Game Design

Four design lessons which were really obvious to everyone but me - by Keith Burgun Blogs - 30 November 2018 - 7:00am
Game designer and theorist Keith Burgun talks about a few design lessons which seemed to be obvious to everyone but him, and why and how that happened.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Being a remote maker in the game industry - by Paolo Gambardella Blogs - 30 November 2018 - 6:59am
I want to share some insight of my new life as a remote game maker with Gamasutra community.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The experience of porting X-Morph: Defense to Nintendo Switch - by Piotr Bomak Blogs - 30 November 2018 - 6:59am
Working under limitations can be tiresome, but will make you find solutions you have never thought of. We believe porting X-Morph: Defense has made us into better developers and we would do it again without hesitation.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Long Road to Surrogate - A Personal Post Mortem - by Brandon Gallo Blogs - 30 November 2018 - 6:51am
A personal reflection on the several years I spent developing my first commercial game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Have A Quick Story Framework

Gnome Stew - 30 November 2018 - 3:00am

I am in the car on my way home from Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. It is the second leg of the trip, and I am now a passenger. We are due home in about two hours, just in time for me to run Scum & Villainy for my Sunday evening group. That was when the text came in.

I am not feeling well. I need to waive off tonight.

Blown Session. Time to initiate Blown Session Protocol.

I texted the other players in my group, and everyone wanted to play something; a backup game. That was fine. I had just finished reading Beach Patrol, and I was down for some Baywatch action. The only thing is, I had no session prepped. The book had an adventure idea generator, but it comes up with a premise, which is good, but I also needed a bit more structure in terms of scenes, beats, etc.

So I opened my phone, clicked on OneNote and started writing some quick session notes, using a pretty standard story framework that is my go to when I am improvising games.

What is a Story Framework?

A story framework is a narrative structure, a formula of sorts, that tells a story. Which means that it has a start, a middle, and an ending, as well as some number of scenes. It is not an actual story but rather a framework that you can adapt to create a story, or in this case a gaming session.

There are numerous frameworks for stories but the one that most people who were educated in the US know is Freytag’s Pyramid.

This is a simple structure but very effective. Basically, the story starts, some things happen to build up to the climax, and then things start to resolve in the wake of the climax, and the story ends.

If you want to really jump into the rabbit hole when it comes to plot structures, check out Plotto by William Cook.

Using a Story Framework

So what is the deal with story frameworks? It has to do with prepping sessions. When we prep a session, we use some kind of framework to lay out our encounters and how the plot of the session will unfold.

So if you are doing traditional prep, this often takes the form of an outline. We sit down and outline how we think the session will go, and then write our notes. Often when we are doing this, we are using some kind of framework either intentionally or unintentionally.  These frameworks make prepping your game faster because they are known structures that you can employ.

 Where these frameworks really shine is when you are doing a low/no-prep game. Because if you know one or more of these structures, you can quickly come up with a session on the fly… Share9Tweet3+11Reddit1EmailWhere these frameworks really shine is when you are doing a low/no-prep game. Because if you know one or more of these structures, you can quickly come up with a session on the fly, using the structure to give some shape to your session. Often what I do, when I run a no-prep game such as Action Movie World or Beach Patrol, is that I use a framework to write myself a quick outline in my notebook or on an index card, as the players are making characters. This then gives me an idea of where my game can go, which helps when you are improvising, because you have some idea of where the story can go — making your contributions to the story more focused.

My Go-to Framework

The framework that I have committed to memory, and the one that I use the most when I am improvising sessions, is this:

  1. Opening to show how cool the characters are
  2. Introduce the Problem
  3. Goal 1
  4. Goal 2
  5. Goal 3 (optional – based on time)
  6. Showdown
  7. Aftermath

In this structure, there are multiple goals that the players must achieve in order to be able to confront the cause of the problem in the showdown (climax).

Quick Example:

It’s a game of Rockerboys and Vending Machines and the characters are trying to extract a Singer from a nightclub. So my outline would be:

  1. Opening scene at their home bar where they get the job
  2. Problem: Scouting the Nightclub
  3. Goal: Getting into the Nightclub
  4. Goal: Getting past security to get to the back of the nightclub
  5. Goal: Getting to the Singer to extract her
  6. Showdown: Extraction & Opposition
  7. Aftermath: Delivering the Singer and getting paid.

That right there is all I need for a few hours of play. Now when it comes to running the game, we may deviate wildly from this initial outline, but at least I had a starting point for the game.

Elaborating on the Framework

So I am in the car with two hours until I get home, so I have some time to work up a slightly more complex story for Beach Patrol. So, I take the basic framework but I decide to have two plots going on during the session.

A-Plot: A calendar photo shoot is taking place on the beach and creating issues.

Possible encounters:

  • A model that can’t swim
  • Heavy crowds watching
  • Stalker following one of the Models
  • Dangerous shooting setup that endangers beachgoers

B-Plot: A new version of Ecstasy has hit the beach and is causing a lot of teens to get into trouble.

Possible encounters:

  • Drowning victim
  • Sex on the beach
  • User falling off the cliff in Lovers Cove
  • Drug deal going down on the beach

Then I adapt my standard framework a bit to look like this:

  1. Opening: Briefing at HQ
  2. Goal: A-Plot encounter
  3. Goal: B-Plot encounter
  4. Goal: A-Plot encounter
  5. Goal: Resolve B-Plot
  6. Showdown: Emergency A and B-Plot
  7. Aftermath: End of Shift

In this case, I am weaving the A and B plot in alternating scenes, and then in scene 5 I look to close up the B Plot, but I bring back some elements of it in the Showdown.

For the Goals, I pulled from the list of possible encounters, based on what felt right at the time. But I decided that the showdown would be a boat rescue situation where the drug dealers crash their boat into the model’s photo shoot out in the ocean, and there are all sorts of people who need to be rescued.

Blown Session Protocol – Engaged

Thirty minutes after I received that text, I had brainstormed and created a genre-fitting adventure for a game that I was running for the first time. We played that night and had a blast. The models were rescued and the drug dealers captured. The Beach is safe once again.

Having a go-to story framework, one that you are comfortable with, is a great tool for any GM, but especially for improv GMs. It helps with coming up with a game with little or no time to prep, and when you have more time, you can elaborate and subvert the structure to make more varied plots.

Do you have a go-to story framework that you use in your games? Are you now thinking of making one? What are some of your favorite frameworks?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Indie Marketing: Highlights & Data of Summoners Fate at Dreamhack 2018 - by Ross Przybylski Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 7:23am
Indie dev Ross Przybylski shares his marketing strategy, budget, event highlights and data of his Dreamhack Atlanta 2018 showcase of Summoners Fate.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Jakub Kasztalsk, Unbound Creations: Developing a Sequel - by Jessica Paek Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 7:22am
We got a chance to talk to Jakub Kasztalski from Unbound Creations about developing a sequel and incorporating community feedback.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tweet Star: Turning Tweets into Puzzles - by Olin Olmstead Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 7:21am
A word game with an endless supply of crowdsourced puzzles. This is a design analysis for this fascinating and unique puzzle game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Kliuless? #13: Is Artifact Pay-to-Win or Pay-to-Lose? - by Kenneth Liu Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 7:20am
Each week I compile a gaming industry insights newsletter that I share with other Rioters, including Riot’s senior leadership. This edition is the public version that I publish broadly every week as well. Opinions are mine.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Things To Consider Before Signing a Public Relations or Influencer Agency To Promote Your Video Game - by Corey Wade Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 7:18am
This post serves as a basic guide to give publishers, developers, and studios a better understanding of the PR and influencer process by addressing some questions to consider before getting started.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnomecast #54 – Book Learnin’

Gnome Stew - 29 November 2018 - 5:13am

Join Ang, J.T., and Senda for some tips to help you learn to play a game right out of the book without someone to teach you! Will our gnomes learn enough to avoid the stew?

Download: Gnomecast #54 – Book Learnin’

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Check out Gnome Stew Merch, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

Follow Senda at @IdellaMithlynnd on Twitter and find her on her other podcasts Panda’s Talking Games and She’s a Super Geek.

Follow J.T. at @jtevans on Twitter, J.T. Evans on Facebook and at his website

Follow Ang at @orikes13 on Twitter and find her in the Misdirected Mark Google+ Community.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tips To Speed Up The Development Process - by Antonio Torres Blogs - 29 November 2018 - 3:06am
Far too little has been said or done about the counter-productive development practices in the video game industry. It is possible to improve game development and provide for the welfare of developers at the same time.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Chinese Gamers are More Competitive and Completionist, More Homogeneous in Gaming Motivations Than US Gamers - by Nick Yee Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:23am
Survey data and analysis, in collaboration with Niko Partners, on differences in gaming motivations among gamers in China and the US.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why I lost $42,500 making a VR game - by Joseph Radak Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:23am
In the changing landscape of VR, indie devs burden a lot of risk while providing for innovation than many AAA companies. This is a burden that will lead to indie devs vanishing, and their innovation with them.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Rolling a Ball: Harder Than You Thought (part 1) - by Nathaniel Ferguson Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:22am
When creating the game Rollossus, I ran into more trouble than I thought trying to reach satisfying ball movement. This three-part blog series walks people through the issues I ran into and the solutions I found.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How Overworking Affects Game Developers - by Antonio Torres Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:22am
Many individuals within the world of technology drive themselves into the ground without noticing that their self-destructive behaviors are causing anxiety, hypertension, poor eating habits and a general sense of dread during the day.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Blood, sweat and pixels - why is it so hard to make games? - by Emilia Tyl Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:21am
Cool book about the making of ten great games, written in clear, accessible language, which everyone can understand. If you’re curious how game dev works and what difficulties it faces and why your anticipated game is delayed once again - just read it.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Is it “Game Over” for AR/VR platform wars? - by ISABELLE HIERHOLTZ Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:11am
The AR/VR industry seems to have made its mind up on platforms, based on responses to Digi-Capital and AWE’s Global AR/VR Industry Survey. While there are still opportunities for nniche players and startups, clear standouts are now top of mind.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Exponential Growth and long run survival in Gaming - by kunal borhade Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:11am
Go Agile Or Fail !! Here is the Success Mantra for delivering AAA title games in India. Its been pleasure sharing my thoughts and learning at GameDevConference couple of months back. I am uploading the video for those who were not there at the conference
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Rolling a Ball: Harder Than You Thought (part 1) - by Nathaniel Ferguson Blogs - 28 November 2018 - 6:11am
When creating the game Rollossus, I ran into more trouble than I thought trying to reach satisfying ball movement. This three-part blog series walks people through the issues I ran into and the solutions I found.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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