“Working in video games is a lot like being a virtual gamemaster.”
- Game designer Chris Avellone speaking to VG247 about the similarities between tabletop games and game development.
Sometimes it's easy to forget the influence traditional pen-and paper games have on developers, and in a recent interview with VG247, game designer Chris Avellone (known for Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and more) compares how working in video games is similar to being a gamemaster for a tabletop game.
Avellone discusses how being a gamemaster for friends playing tabletop RPGs allowed for him to gauge the reactions of his players firsthand, which lead to cultivating his skills as a designer adept in creating branching narratives that felt unique.
"Over time – and a whole mess of mistakes later – I made attempts to refine my gamemaster skills to adjust to the players,“ Avellone explains. “This meant, for example, designing adventures where every character’s skillset had the chance to shine so no one person hogged the limelight.”
Focusing on the differences of each player (skill level, what items they could use, their subplots) meant Avellone was able to make them feel special in a shared experience while also being able to account for player randomness.
"So many of those techniques for making sure the player is entertained are much the same as being a tabletop gamemaster," he says. After all, predicting what a player will do when placed in a certain situation and then reacting to it is what designers have to think about when creating quests.
And with Dying Light 2 taking on RPG elements, Avellone wants to ensure that players are dropped in a reactive environment where interacting with NPC's and making tough decisions feel meaningful.
“I’ve done a lot of branching storylines, branching dialogues, and a variety of reactive events and different endings in most of the titles I’ve worked on, so to be able to apply that to an open-world space like <i>Dying Light 2</i> is a fun challenge,” Avellone notes.
“Because I’ve had a chance to work on extremely reactive games, I know some of the best techniques to organize the flow of the plot and characters to account for a wide variety of actions.”
He was speaking as part of a longer interview around the development of Dying Light 2 and his role as a writer, so be sure to read the entire piece over at VG247.