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15.03.2021
A game script and a movie script. What is the difference?
Even Tetris has its philosophical narrative: mistakes accumulate, successes disappear. Hundreds of pages of text and masterfully staged cutscenes are not necessary for a good game story. For example, the meditative game Journey tells a depth story without a single word, and every game of chess is essentially a battle between two great kingdoms.

What is the role of the script in making a game or a movie? What happens if you take a ready-made movie script and adapt it for a game? Let's try to figure it out.
What is a script?
A script is a literary and dramatic work written as the basis for production. Even Aristotle talked about the first scripts. They have not changed much since then: any story still has its beginning, middle, and end.

Characteristic features of the description of a game script:
  1. The plot creates unique gameplay situations. A series of flashbacks with Illidan and Ysera from WoW allows you to not only hear their story but also to diversify the gameplay.
  2. The story encourages you to explore the levels. You can motivate not only with a valuable loot or a list of achievements. If the player has scoured the entire location in search of the second part of the diary of a former traveler - you have succeeded.
  3. The plot explains the conventions. Zagreus from Hades does not die because he is in the Realm of the Dead. Adam from Deus Ex becomes stronger because he gets used to a foreign metal body.
  4. The story is bound up in the gameplay. Even the best screenwriters sometimes forget this point. Lara Croft is crying over a dead deer and ten minutes later is furiously feeding lead to the enemy, Geralt has been closing question marks on the map for a week now, even though he should be looking for his foster daughter. The feeling one gets when realizing these facts is called ludonarrative dissonance.
What do game and movie scripts have in common?
Game narrative is a young discipline that borrows from theatrical dramaturgy (including experimental interactive productions) and filmmaking. All of these niches use the same terminology:

  1. Antagonist. The rival of the main character (or protagonist).
  2. Anti-hero. The "wrong" protagonist, endowed with many flaws. Dante, Geralt, Rayne - typical anti-heroes.
  3. The Arch of the Hero - a process of internal transformation.
  4. Outline - the scheme, the basis of the script. Necessary to avoid confusion in the storylines.
  5. Draft - a draft of the script.
  6. Catharsis - a big shock to the viewer or player. They experience it in the most vivid culminating moment. Have you experienced catharsis when you discover that the princess is in another castle?
  7. Composition - is an organization of the story and its main elements.
  8. Cliffhanger or "hook" - a sharp plot twist that makes you want to follow the story's development.
  9. Logline - a retelling of the story in 20-25 words.
  10. Director's script - answers the questions "What to shoot?" and "How to shoot?".
  11. Synopsis - a script without details and details. Takes from 1 to 3 pages.
  12. Setting - the location and timing of events.
  13. Plot - the meaning of the work, it's content.
  14. The Fabula - a list of events in chronological order.
  15. Flashback - a compositional technique that allows you to look into the past.
  16. Flashforward - the opposite of flashback. Allows you to look into the future.
  17. Exposition - the part that introduces the world and the characters. The easiest version of the exposition is on-screen text and voice-over, like in Mass Effect and Star Wars. The more complex ones are the opening cutscene (as in Spider-Man from PS4) or the tie-in to the tutorial (as in the prologue of Dragon Age: Origins).

One of the main roles of both movies and video games is to entertain the viewer, so the script, plot, and setting must be of interest not only to you but also to the potential audience. For example:

  • Genre: match 3. It is played in short sessions to relax.
What not to do: Add minor plotlines and allusions to ancient philosophers.
  • Genre: open-world sandbox. The player explores locations.
What not to do: "rail" history, scattered throughout the locations.
  • Genre: a platformer for children.
What not to do: Add moral dilemmas and a zombie apocalypse.

The 21st century has overrun us with a flood of information. Humans are spoiled with content, and the creators have only a few minutes to hold your attention. Therefore, the first 10 minutes of a movie, as well as the first few hours of a computer game should do everything to keep attention.
What is the difference between the movie script and the game script?
On the big screen, events invariably run their course. No matter how many times we rewatch The Matrix - Morpheus will die every time and Neo will choose the blue pill. In other words, sit back and watch. At the same time, the player's role is to be not only a spectator but also a direct participant in all the events.

The gameplay brings its share of chaos to even the clearest and most well-calibrated scenario. The player can go in a different direction and get lost, miss the dialogue, return to the game months later. Therefore, in games, valuable information is presented several times.
In the Dead Space movie, it would have been enough to mention once: "Tear off limbs". In the game, the same information was conveyed with:
  • Blood writings on the walls;
  • Isaac's conversations on the radio;
  • Tapes.
And still, in the old forums, you can find the question, "How to kill a Necromorph?"

Another difference is the overall timing and length of the session. Let's compare:

1. Full-length movies: The average running time is an hour and a half. If the plot is not very heavy (or there is no fun company) - watched in one go, without pauses and rewinds.
2. Series: Series timing - from half an hour to an hour. You can watch a little by little or go on a serial binge: most plots are organized in such a way that they are well perceived in both cases.

Coming up with a story for a scripted game is much harder: computer story games last an average of 20-25 hours. They can be completed in one weekend, or they can be stretched over a month. There is little time for presenting and development: if it is not an interactive movie. Therefore, the main story is served through the gameplay and the environment - significant turns of the plot put in the dialogs or scenes, fans to explore the lore will find scattered notes or audio recordings on locations.

Portable platforms have their own peculiarities. The average duration of a session is 5-10 minutes. For these sessions, the standard three-act structure "plot - climax - dénouement" will not work: in the final battle, the player is highly likely to forget what happened at the beginning. But a lot of short story arcs with a single story fit perfectly.
In what format are game scripts written?
The game industry doesn't yet have the same clear standards as Hollywood. It all depends on the needs of the studio, the genre, and the writer's preferences. Here are a few utilities:

1. Excel. Handy for creating quests in games. Everyone works with this table: game designers, scriptwriters, actors, sound designers, localizers.
2. Word or Confluence. For the lore, the text spools, the overall story.
3. Twine, MindMaple, and other programs for creating mind-maps. Need for working out the story, building logical connections, dialogues.
4. Pen and paper.

There is a tremendous amount of material on this topic. We haven't mentioned the types of scenarios, dialogues, combat scenes, and the peculiarities of world-building in games. Stay tuned!