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· written by Juha Paananen

Soba’s Ultimate Guide to Storytelling in Games

Telling stories is an activity that is as old as the human race. Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers sat around an open fire crafting tales about epic heroes. To this day, we still do the same thing except a computer monitor has replaced the fire.

Creating an engaging narrative within a game involves a careful balancing act. A well-spun story captivates players while immersing them in a world that is complex, thrilling, and rich with nuance.

So, how exactly do game developers accomplish this? How do they weave plotlines into the gameplay, making sure every move a player makes correlates to an unfolding tale? How can the very structure of a game mimic the ebb and flow of a great narrative?

This article will cover the art of storytelling in games, examining how developers create emotional journeys and compelling narratives that keep players hooked.

Keep a simple story structure

Generally, any compelling narrative follows a three-part structure: the beginning, middle, and end. In gaming, this structure serves as a crucial framework that guides players through their virtual journey.

1. Beginning - Exposition: Here, players are introduced to the game's characters, world, and rules. This serves as a foundation and sets the stage for the drama to unfold. Often, the game's key conflict or challenge is presented, sparking an inciting incident that encourages the character — and, by extension, the player — to face the challenge and bring about change.

2.Middle - New World of Challenge: As the game progresses, the challenges become more complex. Starting with small obstacles, the difficulty level escalates, pushing the character and player to adapt and grow. At the midpoint, the true nature of the opposition is revealed, often resulting in a setback where not everything goes as expected. This unforeseen turn of events keeps players on their toes and invests them more deeply in the game's narrative.

3.End - Climax, Resolution, and Wrap-Up: The climax signifies the showdown or battle where the tension reaches its peak. Following the climactic confrontation, the narrative moves towards resolution, showcasing the character's victory or defeat. The wrap-up ties up all loose ends, finishing up the story threads and showcasing the character's transformation.

Remember, the best game narratives are not just about external conflict but also about the characters' internal growth and evolution. That means your characters should likely undergo substantial changes so that finishing your game is all the more rewarding.

How does this structure translate into games?

While story structures have their origins in traditional narratives such as books or films, their principles apply equally well to the interactive world of gaming. Translating story structure into games involves reimagining traditional narrative stages into interactive game sequences.

The tutorial acts as the narrative exposition, introducing players to their objectives and environment. As players venture further, they're met with exercises and challenges. These serve as the narrative middle, increasing in complexity and inviting deeper immersion.

The narrative climax is mirrored in the game's final skill test or boss fight. Here, players must synthesize all they've learned to surmount this last hurdle. This translation ensures that games offer not only a compelling interactive experience but a well-structured narrative journey as well.

Game exposition

Game exposition, or the tutorial, is the players’ initial dip into the universe you've created. It's where they familiarize themselves with the protagonist, the environment, the mechanics, and their objective. As an introductory stage, the tutorial should be low-pressure, allowing players to learn and experiment freely.

If your game features a main character, this phase also serves as a 'safe space' for them, allowing their persona to unfold naturally. The game's goal should be clearly conveyed here, providing players with a compelling reason to venture further. Perhaps they're a detective unraveling a curious case, or a competitor aiming for tournament glory.

While providing essential information, remember to keep your tutorial concise. An overly drawn-out tutorial can hamper the excitement, and players are often eager to dive right into the action. For instance, consider teaching the player advanced controls as they progress through the game challenges rather than extending the tutorial.

The game challenges or midgame

The midgame is where the intensity ramps up. This stage is home to the game’s challenges that players must face and overcome. Starting with simple obstacles, the difficulty should gradually escalate, mirroring the growing confidence and prowess of your players.

Introduce hurdles one by one, allowing the player to grasp each before complicating the gameplay. As the game progresses, you can begin to intertwine these obstacles, presenting multifaceted challenges that demand a wider range of skills and strategies from the player.

Introduce hurdles one by one, allowing the player to grasp each before complicating the gameplay. As the game progresses, you can begin to intertwine these obstacles, presenting multifaceted challenges that demand a wider range of skills and strategies from the player.

At this juncture, a character-driven game would depict the protagonist wrestling with increasingly complex dilemmas. As the character confronts mounting opposition, they may be subject to emotional highs and lows that further enrich the narrative. This emotional journey can echo the escalating gameplay challenges, reinforcing the synergistic relationship between story and gameplay.

Skill tests

The boss fight, or the skill test, represents the apex of your game's challenge. This crucial moment is where everything your player has learned so far is put to the ultimate test. It doesn't always have to be a traditional boss enemy, though. It could be a particularly challenging jump, an intricate puzzle, or even a culmination of all obstacles encountered in the game.

However, not all climactic tests have to revolve around combat or dexterity. In many narrative-driven games, the most significant challenges lie in the decisions the characters must make. These moral dilemmas often require players to choose between two equally compelling options, prompting introspection and engagement on a deeper level.

For example, does the character accept the changes they've undergone throughout the game or revert to their old behaviors? Do they prioritize personal relationships over the greater good? These emotionally-charged choices can add a layer of complexity that resonates with players, creating a memorable experience that transcends the screen.

 Resolution: wins, losses, and other outcomes

Regardless of the outcome — victory or defeat — this phase offers closure and a sense of completion.

If the player emerges victorious, it's a moment of celebration. A well-crafted game takes this opportunity to validate the players' efforts, providing a sense of accomplishment. This can be as simple as a congratulatory message, a triumphant cutscene, or ranking them on leaderboards.

In the case of defeat, it's a chance to reflect on the experience, learn from the mistakes, and prepare for future attempts. It is important to handle losses with care to ensure that players still feel motivated.

After the resolution, some games grant players unrestricted access to the game world. This newfound freedom allows them to explore previously inaccessible areas, discover hidden secrets, or just revel in the game environment at their own pace.

The resolution is where we see the character at their best. The challenges they've faced, and the decisions they've made, have transformed them in some way. This change emulates the player’s growth and is a testament to your game’s ability to tell a story.

Final thoughts

Great games can tell amazing stories, whether that’s through its lore or just the environment and world it builds. Nonetheless, these stories revolve around the timeless structure of beginning, middle, and end. And in gaming terms, it translates into teaching, practicing, and challenging phases. It’s this paced progression that delivers a rewarding, story-filled experience.

Therefore, it’s essential to build an emotional resonance between the character's journey, level design, and gameplay mechanics. This synergy is what keeps your game in the hearts and memories of players for years to come.

Soba was created to provide users with the ability to create and tell amazing stories. Those stories can be as simple or as complex as you make them. Whether you tell that story through your environment and gameplay, or through a story-driven narrative, Soba is your sandbox. So get out there and start building something and share it with the world!


At Soba, we are rewriting the rules of games creation. We want to empower players like you to become creators of their own video games. So we really care about customisation! Whether it's customising your game character or your game environment and logic.

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