Sunday, December 11, 2011

Examples of professional story design

During a recent bout of procrastination from finishing and editing my current novel, I found myself listening to music from old Sierra adventure games. (It appears Quest Studios is the place to go to get copies of the music from the Sierra games.) I played a number of the Sierra games back in the day, so -- in my procrastination-heady state -- I was interested in finding old scores. That led me, inextricably, to Al Lowe's Humor Site.

Al Lowe was responsible for the Leisure Suit Larry series of "adult" adventure games. He was at Sierra for quite a long period of time, and had his hand in all of the Leisure Suit Larry games (there were seven titles in the adventure game series).

This, by itself, wouldn't have been enough to cause me to post. The thing is, he has made available the game design documents for some of his games.

I was looking at the design documents for "Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist" and the similarities between the design of this game and the design of a story really stood out. From the plot synopsis (four act) to the section of the document titled "Story Structure," to the character descriptions and the "Walkthrough" which reads like an abbreviated story in itself. (Shoot, even the scene-by-scene break-down is something that maps to what some folks do for novels.)

Having not seen real story design documents -- except for my own attempts -- it seemed quite interesting. Larry Brooks -- the Story Fix guy -- talks about seeing story structure in things other than just books. (He specifically talks about movies, but here the structure is literally wide open to look at.) It seems unlikely that I'll ever get a chance to see design documents for real professional quality books, but this... It was a high-quality game made by experienced professionals.

You also have to remember that even click-based adventure games are really far more story driven than many types of games. The older brother of this type of game being the text-based adventure games -- a subgenre currently known as "interactive fiction."

As I said, I found it interesting.

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