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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

Austin GDC 2: Jess Lebow on "More Interactivity: A Storytelling Workshop"

Two minutes into this presentation I was very excited. Lebow comes from a publishing background and has been doing game development for many years; he has a profile of exactly the kind of person who should be a font of knowledge of writing and storytelling in a gaming environment.
In fact, I believe that he is a font of knowledge, but the format of his presentation did not (sadly) allow him to act as one. Instead, he presented a few very interesting questions or comments on game storytelling, and then asked for comments from the audience in order to open things up to a wider discussion.
The problem is that the audience comments were, as a general rule, lukewarm. Too many eager beavers were making comments just to make comments, and older and wiser heads were not engaged enough in the debate.
As a result, I walked away with a few new ideas but a lot less than I could have. This is too bad, because Lebow is a charismatic and experienced game writer/developer and a very smart guy, and the conference would have been better served (I believe) if he had done things differently.
Please, Jess, come back next year. But tell us what you know, present your challenges and ideas, and then turn to the audience for questions.

Interesting points:
- The use of the cell phone in GTA IV to deliver quests.
- The use of the car trips in GTA IV to deliver key story information (I remember how happy we were in Dark Messiah when the player got in an elevator and we knew we had his undivided attention).

Interesting questions:
- How can we better deliver story in MMOs (now called "crowd games" by us insiders who heard Bruce Sterling's talk) without the use of instancing?
- How can we develop storylines for important NPC's in a crowd game?

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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

December 2011

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