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This is the second installment of a three-part blog post on narrative design which focuses on a tried-and-tested process that has been taught to game writers by their predecessors for years. This process is simple, yet adaptable, and gives us a clear roadmap so we don’t get “lost in the weeds” while integrating story and game design during pre-production (or later). Not all games will require us to use all of these steps, but the process is presented here in its entirety for those who wish to understand it.

We were recently approached by one of our existing clients about writing some design documents and doing some game balance for upcoming high-priority features in one of their games. Being a design agency owner, I replied “Of course. And what features are those?” Each member of the client’s management team then began to list off different features, meanwhile arguing with the other managers on the phone about why their choices didn’t make sense. As politely as I could, I told the customer that it would be impossible for us to work on their high priority features until we all agreed on which features were actually high priority.

While there are many different ways to go about developing stories for games, in this three-part blog post on narrative design we will focus on a process that has been passed down to multiple generations of game developers over the industry’s relatively short lifespan. This process is simple, extensible, and allows us every opportunity to stay on track and not get “lost in the weeds” during pre-production. Note that not all of these steps are needed with every project, but the process is presented here in its entirety for those who wish to apply it to their current projects or practice it on their own. This simplified approach boils down to 5 steps:

I often speak with partners and colleagues outside the field who want to better understand what User Acquisition (UA) is. UA, which is sometimes referred to also as “performance marketing”. Despite the name, these activities fall under the umbrella of ADVERTISING activities rather than MARKETING activities. Marketing activities focus on the collection and interpretation of customer insights into guidelines about target audiences, value propositions, messaging, and advertising asset production. In short, Marketing is really about turning market/customer knowledge into effective banding, targeting, and messaging. Advertising takes those insights and assets and uses them to actively find new customers, paying money to display those assets to potential customers through a variety of different channels. User Acquisition, then, is a specific type of Advertising tasked with buying digital advertising inventory through online advertising marketplaces like Facebook, Google, Unity, ironSource, and other such digital advertising networks.

There are a number of factors that must come together to ensure you don’t waste time, money – or worse, generate chaos – integrating a narrative into your game that will attract and retain players, as well as set the game apart from a crowded field in its product category. Thankfully, all of these factors are under your control. In this series of intermittent blog posts on narrative in games, we will cover the processes and personnel decisions that need to come together to lay the groundwork for success in storytelling.


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