Tuesday, 16 February 2010

theme in the details and triangulation lists

"In war, victory
In peace, vigilance
In death, sacrifice"
     -- Grey Warden motto, Dragon Age: Origins.
A recent RoleplayingTips article about the virtues of Dragon Age as example of good game story technique made a salient point about theme.  Theme lives in the details.  Reality is not blatant, heavy-handed messages are contrived. Neither is entertaining or fun.  So how to do this well?  There is a risk of going overboard.  Character diamonds, location design, story arcs and beats as well as theme - plenty to keep track of.  Getting there requires work, particularly if your theme is complex.

Common elements of theme and story lets each reinforce the other. 

Enter the concept of triangulation lists - a bullet point list of relevant items.  Here, the list defines your theme.  To prevent information overload, keep it to three things.  Ensure characters have at least one attribute or wrinkle that will match or conflict with an item on the list.  Reveal it by action or dialogue and where it's relevant to a plot arc, let that attribute change.  These list items may modify an existing attribute (hypotaxis).  The darker side of war is a recurring theme in Dragon Age, difficult plot choices provide and remove allies and the Warden encounters orphans and grief-stricken characters.

Or an item may exist in parallel to the existing idea (parataxis) so the audience makes their own connection by fluff information   Audience agency is a virtue with interactive entertainment like RPGs and your audience will probably make connections you didn't realise were there. Sometimes it doesn't work how you've intended, even for David Gaider, author of Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne so don't worry.  Sense-checking helps avoid passive voice, echoes (repetitive mannerisms) or even worse unintended tropes.  Roll with the punches and rework the worst while remaining true to the character. The perfect is the enemy of the good here.

(thanks to Hannah at Chaotic Shiny and Vi Åker Jeep)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Greatest Hits