GDC 2014

GDC 2014 Session Scheduler

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Export Schedule:

The System Is the Message: Dynamic Storytelling in The Novelist

Kent Hudson  |  Founder, Orthogonal Games

Location: Room 3007, West Hall

Format: Session
Track: Design
Vault Recording: Video

The Novelist takes an experimental, systems-based approach to storytelling. Each playthrough features a randomized chapter sequence, the narrative is based on dynamic character relationships instead of an event-based plot, and the player draws on their own values to take an active role as the author of the story. The goal was to make a game without a predetermined message, a game where each player would find their own meaning. But when designer Kent Hudson removed his personal biases from the narrative content he realized that he had in fact only shifted his area of authorship: the rules governing the characters' relationships and shaping their stories began producing unexpected outcomes. The systems had become the message, and shaping those systems became fundamental to the meaning of the game. This presentation chronicles the surprises, course corrections and fundamental shifts that occurred in pursuit of The Novelist's goals.


Attendees will leave with a detailed understanding of The Novelist's narrative systems, including the relationship simulation, dramatic flow, feedback channels, methods for creating a recognizable story from unpredictable events, and more. This presentation advocates an alternative to traditional branching plot methodologies.

Intended Audience

This presentation is for designers and writers interested in making games that give players large amounts of authorship and take advantage of our interactive medium to create player-driven, personal stories.