How to create an interesting game setting? Level One: Text

    Everyone knows that we perceive 90% of the information visually, from 5 to 9 objects can be stored in short-term memory at the same time, and the Twitter era set a pain threshold for texts of 140 characters. Keeping the attention of players (as well as the players themselves) is relevant even for the whales of the gaming industry, to say nothing of small companies in which the viability of their project depends on the solution to this problem.
    This article will discuss how a carefully crafted setting affects the retention of the player’s attention and his involvement in the gameplay.

    What is a setting

    Wikipedia defines a setting as an environment in which a game takes place. Post-apocalypse, art deco, steampunk, sci-fi, fantasy - literally one word can tell what to expect from the game. For example, Fallout is set in a post-apocalypse setting, Neverwinter Nights is fantasy, and Star Trek and Mass Effect are definitely sci-fi. But not so simple. In some projects, it is impossible to pinpoint the setting, as many new elements are woven into it. It is sometimes easy to confuse steampunk with diesel punk, despite the fact that the first dates back to the beginning of the 19th century and is built around fantastic steam engines, and the second is closer to the middle of the 20th century and glorifies the scientific progress of that time. Developers often experiment with setting, create new universes and surprise players with non-standard solutions.

    It must be remembered that a setting is not only a place and time of action, but also a combination of many factors and attitudes that determine the physics of the fictional world, affect the behavior and character of the characters.

    Dieselpunk setting in Bioshock

    What is a stream

    The definition of a stream was first formulated by Mihai Chiksentmihayli. This is a complete engagement in an activity that brings pleasure. The player can achieve the flow by solving tasks corresponding to his abilities. However, there are many factors that help maintain the state of the flow. The setting is one of them. The feeling of closeness of the game universe and complete merging with the character help to achieve utmost involvement in the game process when a person forgets about time and surroundings.

    Problem of choice

    Developers very rarely think about such things as plot non-linearity, setting, or even targeted marketing.
    There are several common mistakes:

    1) The developer thinks over the setting in advance, and then begins to adjust the mechanics for it and reflect on who might be interested in this product.
    2) The developer believes that the main thing is mechanics, and the setting is not important or not needed at all.
    3) The developer makes the game for himself, without exploring the market and not focusing on the target audience.

    In the first case, there is a risk of encountering the problem of inconsistency between the picture and reality. For example, the Demolition Lander project, which recently failed on Kickstarter, and was implemented in a space setting, has a huge scope in terms of the territories studied. But due to the simplified mechanics and graphics, the value of such a large-scale universe is reduced to zero.

    A setting sewn with white thread even to the most interesting mechanics can ruin the impression of the game. For example, the Mirror's Edge project is characterized by breathtaking mechanics and stunning visual performance. However, the weak script and poorly designed game world caused a wave of negative comments from critics: during the passage of the story campaign, these factors were knocked out of the stream state - continuous running along the roofs of a futuristic city.

    Suitable time

    The setting must be chosen and thought out at the first stage of development. That is, at the stage of the idea of ​​the game, simultaneously with the mechanics, platform and method of monetization. Since all these factors together determine the main thing - the player. To create a successful project, you should focus not only on the tastes of the target audience, but also on marketing research. An ideal option would be to conduct a survey or test to determine which is closest to your players.

    When the first strategy was created at Plarium back in 2011, a dozen enthusiasts worked for the company. At that time, we did not have advanced analysis tools and several departments that deal only with marketing and game analytics. But we had our own gaming experience and the desire to figure out what can “shoot” for an audience who loves strategy. After exploring the market, we played in contrast: during the dominance of farms and the cartoon-Zing design, the Rules of War became the first hardcore game in the setting of the post-apocalypse on social networks.
    Later, we began to approach the choice of setting more thoroughly: a special team of analysts studies the market, current trends, tastes and requests of the target audience. Based on the data we make, we decide which game to do next and how to implement the selected setting at the level of the mechanic and the individual components of the project.

    9 laps setting: text level

    Despite the development of graphic technologies and the advent of games such as Journey, which can tell an exciting story without a word, the texts remain a powerful means of holding attention. MUD developers immersed a person in a state of flow with the help of texts alone, and a huge part of them was generated by the users themselves. Fallout and Sword & Sworcery also do not differ in rich graphics, but thanks to competent texts, they managed to use the most powerful video card on Earth - human imagination.

    This reveals the similarity of such projects and social games. A social network as a gaming platform imposes certain restrictions on the ability to hold a player with a beautiful picture or super-dynamic gameplay. Therefore, when working on games, we try to carefully enter both art and technical texts in accordance with the setting - so that the players are immersed in the atmosphere of a fantastic world as much as possible right from the start.

    For most Plarium strategies, a full-fledged ENT has been developed, which includes mythology, religion, history, economics - this helps a lot to create a single, consistent structure of the game world throughout the development process and further updates of the game.
    However, work on texts does not end only on beautiful artistic descriptions. Sometimes you can discover additional features. For example, for the “Pirate Code” strategy, we made a separate localization in “pirate English”. It took a lot of effort and time, but the result was worth it: the number of “true pirates” is 30% more than ordinary players.

    It is also very important to pay attention not only to literary texts, but also to technical ones - news texts, manuals, interface elements. "Yes sir!" instead of fresh “Ok”, “commander” instead of “player”, “fighting” instead of “gameplay” create an integral picture of the world and reduce the chances that a player will leave an application that turned out to be insufficiently “military” or “fantasy”.

    A sense of flow and continuity of the game should accompany the user wherever he goes. Social networks, forums, mailing lists and tech support should also include setting elements. It is very simple to create a game character profile on a social network and start a dialogue with users. A small role-playing game, taken outside the framework of the game process, will help users not to fall out of the setting, even outside the game.

    For the “Rules of War" strategy, we created a character - General Lapidus, who welcomes and accompanies the user in the first stages of the game. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, the general personifies a typical warrior. His speech is crammed with soldiers' jokes and bravado, which gives a humorous tinge to what is happening on the nuclear Wastelands and indicates a setting that is closer to Fallout than to Mad Max in mood. This character communicates with players not only through personal messages in the game, but also creates and supports discussions on social networks and forums. Thus, players interact with the universe of the "Rules of War" even outside the gameplay. In general, the social component is a very powerful tool for involvement in the game and contributes to the formation of the flow state.

    Mailing lists should not be boring either. Perhaps many of you have already received a letter from the mysterious Voroniki, which intrigues fans of the game “Pestilence. Utopia ”in anticipation of the launch of the campaign on Kickstarter.

    Some developers go even further. As part of the advertising campaign, separate sites are created or even small offices of fictional gaming corporations are opened. For example, in 2009, a letter appeared on the Internet from the founder of Umbrella, addressed to the US government, asking for $ 100 billion for research.

    +5 to conviction

    For full involvement in the game universe, the user needs to feel the integrity of the game in terms of setting at all levels of interaction. Texts, music, interface, graphics, video - everything should correspond to the atmosphere and complement it. In the next article, we will tell you how to maintain the setting at the level of graphics and UI design.

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