A version of this article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine.

As mentioned in last month’s column, there are many ways for games to leverage story, ranging from passive background information to being the primary driver throughout all the game content.  However, in most of the examples that we talked about, story was passive, useful for guiding people through the content but giving the player little avenue to actually change the flow of the story.  Many great story games, such as Uncharted 2 and Starcraft, present stories that the player might find deep and engaging, yet give the player very little agency to make changes.

However, some games try to go farther, and let players actually make choices that shape and change the narrative of the game.  The patron saint for these games are, of course, tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, where a room full of dice-rolling adventurers are free to take their adventurers in any direction they choose, while a frantic dungeon master tries desperately to get them to the front door of the dungeon he brought to the table.

This freedom is one of the hallmark of these tabletop RPGs, and it should come as no surprise that developers trying to bring the tabletop experience to life on the PC.  I work at one of these companies today, and seeing Bioware put these games together up close has given me new appreciation for the remarkable design intricacies in the construction of making these games. Continue reading