Tim Schafer of Double Fine fame was interviewed by On the Media a few months ago and he ended up talking about how to make stories in games. He discusses creativity to character development to world building. It’s a short and good listen.
PJ VOGT: And then how do you know when you’ve got a story that works? Like, a story that’s compelling enough to sustain, you know, twenty, thirty, forty hours of game play?
TIM SCHAFER: Well, like, when I was researching Day of the Dead, and I hit on this one important part of the folklore is about, um, after you die you just, your soul makes a four year journey across the land of the dead, and that just sounded like a quest to me, that sounded like a quest for an adventure game. And starting to put together, you know, who was the protagonist, and then who was the antagonist, and that tension between them really creates some, you know most of the things you’re going to use in your plot. So, I was really into film noir at the time, and watching old film noir like, The Big Sleep, and things like Chinatown, and looking at the plot of Chinatown and how the plot took control of the water of Southern California, and that scam was going on, and just having a great villain who has a great scheme afoot that your noir hero just accidently stumbles into and then gets pulled into this darker, shadowy world. You know a lot of things that seem really creative are really just you sitting down and just answering a series of questions, like okay, ‘How am I going to provide some opposition to this main character? What is the bad guy up to?’ That’s always a question that I’m writing to myself in my notebook. ‘What is the bad guy up to?’ And at first it was gonna be—I’m just gonna do a real-estate scam just like Chinatown, so I had the bad guy, you know, selling off plots of land in some evil way and then I realized, no one probably wants to buy a plot of land, and in the Land of the Dead they’re trying to get through it—so it’s got to be a travel agent. Okay so Manny Calavera will be a travel agent cause that’s what people want to do, they want to get out of the Land of the Dead. So he’s gonna set up a travel package for them, and how is the bad guy using that to his advantage. Then—then it just writes itself after that, so easy.