Episode 89: Videogames for Inspiration

February 13, 2020

Main Topic

Videogames have been around in one form or another for decades – Almost as long as this role playing hobby. While the early games were hit or miss as developers explored a new medium, they had only rare gems of inspiration. The most recent generations of consoles and computer games have shown a trend to deep and rich worldbuilding with expansive and immersive storylines. How do you draw inspiration from video games, either the older classics that the luddites among us love or the new games with their modern storytelling and sensibilities?  

[GaM] As the self professed luddite in this respect, I definitely look to some of the older video games for inspiration.  A few examples are: 

  • Metal Gear Solid Series – The Metal Gear Solid series shows a vast and interconnecting series of stories that have the players ask questions about the nature of the world and military conflict all while exemplifying the infiltration genre.  The MGS series, from the original onward, help demonstrate resource management and how to craft larger than life stories interwoven with the characters
  • Ninja Gaiden – Few games can compete with Ninja Gaiden when it comes to iconic villains/bosses and story structure.  While MGS shows the larger macronarrative construction, Ninja Gaiden builds to a crescendo from the micronarrative point and introduced me to cutscenes and how to advance stories by shifting locales
  • FFVIII – After FFVII, I didn’t know what to expect from FFVIII, but was really pleasantly surprised with a unique magic system that was unlike anything I had experienced in video games and role playing games to that point. FFVIII showed me ways to take chances and innovate in world building 

[Zen] I do like a few videogames and ones for inspiration are Conan Exiles, FFX, and Gwent.

  • Conan Exiles – This game takes all of the get part of Conan and explores and new bit of the world that is created just for the game. It is about exploration and self discovery which are great themes to tackle in a game.
  • FF X – While all Final Fantasy games have similar themes to them this game has a few neat subsystems in it. The idea of a water based sport that is tied to two of the characters and the world itself is cool. Sports and games are a thing that can help to build out more of the world. 
  • Gwent – While I haven’t had a chance to play much of this game it is a game within a game. For those that know Gwent is the card game in the Witcher series. There is also an independent version of this game as its own game. I like to use things like this to help make the game worlds we play in and build feel more alive.

[Joules] I take my inspiration from old to new.  Humor and serious.  

  • ZORK – Initially a text based adventure.  Which was great because you had to imagine what was described to you.  But there was so much humor buried in there. And over time more episodes came out in more modern formats.  ZORK Grand Inquisitor is my personal fave. Who doesn’t love Eric Avari? WHO IS THE BOSS OF YOU? ME! I AM THE BOSS OF YOU!
  • Disgaia – For those that love minis and strategy.  The music is delightful and catchy which helps when you’re thrashed at your last turn.  There are also “dungeon runs” in the item world. Sometimes there’s no way to complete a level which adds some tools to your toolkit.  It also shows that good storytelling can be integrated into all types of games. You can have a serious strategy battle with the outcome shaping the story.   And the story doesn’t have to be super duper detailed, but the characters need to be relatable, lovable, or eminintenty mockable!  
  • Hand of Fate- This is a kind of genius deck building game.  You meet “The Dealer” at the end of some crazy adventure.  And you sit and play. The cards in the deck are events that happened in your past and you battle for the dealers treasures.  When you land on a battle card, the game switches to a 3rd person beat em up. The treasures you’ve acquired show up on your character.  If you’re kind of stuck on an adventure, have you thought of dealing some tarot cards and seeing what kind of adventure is built from them? 

[null] Games serve as much of the foundation in terms of storytelling and character journeys. Complexity and simplicity, world building, and story plot design fundamentals can be learned from so many of them.

  • Final Fantasy X – I’m including FFX as well because it is one of the prime examples I’d use in world building, tying the narrative of a setting into the characters and their stories. The complexity of the world and how the cultures of the past serve to inspire the future. From Zanarkian sports traditions becoming Bevellian religious trappings, to choices in a warn becoming a never ending tradition of death worship, the residents of Spira are a great example of an evolving setting.
  • The Elder Scrolls Series – The blank slate, that is the type of hero TES shows again and again. TES provides an example of building a world as a playground for players, while trying to offer them the chance to become mired in its history.
  • Rock n’ Roll Racing – The world as a game, a stage and backdrop that only serves to present an experience without stepping too deep into the world around them.

Stat Blocks

Zendead- Storybook

We all remember those stories from when we were children. Fairy tales, fables, and whatnot. Things told to us by parents and grandparents, and for some it was the managers of the orphanage. Now where did those stories come from? Where they passed down from ages past? Or where they spun from whole cloth out of the imagination of the teller? It doesn’t really matter in the end, for the place they all end up is The Storybook. 

The Storybook is a massive tome held in the top most room of the highest tower in the ancient castle. The book sits passively waiting for a new story to be told and recorded in its pages. When the new story is finished the book opens to a clean page and the words scribe themselves onto the pages that it needs to record the entire telling. Then once it finishes the book swings closed till it is needed to record another story. 

The Storybook is a special creation from the beginning of time. Its true purpose is simple record the creative art of storytelling for mankind’s collective unconsciousness. Who or what created it is lost to time. While the location is interestingly enough buried in the minds of all sentient beings. So enjoy the stories we tell and tell a few of your own for The Storybook.

Joules- The Dreamkeeper’s Attic

“Lock the door. Lock the door. Lock the door. Lock the doooor.”

Always in a whisper.  In every dream that you’ve had for the last 8 months.

“Lock the door. Lock the door.”

So as you begin to wake, you lock the door behind you.  Seems the right thing to do.

“Lock the door. Lock the door.”

Your sleep becomes less restorative as your confusion mounts.

Why must you lock this door?  Why the seemingly desperate instance.

Ah well, it’s a small thing.  You lock the door again.

“Lock the door.  Lock the door. Lock the door.”

Dreams are confusing enough as they are. This repeated phrase only increases it.

What is happening in your head?  Yet you still lock the door every morning as you wake.

No skin off your nose.

“Lock the Door. Lock the Door.”

Until the frustration and confusion become too much.  And you rebel.

You intentionally put the key in your pocket and leave the door unlocked.

And nothing happens. Rise and Shine!

At night you sleep.  And you don’t hear the voice. Finally!  A night of peace. Stupid voice.

Days and nights wear on. Bringing only monotony and a rising sense of frustration.  And an odd deja-vu of holding a grudge

Weeks and months. You’re ruder, angrier. Everything is a personal slight. Memories of childhood bullying are as raw and fresh as the day you experienced them.  Every heartbreak you’ve ever had returns with a vengeance. You’re a miserable shell of the person you once were and you don’t know why. 

Till one day you meet a strange child while walking to work.  You ignore them. And then they speak.

“I tried to remind you.”

You freeze in mid step and slowly look behind you at the child.

“You didn’t lock the door. I couldn’t keep them from hurting you” 

You stop breathing. Frozen with a deep seated sense of dread.

“If you don’t lock them somewhere safe, I can’t help you face them.  You can’t process them in their raw form. You can’t…”  

The child’s voice trails off, and their voice hitches in their throat.  You see a tear fall from their eye. It shines like starlight.

“I locked them in my attic for you. Kept them away till you were asleep and I could help you deal with them.  But you left the door unlocked. And they all got out.”

You feel the weight of the child’s words.  Your bones feel like glass. Your head feels like lead.

“What did you lock away?” you ask, dreading the answer.

“Your life experiences.” the child replies. “I gave you a room to process them and figure them out. To give you the tools to eventually integrate them into yourself.” 

The child’s voice hitches again.

“I came to get my key back. And to say goodbye. You broke the rules and can’t go into my attic anymore.” Another starlit tear falls. “I’m so sorry.”

You blink and you’re suddenly very alone.  With nothing but your thoughts. Thoughts of everything you ever experienced in your life.

With no way to process them.

nulloperations – I’m in outline land. 

Guard-a-Manger – Calling one of my only no-Stat Block shows this week …. Its been a thing

Lexicon

Distaff  adjective

dis·​taff | \ ˈdi-ˌstaf  \

Definition of distaff (Entry 1 of 2)

1: FEMALE sense 1

distaff executives

2: MATERNAL sense 2

the distaff side of the family

— compare SPEAR

distaff noun

plural distaffs\ ˈdi-​ˌstafs  , -​ˌstavz \

Definition of distaff (Entry 2 of 2)

1a: a staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool in spinning

b: woman’s work or domain

2: the female branch or side of a family

First Known Use of distaff

Adjective

circa 1633, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for distaff

Noun

Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf, from dis- (akin to Middle Low German dise bunch of flax) + stæf staff

Look-up Popularity

Bottom 40% of words

Closing remarks 

Zendead- Star Wars: Clone Wars – I know I am a few years behind but I am enjoying watching it roll out. 

  Dark Crystal Tactics just an honorable mention.

Joules – Sabaton and Sabaton History – Heavy Metal Music based on history? Yes Please! And their sister channel that goes deeper into the actual events of each song with historian Indy Nidel and one of the members of the band. Delightful!

nulloperations – My name is Byf – Exploring the Lore of destiny and presenting it’s stories as audio journals and collections.

Guard-a-Manger – Alone in the Dark – Bad Horror is sometimes worth the time for inspiration. And Uwe Bowl. 

Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp

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And Thanks to Merriam-Webster  and Online Etymology Dictionary for our Lexicon segment

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