For most of gaming history, we’ve come to expect that game story lines would follow the traditional story arc: beginning, middle, and end. Much of the innovation in game story writing has come in the “choose your own adventure” format, meaning that players are provided a menu of possible outcomes, and their story experience depends on how they choose from that menu.
Their stories might then branch in a way that is predetermined but utterly sophisticated. But these games tend not to be episodic – the ending might be in four hours or twenty-four, but it’s there, leaving players bereft when it’s all over and there’s nothing else to do.
But free-to-play games, especially in the casual industry, are more like TV shows than they are games, at least where the story is concerned. A TV producer and a game producer both want the same “good problem to have.” They both want the kind of success that will mean a story line with legs – one that lasts season to season.
What this means for narrative designers like me is that we are tasked with the challenge of extending the story line in fresh new ways. After all, we don’t ever want to “jump the shark.”
My challenge was this: By the thirteenth chapter in Dark Manor, our ghosts were no longer ghosts. They’d turned themselves back into humans. Where should we go from there?
Never fear. Now that the main drama has played out, as a writer, I’ve got time to go back and delve a little deeper into these characters. It helps that the team of designers here at Big Fish Studios and partner developer Tomozaru drew interesting subjects in Ellesmere, Yvette, and Sterling. In the next update, you’ll find out how they all got turned into ghosts in the first place, as well as what dear, sweet Ellie actually does for a living.
There’s also a new character, the not-at-all-shady-in-any-way Drake Brossard. And is Sterling actually flirting with one of his former wives? Find out with the new Dark Manor update!