Unlike the preceding gamestorming exercises, the narratology portion was fairly straightforward. It helped that I already had learning objectives in mind, and opening the assignment details reawakened “students will be able to” lesson planning memories. The new story concept was built on goal setting and breaking down tasks, which manifested as the following learning objectives (each preceded by “users will be able to”):
- Analyze complex objectives and organize them into smaller component tasks
- Create clear, actionable goals using the SMART framework
At this point, I was already considering the game in terms of three separate interactions between the player character and their client. The learning objectives I wrote out covered the second and third interactions, but not the first. Inspired by the example, which included baseline knowledge as one of its objectives, I added one final learning objective:
- Identify promising fields based on a combination of interests and skills
At present, I am uncertain how strongly the final game will support this final objective. The wording for all three may change; though I have lesson planning experience, written objectives always took a backseat to the next day’s content. It is absolutely a growth point.
On the topic of growth points, I don’t usually make outlines for stories. In most cases, I write out a few simple notes, then start writing and see where the story takes me. Creating a branching, educational narrative requires a bit more intentional forethought, however. I have yet to create a full storyboard, which will be more complex than the annotated structural outline linked here and included at the end of this post. This flowchart style outline is substantially more effective for a branching narrative than a traditional, linear outline. As a bonus, it already bears similarities to the structure used in Twine, which will make it easier to translate during development.
I expect that each of the nodes of the current outline will correspond to 2-5 nodes in Twine. Rounded rectangles after the title are establishing nodes which shouldn’t include substantial player choice. Unrounded rectangles, however, represent major choices. Each of these nodes begins with the choice given in its current text, and they contain a set of minor choices which impact the extent of the major choice.
Diamonds are the exception to the 2-5 Twine node estimate. These are decision points for internal logic which are invisible to the user. The subject matter of subsequent interactions is determined by major choices, but the decision points determine their tone based on minor choices. For instance, minor choices made during the first session lead the client to find an area of interest or not. What that interest area is depends on the area of the client’s experience they discuss, but they can always miss it. This, in turn, complicates the following sessions.
At present, there are two major issues I want to work out. The first is the choices in the second and third sessions which loop back on each other. Five options which can be taken in any order, as is the case in the third session, could lead to a significant amount of narrative overhead. There should be some consequence to overwhelming the client in the second session, but I may need to take a different approach. This leads into the second issue: there are currently no “game over” scenarios. Any choice the player makes has the same narrative depth. Some of the later branches could be simplified by redirecting to a proper game over instead.
There is still work to do on this project, which may be iterative alongside full development. The concept is well within scope for my Twine experience, though a condensed vertical slice is more achievable in the expected time frame.