An Exploration of Ludonarrative Consistent Game Systems
Video games are increasingly seen as a meaningful form of art and storytelling. A common critique of video games is that the player’s in-game actions can easily become disconnected from their character and the storyline, referred to as Ludo-narrative dissonance. To date, no published academic research has been carried out on how to avoid Ludo-narrative dissonance from a game systems level. Yet, the development of Ludo-narrative consistent game systems have the potential to enhance gameplay and player satisfaction. The aim of this research was to develop a prototype ludo-narrative consistent game system, and to explore the design requirements, strengths and challenges of this prototype system. This was achieved through the development of a prototype video game. The prototype incorporated a trait system that assigned personality traits to the player character based on their style of gameplay, consequently altering the storyline in a way that was aligned with the player’s actions. This prototype was user tested by twenty-one participants, who were recruited via convenience sampling. The participants played the prototype three times, then completed an anonymous survey on their experience of playing the game. I observed their play remotely via Zoom and was available to them for answering questions. The prototype was updated based on my observations and user testing survey responses. The prototype development process, my observations of user testers, and the survey results, provided unique insights into the design requirements, strengths and weaknesses of the prototype trait system. My research illustrates that narrative systems and game mechanics are closely interconnected in the development of a trait system. Furthermore, my research shows that when implementing a trait-based system it is important to consider the following design requirements, including; trait interaction, action weighting, mechanical cohesion and consideration of player intentions. User testing observations and survey results highlighted some design challenges that provided insights for the improvement of the prototype. One insight was how the mechanical difficulty of the game affected the assignment of traits, making some personality traits easier to achieve than their counterparts. This was addressed by increasing the difficulty and adjusting the action weighting of opposing traits. Another insight was from situations when participants falsely attributed certain play behaviours to the traits they were assigned. These false attributions provided additional ideas for the updated prototype. In conclusion, this research contributes to the overall body of knowledge in game design, by illustrating the design requirements, challenges and strengths of a prototype Ludo-narrative consistent game system.