Making Games with Real Historical Events Tutorial



Introduction. A part of the charm of games such as the “Gabriel knight” trilogy and Broken Sword one is undoubtedly their historical value – even after finishing the game you could open a big book and read all about it. With this tutorial I will try to make it easier for you to write such plot.
            Step one. Choose a historical even or a mystery to base the plot upon. Such examples are: The man in the iron mask, the Rennes-le-Chateau enigma, any king’s illegitimate sons, the last words of Charles I Stewart (“Remember!”)… It can be practically anything. After choosing the event, go to the local library and get a book on it. Read it thoroughly, and carefully watch for things that may tie with your plot. Note that this is most of the research you’ll do during the writing of the plot, so do not underestimate it.
        Step two. Sketching the plot outline. Decide whether it will be a modern day mystery (like Gabriel Knight) or a historical game (like touché, although it is not a good example of a historical game at all). If you choose the first one, read on. Make your own theory of the mystery or read someone else’s. Note that you will be using this one in the game. For example, the man in the iron mask was an illegitimate son of Anne of Austria and duke de Buckingham. Or a twin brother of Louis XIV, but that is way too worn off.
Note: if you choose the plot to be a modern-day mystery, you should also think of a simultaneous modern-day plot along with the historical one. The sad situation, in which the protagonist may be, may add to his character.



Day one

Day two

Day three


        Tip: the more unknown the historical mystery/event is, the more you may speculate about it and the less precise you’ve got to be.

Develop your main character; decide his qualities, positive and negative sides. Make sure he has motivation to solve the mystery. Divide the game into time-blocks (doesn’t really matter how long, they are just for the developing phase) and make sure that the historical information is slowly but steadily given to the player.

Note: Do not make a history lesson out of the game. It is a good idea to have texts and additional information in the game as optional reading materials, as in Gabriel Knight 3.

Step Three. Making the plot more detailed. After completing the story outline, you should add more depth to the plot. I suggest you make a table much like the illustration with columns for the time blocks and rows for the main characters and the historical content given to the player. You should also make note of the protagonist’s attitude towards other characters and the way it changes throughout the game.

Step Four. Puzzle design and dialogues. After completing the hardest part, turn comes to the puzzles and dialogues. In a mystery game the dialogues should be a large percent of the puzzles themselves. As for other puzzles, you may choose whatever you wish, but a piece of advice: in a plot driven adventure game never, ever let the puzzles go in front of the story. They should be made easy and logical enough for the player to solve without much trouble. Another good idea of having harder puzzles is the “optional puzzles” design that appears in Gabriel Knight 3. In it, the player has some vital to the progress puzzles and some optional ones, solving which he will be rewarded by more light on the mystery, a cut-scene or both. Please, don’t include any too clichéd puzzles like the “put paper under door in order to get key” ones, if you can’t think of a coherent puzzle, just leave it for later or let the player progress with the story. As for dialogues, try to think what would the character say and the manner of how would he say it (it is not very probable that a boxer would talk like a physics professor, is it?). Then write what you think. Make most of the dialogs interactive, even if there isn’t much difference in what the protagonist will say – it is better to have the feeling that you can reflect on the plot rather than just watch.

Step Five(optional). After completing the design document, you could write a short novel using your plot and then ask a friend of yours to read it, so that he can point out weaker plot points etc.

This is pretty much it, now all I wanted to say but did not find the place for in this article I have written in the tips section below.

This tutorial is still valid for other sciences, although I have not seen a biology or physics adventure yet – but who knows? You may be the first one to make one.

Make sure that this is an adventure game, i.e. make the player a bit frightened at moments as in Gabriel Knight games.

Make sure that the historical mystery the player character solves has some connection with modern days.

If one protagonist enough – you can have two or more as in “The beast within”.

Place yourself in the player’s shoes and think about his motivations for completing the game. If they are not revealing the mystery, rethink your plot.


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