction

    The art direction section is a combination of descriptive text and images that convey the graphic style of the game. It typically includes concept art (e.g., as shown in Figure 5.5), reference art from books to inspire the style, instructions on the use of lighting in a 3D game, font samples, and constraints specified by the underlying technology. See Chapters 13 and 14 for a discussion of some of the constraints that the graphics engine places on the artwork in a video game.

    Figure 5.5: Concept art for Titan Quest. (Image courtesy of ILE/THQ)


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