Gamasutra recently enjoyed a lengthy chat with Metroid: Other M producer Yoshio Sakamoto. Once again, the subject of the challenge of executing narrative in a Metroid game was brought up, and Sakamoto-san had some interesting insights to offer regarding how tell a story with as few words as possible.
“What we’re going to be doing in Other M is more about Samus’s internal workings, her feelings, and her background,” he began, highlighting the contrast between Super Metroid and the new game.
“To express something like that, you really have to use words; it’s unavoidable if that’s your goal. So perhaps the best thing to say is that the idea of elegance is to use no more than is needed; and, in this case, we’re going to use more words, but we’ll try not to use any more than we have to.”
He continued, addressing the issue of story portions breaking up the player-controlled segments of the game: “Of course, there’s a lot of different ways to tell a story, and we’re going to have alternating sequences of movies and then action sequences. Both of them really need to hold up in terms of storytelling; they both have to do their share of the work. You can’t rely on just one. But from the player’s perspective, it needs to feel seamless; the whole thing needs to feel like an action game that has that kind of consistency.”
According to Sakamoto, the narrative approach he’s taking to Other M is derived from a Chinese storytelling structure called “Kishōtenketsu,” originating from four-line poems. The four kanji used to make up the word — 起承転結 — refer to the introduction, development, twist and conclusion.