Nova NextGen: Storytelling 03 Feb 2015

This is what Nova NextGen is all about: storytelling.

Missions, mission groups, mission posts, personal logs, and news items all need to change (spoiler alert: they're all going away). There's no context in missions (and never really has been). The structure that Nova imposes makes it tough to think outside of the box. To be sure, a lot of games tell stories linearly, but not all. Wouldn't it be awesome to feel like you have the freedom to tell stories in any order you want? The current system makes that difficult. Context needs to be a core feature of storytelling in Nova NextGen, and it is.

The Timeline

Central to storytelling in Nova NextGen is the timeline. This is a visual overview of the whole story your game is telling. The timeline contains every story you've run on your game, in the order they should appear. (There are no more "missions" … while the concept is the same, the terminology has changed because not everyone calls them "missions".)

Maybe the first story you have is called Story #1. It goes off without a hitch and your crew loves it, so you decide to do another story called Story #2 that takes place after Story #1. Again, your crew loves it, but you decide you want to tell a story that happens between #1 and #2 now. In Nova 2, you'd have to go through a bunch of screens to make the necessary changes to the order of the missions in order to have one fall into the right place. In Nova NextGen, it's as simple as click a button on Story #1 and choosing "Create a New Story After This." Your timeline now shows Story #1, Story #3, Story #2, the order they should appear in. Decide you want to tell a story that comes before #1, choose the option to "Create a New Story Before This" and you've got a timeline that shows you Story #4, Story #1, Story #3, Story #2. You have an incredible amount of flexibility to organize your stories the way you want.

But let's not stop there. Let's say you decide down the road that you want to run another story that takes place as part of Story #1 (it could be a sub-story or something that happens in conjunction with that story). A situation like that would require creating a mission group in Nova, but in NextGen it's easy enough when you can create a new story inside of Story #1. So now, you have a timeline that shows you #4, #1, #3, and #2, but wait, #1 now has #1.1 inside of it. You've created nested stories with a single click. That's a story with its own entries and another story inside of it. Ultimate flexibility. (I haven't decided how deep the nesting will go at this stage; it's hard to make the decision before any code has been written.)

Story Entries

And of course, story entries will have the same flexibility (though you won't be able to nest entries within one another). Easily create entries before, after, or at the same time as another entry. (Entries marked as happening at the same time will actually be shown as happening after since there's no way to actually indicate simultaneous ordering in a database … something must come before or after another thing.) Kick off your story with an entry of a mission briefing. Every player can then add to the story with entries after that, but maybe one of your players wants to tell about what their character was doing before the mission briefing began. Just go back to the initial entry and add an entry before that. Done.

(For those that are thinking ahead, there will be a view to show entries in the order they were posted so you don't have to go digging through an entire story to find the ones that are new. All those kinds of details will be sorted out as everything is built.)

Story Entry Types

But even taking things a step further, story entries will be able to have an entry type. By default, a story entry is just that, a story entry, but there so much more that happens within a story, like personal entries.

Like I mentioned earlier, personal logs are going away, at least in the sense that people know them today. The fact is, personal logs rarely happen totally outside the context of a story. It's about looking at how your character is thinking and feeling about the situation they've found themselves in. Today, personal logs have zero context. How do you know what was going on around the character when you're looking at a standalone list of personal logs? Instead, Nova NextGen will provide true context about personal logs by putting them within the story.

When it comes to other entry types, you'll have the ability to create announcement entries (because let's be honest, most news items only apply to players of the game), info entries (a great way to provide info about a situation/alien race/backstory, etc.), time jump entries (wouldn't it be awesome to indicate inline that you're moving from mission day 1 to mission day 2?), and more as I see fit during development.

You can see already that this is a very different way of looking at storytelling than has been done in Nova before and I'm really excited about the possibilities!