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 in the chaos of the big bang that is the brainstorming phase. This is the first attempt to create this documentation but it should not be the last. You have to keep coming back to it, refine, redefine it as you go. This will be the North star of the project during production, it can still evolve during the concept phase but not anymore once the production starts. Try to fill those in, if it’s unclear, leave it blank for now.

I/ THEME

AKA: Why

It’s something that all aspects of the game should speak to.
People should be able to have a different opinion about it. Ask yourself “What is your opinion of [Theme]?”.
If there is no potential conflict, this is not a good narrative theme.
The theme is what the whole team can use to look in the same direction.
A director is asked a thousand questions a day, so if you have a single theme unifying your movie you can deal with all the details.” – Francis Ford Coppola

Example:
The Conversation” – Privacy.
The Godfather movies” – Succession.
Apocalypse Now” – Morality.

II/ MORAL CONFLICT

It’s what the protagonist and antagonist’s conflict is about. They have a different opinion about “Theme”.

III/ DESIGN PRINCIPLE

The design principle helps us narrow down what the story is about. While the Theme is broad, the moral conflict help us getting one layer down, the Design Principle really makes it very directed in how we are tacking the theme.

I believe it’s important to not have judgement of right and wrong at this point. If within your theme you already decide what is right, then the story will be one note or expected. The antagonist shouldn’t just be in the wrong from the beginning. He should aspire to the same goal than the protagonist but using the (morally) wrong way. (morally, depending on the world vision of the author, us).

  • How are we going to talk about the Moral Conflict?
  • This is the frame, the box, the point of view with which we decide to limit our story.
  • What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  • I think the best way to talk about what the Theme is by…

IV/ THE PREMISE

What is the story?

This is actually what most people often focus on and limit themselves with. In a way, this is a easiest part, but it can only be solid if we have all the other parts on that page.

A story is comprised of 5 main elements:

  • An inciting Incident
  • A Protagonist
  • The Protagonist’s Goal
  • Obstacle between the Protagonist and his Goal
  • Action or Choice that the Protagonist has to do to overcome the obstacles

I used this sentence below to check if I have all the elements required to tell a coherent story.

Because of the INCITING INCIDENT, the PROTAGONIST will have to DO SOMETHING to overcome an OBSTACLE to REACH THEIR GOAL.

V/ THE TONE/GENRE

AKA: How

  • The tone is how the fantasy will be expressed.
  • The type of atmosphere.
  • What’s the genre?

VI/ THE FANTASY

AKA: What

What experience are we promising the players? In which shoes are they going to run and shoot aliens?
This is what most players will talk about and be excited about and what the title the player will earn should speak to.


“The big bang theory say nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged”

Alan guth