Narrative Design Essays

Video Game Story Inception Method

There is no perfect model to craft a story. It depends a lot on the type of game you are creating. The Emotional Journey is not supposed to be a template to follow but more of a guide. This below is the approximate workflow I use when I tackle a new story. Those steps help me focus and get inspired when I feel blocked.

Step 1 - Get Ideas

Step 1 - Get Ideas

GOAL : Explore the release’s core concept(s) via blue-sky brainstorming.DELIVERABLES : Organized ideas list divided up into key sections: CHARACTER, PLOT, THEME. I/ The big bang Write down all ideas that are coming in mind about: Critical eve...
Step 2 - Conflict

Step 2 - Conflict

GOAL : Explore Concept’s Protagonist and Antagonist and their conflict.DELIVERABLES : Multiple versions of a Protagonist & Antagonist and their conflict. 150 words each. I/ Protagonist In order to structure the process of character e...
Step 3 - Premise

Step 3 - Premise

GOAL : Explore the potential themes that are coming through.DELIVERABLES : Write down the Theme, Moral Conflict, Design Principle, Premise, Tone/Genre and Fantasy It's about finding what all those ideas are leading us to. Finding order...
Step 4 - Plot

Step 4 - Plot

GOAL : Identify your narrative’s five most critical plot points.DELIVERABLES : 1-2 pages document that describes each of the 5 Key Plot Points and all characters involved in each plot point (player, ghost, Key NPC, etc.) The Biggest Moments ...
Step 5 - Arcs

Step 5 - Arcs

GOAL:   Identify your narrative five most critical thematics moments. Where THEME changes characters and/or the world over an arc.DELIVERABLES:  1-2 pages document that describes each of the 5 Key Thematic Points and all characters involved...
Step 6 - Causality

Step 6 - Causality

GOAL:   Map the whole story with organic transitionsDELIVERABLES:  Causality chart document that outlines the story through the main Narrative beats. I/ Plot & Theme By combining the PLOT and THEME key moments, you should get 10 beats th...
Step 7 - Summary

Step 7 - Summary

GOAL:   Create documentation that can be easily shared to anybodyDELIVERABLES:  Concept documentation This final step is about creating documentation that can be shared with other teams. I/ Concept Write the concept page with a Title , ...

The Emotional Journey Model

The Emotional journey - PART 1 - "Why we need a Narrative Structure"

The Emotional journey - PART 1 - "Why we need a Narrative Structure"

A lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety. John Dufresne Over the years and within several teams and studios, I've collaborated on many narrative experiences. One of the main issues I encounter still to this day is the ability...
The Emotional journey - PART 2 - "What is a Narrative Structure"

The Emotional journey - PART 2 - "What is a Narrative Structure"

Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. Leonardo da Vinci A Narrative Structure as a Framework To be clear, a narrative structure is not a template nor a "paint by number" system. A story written using a narrative...
The Emotional journey - PART 3 - "Blocks & Events"

The Emotional journey - PART 3 - "Blocks & Events"

Flow can only truly be achieved when we are willing to let go of the outcome and just play. Sandra Taylor Hedges 17 Beats to a Story The proposed model breaks down the narrative structure as follow s : 11 blocks of time of action driven...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: HALO - The Silent Cartographer

The Emotional journey – Analysis: HALO - The Silent Cartographer

The most obvious application of the model is on a linear campaign mission. If we take one of the best mission ever created (in my opinion), The Silent Cartographer from Halo, it should be no surprise that the Emotional Journey model can map pretty...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: PUBG

The Emotional journey – Analysis: PUBG

The application of the Emotional Journey model to a non-linear game like PUBG is where this model really shines. The standard Hero's Journey model does not account for the experience to not be constrained by time or stop before the end.Here, a few game...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: Breath of the Wild - Owa Daim Shrine

The Emotional journey – Analysis: Breath of the Wild - Owa Daim Shrine

This is an example where an experience does not have any ASSAULT or CLASH but still has a resolution. Since this experience is more like a tutorial it makes sense that there isn't a real climax. https://vimeo.com/384666495 Owa Daim Shrine ...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: Mario Bros 1.1

The Emotional journey – Analysis: Mario Bros 1.1

The model is also applicable to level design. For example, taking a benchmark of level design, Mario Bros 1.1, we can see how the design teach the players the game mechanics while taking them through an emotional ride. There is a crescendo in difficulty...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: Destiny 2 Red War Campaign

The Emotional journey – Analysis: Destiny 2 Red War Campaign

The whole campaign of DESTINY 2: The Red War was also mapped out with the help of the Emotional Journey model. It really helped to have a guide while building up different elements, to make sure that we had a spine that was going somewhere. SETUP...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: Destiny 2 Homecoming

The Emotional journey – Analysis: Destiny 2 Homecoming

This is work that I did in collaboration with many others, using the Emotional Journey model, applied in a linear narrative on the opening mission of DESTINY 2, HOMECOMING. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe06cEoiEbk Specifically, I worked...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: The Matrix

The Emotional journey – Analysis: The Matrix

Below is a breakdown of the movie The Matrix, using the Emotional Journey model. It fits perfectly, each beat of the movie flows flawlessly into the next one. The Matrix is a model of application for the Hero's Journey, no surprise that it fits the...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: FRIENDS - The One with the Joke

The Emotional journey – Analysis: FRIENDS - The One with the Joke

An episode of Sitcom has several stories intertwined. When one plot is set up, the next one is introduced before going to the next step for the first plot. In this one, there are 3 plots. Each one focuses on one character that wants something. I've separate...
The Emotional journey – Analysis: CHVRCHES, LED ZEPPELIN & CHOPIN

The Emotional journey – Analysis: CHVRCHES, LED ZEPPELIN & CHOPIN

The emotional journey can also be mapped on music pieces. Their structure and how they trigger emotions in the audience follow the same rules as the ones detailed in the Emotional Journey model. Chvrches The mother we share by CHVRCHES also...

Narrative Design essays

The Three Layer Narrative Cake: the Player Story

The Three Layer Narrative Cake: the Player Story

People often discuss "story" as a broad term that means many things. As Narrative Designers, we can only be successful collaborators if we speak the same language as other teams and agree on the meaning of words and concepts. I've encountered at least...
Storytelling and Level Design

Storytelling and Level Design

Wrote in 2012 for the IGDA as an article about Storytelling and Level Design Storytelling in Level Design is much more than simply putting a corpse in a room. We first need to know what story we are telling. And for that, we have to examine...