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A Narrative Designer?

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Rondstat

Rondstat

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Not someone like Mod Osborne, who has to divide his attentions across the whole game, and has a background in sports writing. Someone who comes from the world of narrative, novels or comics or plays or movies. Someone who could actually manage the story, maintain consistency, vet the dialogue, ensure a rich, continuous story with identifiable, engaging characters? Could Jagex do it? Should Jagex do it?

***

In prepping for Children of Mah and Endgame, I went back over all the relevant lore. I talked to npcs, I read all the books in my POH, I rewatched cutscenes, I even read a couple of transcripts from quests where I couldn't remember all the beats. And the thing that struck me the most is how wildly inconsistent the RS story is. How certain characters can behave completely differently between writers, how the tone can shift so abruptly in the middle of a storyline, how dialogue in one place can be subtle, compelling, and fraught, while elsewhere it's almost laughable.

One of the biggest problems of the 6th Age is how, in the interest of making it accessible, it has downplayed and, often, outright ignored or contradicted existing lore (though more recent quests have definitely tried to ameliorate this). However, sometimes this laissez faire attitude seems to take root within the 6th Age, as writers fail to account for others' revelations and characterizations (Heart of Stone and Dishonour Among Thieves immediately come to mind). Major themes from TWW and DoC (directly relating to the 6th Age) seem to have been forgotten.

Now, I don't want to come off as overly critical. There has been some fantastic storytelling in recent quests, and when you're striving to create a compelling piece of content, you can't be expected to keep tabs on every piece of minutiae from your colleagues' projects.

But, what if there was someone who could be expected to do this?

03-Jan-2017 09:35:04

Rondstat

Rondstat

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I feel like Runescape could benefit immensely from a dedicated narrative designer. Someone actually in charge of the story as a whole, in charge of dialogue, lore, and continuity.

Runescape developers come from the worlds of computer science, mathematics, etc. They're not hired for the quality of their prose. And, even if they do have a passion for storytelling, that doesn't always translate to writing ability - Mod Raven, who is easily the most gifted developer when it comes to intriguing, character driven plots, is also notorious for rampant typos, misused apostrophes, homonyms, and poor stylistic choices.

Character identity also gets lost in the current system. The Seren of FotG is easily the best part of that quest - alien, remote, vaguely sinister, yet at the same time her emotions, attachment and loss are instantly recognizable and relatable. It's the perfect character for a transcendent god - and yet her dialogue in TLW renders her mundane and her motivations predictable. We've seen the same with Zamorak, Zanik, Nomad, etc.

Overall story projectories ebb and flow, which can lead to unsatisfying or unresolved plot points or (more frustratingly and less tangibly) thematic elements, which we've seen in the Myreque and Dragonkin series.

A narrative designer could fix these problems, craft a distinctive voice for each character, and plot out the major story beats years in advance. I'm not saying this person would take story away from developers - they should still absolutely make their own quests. But this designer could ensure consistency, do a pass on the dialogue, convert all the placeholder and critpath text into real discourse, and ensure all the beats hit at the right place with the right impact.

I feel like someone from the world of comic books or theater could do very well with RS's story material. What do y'all think? Do you have the same frustrations? Does this make any sense?

03-Jan-2017 09:53:25

Heidly Ees
May Gold Premier Club Member 2015

Heidly Ees

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Agreed.

I recently played Tower of Life on my HCIM, and oh my guthix are there some inconsistencies here. In the quest, alchemist Effigy uses the Tower to create life. In the quest the player opposes this, and helps the creature defeat the alchemists and teach them not to play god. Yet the post-quest reward is an activity specifically revolving around creating life and IMMEDIATELY KILLING IT.
I'm just a man; I'm not a hero.
Just a boy who had to sing this song.

03-Jan-2017 15:06:04

Healthorg

Healthorg

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Yes. There are many times that people have confused Jagex's inconsistency with bad writing and a narrative director exclusively tasked with keeping that mysterious ol' lorebook updated and concisely followed would be amazing.

Some of the best writing and 'lore reworks' in the game have followed similar practices, with swathes of information kept on hand, some of which has found itself in the game officially now. Mod Jack, Zaro's betrayal, and Demons definitely come to mind, it's a wonderful and detailed set of information. Hell, most of Children of Mah was out of the silly comic that Mod Jack whipped up as headcanon.

The only problem is that a narrative director would have singular control over the writers, and there are many people (in general) who would rather not work under such circumstances. I'd vastly prefer consistency, but it's difficult to maintain consistency without also coming off as authoritarian and controlling, which often proves to be the death of creativity.

If the current writers are fine with the idea and find a person willing to deal fairly with guiding the story's consistency full-time, then it shouldn't be a problem, but it's also worthy to note that we wouldn't have some of this lore without some people cutting away and reworking parts of the story on their own.

I'd dread a world where we're stuck in the 5th Age and Mod Jack hadn't touched up on demons. Or a world where the Elder Gods weren't a threat, Guthix wasn't dead, etc. Imagine getting a narrative director for the 5th Age? Brrr. That'd be a slow developing 'plot.' My point stands, though, that the best moves have gone outside of the range of this theoretical narrative director's jurisdiction.

The best candidate for the job would need to understand and rigorously weigh writers' contributions against one another. Jagex has faked us out many, many times before and stealth-retconned tons of things we thought were true about the game's universe, and it'd be a shame to lose that.

03-Jan-2017 16:21:10

Deltaslug

Deltaslug

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I sort of agree.

Or at least, let 1 developer oversee something more specific. Or allow a quest series to go through more quickly.

Mod John A and his Cave Goblin series for example.
It was his story line. He got to write it. We got 2 quests later with Zanik, but ... maybe ... the characterization wasn't too far off (my opinion)
Similar with Mod Moltare's Void Knight Series.
That series was shot off in 1 major dev project, with all 3 quests effectively getting done together.

By breaking up the quests over a span of 4 years, and like you said, different developers touching the same characters ... yeah ... something is going to suffer.




Would this also tie into story planning?
In most games, whoever does it has a very clear start to finish on the story.
They may change it up a little because something is determined to be irrelevant/superfluous to the plot or too difficult to create for technical reasons (spend 3 months coding for 1 story segment? or water down so we don't push back the schedule?), then turn around and add things later in a DLC.
Runescape, old game, with an evolving plot.
They basically started with Dev #1 "we want to bring back Zaros".
Dev #2 "Well, how do we do that?"
Dev #1 "Well, first we gotta do something about the Edicts"
Dev #2 "Well, guess we gotta kill off Guthix."
Everyone nodded their heads.
So we got the Death of Guthix, and a Zaros returns quest.
That's fine and all.
Then they had to have this conversation of "where do we go from here?"
Seems like they had a "let's do a new age god wars!!!" and everyone got on board with it.

But ... they didn't really seem to have a plan AFTER that.
Step 1: Guthix Dies
Step 2: "New God war"
Step 3: Sara v Zam
Step 4: Arma v Bands
Step 5: Tuska
.
.
.
Step x: End of story line

Well? What was the plan?
It didn't seem like they had a plan in the event that A or B happened anywhere. Then the Tuska debacle. Then I'm guessing backlash against WE's.
Then they just made it up.

03-Jan-2017 18:15:24 - Last edited on 03-Jan-2017 18:25:11 by Deltaslug

Edcy

Edcy

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One does this and another that is not issue, but the lack of convos inbetween. I've along many others have pulled this point out but i fear they're either extremely blind in reading forums or extremely arrogant to see their down and turn them into ups~

03-Jan-2017 18:23:33 - Last edited on 03-Jan-2017 18:24:14 by Edcy

Elf of Seren
Nov Gold Premier Club Member 2012

Elf of Seren

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I'm pretty sure, story-wise, they do have a plan set out for what they want to do (Like, have you heard the layouts of Infernus and Teragard that are on the Dev Q&A's from a few months ago? The lore from those convo's aren't even on the Wiki). It's just, as you said, the mood with each quest being a little weird as it switches between developers.

Like, Plague's End, and Birthright were, imo, horrible, but they did *technically* keep with the story. I think, instead of blaming Jagex as a whole, you should pressure the individual designers.

I mean, look at what high standards we hold Raven to, and look at how good his quests are. The only downsides that I ever see with his releases are the time constraints preventing full completion (i.e. Sliske's Model with the Staff of Armadyl not being implemented in the final fight).

Hindsight is 20-20, and if you're not working there, you won't actually know what they're planning, so let's be a little careful with our criticisms.

04-Jan-2017 01:33:26 - Last edited on 04-Jan-2017 01:36:40 by Elf of Seren

Healthorg

Healthorg

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Mod Raven's - and I am not trying to be critical - really hit or miss, imo. There are times when what he writes and does are possibly the best ways to take the story, but then there are times when it just's a tad disappointing.

And that's beyond time constraints. But all of that is to be expected, I enjoyed Sliske's Endgame, even if I didn't enjoy that some story threads were forced closed, but the buck wasn't with Raven for those.

(I continue to give Osborne the stink-eye over V and Hero's Welcome. I will never, ever forgive them for Hero's Welcome, but if I start on that topic now, I won't end. Better here than anywhere, but I won't stop, so I won't start that right now.)

04-Jan-2017 22:08:49

New Scotland

New Scotland

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I agree, I love the quests in this game and always have but the writing feels incredibly inconsistent sometimes. It's hard to get excited when things are foreshadowed or something major happens because I know it'll likely just be skipped over or shallowly mentioned in future quests.

05-Jan-2017 20:48:12

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