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 Two Kinds of Story
 Advantages of Low
 Level Stories

 Making Use of the
 Low Level Story

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There are many reasons why a game's story is a very important consideration in the game's design. But what I would like to focus on in this article is the idea of using a game's story to create a more enjoyable experience for the player, while increasing the replay value of the game as well.

Some games provide excellent replay value, while others include compelling stories. But games which offer both of these qualities are rare. Games which have good replay value generally rely on excellent game mechanics, and provide the player with a great amount of freedom. The player has many choices at his disposal, and can accomplish his goals in many different ways.

But designers often find that in order to create the most compelling stories, player choice must be restricted to some degree. In order for the player to experience the story the designer has in mind, the player must perform certain actions and witness certain events. This has a negative impact on the game's replay value, since the player will experience the same events each time the game is played.

In order to circumvent this problem, designers have tried a number of solutions. One approach has been to implement forced replay value. The designer encourages the player to play the game a second time by offering some reward. Some common examples are hidden game modes, character costumes, and anything else which the player is encouraged to "earn."

But replay value is not something which can be forced. Either a game has good replay value or it doesn't. And these methods are unsuccessful in part because they ask the player to play a game over when he does not want to. If the game does not have good replay value, the player will probably not want to play it through a second time anyway. And the lure of hidden features which the player does not bother to "earn" simply taunts the player. He knows that the features are there, yet he cannot access them. And expecting the player to replay a game he does not like is a sign that the designer has not done a good job. He has failed in his responsibility to provide the player a good value for the price of the game.

Another, better method of increasing the replay value of a game which contains a good story is the branching storyline. A branching storyline guarantees that the player will have a somewhat different experience when the game is replayed. But there are several difficulties with this method. First, in order to be successful, the branches must provide an experience which is sufficiently different each time the game is played. If the branches only make the player's subsequent experiences slightly different, the replay value will not be there. Only if the replayed game is very different from the first game will the player find the story interesting the second time through.

Another problem with branching storylines is that they require more time, effort and financial resources to create. This is because each branch must be developed independently, and each needs its own script, artwork, etc. It can also be difficult to justify this extra work and expense to the game's financial supporter. How can the designer explain that so much time and money must be spent to create parts of the game which the player may never even see?

And perhaps the biggest problem of all with regard to branching storylines is this inevitable truth: no matter how much effort and money is expended, the number of branches is limited. There are only so many branches that the designer will be able to provide. And once the player has exhausted them, or enough of them, the game will no longer have the replay value the designer sought to provide.

But there is another way to create good replay value in a game which features a good story. That's what I would like to describe in this article. This method makes use of what I call a game's "low level" story.

Next : Two Kinds of Story