GDC 2010: “What Happened Here?” – Environmental Storytelling
March 11, 2010 · Print This Article
What Happened Here? Environmental Storytelling
Speaker: Harvey Smith (Game Director, Arkane Studios), Matthias Worch (Senior Level Designer, Visceral Games)
Date/Time: Thursday, 3pm – 4pm
Track: Game Design
Format: 60-minute Lecture
Experience Level: All
This lecture examines the game environment as a narrative device, with a focus on further involving the player in interpreting (or pulling) information, in opposition to traditional fictional exposition. We provide an analysis of how and why some games in particular create higher levels of immersion and consistency, and we propose ways in which dynamic game systems can be used to expand upon these techniques. The lecture presents the techniques for environmental storytelling, the key to the creation of game spaces with an inherent sense of history; game spaces that invite the player’s mind to piece together implied events and to infer additional layers of depth and meaning. In addition to commonly-used environmental storytelling tools (such as props, scripted events, texturing, lighting and scene composition), we present ideas for using game systems to convey narrative through environmental reaction. Environmental storytelling engages the player as an active participant in narrative; game systems that reflect the player’s agency can do the same. The lecture will analyze existing cases and provide a framework for dynamic environmental storytelling in games.
This session is aimed at creative directors, narrative designers, level designers and level artists who want to take the environmental storytelling of their games to the next level. A good understanding of the subject matter, and game environmental design in general, is a bonus.
Attendees leave with a clear understanding of traditional environmental storytelling techniques, the current state of the art, and ideas on how to expand these concepts to new proportions using systemic environmental storytelling approaches.
Download the slides for this session below. I recommend the notes file, which gives you all slides along with the talking points. You can also download the slides and speaker notes individually.