Those of you who’ve played any of the Drakengard games or Nier may have noticed the games’ unique approach of storytelling. In case you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of creative director Taro Yoko, he explained his entire process in lecture fashion at the recent “10th Creators Night: Taro Yoko’s Game and Scenario Talks” event.
How to sit through boring talks:
“My lectures are boring, so to those of you who may also think the same, I’ll start out by teaching you how to listen to boring talks,” Yoko began.
To the readers who are reading this right now, Yoko says that most of you have likely participated in boring classes and meetings by now. He asks, what do you do during those times? Do you sleep? According to Yoko, instead of sleeping, it would be significantly better to spend your time thinking about what kind of career you’d like to have in the future (or what you’d like to do) and write it down on a memo.
“Whenever I have a vision of the future, I can immediately think of at least 20 different things, and while I think about that (whether it’s during a boring lecture or meeting), as long as I write it on a memo, I believe that it will be useful in the future,” says Yoko.
Basically, what Yoko is trying to say is that whenever he feels that a lecture is boring, he feels that his time is better spent by asking himself why is it boring and what would he do differently. In the end, he believes that spacing out is nothing but a waste of time.
Before moving onto the main subject, Yoko explains, “Being taught isn’t fun, but learning is fun.” He explains that when you learn, it doesn’t necessarily have to be forced upon you by anyone else, and it can be for your own good, which is what can make it fun.
What is a game scenario?
Yoko starts out by explaining the basic scenarios that are often seen in RPGs. The image on the left demonstrates the common structure of the protagonist’s starting town, then the Demon Lord’s castle. As far as the story goes (shown on the right,) it usually starts out with something along the lines of a protagonist’s lover getting killed, followed by a climax where you defeat the enemy.
From there, you can add in sub-scenarios, such as other villages. For example, the aforementioned village can be one that is packed with humorous events, which adds a little more than what you’d get from a straight route.
Since it would be odd to go straight from a humorous village to the Demon Lord, adding a sad incident somewhere in between would give the game a better flow.
The gap between the player’s feelings and the story’s development, can especially be tricky for games that offer a higher degree of freedom, since the players won’t necessarily follow the same paths.
Another thing that has to be put into consideration, is “when” the will player pick the game up again after his previous save. It could be after a week, and the player wouldn’t remember much of what happened in his last play-through, which could end up having an effect on the impact the story has on him or her.
To summarize the matter, just because a game offers a lot of freedom, it doesn’t necessarily make it fun, or leave players with a good impression. There are also other inconveniences or hindrances that arise from a lack of money to create more stages, or a lack of story elements to add more depth to the game.
Scenario and experience:
The above image represents the player and how much time they’ve spent, along with a column of the game’s chapters from one to eight, which shows that the player is currently on chapter 7.
Yoko explains that one part that you must take note of, is the importance of where the players are in the game. To put it bluntly, most players won’t remember everything about the first half of the game. He continues explaining that it’s the same for games and TV dramas—the people who remember all the details of the earlier stages, are in the minority.
Nowadays, there aren’t too many games you can completely digest from start to finish in just a day. This goes especially for RPGs that feature plenty of character development and action, which make the early parts of the game that much harder to remember.
For example, even with a simple scenario, where the protagonist’s princess gets killed and he goes out to defeat the Demon Lord, after a few days, the player’s empathy towards the protagonist will begin to fade, and when he finally goes against the main villain, there will be a gap between the player’s feelings and the story development.
“Every story and chapter must have an added impression that reminds the players that ‘the Demon Lord is a bad guy.’ It is necessary to have that stenciled in,” says Yoko.
Be conscious of others:
The act of expressing your work starts by showing it to other people. While there may be prodigies who can make whatever they want, and have it be accepted by tens of thousands of people, others have to think about how to make it commercially successful, and think about what type of people they’re making the game for. Having an image of the target audience is very important.
In Yoko’s case, whenever he makes games, he first tries to imagine what kind of people will be playing his game. “My games aren’t considered major titles, and if anything, they are a bit more on the otaku-side,” explains Yoko. “I imagine that they like to play games from the Tales of series, or Danganronpa. Since most of my games are published by Square Enix, I would imagine that perhaps there will also be fans of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series who will play them.”
Finally, Yoko shares that if you can make a game for such people (your target audience,) and guess or imagine what could possibly grasp their emotions, without having it be too similar to other titles, you’ll soon be able to see for yourself whether it can become a product in demand.