Monday, October 20, 2014

Proactive vs Reactive Stories

This post contains entirely predictable spoilers for the Sith Warrior and Sith Inquisitor stories in The Old Republic.

In both the Sith Inquisitor and Sith Warrior stories in TOR, there comes a point where your master betrays you. You survive the betrayal and ultimately defeat your master. This seems like a very traditional part of being Sith.

Except that's not quite how the Sith tradition goes. The apprentice is the one who betrays her master, not the other way around.

In the class stories, the betrayal is flipped. This is because the game cannot force the player to take action, to betray her master first. If you're playing Light Side, you might choose to be loyal. If the master forces you to take an unpalatable action, you might do it anyways if you are Dark Side.

Well, obviously the game could just not give you a choice. At point X, you betray your master, and that's that. But most players would be greatly unhappy with that.

Can a story-based game push the player into taking proactive actions? Or is the player always reacting?


  1. The ability to be pro-active or reactive is largely dependent on the type of narrative being used. Traditional linear types of narrative only allow the player/reader to be passive/reactive recipients of the story. Branching narratives give you some form of agency by allowing you to choose which path to take, but even in this case the reader's ability to be pro-active is circumscribed by the choices offered in the story. I believe you can only truly be pro-active in sandbox environments, where the player decides what they want to do, and where the stories they want to tell are not imposed from above by a God-like author, but rather generated by the players themselves.

  2. Proactive stories with many branches mean a lot of developement which will be seen by little people.

    They also make (even more) evident the inconsistencies between the shared world and the player choices. I'm not really surprised that big titles don't make this kind of choice.

  3. You can push the player into a proactive action by tipping the story's hand early.

    For example, what if halfway through the Sith storyline, the player discovers that the master intends to dispose of the apprentice because of ~whatever~ (don't feel like the player is meeting a standard/being pressured or tricked by others/wants to sacrifice the player for a dark ritual/etc).

    After this reveal, the story branching could allow for a Dark Side player to choose to get the jump on the master and betray him first, on the player's terms, while a Light Side player can choose to convince the master otherwise.

    By revealing the "twist" early, you give the player the ability to choose how to advance, instead of them reacting.

  4. Player pro-activeness actually makes the story-telling impossible. Pro-active player makes his own story and does not need gamedev's crutches.