There are many different ways to tell a story in games. Sometimes the player only gets a vague impression of the story and the world, experiencing the game without any additional information. At other times the story forms an integral part of the game. Even though it is quite unusual for a game of our genre, it was clear from the beginning that the story of our main character shall be fully told, instead of just making it a frame story.
Of course we had to start by coming up with a story in the first place, which required quite a lot of time. We just weren’t content with a plain-Jane story, but wanted to create a gripping narrative arc, which would allow the player to immerse himself in the young man’s world and together learn to understand it.
Then of course we got to the question, in what way the story should best be told to convey it to the player. As you can see in the image above, we started thinking about this quite early, and created first designs. We ended up implementing the one in the center. After some testing, this proved to be unsatisfactory however, the reason being that the passages were shown during gameplay to dynamically create a connection between the young man and the Irrlicht. But as you can imagine, only very few players actually stopped to read the dialogs while being in the middle of some jump’n’run section.
We reached the conclusion that the story could not be told this way, since the player would most likely miss it. So the next logical step was to find out what other possibilities there were. The solution we are currently working on is the synchronization of the dialogs. In this way we can tell all story lines at any desired point in time, without interrupting the gameplay. However, since we wish to be present on an international market and the synchronization in multiple languages is a lot of work, we have settled for recording speech in English only. We think that optional subtitles are a satisfactory compromise to become multilingual.
A lot still remains to be tested in this area, and what type of storytelling will greet you in the final game might still surprise you.