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The Watery Pachinko Machine of Doom: Project Horseshoe's Thoughts On Story

January 17, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

Next Steps: The FabulaRasa Website

The group covered an immense range of topics in our two brief days. We ended the conference with the clear understanding that expanding these thoughts further would require an ongoing conversation.

To that end, the group is creating a website called that serves as a focal point for our discussions. The name roughly translates to the "blank story", an empty vessel for our players to pour their tales into. Our hope is that experienced game developers and researchers will contribute to building a rich repository of essays, papers and discussion on creating mediate experiences in games.

This report captures only a small fraction of the conversations that took place at this year's Project Horseshoe. I heartily recommend you visit the website and check out reports from this year and previous years.


This paper was the collaborative effort of all the people listed below.

  • Facilitator: Linda Law, The Fat Man
  • Stephane Bura, 10tacle Studios Belgium
  • Daniel Cook, Microsoft
  • David Fox, iWin
  • Tracy Fullerton, USC Interactive Media
  • Victor Jimenez, Northrop Grumman
  • Ron Meiners, Multiverse
  • Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari, Gotland University
  • Patricia Pizer, Disney Interactive Studios
  • Mike Sellers, Online Alchemy
  • Mike Steele, Emergent Game Technologies


Appendix I: Papers and references

The following were items that influenced or where mentioned during the discussion.

Appendix II: Traditional Mediating Techniques

The following is a laundry list of traditional techniques that games have been using for decades. Think of these as mediation 101.

  • Basic plots: Common plots such as the '39 Plots' that have known effects on the audience.
  • Hero points: Resource that bends plots to the user's needs (or Villain points). Used as a storytelling resource. Alternatively, Whimsy Cards
  • Storytelling Patterns: Such as Pattern language by Christopher Alexander
    • Reversals that are heuristically created
    • Modularity
    • Hierarchical
  • Character Development of both NPCs and the player character.
  • Customization of various elements of the game.
  • Emotion Management
  • Music
  • Ambient effects
  • Environments with emotional connotations (such as a haunted mansion)
  • Exposition including cinematics
  • Relationships ties chars together through game play mechanics, different roles, access, organization
  • Novelty
  • Mechanics of player progression
  • Manipulation of Game Economics
  • Voice/Style
  • Manipulating Time (compressing/style)
  • Manipulation of Player's Perception
  • Switching POV
  • Treating the group as a character
  • Collaborative puzzles

Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

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