Story accuracy: bring in the experts

Gamasutra recently posted Halo Science 101, written by BSG’s science advisor, Kevin Grazier. The article speculates about science in the Halo universe. This got me thinking about how accurate games should be and how developers could go about improving the believability of their games.

Science fiction games typically err on the side of fiction, but we can’t blame them since film and television often does the same. However, if the fiction is so off the mark, the player can no longer suspend disbelief. When a science advisor is on board, the quality of the science fiction is arguably higher. However, accuracy in games isn’t limited to science fiction on one end and serious games on the other. Shadow Hearts, a fantasy game, was set before World War I. Their efforts to evoke that era accurately added depth to an otherwise fantastic premise. Of course, we won’t discuss the anachronism of one of the characters having a cell phone.

If you’re looking to improve the accuracy and believability of your story world, here are four tips:

1. Hire experts – When I wrote games with Legacy Interactive, they had a medical expert on board from the start. This expert plotted out potential cases, which I then dramatized to entertain the player.

2. Hire writer experts or writers with their own experts – On Stargate Worlds, I came on board with a degree in archaeology to lend credence to any archaeology storylines. In addition, I collected experts in chemistry, biology, and physics who were eager to answer any questions we might have.

3. Use detail – If you lack enough access to experts or are creating your own world from scratch, a lot of detail helps make the world seem more accurate. Kevin Grazier, although he points out some flaws in Halo’s science, commends the amount of detail used in the game — prompting him to write an entire book about it, no less.

4. Be consistent – Whether using experts or creating from scratch, consistency is important in maintaining the illusion, especially in a fantasy setting or science fiction with strong fantasy elements.

4.5. Be true to your IP – This is obviously part of being consistent, but it merits its own bullet point. If you’re not being true to your IP, why did you license it in the first place? Who, after all, wants another Enterprise?

Can you come up with other examples of where games (or film/tv) failed to be accurate or consistent and it ruined the experience?

Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 11:20 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] educational games could use the skills of game writers. While we understand the necessity of subject matter experts and would always work in concert with them, instructional designers should also realize that good […]

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