Sunday, December 21, 2008

Prototyping Story

I'm curious, from my amateur position, how exactly some of these professional game developers make decisions on story. Fallout 3 spoilers will happen beyond this point.

I've had two major incidents with conflicting story, in Fallout 3.

The first one occurred during my attempt to complete Blood Ties. While hunting for Lucy West's brother, I eventually found The Family's lair and bribed the guard to let me in. He soon went to sleep, and I started to take everything I could before killing the guy. Not only did he not have the bribe I gave him, but this also made The Family hostile towards me. Which didn't make a whole lot of sense, because there was no way for them to have known he was dead.

To make a long story short, I one-man-armied The Family and found Ian West. I woke him up and showed him his sister's letter, and he went back to sleep, promising to leave The Family shortly. On the way out, I killed one last member of The Family, and I had a little window pop up saying that "The Family and the residence of Arefu are now hostile towards you." Which didn't make any sense at the time, because Arefu hated The Family.

Then, Ian tried to kill me - despite being outrageously out-gunned. I let him run away twice, but despite his near-fatal wounds he attempted to gnaw at me one last time.

So I vaporized him.

Much later, I would find Reilly (leader of Reilly's Rangers) in a coma at the Underworld infirmary. Being told that waking her up could be dangerous, I decided to go looking for her Rangers, instead. I went to their headquarters, eventually hacked in, and found them to be gone. So I took a look around (as well as some loot that was just laying out) and left. Coming across their emergency radio broadcast, I would ultimately attempt to rescue them from being trapped on top of the Statesman Hotel by Supermutants.

When I met Butcher for the first time, he asked me about Reilly. Even though I knew her location, and had read her diary, the only responses I had for him were those of ignorance. I was forced to say I had no idea who Reilly was, despite knowing exactly where she is. As well as who she was recently sleeping with.

I was also rather shocked to find her back at Ranger HQ, after we escaped the Hotel. I was looking forward to bringing the Rangers to Underworld for a dramatic "she's waking up!" moment.

The point of all of this is that there seemed to be a lack of important story routes between certain nodes. Perhaps they weren't exactly obvious but still not hard to realize.

I wonder if these could have been remedied, had Bethesda made an in-house Interactive Fiction of Fallout 3 to prototype these kinds of situations. I've been watching the Alabaster project with interest. Emily Short and co. used Inform to solicit more branches of dialog for the story, where a player's conversation attempt would be recorded and then implemented in a future version.

Apparently, this whole 'attempt recording' feature is going to be packed into a future release of Inform. Is something like that crucial for the development of sandbox worlds? To me, it seems as though the QA phase of Fallout 3 was focused on getting rid of technical bugs, instead of some equally important ones in the storyline.

So I wonder if it would have been easier and more efficient for Bethesda to rip out all the combat and simply make a textual version of the game. I can't imagine that they actually did do such a thing, because of my previous examples.

Or is it simply OK for the developer to release it, then patch away those inconsistencies when the millions of players find them?

No comments:

Post a Comment