DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.
I've always come to the conclusion that sometimes a story can be told in a far superior way through its setting/environment. The releases that we've come to consider as polished, have accepted this. Designers tend to painstakingly focus on the minor details, but it's no minor thing when everything breathes and expresses in its own unique ways. Adding purposefulness and reasoning behind each thing, character, behavior and action, should in fact be treated as a necessity. Enhancing each part that the game is placed in, in every possible way, is something that requires quite a bit of craftsmanship (from the perspective of the game designer); firstly because it's usually a terrible amount of work and secondly due to the chances of it being utterly ignored and/or missed by the majority of the players.
|Loom offers an immense depth to a magical world, even if it's pixelly.|
And I'm not talking exclusively about the little nods to a cultural piece of art/history. But, rather, speaking of the amount of seemingly uninteresting yet occasionally oh so relevant pieces of backstories that enrich the main plot arc, provided you're willing to spend your time exploring properly, seeking them out. It could be a library full of book titles someone spent his time writing, so that you could enjoy each entry. So that each part of the library felt worth bothering with looking for more.
As well as a game designer, but mostly as a gamer, I've come to enjoy the background elements, whatever they may be, that were rather "silent". A typical TV Soap Opera, endlessly repeating tropes and cliches, a hand-drawn picture by a child, an abandoned shelter, a message on the telephone that didn't get the chance to be heard, a murder scene in a hotel room always posing the same questions. The list literally goes forever.
But the strength of these small points is unique. They're not something random and pointless, like a movie scene that is only there to fill the required time set by the movie studio. In their own peculiar way, they prove that the story elements, of which they are part of, exist. Unlikely, they're not a work of fiction to comfort the needs of the storyteller, but on the contrary the conditions and the setting, make the story arc to exist out of logical order. You know, handing out more reasons to the characters than "because!" and instead combining the surrounding parameters and the basic drives of each protagonist (or antagonist) to a valid interaction with the world, simply put in the fewest of words, depth.
Related @ Gnome's Lair:
Related @ Gnome's Lair: