Joannes Truyens

Blog posts by Joannes Truyens

Global Game Jam 2010

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 not me, not me, me, not me.
From left to right: not me, not me, me, not me.
I was a participant in this year’s Global Game Jam (GGJ), which is an annual event organised simultaneously by many countries. It marked the second time that Belgium participated, and this year’s attendance of 40 more than tripled that of last year. GGJ’s goal is to create a functional game based on a single theme in a timespan of 48 hours (this year the theme was “deception”). At first I was somewhat daunted as the room slowly filled up with programmers and 2D/3D artists. Introducing myself as an aspiring Narrative Designer elicited some worries in a “getting-picked-last-at-gym” sort of way, but fortunately enough I was quick to glom onto a team in which all necessary skills were accounted for.

Welcome

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Welcome to Playthroughline! Regardless of how you found your way over here, the content of this blog assumes you have a healthy interest in videogames, or more specifically, the design thereof. With a strong focus on story and narrative and how these concepts are linked to gameplay (or how they unfortunately are not), I aim to collate my thoughts and impressions here. Naturally, this will not preclude me from branching out to other topics as well.

The title is a combination of two terms: playthrough and throughline. A playthrough is a gaming session from the beginning of the story to its conclusion, though not necessarily a continuous one. A throughline is generally regarded as the spine of a story in the field of narratology. As such the title combines my interest in both games and story and segues nicely into the field of Narrative Design.

Rethinking "No Russian"

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When this gun goes up, you guys are so dead.
When this gun goes up, you guys are so dead.
Note: this post does not mean I wholeheartedly condone Modern Warfare 2's linear narrative structure because I choose to work inside its confines. It's simply an interesting exercise to write within a predetermined framework, something game writers unfortunately have to do entirely too much. I recently reread Tom Francis' brilliant reimagining of BioShock's ending, and it got me thinking about my previous post which detailed my views on Modern Warfare 2's "No Russian" level. My main complaint was how the linear narrative of Modern Warfare 2 isn't suited for such a set piece, yet it was limited to just that: a complaint. Everybody can point out problems, but only a few go that extra mile and come up with a solution. So I aim to provide an answer to the narrative problem presented by the "No Russian" level.

Opt-in depth

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I'm not crying. My biomechanical eyes are leaking servo fluid.
I'm not crying. My biomechanical eyes are leaking servo fluid.
Note: this post was first made on the official forum of the Narrative Designer's Network. I'm reproducing it here with a few minor edits, because it nicely sums up my views on game narratives and flows into the point I made in my previous post. Be warned, it's a long one. [This post is about] the depth of a narrative in a game and how the concept of choice factors into that (I also branched out to characters on a whim). This argument is predominantly geared towards action games, partly because this is the genre I play the most. But since it is also a genre in which story plays a large role, I do not feel I am constraining my points. Throughout this piece, I draw examples from Half-Life 2, Deus Ex and Mirror’s Edge, so there are some spoilers for those who have not yet played these games.

What is Narrative Design?

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Since this blog focuses primarily on the theory and practice of Narrative Design, it might be helpful to first explain exactly what that is. The term was first coined by Stephen E. Dinehart, who is a "transmedia designer, writer, artist, and Narrative Design evangelist". Having worked on games as diverse as Company Of Heroes, Warhammer 40,000 and Constantine, he certainly has the professional experience to back up his convictions. Stephen has recently founded the Narrative Designer's Network, a community for burgeoning and established Narrative Designers. A post made there goes a long way to explaining what it is a Narrative Designer does exactly, but looking beyond the responsibilities of the specific function, I'm going to delve into the overarching concept of Narrative Design.

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